Could digital learning be the key to a truly inclusive curriculum?

Mrs Rebecca Brown, GDST Maths Trust Consultant Teacher and Teacher of Maths at WHS, looks at how effective use of digital learning could have the potential to give all students personalised learning experiences.

The use of online video tutorials for learning, especially in Maths, can, if used carefully, provide an individualised learning experience where students study concepts at their own pace, allowing them to review, reflect, pause or accelerate. This in turn enables learners to learn in their own way, giving them more confidence to delve deeper into the subject, embed knowledge and solve problems. Suggestions like this evoke a range of strong emotions and opinions among teachers. Is digital learning the future of education? Or does it mean the de-skilling of teachers and students alike?

How do you learn something new?

If I asked you to learn how to make magic milk, how would you begin?  My own first step would be to Google it and watch a top-rated video. Then I would have a go myself. If a student can watch a carefully selected video at their own pace, pause, rewind, replay until they have good understanding of a concept, then surely this is potentially a beneficial personalised learning experience that can be inclusive of the needs of all learners. Moreover, it can help students to overcome anxieties they may face in the classroom.

Video tutorials also give the opportunity for recap, review and consolidation after a lesson or topic has been taught. During the pandemic we saw an increase in online learning and use of video tutorials that supported student and teacher absences and gaps in learning. Now back in the classroom, instead of reverting to what we have always done, what if we considered a different future? How can crisis turn into opportunity, as we use technology in different ways?

Why use digital learning?

Evidence shows that many digital learning resources can be used to develop students’ mathematical capabilities, especially when they are integrated into a rich teaching environment. In a nutshell, the students pre-learn the new content mostly independently, often as homework, and then most of the precious classroom time is spent practicing, asking questions and doing activities with the teacher there to support and guide them.

After watching appropriate, rigorous, considered tutorials, students can engage in richer in-class discussions that help them develop deeper conceptual understanding of Mathematics. This releases lesson time for social interaction, which Vygotsky’s theory of learning as a social process places so much emphasis on.It can also create more time for one-to-one support and direction from teachers. This is a good example of flipped learning, which can be a very powerful pedagogical process.

Fluency gives students the capability to be confident in their calculations and the cognitive capacity to focus on more complex, problem-solving aspects of the curriculum (Foster, 2019).

What could possibly go wrong?

This does all come with an important warning. We need to select the resources that we direct students to use very carefully. I am sure that you know the pitfalls of a YouTube search! This is where selecting and inserting videos into One Note lessons, Google Classroom, Firefly or using resources such as Ed Puzzle can be helpful. Ed Puzzle is an online video editor tool. Your students watch a video, selected by you, at their own pace. You hold every student accountable, observing who is watching and who answers the questions. They are not able to skip ahead or open other tabs. The process is simple – find a video, add questions, and assign it to your class. Watch as they progress, and hold them accountable on their learning journey.

Wimbledon High School Maths Lesson

Another drawback is relying solely on digital resources as a method of instruction for students to learn. While flipped learning does give you the opportunity to dive into applying the content rapidly, the teacher must assess learning quickly and be able to rectify misunderstandings. This method also centralises the role of homework. Students need recreation time for holistic development, so it could also become detrimental when only used outside of lessons, as the commitments of learners beyond the classroom could limit the time available, hindering progress. For it to work properly, parents also need to be fully informed and engaged to support this method.

To conclude

We want to empower our learners to become critical thinkers, curious problem solvers and resilient creatives. Perhaps a flipped learning approach, if rigorously thought out and planned, could help address anxieties, give more opportunities to accommodate different learning styles and needs, and give more time for complex, deeper thinking in the classroom. Developed in this way, it could become the future of a truly inclusive education.

You can learn more about Flipped Learning at the GDST EdTech25 event on 25th May – hosted by Trust Consultant Teachers Fiona Kempton and Rebecca Brown. Sign up here

Healthy, happy relationships really begin in Early Years

Children’s learning about relationships, personal agency and emotional wellbeing is the responsibility of the whole community from infancy onwards, writes the Head of Junior School, Claire Boyd

It has been eighteen months since the Department of Education made the teaching of RSHE (relationships, sex and health education) statutory in all primary schools. Informed by a recognition that “today’s children and young people are growing up in an increasingly complex world and living their lives seamlessly on and offline”[1], it is now expected that, by the end of Year 6, children will be able to recognise diversity of family set-ups, appreciate the tenets of caring, respectful relationships and understand how to navigate life online safely. 

Following closely behind these changes to RSHE, Ofsted also published its Review of Sexual Abuse in Schools and Colleges in June last year. A sobering read, the report found not only significant failings in the robustness of safeguarding frameworks in many schools, but also suggested that the teaching of Personal, Social & Health education frequently fell short of its intended purpose. The findings for girls were particularly concerning, with high numbers stating that they “do not want to talk about sexual abuse…even where their school encourages them to”, due to a fear of not being believed or being ostracised by their peers. Others worry about how adults will react and feel concerned that they will lose control of the situation in which they find themselves. Although most of the testimonies collected by the review focused on children of secondary age, children aged 11 and under were referenced as victims of sexual abuse and harassment in schools, often describing similar preoccupations as older girls about the implications of speaking up about their experiences.

Rising to the challenges

With these changes and recommendations from the DfE and Ofsted fresh in our minds, in the Junior School we have begun to evaluate the impact and efficacy of our approach to helping students navigate relationships. We are attempting to measure our success against broad and subjective statements, including whether a child is able “to recognise who to trust and who not to trust”, can “judge when a friendship is making them feel unhappy or uncomfortable”, and can “manage conflict [and] seek help or advice from others, if needed”[2].

Whilst there can be no doubt that high quality, systematic teaching of RSHE is imperative for twenty-first century schools, at WHS our reflections have led us to believe that real progress relies on much more than the rewriting of curricula and the upskilling of teachers on their safeguarding responsibilities.  Certainly, a nuanced, proactive approach – evident, for example, in the innovative Wimbledon Charter (the WHS-led response to Everyone’s Invited) – is urgently needed, and ultimately, sustainable and far-reaching change must start with the earliest childhood experiences.

A wholesale and deliberate realignment of how we – teachers, parents, families and communities – nurture our children from the Early Years onwards is essential. If the gold standard we want our young people to attain is self-knowledge that can be communicated with confidence and agency, then we must ensure we embed these skills in their everyday contexts from infancy. We must ensure that we place the principles of character development, emotional resilience and autonomous decision-making in the foreground of everything our children experience both at home and at school. This requires parents and teachers to fight the inevitable urge to smooth over and fix difficult situations for the children in our care. It means we must resist speaking on behalf of our young people, and must consciously fight against the gender biases related to the stereotypical behaviours of ‘troublesome boys and compliant girls’.

Schools as leaders and allies

Our ambition to release future generations from power imbalances such as those reported on by Ofsted depends on schools leading the way. Schools must support parents and families to engage, wholeheartedly, in giving agency to our girls to become comfortable with quiet assertiveness from a young age. We must prioritise opportunities to develop the skills which allow them to resolve conflict for themselves, even if this runs the risk of them experiencing some discomfort along the way. If our young children have not developed the voice to say no, to set their own boundaries and resolve the conflicts they have experienced during early childhood, how can we expect them to do so as teenagers and adults?

What our young people – and our girls in particular – require from us is the bravery to lead a step change; one that sees teachers and parents walking alongside them, coaching and empowering them to develop the resilience and character to be happy, successful and productive members of society.

[1] N.Zahawi, Department of Education, 2021, Statutory Guidance by the Secretary of State,

[2] Department for Education, Relationships, Sex & Health Education (RSE), Statutory guidance for governing bodies, proprietors, head teachers, principals, senior leadership teams, teachers, 2019, p20 –p22,

Training for peace with the Model United Nations

Ms Lucinda Gilchrist (Head of English) and Ms Judith Parker (Head of Spanish), Model United Nations Advisors at Wimbledon High School, explore the value for students in taking part in MUN conferences, and the important collaborative and peacemaking skills they build

What is Model United Nations about?

Image from Pixabay

At Haileybury Model United Nations conference in March 2022, delegates and advisors heard about this passage of the Bible from Isaiah Chapter 2, during a chapel service:

He will judge between the nations

    and will settle disputes for many peoples.

They will beat their swords into ploughshares

    and their spears into pruning hooks.

Nation will not take up sword against nation,

    nor will they train for war anymore.

Established in the aftermath of the Second World War, the United Nations aims to ‘save succeeding generations from the scourge of war’ and ‘promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom’[1]. The image of taking instruments of death and destruction and transforming them into tools for productivity and growth inspired the statue pictured here[2], which stands in the UN garden in New York, and was a gift from the USSR in 1956.

The UN’s focus on finding solutions to conflict or global issues without recourse to military means makes the style of debating which Model United Nations (MUN) fosters quite different from parliamentary debating or other forms of school debating. Rather than being combative, MUN debates are collaborative, with delegates working together to draft and ideally pass resolutions which represent a commonly-agreed plan for future action.

What do pupils learn from Model United Nations?

The formality of the language used in MUN debates, and the typical forms of address (‘esteemed delegate’ or ‘the delegate of France’), avoiding the use of direct personal pronouns, takes personal elements out of debates. Delegates never represent themselves, but rather the views or policies of the country they are representing. The purpose is to engender debate that is civil, polite, and impersonal – although, admittedly, sometimes the heat of the moment can get too much for some delegates. They may well have to express views and ideologies which are entirely different from their own.

The removal of the personal does not preclude opportunities for individuals to shine: at Haileybury MUN, several WHS delegates were awarded for impressive contributions within their committees.  As with any form of debating, crafting one’s language and artfully applying knowledge to create impact are key, and our articulate, energetic pupils put their skills to the test, presenting powerfully on a range of issues. MUN is also distinctive in that those who speak most often, or most loudly, are not necessarily the most successful or admired delegates. Instead, it is powerful to witness younger or more reticent pupils quietly and calmly making their points in a fluent, cogent way. In our mini-MUN conference with Kings College School (KCS), we were delighted to see Year 9 pupils holding their own against Sixth Formers.

Some pupils can be intimidated by the formalised and highly-structured language required in MUN debate, but this is actually one of the benefits of taking part. Listening to a few debates in a relaxed context such as our weekly co-curricular club helps students acclimatise. This style is particularly effective for those who are nervous about public speaking. Formalised language provides participants with a script and a safe formula to speak from; it is striking how pupils who find social interactions more challenging open up when it comes to MUN debates.

The collaborative element of MUN goes far beyond the debating. We were particularly impressed by how our Haileybury delegates actively engaged with peers from other schools, persuading them to add signatures to their draft resolutions during lobbying sessions, or collaborating with them to submit co-authored resolutions. The most skilful chairs supportively encourage the less experienced delegates to contribute and coach them in the language of the debate, something our chairs at the KCS mini-conference exemplified.

Final thoughts

Ms Parker participated in MUN conferences as a school and university student, which led her to a human rights internship at the UN in Geneva where she witnessed diplomacy first-hand. And while Ms Gilchrist was new to MUN on joining Wimbledon High, she has always been intrigued by the relationship between language and power. The increasingly divisive nature of public discourse, not only on social media but also in the political sphere – often characterised by one-upmanship more akin to the swords than the ploughshares of Isaiah – is well-documented. Given current political contexts, with war in Ukraine, the rise of the far right in Europe and beyond, and the combative, highly performative format of UK parliamentary debates, the collaborative style of MUN debating is more valuable than ever. Diplomatic skills should be prized as part of a twenty-first century education.



Clare Green, Music teacher at WHS, reviews Susan Yarney’s book ‘Can I tell you about ADHD?’

Author Susan Yarney is a Neurodevelopmental Paediatrician, specialising in ADHD, who works for the National Health Service.

When we hear of students with a diagnosis of ’ADHD’ how do we react?

‘Can I tell you about ADHD?’ is a very helpful read as we endeavour to understand and accept all WHS students, in whatever way they present themselves.

Having never heard of ADHD from my own school days and teaching training, I was immediately struck by the date of a poem printed at the start of the book (1845) written by Heinrich Hoffman.[1]

Looking into this poem more I was shocked to read on a storynory page – “Fidgety Philip is another horrid creature from the poem Shock-Headed Peter by Heinrich Hoffmann”..[2] With such an attitude how can a professional nurture young people of all dispositions? I know my colleagues would never think of a student in that way – but how can we understand ADHD better?

An article in the British Medical Journal[3] asks, ‘Could Fidgety Philipp be proof that ADHD is not a modern phenomenon?’ “According to a new study, Zappel-Philipp,  a character in the 1846 children’s book Struwwelpeter, is probably the first written mention of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) by a psychiatrist.”[4]

Fidgety Philipp upsets his chair in an illustration from the 1846 children’s book Struwwelpeter

Susan Yarney has written ‘Can I tell you about ADHD?’ for pupils themselves to read so they can understand themselves and the world better and find their voice in a world that may just be keen to label them as difficult – but it’s such a succinct and helpful guide for teachers and parents as well.

Being only 55 pages, it’s a very easy read and invaluable for gaining a better understanding. The book certainly encourages all to accept and know our students, and understand what activities they thrive on most, before we think about the label and indeed give further unspoken labels.

The book ends with 10 pages of very helpful ways friends, parents and teachers can help.

I hope you enjoy the book and gain a better insight into some of the students you teach.

Finally… see what you make of Heinrich Hoffman’s poem!

“Let me see if Philip can
Be a little gentleman;
Let me see if he is able
To sit still for once at table:”
Thus Papa bade Phil behave;
And Mamma looked very grave.
But fidgety Phil,
He won’t sit still;
He wriggles,
And giggles,
And then, I declare,
Swings backwards and forwards,
And tilts up his chair,
Just like any rocking-horse-
“Philip! I am getting cross!”
See the naughty, restless child
Growing still more rude and wild,
Till his chair falls over quite.
Philip screams with all his might,
Catches at the cloth, but then
That makes matters worse again.
Down upon the ground they fall,
Glasses, plates, knives, forks, and all.
How Mamma did fret and frown,
When she saw them tumbling down!
And Papa made such a face!
Philip is in sad disgrace.
Where is Philip, where is he?
Fairly covered up you see!
Cloth and all are lying on him;
He has pulled down all upon him.
What a terrible to-do!
Dishes, glasses, snapped in two!
Here a knife, and there a fork!
Philip, this is cruel work.
Table all so bare, and ah!
Poor Papa, and poor Mamma
Look quire cross, and wonder how
They shall have their dinner now.”

By Heinrich Hoffmann



[3] 2004 Sep 18; 329(7467): 643. By Roger Dobson

[4] The book, written for his son by Dr Heinrich Hoffmann contains a series of short stories about a boy called Zappel-Philipp, which translates as Fidgety Philipp. In a study in European Psychiatry Dr Johannes Thome, professor of psychiatry at the University of Wales School of Medicine, Swansea, and co-author Kerri Jacobs say the character has all the symptoms of ADHD.

Teaching and Learning Gem #48 – Action Research: student attention span/focus

This is the third of our special Friday Gems reporting on recent Action Research. Today is Tyler’s Action Research about students’ ability to focus in lessons.

Tyler wanted to explore the impact of different sorts of breaks in double lessons. Would an ‘active break’ (e.g. chair yoga) in the middle of a double lesson enhance student focus in the final 5 minutes of the lesson?

To read more about his findings, please see Tyler’s write-up of his Action Research below:

John Gunn, RS Teacher at WHS, reviews Fintan O’Regan’s article about ADHD learners. O’Regan is a leading author and behaviour and learning specialist in the UK

O’Regan’s article ‘DEAR MR O’REGAN…PLEASE FIND MY LAUNDRY ENCLOSED’ focuses on children with ASD and ADHD during Coronavirus lockdown when schools were closed. He notes that, “for many families, weekends and holidays supporting children with conditions such as ASD or ADHD can be very stressful so this unexpected and unplanned extended period of time [Covid lockdown] may appear extremely daunting.”

He recollects a previous experience of a mother helping her son with ADHD complete some science homework, which took four hours to complete rather than the expected 20 minutes. She attached a note to her child’s teacher saying she was “enclosing her laundry” – presumably in recompense for the time she took helping with the Science homework! O’Regan states that, “…no amount of positive reinforcement or consequences for non-completion appeared to have any effect [for the boy].” Knowing that the child in question was “fine in class”, but “had major difficulties with organisation”, it is surprising that it took time for O’Regan to make the connection between the positives of structured learning and the negatives of unstructured learning for certain pupils.

The tips he suggests for parents read clearly, though whether they are practical is another matter. With regards to T&L for ADHD students at WHS, the article helps as a useful reminder of setting manageable tasks, allowing for breaks in between tasks, but most importantly the need for clear instructions and time allowance which all too often we may not specify clearly. There are obvious cases where pupils can manage their time well, especially with clear guidance from parents. What is possibly lacking is where such guidance is not forthcoming from staff setting work with such broad parameters.

At KS3, I’ve stopped saying ‘use your device to research’. Instead, I spend time looking at one or two websites or online documents which are not only suitable for the age group, but are easily accessible as well as useful. With clear guidance as to where to look (and indeed how to look on a particular website), how long to spend (set yourself a timer), and the limit of how much to note down and what to note down (set clear tasks and limit the space or word count), will not only help pupils with ADHD, but also pupils who do not have learning, behaviour or socialisation issues.

Teaching and learning Gem #47 – Action Research: Pedagogies to Account for Racial Diversity in English

This is the second in of our special Friday Gems focussed on Action Research. Today’s is about Lucia’s brilliant Action Research over the last two terms, which links closely to our EDI priority.

Lucia was interested in exploring Year 9 students’ perceptions of the everyday language of the diverse speaker, and how we can change our teaching to redress any value judgements students might make. The expectations of exam boards for students to use ‘standard English’ means that judgements might unconsciously be perpetuated about the way individuals speak. By using pedagogies to allow students to be able to analyse AAV (African American Vernacular), she wanted to see whether our students were able to move beyond seeing ‘non-standard’ English as ‘slang’ or as ‘less rich’. In short, Lucia’s Action Research is all about anti-racist pedagogies.

To read more about her findings, please see attached Lucia’s brilliant write-up of her Action Research below:

Teaching and learning Gem #46 – Action Research: Chain of Reasoning as a Cross-Curricular approach to Analysis

This is a special Friday Gem reporting on Holly W’s brilliant Action Research over the last two terms.

Holly wanted to explore how to improve students’ understanding of analysis across subjects. After undertaking some initial wider reading and surveying staff about the issue, she worked with teachers from different departments to establish a shared way of speaking about and teaching the skills of analysis. This is the ‘Chain of Reasoning’ approach using common steps in any discipline:  ‘identify, infer, justify, connect, review’. Teachers used this verbally to work through the process of analysis in class discussion, and used it as a prompt for students to reflect on their work. Crucially, this is a tool for fundamental understandingcutting above subject-specific models of analysis, such as PEE.

To read more about her findings, please find Holly’s brilliant write-up of her Action Research below:

Friday Gem #45 – Conversation With Yourself (mirror function on Flipgrid)

This idea comes from Suzanne in the French department, who used her lesson observation with Claire to try out a new digital technique. In the lesson, she helped students to review all the vocabulary they had learnt so far. She then built their confidence in using the mirror function in Flipgrid to record a conversation using the vocabulary for homework, with the student both asking and answering their own questions.

  • Video instructions Suzanne made for her class of how to use the mirror function in Flipgrid

The application in MFL is apparent. However, the idea of verbally asking and answering your own questions could be used in lots of other subjects, from debating different ideas, to conducting a Q&A with yourself, to putting right misperceptions about something. The metacognition built into doing this sort of thing is brilliant and the mirror function in Flipgrid could be a fun way of encouraging students to develop this sort of thought process. How could your students use it in your subject?

Year 13 German Lesson


  • The students were creative in using the mirror function, using costumes, backgrounds etc.
  • It allowed students to verbalise ideas at home (really important for MFL, but important for all subjects).
  • It built confidence in a fun way: students were practising vocab and accuracy of pronunciation in a low stakes manner.
  • If used for students to debate with themselves, or to conduct a Q&A with themselves, then the metacognitive element is really beneficial.

Neurodiversity considerations for this activity from Isabelle and Catherine:

  • Be prepared to offer an alternative to students with social anxiety and autism.
  • Be prepared that for some students sharing publicly is very difficult.

How does mapping help to create a fictional world?

Ruby L, Deputy Head Girl, explores the significance of maps within literature, and how they help imaginatively guide both readers and writers.

Many famous literary works started off as a blank piece of paper and an idea for a fictional world. J.R.R. Tolkien produced three maps [1] and six hundred place names for his ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy, which became one of the bestselling series in history with over 150 million copies sold worldwide [2]. He is one of many successful authors to utilise the practice of cartography in the establishment of a fantasy land, along with Robert Louis Stevenson, who wrote ‘Treasure Island’ with the inspiration of a hand-drawn map; and C.S. Lewis, who invented Narnia. But why is this technique so popular and why does it make for more developed novels and fruitful book sales?

As Holly Lisle reveals, the process of literary map-making is an extensive and varied one. Authors generally depict a country or full land map instead of a city or street to generate a full view of the world they are creating and its geography. Once borders have been established, the addition of features such as mountain ranges, forests and cities fill the world with purpose and start to create a realistic-looking artefact. Mistakes made can also be of benefit to the plot and narrative. For example, if extra lines are drawn accidentally or a town has been placed far from any others, there is space for artistic license to make these into a story. If there is an abandoned trail it could have been deserted after a guerrilla warfare group used it in an ambush, and the isolated town could be used to excommunicate criminals as punishment in the country’s justice system [3].

But why wouldn’t the author simply write and skip this sketching? The answer is simple: this physical expression of the world inside the author’s head is invaluable when delving deeper into the story’s background. The writer can use their map to discover more about the land they have pictured, which is the main luxury of using cartography to compliment literature. Even a simple structure like the borders of the land probes into why that line was laid in that precise place. Was there dispute or war over territory? How are foreign relations between this country and its neighbour, and how does this impact the everyday lives of the citizens? Does a potential lack of security give rise to a totalitarian state in which inhabitants cannot cross the threshold to leave? Questions like these help the author to contextualise the history of the world that they are creating, which makes for a more three-dimensional setting. It helps us to understand their message in relation to their world’s history and landscape (political and social as well as physical) and in this respect, cartography is undoubtably important for the production of a fantasy world from an author’s perspective.

A hand-drawn ‘Annotated map of Middle-earth’ by British author J. R. R. Tolkien (Photo Daniel Leal-Olivias/AFP/Getty Images)

With the market for novels becoming more competitive, readers gravitate towards stories with an easily visualisable world and deeply considered, nuanced characters. Although there are many techniques which can achieve this, mapping is a simple way to produce ‘evidence’ for the fictional land to exist as they imply the realism of the author’s creation [4]. It adds another layer of credibility to the novel as we want to believe in what has been put in front of us. By human nature we are inclined to wish to read for escapism and suspension of disbelief is a huge part of what draws us into the narrative, so producing artefacts becomes very useful. This fact is what makes book sales soar for fantasy novels as they carry us away from the sometimes mundane real world. The illusion of reliability from a seemingly genuine source encourages us to engage with the text more deeply.

J.R.R. Tolkien’s work is a clear example of how mapmaking benefits both the author and reader in a fictional tale. He wrote in a letter to the novelist Naomi Mitchinson in 1954 that: ‘I wisely started with a map and made the story fit (generally with meticulous care for distances). The other way about lands one in confusions and impossibilities, and in any case, it is weary work to compose a map from a story.’ [1] Tolkien decided to come up with detailed maps depicting what would become ‘middle-earth’ and even chose to invent detailed languages and names before creating a plot. Based on his remarks, we can see that having a map before a narrative is not a defect but a delight, as successful exploration of possible characters and storylines can only come from detailed research and prior thought as to the setting. Not only was Tolkien’s cartography useful for him to devise a plot, it was widely appreciated by readers of his books worldwide. Literary critic Shippey writes that his maps are “extraordinarily useful to fantasy, weighing it down as they do with repeated implicit assurances of the existence of the things they label, and of course of their nature and history too” [1].

It is no wonder that fantasy books containing careful cartography are so popular and successful, then. They are sure to thrive as long as humans continue to need exploration and escapism.


[1] Tolkien’s maps. (2020, October 21). Retrieved November 12, 2020, from’s_maps

[2] The Lord of the Rings. (2020, November 05). Retrieved November 12, 2020, from

[3] Maps Workshop – Developing the Fictional World through Mapping. (2019, April 16). Retrieved November 12, 2020, from

[4] Grossman, L. (2019, October 02). Why We Feel So Compelled to Make Maps of Fictional Worlds. Retrieved November 12, 2020, from