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Bring the New Zealand rugby team's ethos into your school and raise expectations for pupils and staff, says Leah Wright...
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For better or worse, children often listen to their peers more than adults. Embrace this by developing a peer leadership system. Select children to work in a focus group with you where you will discuss their role as ‘lead learners’.
Rather than giving them the task of seeing if anyone needs help, give them three specific things to look for and suggest questions to ask.
Extend this by creating a group of ‘reading leaders’. These should be children who need a deeper challenge. Help them to set up mini reading groups, using questions they’ve written themselves.
Extend peer leadership by asking children to set up their own clubs at lunchtime, such as running and football. These pupils will be responsible for getting out the equipment and supporting younger children.
At the end of the summer term, help children ‘pass on’ the legacy of their club to pupils from the year below. If you’d like the children to run more specialist clubs, such as den building, invite in a company to train a group of pupils who would benefit from the responsibility.
Encourage pupils to apply for positions of responsibility and increase the sense of gravitas via your selection process. One such role could include morning helpers who help the teacher with photocopying, trimming, sticking and handing out.
Asking children to apply for the role gives them ownership of it and means they will take it more seriously.
Celebrate what you want to see more of. Seemingly small things, such as tidy lunchboxes and speedy lining up, all lead to higher expectations. Recognise these things with gestures such as special stickers, the reward of sitting on benches in assembly or a class game of heads down, thumbs up.
If you don’t pick up on small things, the big things won’t happen. Make sure children see you being relentless about three key things: pride in yourself; pride in your learning environment; and learning time.
Make it clear that these high expectations aren’t going away. It can be hard at the end of a long half term to summon up the energy needed to make the most of every minute of learning time, so make a special effort at these times to reinforce expectations.
Make sure that all adults have the chance to read Legacy by James Kerr and spend time explaining to new members of staff the ethos set out in the book and the impact it has on expectations.
Ensure all team members use the same language to ensure that expectations are met. For example, the All Blacks call tidying up as a team ‘sweeping the sheds’. They take pride in their uniform and call this ‘respecting the jersey’. They support each other with their learning because they’re a team and ‘there are no egos’.
Raise expectations among staff and develop a transparent approach to feedback after learning walks by adding all comments to a document that can be viewed by all team members. This encourages conversations about sharing best practice and helps to build relationships.
Shared Google Docs are also great for supporting everyone to keep on top of ever-increasing to-do lists.
Before embarking on a culture change in your classroom, ensure you have the backing of SLT. Your school probably already has well-embedded values and learning behaviours, so it’s vital to link your new approach to your school’s wider ethos.
Leah Wright is a Y6 leader and used ideas from James Kerr’s book Legacy (£12.99, Constable) to improve her pupils’ attitudes to learning. Find her on her website at leahlists.co.uk and follow her on Twitter at @leah_moo.
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