Creating a culture of learning


After bumping into two students in her own front garden, our headteacher diarist muses on how we can create a culture of learning at home as well as in school.

On the first Sunday of half term, I was in the garden catching up on weeding while happily listening to Test Match Special, when I was disturbed by a voice calling to me over the gate.

On investigation, I was greeted by two of my year 11 students who were on a bike ride for the day. I was completely horrified, not just because I was covered in mud, not looking my best and they now knew where I lived, but because clearly they should have been revising for their exams.

When I expressed my concern, I was greeted with “Don’t panic Miss, we might do some revision tomorrow”, which did little to reassure me.

Once I had regained my composure after this unexpected interruption, I began to reflect upon something that I have had at the back of my mind for some time. 

In my school, we have recently focused upon two key themes. First, the creation of a school-wide culture of behaviour for learning in which all students are expected to do nothing that impacts negatively on the learning of others.

This is now fully embedded and, apart from the occasional problem, is just part of what we do. 

Our second key theme has been developing a shared vision of what outstanding teaching looks like at our school. All CPD has had this focus and, as a result, the proportion of both good and outstanding teaching has increased significantly. 

So, I am increasingly confident that we now have a culture of learning in our classrooms where children are exposed to challenging and stimulating lessons where they regularly make more than expected progress (to quote Ofsted) – all should be rosy.

Why, then, are our results still stuck in the high 60s (percentage A* to Cs)? I believe the answer can be found in the response from my two bike-riding students to my question about revision. We have not yet managed to create a culture for learning outside school hours. Until we manage to get students (and their parents) to recognise the value of good old fashioned consolidation of learning and repeated practice at home, then we will not be able to move the school significantly forward.

Having recognised this as an issue, how best to address it? Of course, we do have some parents who will encourage their children to work efficiently at home, but we have many more who do not. Too many of our students do not have a place where they can study effectively at home, or are used for free child care when they should be working, or are allowed to be out late. 

It is easier for parents to avoid the inevitable confrontation and many parents seem to turn a blind eye to time spent in front of the television or playing computer games − time that could be used far more productively in the lead up to exams.

Perhaps we need to consider removing some of the support that we provide around the revision process, such as the numerous revision sessions we put on. 

One of the reasons for these sessions is to try and fill the void created by a lack of work ethic at home. However, are we merely reinforcing the belief of some students that revision is something done at school in these sessions rather than at home? The successful students will be those who, throughout their time at school, put in the hours at home as well as at school. 

We need to instil, from early on in their school career, a sense of self-motivation in our students and a recognition that school work is done both at school and at home. Setting regular homework from the start of year 7 is surely critical in achieving this, so that when the time comes for revision, the concept of working at home in the evening or during holidays does not seem so alien.

  • Diary of a headteacher is written anonymously and in rotation by three practising headteachers from schools across the country.


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