This much I know about…why we should stop intervening and focus upon improving the quality of teaching

It’s the final push in the run up to exam season: doing again what we have already done and expecting a different outcome leads me to reblog this post from John Tomsett.

What if we were to focus more on students’ intrinsic motivation, at this time, rather than ploughing on with tiring and unwanted interventions? What if we were able to hide the distractions, reduce stress and give students back ownership for their grades? Wouldn’t this be intervention enough?

I’ve recently picked up a Year 11 group for English Intervention , once a week for fifty minutes. They don’t want it, they believe they don’t need it and they are stressed by it. My solution? I’ve stopped doing what I’ve always done in the past and asked them to bring in anything, from any subject that they are struggling with, need to complete, or want to revise. We spend 50 minutes, some in pairs, others forming small groups and most working independently on the task in hand: preparing for their exams. I work in the margins, guiding, questioning and praising their maturity. There’s nothing wrong with building their ego and pandering to them a little; I can’t think of a single teenager who doesn’t want control over their lives!

Our time together is productive, stress free and collegiate. We are all wanting the same outcome and the students are motivated. Most work on English tasks, from revision books which they cling to like floating debris in the aftermath of a shipwreck. I know that there is pressure all round but it is wrong to assume that they are not feeling it as much as we are. I’ve seen our stresses transferred to young people where we wrongly assume that they just don’t care as much as us and that it is our jobs on the line as much as their futures. What a terrible state for us to get into.

John’s blog post is a timely reminder to focus on the teaching and not only for Year 11. We’ve had five years with this lot and no amount of blind panic can make an ounce of difference to the results in August.


I have been a teacher for 25 years, a Headteacher for 10 years and, at the age of 49, this much I know about why we should stop intervening and focus upon improving the quality of teaching.


This is my first ever request post. I loved reading a post by @DHTJohn on the corrosive nature of examination run-in interventions. I wish I had written it. When I complimented him @LeeDonaghy and @ieshasmall asked me to write about why I have all but stopped Year 11 interventions…

First clarify your terms. When I was Headteacher at Lady Lumley’s School we invented the concept of PIRA: Prevention, Intervention and Raising Achievement. The definitions of these three different things are important:

  • Prevention: all the great teaching that we do in class to make sure that all our students stay on track, preventing anyone falling behind;
  • Intervention: direct interventions for those individual students who…

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