Speak of the Devil: When conference themes come calling

You know you have not wasted your time at a conference when you refer to it the next day. Thus is the case with yesterday’s event at King’s Centre in Norwich.  

[4 minutes to read]

I had many a thought-provoking experience at the VNET Curriculum Conference and was planning to unpick them in clever, thematic posts. However, reality beat me to it, and I want to share this (anonymised) email correspondence between myself and a school leader who has had her training follow-up scuttled by Ofsted.

When I clicked send, I discovered I’d not only made direct reference to speaker Robert Campbell, but noticed how the whole email drives home why teachers in a major conference would suggest to “Close Ofsted for two years and let schools work together to create something wonderful.” I also found my response naturally reflected what I think is the most singular important theme that pervaded the mood at the conference, succinctly put by Clare Fletcher @cfletcherDoS:

“We need to seize the agenda, instead of waiting for others to solve our problems.”

There were many memorable quotes at the conference, but this one hits the nail on the head. As I sat there looking at the sea of teachers I thought. “If this all brain power were harnessed and networked, there is not one problem in education that could not be solved.”

looking for a solution? Look no further.

So, a big thank you to Denise, Paul and the indispensable Anita. And, good to see you are finally getting some help: Welcome on board, Nania! This is why networks such as VNET and the Norwich Research School @NorwichRS are so potentially powerful.


A monster calls

This is the mail I received. Be aware that this school is in the middle of a leadership transition on top of meshing Cooperative Learning with its Catholic ethos, Thrive approach and a range of critical SIDP objectives. The “visit” is the coaching visit that is usually interspersed with training in order to empower leadership and make me redundant (Yes, it’s a bad business model, I know!).

On 18 January 2019 at 11:29:29, XXX <XXX@nsix.org.uk> wrote:

Due to Ofsed week we need to reschedule your visit for next week. Please can you give us an alternative day in couple of weeks time.

It is a shame because I had seen a lot of lovely cooperative learning happening prior to the Ofsted call! I am sure folks will get back into it once they have recovered.

Many Thanks XXX —

Mrs. XXX XXX| Deputy Head



From: Jakob Werdelin <jakobwerdelin@werdelin.co.uk>
Date: 19 January 2019 at 07:11:56
Subject: Ofsted inspection

Dear XXX

I am happy to hear Cooperative Learning has caught on and genuinely sorry for you that the inspection visit will mess up the roll-out. In that sense, it is almost the worst possible time for Ofsted to come in.

However, inspired by one of the speakers at yesterday’s VNET conference, I’d say schools are always in a transition, so there is no good time, ever. We are permanently on the threshold: leading from that messy, fluid point (termed “liminal leadership”) is a fact of life, especially for headteachers.

One positive thing is that you can brush off most concerns Ofsted will be raising about teaching and learning by repeating the simple statement: “We have just launched Cooperative Learning as a comprehensive strategy, because we know for a fact that other schools with similar cohorts in this county have effectively solved the very issue you are raising. Next point, please.”

Such issues include not only measurables such as attainment, gaps and exclusion days and the more nebulous elements such as metacognition, mindset change, resilience, but also, importantly, hands-on challenges with pace, classroom management, etc. [Your SSIF project lead], who attended the training, should be very helpful here. If they challenge this, contact me, and I will refer to a school where their specific problem has been sorted through Cooperative Learning.

On that note, it is my sincere hope that the literally hundreds of teachers who have now adopted CL will build a network to share best practice. To be honest, in the current environment, I do not see any alternatives to direct neighbour support. Forget “evidence” and EduTwitter until you have looked out you window – If you neighbour has sorted it, try his idea first.

I know that one of the most successful initiatives of charities such as Education Support Partners (whom I hope to be working with soon) are their HeadSpace meetings where school leaders take time to get together in their local area. Cooperative Learning would help give a shared language to simplify and connect, without jeopardising the autonomy, style and unique ethos of each school.

I am sorry this has turned out a slightly longer mail than intended, but I do hope you find it useful. Do not let them rattle you, but stay confident that you have made the right choice by pursuing Cooperative Learning. I’ll be thinking of you and the team over the next few days and we will reschedule my coaching visit to a convenient time. Let’s speak after closing time?

If there is anything whatsoever you need, get in touch.

Very best wishes


Jakob Werdelin Founder [etc. etc.]



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