Tag Archives: norfolk

“Mum wasn’t good at maths either, love…” Girls, Maths & Cooperative Learning

I am very honoured to be taking part in the Strategic School Improvement Fund project to raise progress in mathematics for KS2 girls in Norfolk

Followers of this blog will be aware of my ongoing work with Sheringham Primary School and Nursery. The teaching school based there, Norfolk’s largest, has made a successful bid for addressing the under-attainment in maths at Key Stage 2, specifically focusing on girls, which is a county-wide issue.

The relevance to the rest of the UK is clear when one bears in mind that girls present a relatively untapped source of talent to handle the growing shortage of digitally skilled workers. However, young women are grossly underrepresented in mathematics and other essential subjects for taking computer science at university. For years it has been recognised that this gender imbalance might be traced back to bottlenecks in school education.




Girls will be girls?

This unfortunate trend starts early on: There is a large gender gap between the progress of boys and girls in maths at KS2 and in Norfolk overall attainment for both boys and girls is already below the national average.

Maths standards in Norfolk

One of the first things that inspired me about the SSIF bid was that it looks beyond the “teaching the subject” to include such factors as the negative messages that many children, in particular girls, receive about maths. It is a prevalent myth in our society that you have a maths brain or not, which affects teachers, TAs, parents and ultimately children as schools do not operate in a vacuum.


Girls and Maths - no worries!

Getting the message?


The project therefore includes work to undo these negative messages with staff, children and parents. As these messages are almost subliminal, one of my areas of focus will be to use the dialogical/constructivist aspect of Cooperative Learning to unpick them and draw them into the light.

Another prevalent myth is that speed in calculation equates with being good at maths. This leads to maths classrooms being perceived as threatening because you are put on the spot to provide answers very quickly. Girls often will not flourish in this environment. Instead children need to make connections and learn facts conceptually to allow creative application in a range of situations. Above all we need to value depth over speed.

Such conceptual teaching needs to be coupled with messages about the brain and how it can grow, along with metacognitive strategies to increase independence and confidence when learning maths. We have discussed here on cooperativelearning.works on numerous occasions the connections between metacognition and Cooperative Learning. As noted in the original bid outline: “Maths, even at the highest level, is a collaborative subject and children should be given well-structured opportunities to collaborate effectively.” Cooperative Learning secures this.

Once all the above elements are in place all children can flourish in maths classrooms, the progress of girls will rise to match the boys and all will attain at higher levels, not least due to the mutual benefit to all participants secured by Cooperative Learning. As Mr McConnell of George White Junior School notes, “This is what inclusion looks like.”

John McConnell video still.PNG

Mr McConnell video interview on his experiences with Cooperative Learning.

The project in a nutshell

This project comprises several components, which have been introduced to 30 schools through CPD sessions and are to be supported for the duration of the project by designated Specialist Leaders in Education (SLEs) who are training and guiding two Project Leads (PLs) within each school.

These CPD components comprise:

  • Meta-cognition by Anne Stokes and Robert Brewster from Sheringham Primary National Teaching School Alliance (SPNTSA).
  • Maths mindsets of staff, parents, children, including maths learning cafes delivered by SPNTSA and A2E2 Education
  • Conceptual Teaching in Maths, including CPA, number sense and aims of the National Curriculum, delivered by Educator Solutions.


SSIF training maths kit A
Some materials from Educators Solutions’ training day for SLEs, November 2017


The objective of my own upcoming training is to fuse all this previous input into a simple, sustainable classroom practice, tailored to each school, yet consistent enough to be accurately assessed, shared and supported.

Sustainability, a crucial requirement to receive SSI funding, is precisely being ensured by Project Leads being trained to deliver and embed packages of CPD, rather than external consulting. This means one of my most interesting challenges is to train by proxy – to train the Project Leads to not only deliver Cooperative Learning CPD packages, but to empower each of them to the point they will be able to support and guide their colleagues in the long term without oversight from me or SLEs.

It is worth noting that Cooperative Learning is not the actual objective of the training – the objective is that Cooperative Learning secures the three components above in every classroom.

Therefore, the acid test when SLEs come to assess impact of my training will be whether they actually see metacognition, CPA, etc. – rather than the quality of Cooperative Learning in its own right: A core message to PLs in the upcoming training is that one may stage an excellent Cooperative Learning activity that has absolutely nothing to do with the objectives one is supposed to be teaching, in the same way as a doctor may find the right vein, but inject the wrong medicine.

Cooperative Learning and Maths

So, is Cooperative Learning relevant to maths? The answer to this has several aspects.

Number one, maths is much more than knowing your times tables. Real maths requires high-level thinking and understanding of ever more complex concepts as you move up through keystages. The best way to avoid getting lost in this complexity is peer-to-peer negotiation of meanings, ideas, where pupils (and teachers) can check and recheck their comprehension.

Number two, Cooperative Learning should never be confused with disorganised group work. It is a precision tool that allows repetitive tasks resolution in a highly engaging manner. Much of the maths curriculum is comprised of what we would term procedural skills: how do you convert fractions to decimals? What’s the bus stop method? Cooperative learning allows a very effective learning of these core skills sets.

Number three, maths requires that certain things are simply known. A good example is multiplication tables, definitions and terms such as enumerator and denominator, and specific values, such as Pi. Cooperative Learning is equally good at drilling what are essentially non-negotiable closed questions, and get a great deal more out of them than would be expected.

During my training for MUA Consultancy, one of the UK’s leading specialists in Singapore Maths, maths leads have pointed it out time and time again how Cooperative Learning strengthens maths, even such specific systems as MathsNoProblem.

Cooperative Learning is a truly vast and largely unexplored resource to solve the multivarious challenges faced by STEM, something I have touched on in articles on Mrs Mary Whitehouse and my recent presentation at the ASE Conference on oracy with Naomi Hennah. And I still owe Ron and Richard of mathsinscience.uk recognition for their inspiring day on the interpretive range of Maths vocabulary and other issues at the IoE last Summer – you are not forgotten!


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werdelin.co.uk is the business end of cooperativelearning.works.


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How to NOT benefit from a visit to Stalham Academy; a warning to desperate heads

I am very happy that so many have taken an interest in the success of schools I have worked with. I am less happy to find that some visitors have disregarded the context of that success.

Stalham Academy has recently issued a disclaimer email to schools whose staff have visited them following the Regional Schools Commissioner’s endorsement.

The upshot of that correspondence is that, while they welcome observers, under no circumstances will Stalham Academy accept responsibility for haphazard attempts to replicate “Cooperative Learning” in schools following such a 2-hour visit.

While Andrew and Glenn have made every effort to demonstrate how they have deployed my original 2014 Skills & Mastery CPD course to improve their school, I know that they do not advise randomly dumping Cooperative Learning into classrooms without proper training, any deep understanding of its application, context or, indeed, of its aims. (Some of the requirements of leadership may be found in this series of articles).



Warning do not try this at home



On the contrary, they have clarified to visitors that success depends on SLT systematically connecting Cooperative Learning to all areas of the SIDP, including assessment systems, as well as the overall vision for the school’s ethos as a safe and collaborative community of pupils, parents, and staff.

Furthermore, precisely because my CPD always reflects the needs of each specific school, it may well be that Stalham Academy’s use of Cooperative Learning is not even best practice for your school. Bear in mind that Stalham had just gone into special measures, lost their headteacher, and converted to academy status when the acting head and I planned their CPD.

Thus, Stalham Academy’s results are absolutely not the sole result of my CPD provision, but of an ongoing and systematic and responsible effort by all staff to operationalise my training to meet their needs and achieve their vision.


” Jakob’s training leaves nothing to chance, is focussed, thorough, reflective and takes good account of the real development needs of the team.” 

-Tony Hull, CEO of Evolution Academy Trust, on “The Real Value of TAs” tailored Cooperative Learning programme,  July 2017. 

To write off their hard work because one chooses to blatantly disregard their advice in search of a free magic bullet is unfair. To repay their hospitality by speaking ill of them to one’s colleagues and to denigrate Cooperative Learning as a “fad” simply to cover one’s own shortfalls is the height of ingratitude.

Cooperative Learning is a cost-effective solution, but any solution must be applied correctly. I therefore strongly urge past and future visitors to Stalham and other schools to not to write off Cooperative Learning with the comment “We tried it out when we came back and it didn’t work.”

Should you hear such talk, please urge the concerned individual to contact me for a meaningful dialogue about the requirements of their situation.


“We found working with Jakob really effective, he …  listened to us and adapted his programme specifically for our teachers and our children.”

 Ben Rogers, Vice Principal at Norwich Primary Academy, 2015.
(Watch Vice Principal Ben Rogers and Year 3 teacher Ms Shane Horne discuss their experiences with Cooperative Learning in these short video interviews) .

My training has come a long way since 2014, as it continuously evolves to integrate changes to statutory requirements and DfE recommendations, relevant research (such as best use of TAs), and include a host of ancillary objectives, ideas and experiences from working with a number of schools and training providers.

I, therefore, trust that such a conversation seems a fair proposition?


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Filed under Cooperative Learning, get started with CL, Leadership advice

Trusted partners: VNET/Werdelin present a Hands-on Introduction to CL

Working with Viscount Nelson Education Network, I am presenting Introduction to Cooperative Learning on the 14th July.

I am very proud of being accepted as a trusted VNET partner. I am especially happy about VNET’s minimal staff and commitment to independence and empowerment of schools through bespoke programmes that reflect their needs, which express my own take on school improvement.

As a partner, I have therefore agreed on an enhanced pricing model for VNET Schools. We are also offering opportunities to develop bespoke packages across multiple VNET Schools. All part of the benefit of being part of the VNET Network!

VNET – “the artist formerly known as NB2B”
Norfolk County Council’s highly successful Norfolk Better to Best (B2B) programme which delivered tremendous Ofsted outcome improvements across Norfolk over the last three years has recently been taken over by the community interest company Viscount Nelson Education Network CIC (VNET). VNET has been founded to ensure that the community network of schools that was formed through B2B, committed to a self improving approach and being both givers and receivers of support, could continue without funding form the LA.

The VNET approach is to provide tailored school improvement from best of breed partners who are matched to the needs and philosophy of the school. No two schools are the same, and therefore, a system of school improvement where one size fits all fails to deliver the desired results for many.


The workshop

The workshop is our response to a number of requests from Headteachers following previous Tea Party discussions and Special Measures to Top-500 webinars with Andrew Howard on the considerable impact of Cooperative Learning in the area.
While it is well known that the Sutton Trust – EEF Teaching and Learning Toolkit rates Cooperative Learning among one of the top investments of Pupil Premium funding, the aim of this Workshop is to give Headteachers who are keen to know more a chance to experience in a practical way.
In the workshop, we demonstrate how a single, simple activity from the programme may be used across all subjects to instantly generate outstanding teaching and learning by:
  • Sharing knowledge, reflections and ideas across class.
  • Activating prior knowledge.
  • Making students aware of their own learning process and knowledge gaps.
  • Retaining or explaining knowledge.
  • Drilling rote learning and procedural skills.
  • Providing formative and summative assessment.
  • Securing written evidence of learning.
  • Subtly guiding focus towards specific learning objective


Closed question, closed gaps

Even your closed questions yield more with Cooperative Learning. Read Cooperative Learning; Closed Questions, Closed Achievement Gaps)


As part of the workshop, Heads will receive handouts to take away – allowing participants to pilot techniques in their own schools with their current lesson objectives and materials. There will also be case study materials about the considerable impact similar programmes have made on other schools.
Booking & Details

Title: An Introduction to Cooperative Learning Hands-on Workshop

Date: 14th July 8:30 am – 10:30 am

Place: Information Suite, VNET offices
South Green Park, Mattishall
NR20 3JY (map)

Booking: To book your place, please email anita.lee@viscountnelson.net asap. This session is limited to a maximum of 12 Headteachers on a first come first served basis, and is provided as part of VNET Membership.


* * *

For more information on Cooperative Learning, please visit www.werdelin.co.uk
VNET homepage is found at viscountnelson.net


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Filed under Cooperative Learning, CPD, get started with CL, VNET, workshop, Workshop

New Video: Vice Principal, 10 weeks into the Skills & Mastery programme

In this short video, Ben Rogers, Vice Principal, discusses Norwich Primary Academy’s experience with Skills & Mastery.

Norwich Primary Academy, situated in one of the most socially challenged areas of the city, is now using Cooperative Learning to develop key human skills; resilience, mental toughness, sense of duty, service to others – without compromising academic performance.

Their first two hour inset was reinforced by a one hour optional add-on to support lesson plan integration. 

The first inset took place on 3 September 2015, and this interview was conducted only 10 weeks later, after the second session. So far, the school has also invested in 6 hours of individual coaching to selected teachers. Please see this video with Ms Shane Horne, a Year 3 teacher.

The video covers a wide range of topics: why this challenged school adopted Cooperative Learning in the first place, experiences of teachers and management working directly with myself, children’s responses, adapting Cooperative Learning to lesson plans and materials, social skills and behaviors for learning.

Importantly, one of the important benefits of Cooperative Learning is that it strengthens the usefulness of much previous CPD investment, rather than replacing it. At the end of the interview, Mr Rogers discusses integrating Cooperative Learning with NPA’s current strategies.

Please visit the full NPA video library for more pictures and videos.

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Paris murders in Norfolk classrooms? The responsibility of RE teachers & the Muslim community

Charlie Hebdo: In areas with a low concentration of Muslims, the importance of RE in relation to the “social cohesion” mentioned in Mr Nash’s recent letter is all the greater.

Pupils in counties such as our own Norfolk do not routinely interact with Muslims, leaving only media pieces when puzzling together an image of Islam and the murders in Paris. This is especially true due to the one-way nature of sweeping press statements by some Muslims; statements which would be perhaps tempered by one’s Muslim friends, colleagues or neighbors in, say, London or Birmingham.

Especially in areas with very few Muslims, it is absolutely crucial that schools, SACREs and Muslim communities collaborate to prevent the formation of islands of – rightfully – disgusted, frightened and angry Britons, whose only take on Islam is a 30 second video clip of a wounded, prostrate, pleading police officer being executed at point-blank range.

On the subject of complexity

Simple answers do not exist here, due to the fluidity, levels and complexity of the issues – Who speaks for Islam? Does essential Islam exist today? And, if so, what is it? What are the actual rulings on denigration of the religion? … says who?! et cetera ad nauseam. (We need only mention the police officer was also Muslim, to confuse the case).




Hence my previous argument that RE should be used as a staging ground for experimenting with new types of learning strategies to promote higher level thinking in areas where social constructivism is necessary. Any proposed state-tailored and vetted curriculum content* won’t work in such fluid, complex areas where opinionated, internet-savvy teenagers are supposed to be “learning from” religion.  Google Islam means peace and think SMSC & Citizenship without having a heart attack – unfortunately, thinking is required.

This is precisely the reason the new series of Enquiry & Immersion school field trip – the first of its kind we believe –  is a a result of the collaboration between local RE coordinators and educationalists within the local Muslim community. We hope it may serve as an inspiration, if not a template, for other schools and faith communities elsewhere.

More than mind

On the thinking/learning side, Ihsan Mosque is taking the events in Paris very seriously indeed and we are working to integrate specially related materials followed by a Q&A session into the Enquiry & Immersion tripsThis will allow students to themselves position the events into an overall “framework” of subject knowledge on Islam and its history AND give them a chance to ask any relevant, unresolved questions face-to-face.

But something else is required, beyond higher level thinking: the personal encounter. The purpose of the Immersion aspect of these field trips is precisely this recognition that the human being consists of both mind and heart, and a disembodied mental enquiry exercise or an engaging classroom debate on Muslims does not take the place of sitting, eating and speaking with them.

If (subject) knowledge is brick, the meeting is the mortar of community building.


 – – –

Any teachers interested in engaging with Ihsan Mosque should contact ihsan.mosque.school.visits@werdelin.co.uk, as we are currently vetting materials for the amended version. Thank you to the people who have already been in touch. Get notifications of related posts on twitter.


Related articles:

Deconstructing the Progressive-Traditional Dichotomy; a note to Mr Peal (on the impossible, possible and obligatory nature of social constructivism in the classroom)
ISIS for Secondary RE teachers: A deeper look at Islamist/modernist reform
“Islam in RE…”; UKIP in RE? Dealing with non-PC views
Christian-centred, atheism-centred… or just Student-Centred? Making RE relevant at all
What comes out of the Birmingham “Trojan Horse”?

 As a part of interfaith outreach group for the Muslim community of Norwich, I am in the process of developing a series of RE discovery exercises aimed at primary and secondary schools. I find that structural Cooperative Learning, being firmly grounded in social constructivism, offers a unique tool to teach learners to cope with opposing viewpoints and provides tools to de-construct messages discovering and working outwards from their own understanding… more

 werdelin.co.uk is the business end of cooperativelearning.works.

* For an example of this argument, well put, see RE’s Knowledge Vacuum by David Ashton

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Filed under community building, Cooperative Learning, Didactic methodologies, Education policy, Enquiry, Islam, Multiculturalism, P4C, Philosophy for Children, RE, Religious Education, Religious studies, RS

Islam Awareness Week 2015 programme in Norwich

Islam Awareness Week 2015 is from March 17 to 23.  Ihsan Mosque marks the occasion with four events of special interest to educators:



[  download as pdf  ]


Monday 16 March:

Healing Fractures II” Educators’ Workshop is a full-day event, led by Ibrahim Lawson, which aims at inspiring and enlightening relevant professionals in the education sector and local authority through the insights and experience of Muslim alternative educators. It is a full-day version of our highly acclaimed event in 2014. Read more

Tuesday 17 March:

Islam in RE: Religious Literacy & Controversy Through Enquiry allows RE teachers to use Cooperative Learning to achieve outstanding results in relation to religious literacy, guided enquiry into highly controversial topics and related issues of SMSC, PSHE, and Citizenship. This course has been presented in Norwich in October and to PGCE students at the Institute of Education in November 2014. Read more.

Wednesday 18 and Thursday 19 March:

“Enquiry and Immersion” Full-Day Field Trip to Ihsan Mosque aimed at primary. Open  official invitation from Mr Jamal Sealey, Muslim community leader in Norwich, to February’s roll-out. More on this as situation develops – follow on Twitter for updates. Thoughts on the pilot.


MON ladies 2

 Smiling because the boys are all downstairs?

Acle Academy students, Enquiry & Immersion, November 2014

“…the experience of participating in these transferable and scalable enquiry exercises was very effective.

Laura Gabell, RE teacher, Notre Dame High School,

Islam in RE, Norwich CPD, October 23, 2014 


Filed under community building, Cooperative Learning, CPD, Enquiry, integration, Islam, Multiculturalism, P4C, Philosophy for Children, RE, Religious Education, Religious studies, workshop

Enquiry & Immersion in East Anglia; new mosque field trips in 2015

I am very pleased to have been formally commissioned by the Ihsan Mosque of Norwich to handle all school visits from December 1, 2014. 

NEW: Full primary programme now available.

It is a great honour to serve the Ihsan Mosque and the wider school community of East Anglia by providing not only an outstanding experience to students, but to promote community cohesion; given the ongoing issues related to Islam, it is more important than ever for Muslims to show that they are effective part of the solution, not the problem:

In presenting Enquiry & Immersion, we are drawing on available skills within our community. We thereby hope to establish the Muslims of Norwich as a valuable resource for education and to moderate negative stereotyping by facilitating religious literacy through independent enquiry and personal encounters… more 

– Mr Jamal Sealey, Muslim community leader. See full pdf text for details from the original February roll-out.

 Jamal Sealey

For Enquiry & Immersion, students will be presented with an enquiry exercise expanding their understanding of Islam, and will then have the opportunity to informally engage with Muslim community members over lunch, see the prayer, and tour the mosque grounds.

For my own professional development, there is an added bonus; creating a Primary course by changing only materials, rather than the lesson plan as such, will vindicate my claims about the transferable nature of Cooperative Learning lessons. (IoE teachers especially, follow this on twitter).

“As a first experiment this was very positive. Learning from religion was very high… but then learning about religion was also very high.”

– Ian Burns, RE coordinator, Acle Academy, after first trail of Enquiry & Immersion, 13 November 2014.



MON1 spider diagram



  • 10 – 12 Enquiry exercise into Islam at Norwich Wellbeing Centre hosted by Jakob Werdelin.
  • 12 – 13 Lunch, on floor, gender segregated, informally hosted by members of mosque community. Price includes lunch for each student & teacher, provided by Jamoroc Catering.
  • 13 – 13.15 Students watch the noon prayer
  • 13 – 14+  Mosque Tour, including community history and Q&A.

Dates & contact information

Booking is now open for 2015. Interested schools should contact me by mailing ihsan.mosque.school.visits@werdelin.co.uk. More about CL on the other site, and about the Ihsan Mosque on muslimsofnorwich.org.uk.


Mindmap MON

 Original spider diagram by Acle Academy students


Useful links: muslimsofnorwich.org.uk, norwichwellbeing.com, werdelin.co.uk.


Filed under Cooperative Learning, Enquiry, integration, Islam, Multiculturalism, RE, Religious Education, Religious studies, RS