The Optimus blog

The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

Owen Carter

Owen is interested in all things teaching. A former content lead at Optimus Education, he now works as a project manager for The Brilliant Club, an award-winning charity that exists to increase the number of pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds progressing to highly-selective universities.

Before joining Optimus, he worked at companies such as SAGE and Pearson Publishing, where he helped develop educational apps for primary and secondary school pupils.

Owen thinks we need a sharper and more nuanced approach to 'what works' in the classroom, and that sharing quality insight and information is a good way to achieve this.

Latest blog posts

Owen Carter

What schools can’t learn from startups

The secrets of high-performance organisations aren’t that secret - and may not be that useful in education. Everyone loves a success story, and schools are no different. Little wonder that the smouldering trails left by some high-performing businesses, whether Google or Apple , seem to appeal to...
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Owen Carter

Quiz: how much do you really know about CPD?

Think you know your stuff about professional development? Can you tell your Hattie from your has-beens? Take the quiz to find out! Developing teachers is one of the most important ways to make an impact on pupils. But getting it right is hard! We're way less effective at developing teachers than we...
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Owen Carter

Don't tell students to follow their passions

It seems a given that teachers should help pupils to find and follow their passions. But things just aren’t so simple. ‘Do what you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life’. How often have you heard this quotation, or some spin on it? Whether we’re being told to follow our passion,...
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Owen Carter

Visible leadership for better learning

How well do you know your school, and how well do your staff know you? Here's why schools need visible leaders. Are you a leader wanting to improve outcomes in your school? Well, a good bet would be focusing on teacher learning. Viviane Robinson led an analysis of 30 research studies on the...
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Owen Carter

Why I hate TED talks

Everyone seems to trust TED talks, but they're really not a good way to get ideas about education. Here's why. Inspiring, informative, entertaining: who doesn’t love a TED talk? Well, me. I think they stink. But how can you hate TED talks? Ok, let’s rewind a moment. They’re not all bad. In fact, if...
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Owen Carter

Putting CPD at the heart of school success: case study

We spoke to Healing School in Grimsby about how it’s redesigning its professional development programme to help all teachers continually improve. Almost every teacher in the world wants to improve. But the demands of the job, time pressure and mental fatigue means that reflection time often gets...
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Owen Carter

Eight principles of effective teaching

Eight ideas from cognitive psychology that you should think about putting into your teaching. Lists of effective teaching are ten a penny – some useful, some not so much. There are some great ones: Tom Sherrington has put together a really useful (and practical) set of principles , Shaun Allison...
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Owen Carter

Review: Ouroboros by Greg Ashman

Is education eating its own tail? Owen Carter reviews Ouroboros by Greg Ashman. Ouroboros is a very, very interesting book. The name refers to the ancient symbol of a snake eating its own tail: applied to education, it means that fads, trends and all the worst of teaching gimmickry come round time...
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Owen Carter

What we’re missing when we talk about teaching

We love to debate the rights and wrongs of progressive and traditional approaches to teaching. But if we want to influence practice we really need detail. The progressive versus traditional approach to teaching is one of those debates that’s here to stay. Sometimes, it gets stirred up. This...
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Owen Carter

Growth mindset: what might a research-informed approach look like?

Mindset really does matter, but impact in one setting doesn’t always translate to impact in another. Some concepts in education just seem intuitive. Who wouldn’t agree that people learn in different ways, and should be taught accordingly? Or that the curriculum should be relevant to young people’s...
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Owen Carter

Vision in action: a day at Michaela Community School

Michaela School has received a lot of attention focusing on its unique – and controversial – approach to behaviour and teaching. What is it actually like? Owen Carter reports. A zero tolerance approach to misbehaviour, no group work and seating plans at lunchtime. Michaela School certainly isn’t...
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Owen Carter

Make your teaching better

What works in the classroom? Unfortunately it’s not so simple… Imagine the perfect classroom. Kids happily engaged with the task at hand, shiny faces intent with concentration. No gum under the tables, no notes passing hands and no unwanted interruptions. A serene teacher presides over it all. Well...
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Owen Carter

What does research-based classroom practice look like anyway?

A bunch of very intelligent people joined us at Optimus HQ to discuss one question: is research-based classroom practice realistic and is it desirable? Owen Carter reports on some of the conversation. Research-based practice is a term that’s interested me for quite a long time. So it was a delight...
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Owen Carter

EAL teaching: ways to build vocabulary

Are you looking for resources and ideas to help support your EAL pupils? EAL teacher and educational sociolinguistics researcher, Hamish Chalmers, is back with a second webinar on EAL teaching. Schools are struggling to cope with the increase in the number of pupils with English as an additional...
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Owen Carter

What is a curriculum worth having?

Owen Carter reports back from Whole Education’s ‘Designing an impact curriculum’ We live in interesting times. With greater curriculum freedoms, changes to assessment in all key stages, and an election forthcoming, the pace of change for many school leaders is rapid – not to mention a little...
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Owen Carter

Towards the core principles of primary assessment

Owen Carter speaks to Michael Tidd about the principles that should underpin a school's approach to assessment. What can pupils do, and what can’t they do? Seems like a pretty simple way of approaching assessment. But the fact is that levels became a shorthand where that question was often obscured...
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Owen Carter

What you say to pupils matters - a lot

If there’s one thing I learnt from Growing Excellence , it’s that what you say to pupils matters. It really matters. Why? It’s what takes you from this butterfly: To this butterfly: Put simply, Dweck’s research shows us that often we get back what we put in. If you tell someone they’re excellent at...
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Owen Carter

Excellent teaching: borrow shamelessly, learn from the best

Growth mindsets. Innovation and excellence. Marginal learning gains. Chances are you’ve heard some of these terms flying around the staffroom or seen them filling up your twitter feed. But how can you put them into practice and make sure you’re walking the walk as well as talking the talk? A...
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Owen Carter

Assessing without levels in secondary schools

‘Who’s in panic?’ The raised hands that greeted this opening question from Jason Tudor showed exactly why teachers chose to attend our conference on Secondary Assessment after Levels on the 16 th October. In Ofsted’s words, assessment is now a school-led system: without levels, schools’ assessment...
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