In all the discussion and research on schools it is very rare to find information on pupils’ desire to learn. Though this is central to achievement of pupils and the school as a whole, and to good behaviour. It is astounding that this is not made the central policy aim of education systems. It is left to individual courageous and creative Headteachers to realise that this must come first and aims to raise achievement and improve behaviour will follow.

Naace identified exceptional schools through the ICT Mark assessments and then through the 3rd Millennium Learning Award. These exceptional schools all created a strong culture of learning that promoted pupils’ desire to learn and growth mindset. It was this that was the prime enabler of all the things they did to help young people achieve more, which were many and various. There was apparently no common way of doing this, the schools were all very different in their approaches. But looking deeper there was a common approach to changing pupils’ attitudes. This is expressed in the virtuous spiral.

It was always a whole school drive led by the Headteacher and it always involved the pupils in creating the learning culture, to greater or lesser extent.

The culture of learning can take years to develop, but can be destroyed by a new Headteacher who does not understand how the school maintains it within a matter of months. I and colleagues have seen examples of this. For the individual pupils their growth mindset can take years to develop and likewise can be destroyed very quickly by teachers who do not continue to build it, during the inevitable periods of loss of confidence that pupils suffer. There are too many teachers quick to label children as lazy or stupid and off-the cuff comments can quickly persuade children they are unable to learn. It must always NOT be a matter of being unable to do something, but a matter of not being able to do it YET.

The ethos of the school must be that it exists to enable a collaborative effort where all, pupils as well as teachers, are there to help each other learn. Being unable to do something yet then becomes a reason for more social engagement with others who can help you, rather than being a reason for being excluded from activities or achievements.

The best school motto we came across was from ESSA Academy in Bolton, “All will succeed”. Which the Headteacher explained meant ALL not most. And WILL not might.