Thinking mugs, Hillcross Primary staff room

Why become a Thinking School, what's in it for you?

Schools that have embraced the notion of cognitive education as a central aspect of their development programme and have sought to implement this as a whole-school policy may benefit from formal recognition for their efforts. The University of Exeter’s Cognitive Education Development Unit can provide such recognition to those schools deemed to be achieving a level of excellence in the implementation of cognitive education according to a set of established criteria.   What does a school stand to gain from achieving this recognition and receiving the associated certificate and kite mark? Some identified potential benefits are as follows :

  • external recognition for 3 years from a high-ranking university
  • high status within the educational community
  • entry to a select network of centres of excellence
  • key stakeholder (staff, parents, governors) ownership and commitment
  • pupil identification with and sharing of success
  • a sense of pride in accomplishment
  • a celebration of leading edge school culture and ethos
  • the enhancement of teachers’ sense of professional achievement
  • an incentive for setting high expectations
  • the communication of good practice to other schools and the wider community
  • the arousal of media interest and general public recognition
  • heightened emphasis to the importance of cognitive development within the culture of the school
  • a guide to further development, as part of an ongoing process
  • opportunities to be involved with further research 

A key question for schools is 'How can we tell if it’s working?'.  As the number of schools undertaking the thinking school journey increases opportunities to research and evaluate are also developing.  Through the thinking schools accreditations we have undertaken there is much anecdotal evidence demonstrating the above benefits which is detailed in our school evaluation reports and also in Ofsted Reports.  

A recent survey of accredited schools to which 26 schools responded found that 90% of the headteachers, or their representatives, believed that the Burden's Thinking Schools approach had raised attainment and had led to an improvement in the quality of lessons. Evidence in support of this was offered from a range of sources including improved results on national tests and examinations, consultations with pupils, observations of lessons and comments from outside bodies including Ofsted. Ofsted and Estyn Inspection reports have frequently noted the impact of being a Thinking School, an award given by Exeter after accreditation by Bob Burden or one of his team. One school's report notes that 'Its identity as a 'Thinking School' is at the heart of its work, whether it is encouraging children to think about others or to think things out for themselves' and another highlights that 'The excellent progress made by pupils in developing their thinking skills has a marked effect on their personal development and the standards they attain.' (Beechwood School, Ofsted, 2008, Unique Reference Number 111175). Another similar comment notes that: Ditton Primary is very proud of its 'Thinking School' status and this underpins every aspect of the school's work. The excellent progress made by pupils in developing their thinking skills has a marked effect on their personal development and the standards they attain. (Spinney Avenue Primary, Ofsted 2007, Unique Reference Number 111293).

Burden, R.L. and Nichols, L. (2000) Evaluating the process of introducing a thinking skills programme into the secondary school curriculumResearch Papers in Education, 15:3, 293-306

Burden, R.L. Is there any such thing as a ‘Thinking School’

Burden, R.L. (2008) ‘Illuminative Evaluation’. In B. Kelly, L. Woolfson and J. Boyle (eds) Frameworks for Practice in Educational Psychology.(pp 218-234). London: Jessica Kingsley.