ConnectED Blog

Motivation in the Middle

As we approach the middle stage of our remote learning provision, motivation becomes an important consideration. How often do we find that we are motivated at the start of an activity as it is new and interesting, motivated at the end as the activity draws to a close, but we lose interest somewhere in the middle? How we motivate in the middle and maintain momentum will be an increasing challenge.

There are two kinds of motivation, extrinsic and intrinsic. Extrinsic motivation tends to be linked to performance and refers to activities done to receive an external reward, whereas intrinsic motivation comes from the person and involves behaviours done for their own sake that are personally rewarding and develop curiosity, like helping other people, participating in an enjoyable sport or studying a fascinating subject.

Research from the Motivation Science Lab at the University of Reading has shown that mastery-based motivation supports long-term learning whereas performance-based motivation only helps short-term learning. In a recent article, Courtney Okolo, the world indoor 400m champion, talks about her personal response to lockdown and acknowledges that she is being driven by her progress and the goal of mastery rather than competition at this time of great uncertainty.

Many sportsmen and women are using the idea of marginal gains as a motivational tool, by zoning in on specific aspects of training, as part of developing mastery. In Courtney’s words: ‘’I just take one day at a time and I like progressing – seeing small progressions in my training. I have enough motivation from the day before and to do better the next day’’. The concept of marginal gains was developed by Sir Dave Brailsford, who was responsible for reviving British cycling prior to London 2012 Olympics. 1% became the team mantra, all day every day. The focus was on making small improvements every day, everywhere and anywhere, 1% at a time.

The action of learning precedes motivation, although it is often perceived to be the other way around. One of the biggest myths about motivation is that we need to feel motivated before we can do anything. Psychologists call this the motivation trap. Learning something interesting and developing curiosity has a great deal of motivational power. If we search for a tiny margin of improvement in everything we do, we will gain a sense of achievement and increase our motivation. Motivation is infectious and this is a contagion that you actually do want to catch and spread to others. As it spreads from one person to another, you become energised and able to motivate others.

This week students have engaged energetically with the Learning Journeys programme, showing curiosity and widening their knowledge base in preparation for the next stage in their learning. They have been instrumental in spreading motivation.

Kindness also has motivational power and can be a great antidote to those feeling bereft of motivation. This week is Mental Health Awareness Week 2020 and the theme is Kindness. At OLA this has been an ongoing theme within PSHCE. This week pupils considered the links between kindness and mental health in more depth.

They responded to the theme of If we make space for kindness, it will grow and I have included a selection of their work in this blog. ConnectED pupils have explored the 17 Global Goals, a commitment made by 193-member states of the United Nations in 2015. They have explored their own view of the goals under the kindness lens and how they might incorporate some of them closer to home.

Taking small steps in our learning will play a key part in progression next half term, but the precursor to this is rest and the recharging of batteries!

Please continue to provide weekly feedback on our remote learning programme, using the survey link.

Regarding the latest W.O.R.L.D awards, I will have a full update for you in my next connectED blog on Friday 5 June.

I would like to wish all families a relaxing half term break.



Support and Opportunity

Last week I mentioned the 3 P’s of Patience, Positivity and Perseverance. One name that is worth remembering as the embodiment of these values is Jessica Watson.

It is ten years to this day, on 15 May 2010, that this 16-year-old Australian sailed her 34-foot boat back into Sydney harbour, after 210 days at sea and more than 22,000 nautical miles, becoming the youngest person to sail solo, non-stop and unassisted around the world. On completion of the voyage, Jessica was met by the then Prime Minister who declared her an Australian hero.

In a simple speech that won admiration across Australia and around the world, she responded by announcing that she disagreed with him, that she didn’t consider herself a hero—just an ordinary person, who had a dream, worked hard at it and proved that anything really is possible.

Her book, True Spirit, makes fascinating reading and the strategies and mindset used for coping with long periods at sea offer a useful perspective on our current isolating conditions. Her advice, voiced along with others, such as Dee Caffari, the first woman to complete a solo non-stop westward round the world voyage, is to:

• Go easy on ourselves as we adjust and remind ourselves that we will adapt

• Have daily rituals that give some structure and consistency

• Focus on the smaller milestones as they will lead to the bigger goals

• Focus only on what is within your circle of control

• Make a point of staying connected, but also savour the rare solitude

• Be supportive for those who may be having an even rougher time: we may also be giving ourselves strength

• Remember that challenges make us stronger

• Look for the opportunities and be creative

There is some sound advice for the whole OLA community here and I have referenced two of these points below in relation to OLA learning this week.

Pupils continue to apply themselves to remote learning in all sorts of ways and I am delighted that we have more W.O.R.L.D awards to give out this week.

Support of others is at the heart of the Fair-Trade movement, which was the focus in PSHCE this week. We marked the occurrence of World Fair Trade Day on 9 May by learning about the provenance of Divine Chocolate. In order to celebrate their Ghanaian ownership Divine decorate their bars with Adinkra symbols which are traditional West African motifs used to express the connection between the verbal and the visual.

I challenged the pupils to design their own unique symbol based upon three values or activities that were important to them. I have included a collection of their designs below.

A special mention must go to Ethan R (Y7) for extending his learning by using Divine Chocolate to bake some delicious cookies!

Next week Year 11 and the Upper Sixth embark upon a new Learning Journeys programme, which coincides with the Campaign for Learning’s Learning at Work Week 2020. Our advice is to look for the opportunities and be creative as they build their personal learning journeys over the next four weeks. There is something for everyone within the programme, designed to enrich students’ learning experiences and provide an opportunity to reflect on the skills they will need on their future paths.

Browse the Learning Journeys booklet
Select Learning Journeys choices for WEEK 1

Congratulations to everyone who has won a W.O.R.L.D award this week (includes the short week last week too!). You can see the full list below.

Let’s continue to keep the advice of Jessica and Dee at the forefront of our minds along with the 3 P’s of Patience, Positivity and Perseverance.

Please continue to provide weekly feedback on our remote learning programme, using the survey link.

I would like to wish all families a relaxing weekend.

Three Things I Value – Adinkra Symbols PSHCE Project

W.O.R.L.D Awards



Patience, Positivity and Perseverance

Throughout history, language adapts and evolves. The observed fact that ‘social change brings linguistic change’, was voiced recently by a Senior Editor at the Oxford English Dictionary, whose content was recently updated with neologisms, newly coined word or expressions, arising from the present global crisis. Carefully chosen language, catchily referred to at present as the ‘virus vernacular’, is a feature of many crises. Tomorrow the United Kingdom remembers the end of war in Europe, 75 years ago. During the early days of the Second World War, Churchill chose his words with deliberate precision; crafting and delivering speeches that were some of the most powerful ever given.

When delivering the UK’s biggest ever school assembly last week to Oak National Academy, the Archbishop of Canterbury chose the word ‘hope’. This followed the theme used by the Pope in his Easter address where he talked of the ‘contagion of hope’.

Reporters described the Archbishop’s supportive message as uplifting, using a phrase which made me smile; ‘the voice of Zoom rather than the voice of doom’.

Referencing a quote from Nelson Mandela during his years of imprisonment, ‘’May your choices reflect your hopes not your fears,”, the Archbishop reassured listeners that the 3 P’s of Patience, Positivity and Perseverance were the key to embracing hope at this difficult time.

We have certainly seen the 3 P’s in action amongst the OLA community this week across all subjects and featuring strongly in connectED and PSHCE tasks. I have included a selection of poems and artwork from our ongoing kindness theme. The careful use of language in these poems reflects the theme particularly well. A particular mention must go to Davy W (Y8) for his poignant and beautifully crafted poem about finding kindness in the most unlikely of places during war. It is very fitting to be able to include it within this week’s blog (see below). Thank you to everyone who has submitted poems.

In connectED, pupils learned of the Hill Family on the island of Guernsey, whose children were evacuated to the UK during the Second World War when the island came under occupation.

Their only means of communication was through the infrequent use of ‘brief letters’; 25-word letters to their families. I have included a selection of work from pupils from an activity in which they wrote their own 25-word communications either from a historical perspective or from the view of our present-day lockdown.

Pupils also explored the reading patterns of the war generation and how it helped them to get through the crisis.

As part of Deaf Awareness week and in keeping with our kindness theme, pupils reflected in PSHCE on the drive to increase the use of Sign language to help tackle isolation and loneliness for people with hearing difficulties. They learned to sign their name and create other sentences using this richly expressive language. Watch out for videos in the newsletter to see them in action!

Despite the social changes brought about by the lockdown, linguistic change has been less evident amongst our community. The increased physical distance between staff and pupils has not dampened the spirit of OLA and we remain true to our values, adapting our remote provision to meet pupil needs. ‘Age quod agis’ (Whatever you do, do well) is as abundantly evident in online interactions as it is under normal circumstances.

As we all keep in mind the 3 P’s of Patience, Positivity and Perseverance, please continue to provide weekly feedback on our remote learning programme, using the survey link. I would like to wish all families a relaxing weekend.



Interconnectedness and Wellbeing

Welcome to the connectED blog, a new feature running weekly during term time, to help the OLA community stay connected and celebrate success even though we are all working remotely from each other.

In last week’s blog, I mentioned interactivity and social contact as key factors in remote learning success. As we come to the end of our third week of remote learning, each of us is taking away something different from the remote experience, but a feature that we all have in common is that, despite the daily virtual contact, we miss the connections with our friends and colleagues and the social interactions that were once commonplace.

My current reading material is a book called The Self Delusion by Tom Oliver, local author and Professor of Applied Ecology at Reading University. It is a popular science book about our human interconnectedness and explores how people, animals, plants and the planet we live on are all intimately connected – and why this matters.

There is an accompanying blog in which two of his points help to explain our need at OLA for social connections for effective learning and wellbeing: No person is an island and you are not exactly the same person that you were five minutes ago. Tom uses these phrases to deliver the message that the neural network in our brains is altered by every word, touch or pheromone that we receive from other people. This neural network is composed of around 170 billion neurons with the connections between them being formed and lost at a rate of up to 250,000 every second! Such a high level of activity means that our inner selves are constantly connected to, and altered by, others. No wonder we crave a chat with our friends!

Further afield from OLA, all over the world, collaborators and innovators are finding the means to stay connected to each other. Recently, a team of scientists has developed materials which can harvest water directly out of the air, designed to help communities in arid parts of the world.

Tom would class this as an example of interconnected human endeavour. The experience of lockdown, is pushing us to re-evaluate our interconnectedness to other people, recognising that when we have social interactions, we are less anxious, feel a greater sense of wellbeing and have more empathy. Changes we have made to the remote learning programme this week reflect both the feedback we have received and the desire to improve interconnectedness and wellbeing in the home.

Speaking of empathy, work on our Red Cross Kindness theme has progressed further this week in Y7-9 PSHCE and I continue to be impressed by the quality and creativity of OLA pupils. A selection of their work is displayed within this blog and I am sure you will agree it is of a very high standard! As well as artwork, pupils have produced thoughtful poems. Each week I will showcase a few of these poems.

All classes continue to be very engaged in their learning and have adapted very well to the Teams environment.

The connectED groups have been reflecting on comparisons between the restrictions we face now and those faced by the public during WWII. They have explored popular reading material of the era and have discovered how difficult it is to write a 25-word brief letter of the type that was enabled by the Red Cross during WWII. Next week the groups will focus on a nationwide school project to design an Outdoor Learning Centre of the Future; bringing together the themes at the heart of Tom’s book.

I would like to finish by encouraging you to continue to provide weekly feedback on our remote learning programme, using the survey link; thus, helping OLA create its own instance of interconnected human endeavour! Have a lovely weekend and a break from screen time!

Red Cross Kindness Poems

Kindness gives expecting none,
Kindness forgives when wrong is done.
Kindness comes in many ranges,
Kindness makes miraculous changes.
Kindness removes evil forever,
Kindness will keep us all together.

Isabel C (Year 9)

Kindness keeps us close,
It’s what makes us feel happy and bright
Happiness is always around
Even if it is out of your sight

Kindness keeps us close,
Anyone can be gentle
No matter who you are
Even if the pace of life is mental

Kindness keeps us close,
You can be kind
There’s always a reason to be
Even if you’ve lost kindness, you can always re-find.

Miriam W (Year 9)

W.O.R.L.D awards (Week 27 April-1 May 2020)

A special mention this week to:

Mrs Cimas Year 7 and 8 Spanish classes for being fabulous! Working admirably and for always being engaged.

All the poets and artists who have produced work for the Kindness initiative – if your work isn’t featured in the newsletter this week, it soon will be!

All those who took part in the Caption Competition last Friday – winner to be posted on Teams Friday afternoon.

Our W.O.R.L.D award winners this week are:



ConnectEd – Issue 2

Welcome to the connectED blog, a new feature running weekly during term time, to help the OLA community stay connected and celebrate success even though we are all working remotely from each other.

As we have taken up remote learning this week, the OLA community has become connectED again, albeit in a slightly different way for the Senior School, through the Microsoft Teams environment. However, connections did occur over the Easter period with a staggering 95 families joining me in the last week for a remote lesson on the use of Teams!

A link was also circulated to access a Wakelet collection of connectED parent resources. This has been updated recently with a collection of research-based resources from the Education Endowment Fund (EEF), to help parents with remote learning. If you haven’t seen it – do take a look.

This week the school has shown its connectEDness in various ways. Year 7 were engaged in a Red Cross initiative on Kindness will keep us together and produced some wonderful posters.

A special mention must go to Oliver S for his vivid watercolour inspired by thinking about holidays in Scotland and longing for the time when he can return.

The creative work of Henry K also stands out in the centre of the collage, capturing the sense of OLA family.

Year 8 and 9 started their connectED projects with a small foray into Wonders and Big Ideas. From their detailed reports and personal views, I have learned a great deal about Boba Tea, Earthquake Lights and a variety of other topics.

I am delighted that Class Charts points have been rolling in this week. Our four top scoring pupils this week are Brooks F (Year 8), Rocco S (Year 7), Henry W (Year 8) and Lydia M (Year 8). Well done to all of you. You can find out more about Class Charts and how to activate your account in Mrs Sharkey’s and Mr Allen’s Pastoral Housekeeping Bulletin in today’s OLA eNewsletter (24 April 2020).

I recently read an article on the effectiveness of remote learning written by Daisy Christodoulou, a leading educational commentator and author, whose latest book is aptly titled Teachers vs Tech? The case for an ed tech revolution.

In her research for the book, she came across the idea of disruptive innovators, which in its very broadest sense refers to a stimulus which challenges a company’s normal processes. This concept is very relevant in current times as we grapple with the worldwide disruptive innovator of the Coronavirus. As with all schools, the disruptive innovation that results from such a stimulus has been the development of remote learning. Daisy notes that:

“to begin with, it may not be as good as what you get in traditional classrooms. But over time, it will get better until it ends up being as good or better as what is on offer in schools’’.

As we finish week 2 of remote learning, I very much hope that our combined provision of Microsoft Teams in Senior School, Wakelet in Junior School and Zoom is coming close to replicating what we do on site.

The article refers to the success of remote learning being dependent on three key factors:

Firstly, there is a need for high quality and well-designed content and for teachers to curate the best online and offline sources of content.

Both the Teams and Wakelet environments provide OLA teachers with the means to construct well-resourced tasks with a focus on organising and directing content for pupils.

The second and third points are interwoven. Daisy reminds us we all need human interaction – ‘’Remember we’re not brains in a jar’’.

The most effective remote lessons include different types of interactivity. Learning is a social activity, so by combining Zoom with well-designed assignments set through Teams or Wakelets, and the ability for students to interact with the teachers through virtual conversations, we are striving to provide some social connections.

Daisy’s parting thought is that ‘’you can always turn to an even older learning technology – the book!” which leads me nicely onto this week’s W.O.R.L.D Literacy Challenge award holders.

Awards are given for excellent contributions in Writing, Oracy, Reading, Listening and Discussion, and represent a small token of thanks for the hard work pupils are putting in remotely to engage in a positive way with their learning.

A reminder that parents can nominate their son/daughter for an award – just e-mail breynaert@olab.org.uk with details of the activity they have done!

The full table of this week’s awards is below. I want to highlight in particular:

Year 7 for their excellent engagement in the PSHCE Kindness will keep us together initiative

Gabriella O (Year9): For reading about Ciphers in her connectED lesson and making her own! MJQQT, RO SFHJ NX LFgwnjqqf which means HELLO, my name is GabriellA

Congratulations to all our winner!

I hope you enjoyed reading this week’s blog and that the journey we are embarking on together will be one that continues all of the best qualities you have come to know and love from OLA.

W.O.R.L.D Literacy Challenge Awards 24 April 2020



ConnectEd – Issue 1

Welcome to the connectED blog, a new feature running weekly during term time, to help the OLA community stay connected and celebrate success even though we are all working remotely from each other.

In a recent blog by the renowned independent educationalist Mary Curnock Cook entitled Connectedness, trust and student engagement, we are reminded that ‘’feeling connected is highly correlated with trust’’. Mutual trust developed by making connections, leads to an increased likelihood to seek support. Being aware of available support and utilising resources leads to increased trust. Support has certainly been felt at all levels of the OLA community this week, as we have connected together in various ways.

Over the course of the week, I asked my study skills classes how they have organised themselves at home. Thank you to Louis C in Year 8 for giving us an insight into his set-up:

‘’I am working at my kitchen table with plenty of space and no distractions. I am on an organ stool with my laptop in front of me. All of my books are on shelves organised beside me. On one shelf I have textbooks and the other, exercise books. I also have The Week Junior for breaks. On the other side, I have stationary and a dictionary, and Usborne reference books to help me. I have a cat called Boris to give me company. I have a cup of tea and Swedish biscuits for break time.‘’

Connecting to one another through video is becoming the new normal, and we have embraced all that Zoom has to offer for remote learning, with great success. Staff have connected extensively, through a steady stream of helpful tips to enhance Zoom performance. Pupils have risen admirably to the challenge, with reports that they are using Zoom in a disciplined and mature way. Mrs Parry is just one teacher of many who has reported that ‘’All yr7 and 8 who joined zoom have been brilliant!’’. The same has been true of many other classes. We have seen speaking tests, chemical reactions and many more activities all being done through the creative use of video. As with the introduction of any new tool, there has been plenty to learn and we will continue to adapt Zoom to suit our needs.

Connections can also be built through literature. I would encourage every pupil to take some time for themselves over Easter and get lost in a good book. There are some exciting suggestions on the reading lists in this week’s newsletter. Do remember that any book you read will lead to a W.O.R.L.D Literacy Challenge award!

On a final note, returning to the idea of connectedness, trust and student engagement, there has been much evidence of OLA pupils connecting, trusting and engaging in their learning, and in doing so supporting both each other and staff in this journey. This is borne out in the number of W.O.R.L.D Literacy Challenge awards I am able to distribute this week. This is a new cross-curricular literacy challenge for all pupils, designed specifically for remote learning. Awards are given for excellent contributions in WRITING, ORACY, READING, LISTENING and DISCUSSION. Parents can nominate their son/daughter for an award – just e-mail breynaert@olab.org.uk with details of the activity they have done!

I am delighted we have so many awards to give out this week. Those that were not eligible for an award this week, do get onto my Special Mention list though! I am sure pupils will return with much enthusiasm after Easter. Have a well-earned break.

W.O.R.L.D Literacy Challenge Awards 27 March 2020

Special mention to:

Lucas B and Lucien P (Y2) for their work in DT creating 3D model houses from the Great Fire of London – complete with flames coming out of them!

Henry S (Y1): for his enthusiasm to complete all his tasks.

Anastasia W (Y1): for challenging herself in maths lessons and going that extra mile.

All Year 5: excellent working skills and taking on tasks independently.

Lucy P & Olivia B (Y7): for showing an impressive level of maturity

Mrs Thompson’s Year 11 English students (set 4) for approaching exam questions maturely and achieving significantly improved marks on their mocks and normal classwork standard.