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Learners First – Raising achievement of boys

Recently I was lucky to attend the Raising Boys achievement course with Learners first at the Source skills academy in Sheffield

The course was lead by Sara Fletcher, Associate Principal of Babington Community College in Leicester. This school is in an extremely challenging context. It has very high levels of mid year entries, a large Pupil premium cohort, a wide variety of different native languages spoken but its biggest issue, in terms of attainment has been white, working class, boys.

What struck me about the message from Sara Fletcher was how everything that they did was geared to closing attainment gaps and was centered around building character & raising aspirations. She used bricks as metaphors for the baggage and barriers that boys carry around and spoke a lot about working to remove these barriers. I’ve tried to summarise the things she spoke on below;

There were other teaching and learning aspects to the work and strategies that raised attainment and progress with all learners but I was most struck about the holistic and joined up nature of the interventions that were done by the school. These interventions weren’t subject based, curriculum based interventions designed to improve their attainment. The majority of the interventions were based on the students aspirations and character and removing their bricks that they carry around everyday.

Sara Fletcher clearly believed that if you get the education of the person right first then the academic progress would come as a result of that.


Rewards, really simple things like;

I heard a WISPA, SLT giving learners a WISPA bar when it was flagged up that they’d done something well

In school cinema, inviting learners and parents to come and watch a movie together, giving free popcorn out

Inviting parents into school to have a meal (after school) served by the teachers as a reward

London rewards trip, sharing the criteria at the beginning of the year, having conversations about how to get there and focusing on it frquently.

Increased parental involvement;

Pamper & Progress, getting parents in for pamper sessions and starting conversations about progress.

Race Night, getting the parents into school and starting conversations about progress

Trying new things

Loving Learning Something New – the curriculum was designed so that the timetable was collapsed one afternoon every fortnight and learners got the opportunity to try something totally new for a 6 week period – Horse riding & Karate were 2 examples given. If students showed a particular aptitude then the school tried to fund further learning in those areas.

Employability Skills/University Skills

Working groups looking at the way that people talk to each other, calling them our when they behave in a way that doesn’t show employable skills (the way they talk/sit/dress).

Character Building

These seemed to be very simple, PRAISE was massive, unrelenting positive regard. Always showing positivity with learners and trying to remove the bricks that they carry around with them, and may have carried around with them for years.

SUMO – Shut Up and Move On

A workshop that looks at the way that people respond to conflict, fairly similar to the restorative justice work that we are doing at DC, encouraging learners to take ownership of the resolution process.Lots of this work goes on during form period (which takes place during the middle of the day).

Oasis Club – a group of students who need interventions due to mental health issues

Boys2Men – Using community members in school as role models for how to act and how to behave in a way that leads them to a positive future.




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