Thinking Matters

We are delighted to have gained Advanced Thinking School Accreditation in July 2016.


The award is testament to the hard work, commitment and dedication that is demonstrated by the staff here at Barbara Preistman Academy.

You can read more about Thinking Matters by clicking here.

You can also follow us on Twitter here: Get that thinking [email protected] Academy

The latest report is written here : barbara-priestman-advanced-report-july-2016

Challenge Partners – An Area of Excellence

We are part of the Challenge Partners Network who quality assure everything we do in school. As part of this process, schools are able to apply for an Area of Excellence and if they feel practice is a) established and embedded, b) an area others will want to know about and c) is transferable to other schools; then schools are given that endorsement.

We completed our 3-day review just before October half-term and our application for Thinking Skills to become our area for Excellence was granted without question.  They were ‘blown away’ by everything they saw in school. Their verbal feedback included that what they’d seen was “special and unique” and it ran through the school “like a stick of rock!”  which is a lovely comment and testament to everything we do.  Thank you to all the staff for their hard work. You can view the full report below:

Barbara Priestman School Final Report 2022
Barbara Priestman School Final Report 2019

Thinking Schools Ambassadors

We have a group of our students who are trained in Thinking Maps and P4C and are our Thinking Schools ambassadors.  This term we have been to Newbottle Primary Academy, one of the schools in the Aim High Academy Trust, and have led sessions, working with their Y5s.  We worked with them on a range of activities to help them develop their thinking skills and then they took part in a P4C enquiry.  Both groups of students got a lot from the afternoon and we saw some fantastic thinking taking place. Because it was so successful, we have been asked whether we would like to go and work with students from the other schools in the Trust.

All of our students were in agreement that they were nervous but excited before they went and were all really proud of what they had achieved at the end of the afternoon and can’t wait to do it again!

Dialogic Thinking and Learning

One way of teaching people to become better thinkers is to teach them how to get better at dialogue. Research has found that group talk in schools is often ineffective.
Adopting a framework that sets some parameters for good dialogue, but which is adaptable to different contexts would be beneficial to ensure both staff and students know what purposeful talk ‘looks’ like.

We used the framework provided by the ‘4Cs’ in Philosophy for Children (P4C) to support analysing the dialogue that takes place in classrooms.

This framework allows us to translate Matthew Lipman’s (the founder of P4C) theory of ‘excellent thinking’ into something immediately accessible to staff and to students.

We discussed this framework with different groups of students and worked with them to develop a series of statements to identify the behaviours they need to focus on to move the quality of their dialogue forward.

The statements become tangible, attainable goals where students can articulate what they mean in a more precise way and begin to focus on what they do well and areas they need to develop.

Because students have ownership, they are more likely to identify when the talk is not purposeful and want to do something about it.

Thinking Schools Conference Friday 13th October 2017

Friday 13th October 2017 saw the first regional Thinking Skills Conference hosted jointly by Barbara Priestman Academy and Thinking Schools International (TSI).

It was a thought provoking day, where the focus was on cognitive education and different thinking processes/ strategies that could be used in the classroom.

Gordon Poad was our first keynote speaker. He shared with us his experience of working with some of the hardest to reach students and to consider why we do what we do in the classroom and the interventions that teachers use that really make a difference. His key message was to ‘be fully present and teach with your heart and your head.’


Delegates then took part in two workshops which looked at various thinking tools and methodologies that can be used in the classroom to help students think about their thinking and to help them transfer their learning from one area of the curriculum to another. Workshops were practical and designed to make delegates think about how they could use the strategies with their own students in their own setting.


The day was rounded off with our second keynote speaker; Professor Steve Higgins from Durham university. Steve is a former primary school teacher whose research interests include the areas of effective use of digital technologies for learning in schools, understanding how children’s thinking and reasoning develops, and how teachers can be supported in developing the quality and effectiveness of teaching and learning in their classrooms.

He talked about different pedagogies for thinking and the benefits of each and how often it is not the structural stuff but the relationships and interactions between staff and students that makes a difference to students’ learning.

The conference is just the beginning of the partnership work between Barbara Priestman and TSI and there will be a range of training opportunities on offer over the next two terms.



Thinking Frames

Thinking Frames are used in the academy to support students’ thinking. There are eight frames that support fundamental thinking processes.

The Defining Frame

Thinking Process: The Thinking Frame for defining, used for brainstorming or generating lots of ideas and thoughts, looks like this.

Key Questions: Tell me everything that you know about this? How are you defining it? What is your context? What is your frame of reference?


The Describing Frame

Thinking Process: The Thinking Frame for describing something or somebody looks like this.

Key Questions: How would you describe this object/idea/person? Which adjectives would you use?


The Compare Contrast Frame

Thinking Process: The Thinking Frame for comparing and contrasting any two objects, items, concepts or phenomena looks like this.

Key Questions: What are the similarities and differences?


The Categorising Frame

Thinking Process: The Thinking Frame for any type of categorising or classifying looks like this.

Key Questions: How might you group the main ideas, supporting ideas and details?


The Whole Part Frame

Thinking Process: The Thinking Frame for whole part thinking when deconstructing concrete objects looks like this.

Key Questions: What are the parts that make up the whole object? Can the parts be broken down into sub-parts?


The Sequencing Frame

Thinking Process: The Thinking Frame for sequencing looks like this.

Key Questions: What is the sequence of events? What are the sub-stages?


The Cause Effect Frame

Thinking Process: The Thinking Frame for cause and effect thinking looks like this.

Key Questions: What are the causes and effects?


The Connecting Frame

Thinking Process: The Thinking Frame for making connections and analogies or for transferring relationships looks like this.

Key Questions: What is the analogy being used?


The Reflective Lens

Thinking Process: The Reflective Lens (RL) is an invitation to the teacher (or student) to ask a generative, higher order, probing or metacognitive question. The RL is a set of double lines to create a double frame which can be put around every Thinking Frame. It is a questioning tool. It should always be presented, even if it is not used. This is to indicate that there is always the potential to ask questions, dig deeper, etc.


Introducing the RL: Each Thinking Frame has a task and, potentially a RL question. It is described as a meta-tool. The RL provides the ‘LENS’ through which the thinking is being viewed or constructed and the opportunity for ‘REFLECTION’, i.e. thinking again about what has been said or put within the Thinking Frame.


Embedding the RL: We look at three categories of RL questions that could be asked although, of course the teacher will ask any question that challenges and extends student thinking:

Thinking Hats

The Six Thinking Hats® is a tool that has been used by people in the business world and the educational community. This methodology of thinking was invented by Dr. Edward De Bono. He is considered an expert in the field of creative thinking and the direct teaching of thinking as a skill.

Dr. de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats® is a tool that can empower teachers to motivate students to use critical thinking and problem solving skills, while expressing inner creativity. The Six Hats® focus on a specific thinking skill. Students associate the coloured hats with key words and questions that will direct or redirect their thinking resulting in a richer learning experience. By implementing the Six Hats® into lessons, teachers can help students explore their own potential by taking an active role in their learning and enhance their creative thinking!

Dramatic Enquiry

Dramatic Enquiry is a fusion of drama and Philosophy for Children.  In Dramatic Enquiries learners are placed in the centre of a fictitious dilemma and they have to decide for themselves about the questions they need to ask and the rights and wrongs of the given situation. It encourages all participants to be active, inquiring individuals.

The Enquiry provides a context for learning; different areas of the curriculum can be brought together rather than trying to teach them separately and current issues can be addressed in an active, engaging way, e.g.  We have addressed issues such as radicalisation through an enquiry where students interviewed four anonymous historical figures and discussed the question, “Is one man’s terrorist another man’s freedom fighter?”

Dramatic Enquiry challenges our students to see things from other people’s perspectives and to put themselves in other people’s shoes and think about how they would feel or react in certain situations.

Dramatic Enquiry is ‘drama’ based, so that students develop ways to ‘see through other eyes’, something that many people with ASD find particularly challenging. It is a valuable approach for students with ASD to practise and develop some of the skills relating to flexibility of thought, in particular theory of mind and emotional intelligence.

Staff and students enquiring together, helps students develop ownership over their enquiry. They are motivated by the challenge of making the enquiry work.

The impact Dramatic Enquiry has had on the school as a whole has been incredible. From the staff’s perspective they have all been enthused by this way of working and it has actively encouraged them to step out of their comfort zone and take risks with their teaching, reflect with colleagues, and then go back and try again! There has been an heightened understanding of how learning is best facilitated and the level of discussion around school has become much more precise and challenging, the staff relating experiences/ideas etc. to academic research/educational theory. From the students’ perspective they are much more engaged with learning as it is student led. They are becoming more articulate, self-aware and able to develop and move ideas on. They use the words: “fun”, “exciting” and there is an evident degree of urgency in their work – they see it as meaningful and relevant to the world around them.

Teaching & Learning Academy

Teaching & Learning Academy – Recognition One

TLA Recognition 1 Dan Wilson

TLA Recognition 1 David Atkinson

TLA Recognition 1 Lyn Coulson

Teaching & Learning Academy –  Recognition Two

TLA Recognition 2 Judith Stephenson

TLA Recognition 2 Julie Davison

TLA Recognition 2 Emily Landells

Philosophy for Students

Philosophy for Students (P4C), otherwise referred to as Community of Enquiry, is an approach to learning and learning that was founded by Professor Matthew Lipman.  P4C has developed over 35 years and is practised in approximately 60 countries.

Students are taught how to create their own philosophical questions – a question to which there is no right or wrong answer. They then choose one question that is the focus of a philosophical enquiry, or dialogue.  For example, the question might be ‘is it ever ok to steal?’

The teacher, as facilitator, supports the students in their thinking, reasoning and questioning, as well as the way the students speak and listen to each other in the dialogue.  After the enquiry the students and facilitator reflect on the quality of the thinking, reasoning and participation, and suggest how they could improve; either as individuals or as a group (community).

P4C is intended to be a regular activity so that the students develop their skills and understanding over time.  The role of the facilitator is crucial to ensuring quality dialogue and progress and to encourage students to think more deeply about issues.

It is well documented that P4C has an impact on students’ cognitive, social and emotional development. P4C is about getting students to think and communicate well; to think better for themselves.