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High Performance Learning

Caroline Chisholm School was opened in 2004 as the first purpose built all-through state school in England, catering for students from EYFS to Year 13. It has 2111 students on roll, over 220 staff and a designated specialist provision for students with autistic spectrum disorders.

Our HPL journey started in 2017 with the preliminary introduction of the HPL philosophy to teaching staff and a focus on meta-cognition in September and linking in April 2018 (1, 1a, 1b).  We set up HPL working groups for colleagues to collaborate and to experiment with introducing HPL concepts, sharing practice and resources in regular teachmeets (2) A flood in March 2018 wiped out 50% of teaching spaces but HPL work continued despite the use of 25 mobile classrooms until May 2019.

In October 2018, the school took the next step in introducing the suite of ACPs under Analysis through a ‘Murder Mystery’ CPD event (3, 3a) and then the final suite of ACPs under Creating were introduced in September 2019 through a collaborative ‘rocket car’ competition (4, 4a). These events helped to model HPL approaches to staff and provided momentum in integrating HPL into our daily teaching practice. This was built on further through regular HPL focused staff meetings throughout the term (4b).

In September 2019, our school HPL ‘handbook’ was created and distributed to all staff (5) and an introduction to HPL became part of staff induction procedures/sessions (6). At this time we also changed the secondary system of achievement points to HPL VAAs so that all student rewards were focused on the behaviours we wished to promote and develop (7).

In October 2019, following the first HPL conference, we invited HPL representatives to the school, and they judged that due to the initial work the school had already done we could begin working towards the WCSA in January 2020 instead of waiting for the next cohort with a September 2020 start date.

The January 2020 training day (8) was partly led by our HPL school coach to launch our participation on the WCSA, we created our road map and project plan for HPL (9). It was at this point that we appointed a TLR3 post to help drive the implementation of HPL across the school. The same month an Ofsted inspection returned school to the ‘Good’ category with EYFS judged as ‘Outstanding’ and the HMI leading the inspection recognised the impact of HPL on the quality of teaching in the school in his informal feedback to the senior team.

Pupils are well supported for their next steps in education and training. Opportunities for extra-curricular activity are highly regarded. These include a wide range of sports, dance, drama and visual arts.

Ofsted, 2020

In March 2020, we went into the first national lockdown. The switch to remote learning was a struggle for many staff as our system for setting homework was inadequate for the task of delivering an entire curriculum remotely. Teaching staff still continued to work on integrating HPL in to remote lessons (10, 10a) as we adapted to the use of MS Teams for curriculum delivery. This prompted the creation of rubrics for each ACP and VAA (11) that can be used as part of the process of assessment and feedback via MS Teams assignments.

In May 2020, teaching staff began to deliver a programme of KS4 ‘live lessons’ via MS Teams with HPL referenced in ppt presentations and emphasised during lessons to develop students’ skills as independent learners. Analysis of task completion showed that only 70% of learners were engaging with the work set remotely. At this time we also reviewed our recruitment packs and included a specific section on HPL to ensure that all applicants for teaching roles at the school were clear about our commitment to HPL as the driver of teaching and Learning across the school. (12)

In September 2020, HPL was a main item on our training day agenda (13) and HPL was made part of appraisal objectives for all staff (14). Our development plan and road map were adjusted in the light of evaluation of our progress and the barriers that lockdown had presented. HPL staff meetings to share practice were calendared into the weekly meeting schedule and a weekly focus for HPL ACPs and VAAs implemented (15). At the same time we introduced a system of Student HPL ambassadors for each teaching group in Key Stage 3 to work with the HPL leads to identify where practice in lessons was strong and how we could further embed HPL throughout our curriculums and teaching to make it part of everything we do at Caroline Chisholm School. The ambassadors meet regularly with the HPL leads and keep a diary (16, 16a, 16b) of where HPL has been explicitly developed in their lessons, their work links and compliments the student learning council who feed back to the Vice Principal regularly on teaching across all phases in the school. Part of our commitment to work with students in implementing HPL and not doing ‘to’ them (16c).

The embedding of HPL into our teaching and learning has had a marked impact on the achievement of students in lessons and on their engagement with and understanding of the process of learning. Anecdotal evidence from teaching staff shows that students are becoming more reflective in their lessons and are more willing to attempt to answer questions and contribute to discussion as a result of the emphasis on intellectual confidence and risk taking.

In December 2020, we delivered a whole school tutor day, producing HPL resources linked to careers for KS4 and KS5 (17) and focusing on meta-cognition for KS3 to emphasise the importance of the HPL ACPs and VAAs in becoming a highly effective learner (18, 18a).

A Pulse check in November 2020 gave us clear evidence on which curriculum areas were making strong progress with the implementation of HPL (19) and informed our planning for the January Training day. In January 2021 we entered the second national Lockdown with only a few days notice.  The planned January 2021 training day became a virtual one to set targets for the term based on the feedback from our pulse check and student feedback (19a, 19b). Our HPL coach supported the delivery of this training day with a keynote speech on the impact of HPL on student outcomes. A full timetable of online lessons was delivered to secondary students with HPL integrated into all resources (20) during this second lockdown. The impact of HPL on student engagement and independent learning skills was evident through the monitoring of live lessons, with 95% of students accessing the lessons and completing the associated assignments compared to the 70% in the first lockdown.  Feedback from parents was extremely positive about the quality of delivery the school had provided during the period January – March 2021. (21).

Towards the end of the second lockdown we began to make links with HPL schools in the UK, starting with Maplesden Noakes school. The HPL leads began the process of linking up departments to share good practice and initial contacts were made. The TAG process limited capacity within school to develop this further, but it is very much a longer-term ambition and the links have been refreshed again this term. Initial contacts were also made with Wellington International School in Dubai which inspired a complete refresh of our school signage (22) and also led to the creation of a proposed project across a number of international HPL schools for students to ‘share your experience as a global citizen’ in June 2021 (23).

Our Teaching and Learning policy was revised in March 2021 to make HPL explicit within it (24), while striking a balance between respecting the professionalism and creativity of our teaching staff by not being overly prescriptive and ensuring that HPL is embedded within our daily teaching practise.

In June 2021, our Primary HPL Icons competition was launched and a set of student designed icons for each of the overarching ACP and VAA concepts was elected from the hundreds of entries. These were then turned into prominent displays around the Primary phase building and in the Learning Resource Centre (25, 25a). This month also saw the development of the school’s new 5 year development strategy (26d) with HPL as key driver of T&L (26, 26a) in consultation with the Trustees.

ACP Icons


VAA Icons


In September 2021, we developed our CCS HPT (High Performing Teacher) standards (26b) to pave the way for staff to become Global Lead Teachers once WCSA accreditation secured. We revised our performance management objectives to further reinforce HPL as an integral part of Teaching and Learning at Caroline Chisholm School (27).

Where to next?