A special Ldr supplement

Personalised Learning

Tailoring learning solutions for every pupil

Personalised learning

Getting personal
Education is at the forefront of the government’s drive to personalise public services. For personalised learning to impact schools and have an effect on the whole system, it needs clarity and focus. This publication looks at the government’s stance on personalised learning, what it looks like in the classroom and how it’s already being put into practice in schools.

Bespoke learning
Ray Tarleton, National Co-ordinator of NCSL’s Leadership Network, believes that the idea of personalisation is already proving popular with headteachers. He suggests how they might start to make it a reality.
Personalisation is big in the
United States. Doctors can be heard advising patients to personalise their stay in hospital. How? “Just take your own dressing gown, pyjamas and slippers with you!” Here in the UK the term is appearing with increasing frequency in ministerial speeches about public sector reform. Gone are the days of uniform systems and standardised approaches. Catalysed by smart technology and clientcentred services in the private sector, this is a new era of responsiveness and individual empowerment. So how will personalisation help bring about educational change and raise standards across all schools? In simple terms it is about the combination of these elements: assessment for learning, classroom practice and curriculum pathways, with school organisation and community links as important features. A cynic could say there is nothing new here. But rather than another prescriptive initiative or top-down policy, focus on the core elements should allow us to bring together the best of existing practice and offer a route map and catalyst for development. Some heads in NCSL’s Leadership Network have been exploring what personalised learning might look like in practice. One way is to consider how a personcentred school might appear through the eyes of both parents and children (the consumers) and the workforce and school leaders (the providers). For each of these four ➤

NCSL’s view Ray Tarleton believes that the idea of personalisation is already proving popular with schools ..............Pages 2-5 Government’s view According to David Hopkins, personalisation will bring about a dramatic shift in the education system ................................................Pages 6-9 Innovation Unit This is an historic time for educators to show leadership for the public sector, says Mike Gibbons ..................Pages 8-9 Future sight How will personalised learning look in schools of the future? ..............Page 10 Assessment for learning Cranford Park Primary School, Middlesex ..........................Pages 10-11 Teaching and learning The John Bentley School, Wiltshire ............................................Pages 12-13 Curriculum choice Brighouse High School, Huddersfield ............................................Pages 14-15

Published in partnership with the Innovation Unit

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Personalised learning

❝The challenge with pupils is considering the extent to which they are genuinely involved in understanding their learning and able to make decisions and choices about it.❞

➤ groups, personalisation could provide a better future. The first challenge for heads is to look at communication with parents and to put in place the most advanced systems technology allows. Customers of some banks now receive account details daily through text messages on mobile phones. Schools will use the same technology to update parents about grades, homework, absences or alerts. No doubt children will be copied into the messages. This is personalisation at its best where the organisation provides relevant, up-to-date, user-friendly information targeted at the individual consumer so that action can follow. Similarly, information about the next day’s clubs and events is already being uploaded onto some school websites so that parents can see them the night before and children be reminded of what is available. Technological advances such as 24-hour access to the curriculum through e-learning

and email communication between parents, teachers and pupils offer new ways of management, teaching and learning. Harnessing new technology in ways such as these will help realise potential for parental access. They still remain the great untapped resource in many schools. Personalisation means integrating parents as true partners, both as informed consumers and active contributors. The challenge with pupils is considering the extent to which they are genuinely involved in understanding their learning and able to make decisions and choices about it. After a recent day conference bringing children together from four schools, one of the main priorities for the consumers was: “To be in a school where our views about learning are listened to and valued.” They also wanted to be rewarded for the things they did well and to have teachers who could organise information effectively.

Interestingly, a large majority wanted to “chose how, where and what we learn.” This level of debate with children is light years ahead of discussions about school rules or uniforms. Within the next five years, pupils will be choosing subjects and levels at Key Stage Three, and possibly even at Key Stage Two. They will be able to gain qualifications at different ages and stages, a process which will be enhanced by the introduction of the 14-19 diploma. For children, personalised learning means greater decision-making about their own learning and their contribution to their schools. Although this may not be new, it is still not common practice across schools. To turn this into reality across the system is a radical prospect. Heads also should be considering the implications of personalisation for employees. The profession is entering a period of teacher education and adult learning which will

be at the heart of each school’s mission. Learning will be an integral part of each adult’s role: as researcher, consultant, mentor, trainer and reflective teacher. An expanding repertoire of teaching strategies will be shared within and across schools. There has never been a more interesting time to be a teacher. We are pushing the boundaries of knowledge, experimenting with new ways of working with technology, with teacher assistants and with each other. The challenge for school leaders is to make pedagogy the central organising principle of their schools. After years of concerns about budgets, buildings and cleaners, heads and other leaders must once again make teaching and learning their main focus. And they must exercise the power of collective leadership to influence the system as a whole. ‘Stay-at-home’ heads, those who remain isolated in their schools, will be encouraged to join others in leadership

learning. Heads can provide each other with toolkits and strategies which we know will work. In their search for life on other planets, scientists apply the ‘Goldilocks Test’. Is the planet too hot, too cold or just right? For parents, children, and teachers the test will be whether their experience of the school meets their personal needs. Are schools catering for the individual as well as the many? Is the educational diet just right? This policy is central to public service reform. School leaders have the opportunity to make it happen. As a philosophy it provides a unity of direction for a script which is being written in schools rather than by the DfES. At last heads have an agenda to demonstrate informed professionalism. We need to show what it looks like and to make it happen. If only it was as simple as donning dressing gown and slippers.

Ray Tarleton is also Principal of South Dartmoor Community College, Devon Conference information
NCSL’s Leadership Network is hosting a conference on Leading Personalisation in Schools. It will take place on 12 October at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham. Speakers include Charles Clarke; Charles Leadbeater, author and policy-thinker; and Dean Fink, educational consultant. The conference is open to everyone. The Leadership Network is made up of headteachers committed to stimulating national debate and informing policy development. For details visit www.ncsl.org.uk/ leadershipnetwork

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Personalised learning


If we get personalised learning right, says Professor David Hopkins, Head of the DfES Standards and Effectiveness Unit, we have the potential to bring about a major and dramatic shift in the educational system.
I think personalised learning
is a tremendously powerful concept. It means engaging parents and pupils in partnership with teachers and support staff to deliver a tailor-made service for students, so that they can achieve the highest possible standards. It’s building schooling around the needs and aptitudes of individual pupils, shaping teaching around the way different youngsters learn. It’s also making sure that the talent of each pupil is supported and encouraged and about personalising the school experience to enable pupils to focus on their learning. Many schools say they’ve had personalised learning all the time, and some have. But in the new phase of reform policy personalised learning has to be a system-wide achievement so that it impacts on every student in every school. The new phase of reform is about allowing every youngster to reach the highest standards that they can but also to take increasing control over their learning and over their social and personal lives. It seems to me that personalisation is genuinely about empowerment but not in a reductionist way. It is this rigorous combination of the highest possible standards and learning that I think characterises personalised learning. Some people might see personalised learning signalling a move away from the standards agenda. But this isn’t so. Neither is it a return to child-centred theories or letting pupils coast along at their own pace or abandoning the national curriculum. We really need to recognise that unless personalised learning has a standards focus I don’t think we’re doing the best we can by the youngsters inside our system. There’s a very strong political drive from ministers to see excellence and equity as the key goal for the education system and personalisation is the way in which we will get there. ➤

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Personalised learning

However, we need to put a strong emphasis on pedagogy in the broadest sense. If we’re going to treat every individual as a person in their own right, with their own career plans and learning targets, that requires increasing sophistication in our pedagogic response to young people.

I think it also implies organising schools in ways which are radically different. We need to be moulding schools to the learning needs of students, rather than moulding students to schools. Key to all this is assessment for learning and how we present teaching and learning inside our schools –

and also how we open up the curriculum so it’s both an opportunity for choice but also a pathway for entitlement. That for me is a very important issue. So there’s a broad context, a moral purpose goal and a classroom teaching and learning dimension which is buttressed by the way in

❝Some people might see personalised learning signalling a move away from the standards agenda. But this isn’t so. Neither is it a return to child-centred theories or letting pupils coast along at their own pace or abandoning the national curriculum.❞

which the school organises itself. Crucially, I think that schools which adopt a whole-school approach to all this are far more likely to be effective in personalising for students in ways that stretch and challenge them. As part of a review we recently carried out for the Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit we visited four schools. All of them experienced a quite dramatic increase in standards over a period of time which could be claimed to be the result of increasingly personalised approaches to education. These schools were developing a whole-school

response to personalisation which was palpable. There was an ethos, a commitment which was right across the school. But they were all slightly different because they’d shaped the ingredients of personalisation in a way that was appropriate for their own situation. That customisation is really important. The goal is equity and excellence. If we get the key levers right we are creating an infrastructure in the system which will allow schools to lead reform with the focus on personalisation. Personalised learning is not a new policy initiative for top-down delivery. It’s about

policy-makers and practitioners engaging together in a process of policy development. This happens through reflection on best practice and working with systemwide principles and resources that are interpreted and used locally by schools to make learning personal and powerful for their particular students. I think this is an exciting time to be part of education. It is potentially a major and dramatic shift in our educational system. If we realise what David Miliband said in a speech in May, we won’t recognise our system in three or four years’ time.

Fitting systems to people
For Mike Gibbons, Lead Director of the Innovation Unit, personalised learning offers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for school leaders.
I don’t want to frighten everybody but I think the stakes at the moment for school leaders are very high. I also think you’re in an enormously privileged position if you can take advantage of it. The Prime Minister has said that our entire welfare state has been designed to fit people to a system and what he’s challenging us to do is to fit the system to people. We have the twin 8 Personalised learning June 2004
opportunities of being at the forefront of the whole policy agenda in terms of making it operational and also a chance for informed professionalism to show leadership not just for schools but for the public sector as a whole. But there are challenges: How do you lead your school so that personalised teaching and learning runs throughout every aspect of the school? This requires visionary leadership which removes within-school variation. Many of our best schools have undergone a long journey to sustained improvement and excellence. How do we encourage these schools to help others compress that journey and prevent stunning practice being present in only a few schools and therefore trapped on location? We must go beyond the rhetoric of personalised learning to find out how we lead a school so that every single customer within that school is getting something which is personalised for their benefit and for their individual advance. It’s not just policy-makers and practitioners working together in order to create change because we’re actually beginning to involve the notion of pupils as our clients in this personalisation journey. These are historic times.

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Personalised learning
Case study

Assessment for learning
Workforce reform is helping Cranford Park Primary to personalise and apply assessment data – not an easy task with 700 pupils.
Personalised learning is not
a new idea. We all know that effective teachers have been doing it for hundreds of years. But in our school it’s all about creating feedback loops into all stages of the learning process. Involving highly trained and highly effective classroom assistants (CAs) to work with pupils is one of the reasons that personalised learning runs through the heart of assessment for learning here. Ours is one of the largest primary schools in the UK with more than 700 children, 75 per cent of whom are from the local minority ethnic community and have English as a second language. The school is socioeconomically deprived but culturally it’s highly advantaged, vibrant, energised and ‘very effective’ according to our last Ofsted. Rather than a hierarchical pyramid we have a flatter model which means that ideas can be generated from anywhere in the school thereby maximising the contribution of all adults in the school. Sometimes we may have as many as four adults working in a classroom of 30 children: the class teacher, the CA and one or two specialist CAs for children who have significant special needs. The CA works with groups of between two and six and the opportunity for personalisation is increased because of the smaller group dynamic. The data that comes back from the CA also enables teachers to personalise indirectly. I feel it’s about the teacher and the CA acknowledging and respecting the different but overlapping roles they play. For instance, Ravi Sagoo is a qualified nursery nurse and classroom assistant and has a dedicated role in the classroom team. Before the lesson Ravi and the teacher will be involved in a professional conversation, assessing data already collected and discussing issues such as how the previous lesson went, how particular children are doing and how well the concept is being understood. When the teacher introduces the lesson, Ravi will concentrate on her ‘focus children’, assessing whether they are successfully understanding the session. During the subsequent independent or group work she will keep to the teacher’s learning objectives but may adapt the particular path towards learning. She might, for instance, use concrete apparatus to help learning when there’s a difficult abstract concept to understand. At the end of the lesson the CA will feed back assessment data to the teacher and, by doing so, provide her teacher colleague with the potential to re-shape the following day’s lesson. Her multi-lingual talents also bring a unique understanding of potential barriers to learning. By using the child’s first language, she can gain a much fuller picture of a child’s underlying cognitive engagement with the tasks set.

Future sight
An innovative project is helping heads create a picture of personalised learning in the schools of the future.
The Innovation Unit, together with NCSL and the think tank Demos, is working with practitioners to explore the idea of personalisation in a rather unusual way. They are facilitating an ‘expert group’ of headteachers as they visualise what a school entirely predicated on the principle of personalised learning might look like in the future. The school leaders in the project have developed particular strengths in various aspects of personalised learning. The first step was to meet and discuss as a group how expert practice might be scaled up. The next phase was a 24-hour workshop with the group utilising some of methods of ‘futures thinking’. During the workshop, the heads adopted the tools of FutureSight, a methodology developed with the help of the OECD Schooling for Tomorrow project. The process requires school leaders to use imagination and creativity alongside their analytical and strategic skills. 10 Personalised learning June 2004
The ultimate goal of the project is to translate a holistic view of a personalised school into materials that could be used with wider headteacher groups, school staffs, governors or communities. According to Valerie Hannon, the Innovation Unit Director who’s leading the workshop: “This is experimental, but we’re looking forward to using some newly developed ways of encouraging heads to use both data and their professional imagination to take this work forward.”

Crucially she also helps the children to be active in planning and assessing their learning. Involving classroom assistants as a key part of the learning team has allowed us personalise assessment for learning in a unique way.

By Martin Young, Headteacher, Cranford Park Primary School, Middlesex

More information
The Innovation Unit is a think tank that bridges policy and practice by working with practitioners, policymakers and other organisations on innovative responses to learningrelated challenges facing the education system. Visit www.standards.dfes. gov.uk/innovation-unit for more on its work in personalised learning and a range of other initiatives.

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Personalised learning in action
Case study

Classroom teaching and learning are core to personalised learning and to the success of The John Bentley School.
Our journey towards personalised learning started long before the Key Stage Three strategy, when we embarked on a whole-staff discussion of our values and what we wanted the school to be about. After the discussion, we imagined how the school would look if those values were put into practice. The result was an A4 sheet which was no glib mission statement but a bullet-point list of how to put the values into practice – a model of personalised teaching and learning. The values fell under 12 Personalised learning June 2004
headings such as ‘the power of education’, ‘valuing as individuals’ and ‘all our young people deserve our professional best’. The offshoots were many and varied but in terms of teaching and learning they centred on the notions of practising classroom leadership and making a difference to children’s lives. They were also about teachers asking themselves, “Am I moving this student forward?” and being consistent in an intelligent way. The list of values was not finalised until every member of staff said they could

Teaching learning
support them. They focused on the whole notion of what and how we teach and what makes for effective teaching and learning. But it wasn’t just about the big picture. We looked carefully at how we as individuals were going to interpret the list. The use of academic mentoring and self evaluation helped shape model lesson plans. We asked staff what they were good at and which of their own skills they felt needed developing. We videoed lessons and showed them in staff meetings. It started with the novice teachers but then we moved on to a particular member of staff who used the whiteboard very effectively. Teachers were very keen to see what makes good teaching and they’ve been learning from each other discovering what works and what makes a good lesson. I’ve been paired up with a newly-qualified humanities teacher so that I can learn about teaching starters, something I’ve never been trained to do. We’re asking ourselves what makes a good lesson, how do we know and what evidence is there to support it and we’ve been doing it collegially. We held a teacher development day to discuss everyone’s good ideas for teaching. Teachers said it was one of the best days they’d ever had and we did it all without the help of expensively paid consultants. I believe the developments cannot be seen as being truly effective unless their effects are closely monitored. We used to have a series of link meetings to keep up with developments. They were good but they tended to be full of bland, catch-all statements. They weren’t getting to the heart of transformation or step change. We had to challenge that by asking more questions. Now when we meet it’s not an easy chat or a catch-up on what’s been happening. It’s more tightly-scripted. We ask each other what input has there been, how has that improved teaching and learning and what evidence there is to back it up. We have to ensure that what we said we’d do has been done and that it has made a difference.


By Anne Burrell, The John Bentley School, Wiltshire Personalised learning June 2004 13

Personalised learning in action
Case study

A choice of curriculum paths mean that students at Brighouse High School are guaranteed a personalised learning experience.
I’ve always been a head who
felt that qualifications are important. All youngsters should be challenged, but by appropriate experiences leading to recognised accreditation. We have weaved personalisation throughout our school operation but where we’ve succeeded most is in offering flexible curriculum choice for 14-19 year-olds. Our school currently caters for 1,250 pupils. It was also the first school in Yorkshire to be awarded Business and Enterprise Specialist School status two years ago and has won two School Curriculum Awards. In terms of curriculum choice and flexibility, personalisation allows pupils a learning experience that balances entitlement and personal relevance. The curriculum subjects act as the foundation for learning that provide the basis for ongoing enquiry. This often entails a wider range of professionals in schools to support pupils in overcoming barriers to assessing the curriculum and achieving their potential. It


❝In terms of curriculum choice and flexibility, personalisation allows pupils a learning experience that balances entitlement and personal relevance.❞
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also involves a wider range of out-of-school activities to support and enrich the curriculum. At Brighouse, children in year 10 have five curriculum routes which they could follow, each of which has a different element of choice. Regular meetings prepare pupils and their parents for these choices during Key Stage Three using a variety of data within the assessment for learning framework. Each child is then invited to take a particular colour-coded route which we believe is best suited to their interests and approaches and we discuss with them the recommended choice and the philosophy behind it. Around 50 per cent of the cohort will be invited to take Route 3, which is made up of

the core subjects plus five options, leading to traditional or applied GCSE qualifications. But our school prides itself on the development of all its students, including those with special needs, and this is where personalisation is most evident. Those children on Route 5 take the core subjects supplemented by vocational and life skills courses, with qualifications, as well as one option. They may study in school, the local FE college and the youth centre as well undergoing workplace training leading to units of NVQ and Open College Network qualifications.

Workforce reform also means that adults other than teachers play a more than significant part in supporting these youngsters. In putting this structure in place, much depended on the academic and commercial skills and knowledge of the school’s staff. We looked at the strengths and skills we had in-house and developed the courses in business and health and social care, which form the basis of Route 4. This year the freeing up of the qualifications at Key Stage Three has led to Route 2 offering BTec Design, replacing a full GNVQ in manufacturing. Route 1 contains a

combination of two full GNVQs, one of which must be ICT with, at the moment, disapplication in science. We also developed a common language to simplify and demystify the jargon, so that parents, pupils, outside agencies and staff can all understand the process and engage within it. Thanks to this I believe we have a guaranteed core curriculum with flexibility that ultimately leads to relevant qualifications for all pupils, as well as the route to a better quality of life.

By Graham Soles, Headteacher, Brighouse High School, Huddersfield Personalised learning June 2004 15

into Theory

Leading whole-school strategies to extend curriculum and choice
■ Encourage reflection and welcome challenge, risk-taking and innovation within a climate of trust ■ Focus on equality for different programmes – with lots of different routes, no one stands out as being ‘different’ ■ Invest time with others in researching solutions, reflecting on data, developing advanced timetabling skills ■ Encourage the development of a common language and a shared understanding so that everyone can discuss choice and issues in a positive climate ■ Give pupils a strong voice and regular individual interviews with a teacher/mentor, and invest leadership time in talking with and listening to pupils ■ Invest in ICT to enhance choice, widen access and create more curriculum opportunities ■ Explore alternative ways of organising the day, managing lunch hours, arranging preschool and after-school options ■ Involve parents, governors, business partners and employers in regular review of your curriculum

While the theory of personalised learning has been debated up and down the country, practical implications have been slower to emerge. Headteachers in NCSL’s Leadership Network have offered the following ideas for making personalised learning work.
Whole-school strategies for ‘assessment for learning’
■ Create a system for regular updates with individual students about their progress in each subject ■ Encourage rigorous questioning: Does each student have a relevant and up-to-date target in this subject? How does the student know what s/he needs to do to go beyond it? ■ Provide every teacher with data on every pupil in the teaching group, and share techniques on how to best use it for assessment purposes ■ Ensure that assessment for learning is a key component in the school improvement plan, that it is a performance target for the headteacher as well as each teacher ■ Exploit the opportunities of workforce reform to involve more adults in preparing for and assisting in learning ■ Ensure that workforce reform allows teachers time to focus on analysis and to formulate action plans that feed directly into teaching and learning ■ Ensure inter-agency involvement, where appropriate, in reviewing pupil progress

Leading whole-school strategies to develop teaching and learning
■ Have heads show that they are the lead learners in a community of learners, by updating their own skills including those relating to the new pedagogies ■ Make clear that CPD is an entitlement for all; offer a structured CPD programme with elements of choice ■ Pair up teachers to facilitate regular lesson observation and coaching ■ Encourage teachers to share, in a safe environment, what did and did not work in the classroom ■ Encourage, among all CPD providers and departmental leaders, an understanding of how adults learn, ie ‘train the trainers’ ■ Encourage all teachers to talk to pupils about their learning and to respond to indicators ■ Challenge rigorously and constructively. How do you know that a teaching technique works well? Where is the evidence? ■ Exploit links with other schools and colleges, including and explicitly international links

In partnership with the Innovation Unit