Getting all “Head Mastery”



As head teacher of a school which teaches and learns through Fieldwork Education’s international Primary Curriculum (IPC), I’ve just returned from their delightfully titled, “Festival of Learning” here in London.


School leaders and school based curriculum leaders from IPC schools across the world joined together to share and further their understanding of what great learning looks like and how this can be adapted and developed by all schools to suit their context.

One of the great, and yet unusual characteristics of this conference, is that it does not rely on well known, professional and  highly regarded keynote speakers to lead the voyage of discovery. Instead, it draws on the leadership expertise within individual IPC schools. This results in an enrichment of understanding within the wider leadership community, based on the principle that those leaders are sharing their current practice as well as knowledge and understanding.

Schools in England are well used to working in “clusters” to moderate children’s work. The best schools also collaborate to share resources and expertise, but how many are so outward facing that they look beyond their own locality to develop their own leaders and practice?

By developing a meaningful, solid international link, one has the opportunity not only to see how leadership is developed elsewhere, but also discover what is highly regarded by others about your own school’s and country’s leadership and practice.

The workshop which I jointly facilitated with my school’s curriculum leader was on the topic of assessment in foundation subjects through questioning. We used the New Bloom’s Taxonomy (Anderson & Krathwohl 2001) to show how by just asking different targeted questions at the end of units of work, it can be highly effective in ensuring that there is high quality differentiation and assessment in subjects outside of the usual core subjects.

We also addressed the latest buzzword – “mastery”. I was fortunate enough to recently meet and listen to Professor John Hattie. He articulated the simple fact that “no one can reach the depths without breaking the surface” and that each type of question and each phase of the learning journey was equally important.

This was a “light bulb” moment for me, as often there can be a temptation for teachers and learners to rush the process in a desire to achieve the title of “mastered”. On sharing this with delegates, I could see the lights switching on for them also.

The Bloom Taxonomy is usually portrayed as a pyramid (see below), but how different would it be if mastery was considered as a pool to be dived into rather than something difficult to build and cumbersome to climb?  (see my diagram also below)


So shall we look at mastery differently? Shall we consider leadership differently? The two images and subsequent challenges couldn’t be more different.

I’ll leave you with some questions:

How do you look for expertise to develop leadership in your school?

Do you look beyond your local community? If not, how could you do so?

What is excellent about your own leadership and practice that you should promote and share?

What does mastery look like in your school; a pyramid to be scaled or a pool in which to dive and swim freely to the depths?

Simon Jackson

Introduction & Purpose of Blog



Having taught in Primary education in London for nearly twenty five years, the last six of which have been in the role of head teacher at St Leonard’s Church of England Primary School in Streatham, I’ve been encouraged to join the world of education blogging. Specifically, I’ve been asked to focus on school leadership as it is seen from the “front line”.


Never one to duck a challenge, my first task was to decide on a web domain and site name. The phrase, “front line” stuck in my mind, so I decided to search for a list of military terms. A “vedette” is a mounted sentry or outpost, who has the function of bringing information, giving signals or warnings of danger, etc – and so, ladies and gentlemen, “The Primary Vedette” has been born!

Remember the name – for if you forget to put “primary” in your internet search, you could be faced with reaching a shapewear site, which will do nothing for either your educational enlightenment or your self esteem! The best way to avoid such trouble is to add this page to your favourites.

This blog is designed to interest school leaders and all those with a passion for developing teaching, learning and school leadership within our schools.

To be clear, whilst the term, “vedette” is a military one, I have no intention of falling into the trap of consistently writing from a political perspective. It would be counter productive to consider government of any political colour as the enemy. As a serving head teacher, it is not for me to publicly support or oppose any particular party in relation to its education policy or wider philosophy. Indeed, to do so in my view would be to afford politicians a power which they do not have. It is those of us on the “front line” whose job it is to “go on the offensive” in order to try and make a difference to the quality of children’s learning and to positively influence, encourage and support other school leaders.

This year, the school which I lead has opened a Nursery, taken its first two form entry cohort, had several audits ranging from finance to safeguarding and also engaged in a highly positive Ofsted inspection.

A key aspect of our school is that we teach the International Primary Curriculum (IPC -part of Fieldwork Education). We achieved accredited IPC school status in March of this year. I look forward to presenting assessment workshops at the IPC Festival of Learning in London this week alongside our school’s curriculum leader.

It is the challenge and privilege of developing future school leaders though that inspires me most. The overwhelming majority of teachers at St Leonard’s are in the early stages of their careers. Bucking the national trend by keeping them within the teaching profession – fulfilled, challenged and supported whilst achieving highly, is my primary leadership challenge.

This blog will always try to focus on promoting the hope that can be found within our country’s best schools. I’m sure that, on occasions, I might express frustration. However, I’ll leave complaining and confrontation to those organisations which are paid to do both. The first task for any school leader is to always portray a vision of a brighter future and this, dear reader, is where the Primary Vedette will always be looking to from his sentry post.

Simon Jackson