Forest School


Katie Goodwin, our ASC Resource Manager, gives us the lowdown on Forest School.

What is Forest School?

Forest School is an inspirational initiative that offers all learners opportunities to achieve and develop confidence and self-esteem through hands-on learning experiences. Students are transported to a land of mud kitchens, shelter building, mud fights and fire circles, to name but a few. It allows students to initiate their own learning, become risk takers, problem solvers and collaborative learners.

Who is it for?

Our Y7 students have been the first to sample Forest School. Whilst many of these students have characteristics in common such as low attendance, Pupil Premium status and lack of attainment, many of these students face their own, very specific, difficulties such as:

  • excessive OCD
  • anxiety
  • such slow processing skills in class, that speech is constantly repeated


To put it into perspective, in the 12 ½ hours we have run Forest School, we have had no lesson refusal (normally have approx. 8 lesson refusals for 2 students on top of their alternative curriculum), no disengagement, no instances of non-verbal communication (one student didn’t speak for 2 ½ weeks at the beginning of term), no repetitive speech, little or no foot wiping or OCD tendencies, no refusal to work with someone and no aggression towards staff. What we have seen is interaction with new people, improved sensory needs, an improved ability to recall events and activities quickly, appropriate self-evaluation and recognising what they would like to learn next.

What does the future hold?

Moving forward, we are continuing with the sessions next term. For these students, the continuation of life and social skills is important, but the possibilities of how Forest School could be used for other students (and parents) is infinite: cross curricular planning could allow for more specific learning, which would lead to academic progress; it could be used as a tool to re-engage disengaged children and their parents; staff INSET days; an outdoor curriculum for all students and a reward for those who have worked hard, as well as life and social skills.


Positive Prep


Sam Naylor, outlines Wilmslow High School’s new intervention strategy, ‘Positive Prep’.

Being prepared is fundamentally important within education and throughout all areas of life. In order to learn effectively, all students must be prepared for the day ahead; have embedded learning habits; targets to work towards and the right frame of mind to reach their full potential. Parents and carers should also be made aware of how they can aid their child’s learning in the best possible way.

Positive Prep is a new support system designed to improve organisational skills and homework completion rates amongst targeted students at WHS. Students referred onto the programme complete a five week cycle of ‘Positive Prep’ where they are guided and supported to complete homework and improve their organisation. Positive Prep also encourages students to:

  • Recognise the importance of being organised and prepared for the school week
  • Manage their time effectively
  • Complete homework accurately and to the required standard
  • Have more self esteem and confidence in completing work
  • Have embedded study habits that they continue to use after the cycle has finished

Positive Prep is aimed at students who genuinely struggle to cope with the workload that a normal school week can bring.  These students may not have access to a computer at home, receive little or no support from parents, or, may be generally forgetful, have a lack of interest in a particular subject or receive Pupil Premium Funding.

Students on the Programme are required to attend breakfast and daily after school homework clubs as well as completing a Positive Prep booklet which teachers are also required to sign and check.

During the Monday breakfast club students set themselves targets to work towards throughout the week. Students also stock up on any equipment to ensure that they organised and are starting the week off in a positive frame of mind.

The Positive Prep booklet is used as a way of monitoring the students’ homework completion and organisation. Students are required to hand their PP booklet to teachers towards the end of each lesson. At the end of the lesson, the teacher will check to see if the student has written their homework down and will then either tick or cross three different boxes based on whether they had the required equipment for the lesson and whether or not they completed their homework to the required standard.

The after school homework clubs are led by members of our Learning Support Team. During this time students are given high quality 1 to 1 help and guidance with homework, revision and any class work which they may need to catch up with.

Whilst the strategy has only been up and running since September, it is hoped that Positive Prep will help to improve attainment levels as well as embedding positive study habits that students can continue to use after the cycle has finished.

The Physics Intervention Programme (PIP)


This week, Ceri George contributes an interesting article that explains the rationale behind the Physics Department’s new intervention programme.

As a teacher of Physics, there are a number of rules and laws that regularly feature in my everyday life: the conservation of energy, Newton’s laws of motion, Einstein’s theory of relativity and – on a more frustrating level – that GCSE Physics can be pretty hard!

In actual fact, the last point is highly debatable; last year 47 WHS students attained an A* or A grade in GCSE Physics. However, I hold my hands up when I say that Physics is a bit of a “marmite” subject: results generally show that you either “get it” or you don’t.

The Physics Intervention Programme (PIP) is out to change that, along with the popular perception that achieving a positive grade in Physics is beyond the average student.

Based on Year 10 GCSE Core Science marks, we have selected 14 students who are currently underperforming in Physics based on their FFT and 3 LoP estimates, often doing worse in this area than in Biology or Chemistry. Coincidentally, 5 of them are PP students, fitting in with the current whole-school drive to enable such students to fulfil their potential and achieve in-line with their peers.

The PIP mainly revolves around a weekly session which is held by Nicola Lennon, an experienced Physics teacher within the department. Each Tuesday morning during registration, she meets the students and for 20 minutes they consolidate the Physics work they are currently doing in class. This might involve revisiting the theory behind some of the more difficult concepts, practising past paper questions, or simply discussing the underpinning ideas and key words in a topic and ironing out any misconceptions.

We have chosen to hold the sessions during morning registration as this is a constructive use of what is often seen as “dead time” by the students. We also felt that the students would be more likely to attend during official school time, as opposed to during their lunch break or after school.

It is hoped that by providing this additional lesson within a small group setting, we will eliminate any gaps in students’ knowledge and understanding, improve their examination technique and develop their confidence. For me, this latter point is key: if students think that they can “get” Physics, they are more open to learning. This means that they are more willing to develop their current knowledge and understanding, are not afraid of new topics and will persevere when they initially find an idea or question challenging. I mean, if you’ve conquered using Ohm’s Law, what have you possibly got to fear about F=ma?!

The big hope is that this new found confidence will then translate to the exam hall, as in my experience, if students walk into an exam confident that they can do well, largely, they will.

Why success always starts with failure

Here is the presentation I used for WHS’s four house assemblies this week.  The theme was based around the idea of ‘why success always starts with failure’.  Due to being a little cheap and not wanting to spend £20 per month on a SlideShare plus account, I could not embed the videos (found on slide 5 & slide 9) into the SlideShare conversion below.

Please feel free to use or adapt the presentation and videos to suit your classroom or assembly needs 

Here is a breakdown of the presentation (where it is not obvious):

Slide 2 & 3: Here I spoke about how babies learn to walk.  Do they just stand up one day and start strolling about with confidence? Of course not! They make thousands of tiny little errors, standing up, wobbling and falling down repeatedly until they finally learn from these little errors and take their first controlled steps unassisted.  It is essentially trial and error coupled with Darwin’s variation and selection.  I then linked learning to walk to Henry Ford’s superb quote, ”failure is the opportunity to start again more intelligently”

Slide 4:  Michael Jordan’s well known statistics from his hugely successful NBA career.

Slide 5:  Michael Jordan’s ‘Failure’ commercial for Nike (please see the first video below).

Slide 6: Michael Jordan’s lesser known, but more important statistics of failure, that catapulted him to his extensive successes.

Slide 7: The Natural Talent Fallacy.  Here I tried to persuade the students that success was in fact due to thousands of hours of deliberate practice (10, 000 hour rule) as researched by K. Anders Ericsson and made famous by Malcolm Gladwell in ‘Outliers’ and Matthew Syed in his book ‘Bounce’ and not natural talent.  I also referred to the research of Carol S Dweck and her growth mindset theory.

Slide 8: Sir James Dyson.  Here I asked the students ‘when do you give up when things get tough?’ It took Sir Dyson 15 years and 5,126 attempts before he created his first Dyson.  I asked them do they feel they have resilience in abundance?

Slide 9:  Aaron Fotheringham’s Wheelchair Double Backflip.  Bouncebackability.  Literally.  Both painful and inspirational (please see the second video below).

Slide 10:  My two favourite questions.  You should ask yourself these questions on a daily basis!

Slide 11:  My all time favourite quote from Samuel Beckett.  I told the students that if they were to take one thing away from this assembly that it should be the two words ‘Fail better’!

Welcome to every teacher at WHS

Hello, and a big welcome to all members of staff from Wilmslow High School from your teaching and learning co-ordinators, Matt and Jenni.  This blog will act as an open platform to contribute and circulate all the excellent teaching practice that happens on a daily basis in our school.  It will also allow everyone to steal, adapt and experiment with colleagues’ ideas to enhance our teaching and, subsequently, our students’ learning.

So, here’s to the bright future for teaching and learning at Wilmslow High School and the culture of collaboration that we will help build together for the benefit of every member of our school community.


Matt & Jenni