Developing leaders of Let’s Think in schools

Written by Sarah Seleznyov


What skills and knowledge do leaders need to confidently lead Let’s Think in their schools?  This is the question I asked myself when designing a Leading Let’s Think programme for three schools in England.


I came up with a long list of ideas:


  1. These leaders need to be able to teach strong lessons: they need to feel confident modelling Let’s Think to other colleagues.  This means they need to have taught a lot of lessons, more than once each.


  1. These leaders need to be able to give teachers helpful and supportive feedback to help them improve their practice.  This means they need to be skilful coaches and knowledgeable about a variety of Let’s Think lessons, across key stages. They need to understand the stages a Let’s Think learner goes through, and what suitable next steps for practice might look like. When we ask teachers which lessons they have never taught, they always say it’s the ones no-one has simulated for them – an expert simulation gives teachers confidence to teach.


  1. They need to be able to simulate a lesson for colleagues so that colleagues can teach new lessons.

They will need to understand how to enable teachers to feel confident about a new lesson, how to help them explore the mathematics and consider the classroom management implications of the lesson.


  1. They need to be able to teach a new lesson without tutor support.   We need Let’s Think leaders to develop the confidence to tackle new lessons without a tutor being present.  This enables Let’s Think to become embedded over the long term in a school, as no lesson is off limits.


  1. They need to have a deep understanding of Let’s Think theory and practice.  They need to use this knowledge to persuade others that it’s worth it, even if it’s difficult, so they need to have a deep understanding of the ‘why’ and how it works.  They need to develop this through reading and research, so that they hold the expertise for the school.


With these five needs in mind, I designed a programme to develop six school leaders across three schools.  The programme involved opportunities to plan a coaching programme for a colleague, considering the progression a teacher might follow with their practice, and to troubleshoot around challenges they might face when coaching.  This helped them feel confident to go on and work with a variety of different teachers, with different levels of experience.  


The programme also involved reading chapters from the Let’s Think Handbook, so that they knew the theory behind the approach, how and why it works and what the impact evidence is.  This gave them the confidence of ‘experts’.  Alongside this, they watched me as tutor give a lesson simulation and metacognitively analyse this experience to understand what the tutor is trying to do.  These two activities gave leaders the confidence to run a series of staff meetings with teachers, and they reflected on these together, exploring what they could do to improve on their planning.

They discussed strategies for exploring a brand new lesson, and agreed a checklist.  They then went away and put this checklist into action, by working with fellow teachers to plan and try a new lesson.


Finally, and perhaps most powerfully, they visited each other’s schools, observed Let’s Think lessons across a variety of year groups and created reports for the teachers that analysed strengths of the provision, suggested next steps and mapped how Let’s Think leaders would support these next steps.  These reports were carefully constructed so that they did not judge individual teachers, but offered a constructive piece of feedback for the whole school.


This model seems to offer a powerful way for schools to become independent and self-sustaining Let’s Think schools.  The programme has made them more confident in their own skills and knowledge, as well as giving them a pathway for improving practice across the school.  We’d love to offer this programme to more leaders – get in touch if you are interested!