The PTE Newsletter – Tuesday 20 April

By now nearly all schools are back in action, and fingers crossed it’s gone smoothly for everyone. We hope you managed to get some rest over Easter, as well as time with nearest and dearest!

As we start the summer term, we take a look at the first of the four mantras in the PTE Philosophy – Warm/Strict, and the latest in education news and views.

Our Philosophy – Warm/Strict

Warm/Strict: how to help every child be their best

PTE, and the educational movement it seeks to support, wishes educational excellence for every child. We believe that this is achieved when all schools have a strong culture and a great curriculum, underpinned by four key mantras: Warm/Strict; Knowledge Rich; High Ambition; Wide Curriculum.

What do we mean by… ‘Warm/Strict’?

We say ‘Warm/Strict’ to encapsulate what all at PTE, and those many teachers and heads who think the same way, see as the best approach to how children should be treated in the classroom. Although there is seemingly dissonant contrast between the two words, in reality they complement each other; neither works without the other.

First, the way the child is treated must be Warm because children cannot flourish if they are not loved and truly cared for; children are at their best only when they feel secure and protected. Every action a teacher takes in front of, or for, a child must therefore radiate compassionate concern, and a clear message of caring.

Second, however, children need boundaries to be set, or their behaviour will not conform to what is needed for knowledge to be imparted and absorbed. The clearer the boundaries, the easier it is for the child to relax within them and settle down to the process of getting a good education. The Strict that comes in here is a function of a belief among educators that the simplest way to achieve a comfortably structured environment is through a ‘No Excuses’ set of policies that lay out how students must behave in that school, and what happens if they don’t; after which the school has to follow through rigorously, always sticking to those rules and structures.

‘Warm and Strict’ then become two sides of the same coin, where clear rules and structures for children work, but only if the children know they are imposed not out of dislike for, or fear of, the child, but out of care and concern. Schools that achieve such a structure are happy places.

As the legendary teacher-trainer Doug Lemov says in “Teach Like A Champion” :

“You should be caring, funny, warm, concerned, and nurturing – but also strict, by the book, relentless, and sometimes inflexible.”

Warm/Strict means that you would say to a pupil “because I care about you, you must serve the consequence for being late” or “as I want you to master this topic, you’re going to stay back and redo your homework.”

‘No excuses’ means that there is never any need to argue with the child about ‘why’ something has happened, or whether a sanction is deserved or not; when an infraction happens, for whatever reason, sanctions are automatic and aren’t argued over. It’s more, though, than simply explaining to students why you’re doing what you’re doing. Read more

Latest news & views

New “Behaviour Hubs” were announced during the break. Twenty-two lead schools were  announced, who will partner with others who want to improve behaviour culture in their schools through peer mentoring, training and support.

The programme will begin at the start of the summer term with heads or behaviour leads at the chosen schools working as mentors or trainers.

As part of this announcement, Gavin Williamson said he wanted to see more schools ban mobile phones on-site for pupils. Social media took this comment in its stride, and reacted in the usual calm and measured fashion.

Geoff Barton, General Secretary of ASCL, wondered if the talk of behaviour and phone-bans was an attempt to divert attention away from bigger issues – his piece is well worth a read.

Ofsted has said how it will change inspections for schools and colleges this term, as it starts visits again. The aim is to make inspections less daunting and more manageable given the other COVID-related pressures everyone is experiencing.

Regarding “COVID recovery” – William Stewart has a long read in the TES about government plans. Longer school days are predicted to be key to a 4-year Covid recovery plan due to be unveiled by the PM next month – and he asks if teachers fight a ‘catch-up’ extended school day.

(And the EPI thinks that £15 billion will be needed to fund the lost learning recovery needed.)

Safety in schools has continued to be a big issue over the holiday period.

The “Everyone’s Invited” website remained in the press, with growing numbers of allegations shared, and more and more schools being named.

Founder, Soma Sara, has created a new section on the website that allows users to anonymously post their ideas for positive change. The aim is to share the community’s findings with the government and develop solutions. The site has also said it is considering publishing a tally of the number of allegations made at each school mentioned in testimonies.

The government has ordered Ofsted to undertake an immediate review of safeguarding policies and practice in schools. However, as lawyer Lucy Harris explains in Schools Week, policies alone can’t solve the problems: “In the end, the education sector alone can’t be expected to solve a problem that is surely societal at heart. Harassment, assault, bullying and abuse thrive where children lack security, love, self-esteem, safe boundaries, limits, and the confidence to say no.”

On a different safety-related note, there was significant backlash to the passing of a motion at the NEU conference that called for school exclusions to be ended. Cue the usual to-and-fro on social media about the rights & wrongs of exclusions. Interestingly, NEU rivals NASUWT and Edapt both reported surges in subscriptions after the motion was passed.

The Guardian ran a piece on the pressures that Headteachers have faced over the past year. It’s difficult to know how widespread these issues are, but the stories shared in this article are moving and worrying.

Last week saw National Offers Day for primary school places in England. Some areas reported significant declines in applications – beyond those expected due to demographics, with Brexit and COVID suggested as possible reasons.

Finally, Dame Alison Peacock paid tribute to the late Duke of Edinburgh, who was Patron of the Chartered College of Teaching.


Have a great week!