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John Taylor Free School to Work with Professor Guy Claxton

I am delighted to announce that I will be working with Professor Guy Claxton again.  I first met Guy a number of years ago at a conference where he gave the Keynote on “Building Learning Power” in schools.  This really resonated with me.  He talked habits (something we do without thinking) rather than skills (which can be used or not used).  Professor Claxton was explaining how different habits can be practised and developed; that being resilient doesn’t just happen, that getting stuck is a good thing, that questioning is something that we can get better at.  Guy and I talked during the break and discovered a shared purpose of and vision for education; there is no sacrifice to be made between specialist subject knowledge and those habits of mind which make us really successful lifelong learners.

This was a really significant point for me.  The school I was working in was an Ofsted rated outstanding school, yet I knew that the quality of learning experience could be better.  From that point, we developed our enhancing learning approach and started working with our “learning toolkit”.  In that toolkit were important learning behaviours of resilience, curiosity, collaboration and being reflective.  We developed these habits of mind explicitly as well as delivering the important subject specific knowledge required in each subject.  It wasn’t a choice of knowledge or skills – it was about making sure everyone could be successful learners.  This work took a number of years – building an effective learning environment doesn’t happen overnight but the results were significant.  Students were not only academically successful but confident, articulate, independent learners who could talk intelligently about their learning process.  This was recognised by the school being awarded the Gold Standard in the Learning Quality Framework – the first secondary school in the country to achieve this.  It was also profiled by the SSAT at their National Conference and in their Leading Edge journal.

Professor Claxton’s book “The Learning Powered School” featured the work at this school to show how his academic research into effective learning behaviours could be embedded into all aspects of school life.  He often used my strategies, as examples in his Keynote speeches all over the world.  As a result, I met teachers and leaders from South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and Ireland who had heard him speak and wanted to find out how we had achieved such a unique approach to learning.  Together, Guy and I hosted learning conferences and coaching conferences all involving students talking about learning – they were for students by students.

So I am delighted to now be able to use the experience I have developed over a number of years in an outstanding school, to set up a brand new school with an enhanced learning programme at its heart.  The STRIPE curriculum at John Taylor Free School will enable our students to build their capacity to be a self-manager, team player, innovator, participator and an enquirer.  Our students will develop the coaching skills needed to support each other in becoming highly effective lifelong learners.  Our staff will also develop their capacity to research, evaluate and develop best practice in order to deliver an outstanding education.

“I am delighted to be working with Sue again as she builds the new learning community at John Taylor Free School and look forward to meeting the staff and students there” – Professor Claxton

The approach we are taking at John Taylor Free School, based on existing practice at John Taylor High School, will enable our students to succeed and thrive and will be profiled in Professor Claxton’s book – “What does the Learning Powered School look like?” to be published in 2019.  It is very exciting to be part of Guy’s research and to feature as a case study of how to establish a highly successful learning organisation.


Prof Guy Claxton is Emeritus Professor at Winchester University and Visiting Professor of Education at King’s College London. He has previously taught and researched at Oxford University, Bristol University and the University of London Institute of Education. An internationally renowned cognitive scientist, Guy’s books include Hare Brain, Tortoise Mind; Wise Up: The Challenge of Lifelong Learning; The Wayward Mind; and Intelligence in the Flesh. Recent books in education include What’s the Point of School?; Building Learning Power; and with Bill Lucas and others, New Kinds of Smart, The Learning Powered School; and Educating Ruby. Guy’s Building Learning Power approach to teaching is widely used in all kinds of schools across the UK, as well as in Poland, Dubai, Indonesia, India, China, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Brazil and Argentina.

Written by Mrs Sue Plant, 27th January 2018.






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