Diversity, Student Leadership, Student voice

Why Learning to Lead Matters

Kaydee Neale-Kenwright

In ‘The Danger of a Single Story’ author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie discusses the impact of the narratives children consume. When the world around us tells a limited or negative story about us, it takes a breadth of experiences and a certain confidence to rise above the cynicism around how you should be acting and the role you should be playing in the eyes of society, your community and your peers. We must also strive to listen to the stories that are told, and amplify those that are lesser heard. Our students live across multiple intersections, with so many perspectives to be heard; their stories cannot stay with them or us. If we want to see a change in the world, we have to enable them to use their experiences, perspectives and ideas to shape the world around us. Only 32% of MPs are women; fewer are Muslim women, black and Asian women, and LGBT women. While many of our students may not make it to parliament, they should all have the sense that not only can they make decisions, but that they should make decisions where they can.


Where does the SB Award fit with this? In short, the single-story told about the students we work with is often not the same one we watch play out. How did you last see Muslims portrayed in the media? Female MPs of colour? Economic migrants? Then imagine your identity at the centre of that narrative. That doesn’t tell the story of trilingual 12-year-olds who translate for their parents, students studying the Aleemah course alongside striving for 12 GCSEs or students working with local businesses and police to tackle youth violence and create safer streets in Stratford. So our students are already leaders, in their own lives and the lives of others. The SB Award recognises and rewards the collaboration, communication and organisation skills as well as initiative, innovation and ingenuity that is shown through engagement in school and beyond. The recognition and celebration of taking and making opportunities tells students that we recognise them for their talents, ideas and attitudes. It says that what you think and do matters, not just in the classroom, but in making a stamp on the world around us. 


If our students see themselves as stakeholders and capable of making change now, their continued resilience and perseverance in later life is bolstered. 80% of pupil premium students drop out of university in the first year, and only 18% of Russell Group university students are BAME. Studies show it’s not the lack of aspiration; it’s the overwhelming sense of imposter syndrome. Students who are secure in their ability to navigate different modes of being in different contexts have a far greater chance of defying self-fulfilling prophecy. If we teach students to make themselves heard, listen to others and see the value in working to achieve goals and create the change they want to see in themselves, others and the world around them, they will have the skills to face the hurdles they will inevitably meet with grit and determination.  


Our students experience and navigate living in a world shaped predominantly by cis white men. We need to show them that their stories are worth sharing, and they too should create a world that speaks to and reflects them. We celebrate the achievements, attainment and attendance of students; why not celebrate them being bold and curious, having perseverance and determination too? In the not too distant future, they will be voters, doctors, nurses, teachers, lawyers, business people and policymakers. We need them to be active citizens, not passive passengers. 

Student Leadership, Student voice

Student Perspectives: The Value of Being a Teaching and Learning Ambassador

Aliza Babar – Teaching and Learning Ambassador and Sarah Bonnell School Student

Working as a Teaching and Learning ambassador at Sarah Bonnell School has truly been an enriching experience. Being able to represent students and explore our experience of learning has been a fantastic opportunity to develop our understanding of what makes an effective lesson and how to incorporate the feedback we receive into all lessons.


As a Teaching and Learning Ambassador, our goal is to ensure all students are working to the best of their abilities and are working effectively when in the classroom. We achieve this through our learning walks, where Teaching and learning Ambassadors are able to observe learning for a brief period of time and have the opportunity to communicate and engage with the students, in order to investigate what environment and what resources they work with best. Importantly, these learning walks are highly confidential between the ambassadors and the teacher teaching the lesson. The entirety of the process is revolved around the students only and not the teacher teaching the lesson.


Every academic year, the newly selected Teaching and Learning Ambassadors undergo a series of training sessions to ensure they are confident with the process. The series of training sessions that I had participated in were held at Rokeby School, where students from Rokeby School, Lister Community School and Sarah Bonnell School had the exciting opportunity to collaborate and explore some of the key components to effective learning. The sessions were mainly student led, which allowed there to be a much more collaborative atmosphere. Throughout the sessions, we created a ‘learning record form’ which we use to collate our feedback during our learning walks. The experience was definitely helpful as a lot of the knowledge that I carry with me now is a result of those weekly training sessions.

Overall, being a Teaching and Learning Ambassador has helped develop my confidence and how I feel during lessons, and has given me an insight into the development of teaching and learning across the school. It has been a really positive experience for me.

Marking and Feedback, Student voice

How can effective feedback develop student leadership? 

Sam Walsh-English Teacher and Year 7 Progress Leader. 

Follow him on Twitter: @_MrWalsh_

In my first couple of years as a teacher, I always believed that feedback and marking were the same thing. I felt that these terms were used interchangeably and so, when I was spending hours and hours deep marking books in scribbly red pen, I always assumed that this was just part and parcel of being a teacher.

This assertion is incorrect though. Feedback has various facets to it, but, in its vaguest form, can be defined as ‘some action taken by an external agent to provide information regarding some aspect of one’s task’. Because of this, I set about creating a new way to provide feedback in my Year 8 English class, which would:

1) Dramatically increase the attainment and progress of my pupils; and

2) Dramatically decrease the time I spent marking.

I tried various guises to achieve this: verbal communication which students captured via a pro forma they then stuck in their book; a complex system of highlighters and re-written targets but, the way that proved most successful (100% of students improved their work by half a GCSE grade or more) was a combination of teaching instruction and peer assessment.

As the classroom teacher, I empowered students to accurately assess another’s piece of work, through a series of models and broken down success criteria. Following this, students formed their own triad in which to do the same on their own, and others’ work. After this process had taken place – and I dedicated two lessons to this – students then had a range of written and verbal feedback on their work, ready to re-draft for a final time prior to my final assessment. This final assessment was merely summative, as students had already undertaken a lengthy process of active and independent reflection prior to submission.

It was amazing to see the numerical increase in a student’s progress, but also their developing leadership as they were empowered to be a crucial part of the teaching and learning process.

If you would like to read the full dissertation report following this study, it can be found here: goo.gl/bx1Sai. 


Student voice

Sarah Bonnell Student Learning Ambassadors

Hi! This is Aimanah and Aliyah, representatives of the Teaching and Learning Ambassadors.

We are extremely excited to be given the opportunity to write the first entry for the ‘SB Pedagogy’ blog. At Sarah Bonnell, we value the excellent teaching that we receive, which consequently enables us to achieve the best in every lesson.

Recently, the Teaching and Learning Ambassadors have been attending training sessions at Rokeby School, collaborating with students at Rokeby and Lister. The training has helped us understand what makes effective learning and how to identify this in the classroom.

This is where you come in. We need your support as we would like teachers to volunteer their lessons to help us implement our training. We would like to undertake lesson looks which will focus on the learning and students NOT the teacher. It is essentially an investigation into how students learn best and what resources are required to enhance this.

Please keep in mind that all observations are highly confidential, focusing on the positive aspects of the lesson only.

We are really looking forward to working with you and capturing what makes learning a fantastic experience for all here at Sarah Bonnell.  

We hope we have persuaded you to get involved in our Teaching and Learning challenge.

Thank you for reading!

Aimanah and  Aliyah