CPD for primary schools – ‘Learning to be well. Being well to Learn.’


Rachel Orr is a freelance education consultant, teacher, tutor and author with over 25 years teaching experience. As a former head teacher and deputy head teacher for over 17 years, Rachel has worked closely with external agencies, counsellors and national organisations to ensure children are supported with their own well-being.

Children’s emotional well-being and resilience is a hot topic at the moment. Mental health is not simply about giving children support when something crops up in their life. Mental health is about keeping well and knowing when things are changing and being able to do something about it.

Children come to school with a lot of baggage that can often be bottled up and need a way of expressing their feelings and thoughts in a very safe environment.

We all know that we find it a challenge to learn when our mind is elsewhere. This isn’t any different for children. If we want our children to be well enough to learn we need to teach them to be well.

This 1 ½ hour twilight or half day gives teachers and teaching assistants strategies and resources that can be embedded into every day teaching and learning.
Are you skilled enough to support children’s well-being?

  • How well are we supporting children’s emotional well-being?
  • Is circle time once a week enough?
  • Have you got daily strategies and resources at your fingertips to support whole class, groups and individuals?
  • How do children let you know when their world is a little upside down?
  • How do you embed whole class strategies into all lessons to support children’s well-being?

Aims of the session:

  • To explore what it means to be well to learn.
  • To explore what can prevent children being well to learn.
  • Share strategies we currently employ when dealing with children’s well-being.
  • To develop on-going strategies that can be embedded in daily lessons that give children a vehicle through which they can alert staff to problems in their lives.
  • To develop strategies for children to manage their own well-being.
  • To explore practical resources to support children’s every day well-being.
  • To explore resources that can provide more focused and targeted support for a group or an individual.
  • To explore teacher well-being and relaxation techniques.
  • Staff will receive electronic copies of any resources used.

In March 2016 the government brought out this document to support schools in promoting positive mental health, identifying and intervening where there are mental health concerns and mechanisms for referral.


As you know health is nothing to be ashamed of. Historically mental health seems to have had some sort of stigma attached to it. The reality is we all have mental health – it’s part of our every day make-up. We can have positive mental health and then negative mental health which can be very debilitating.

CPD training for primary schools – ‘One size does not fit all: Differentiation.’





CPD training for schools:-

Rachel is available to deliver twilight sessions, half or full days to your school.





































Teacher, former head teacher, consultant and author, Rachel Orr, with 26+ years of classroom experience now compiles some of her best ideas on differentiation. Differentiation is a key part of the curriculum but can be a divisive subject among teachers; Orr provides guidance on using differentiation to make learning engaging, empowering, investigative, explorative, and open ended, matching the learning needs of each individual pupil without limiting them or your teaching.

This CPD course demonstrates practical ways to organise and differentiate learning. It contains useful tips on scaffolding, structuring learning, and how to build on positive outcomes to make further improvements. It covers each aspect of teaching, from whole class activities to homework.

Are you really differentiating?
• Is there a gap between different groups of children?
• What are standards like for all children?
• How well do staff differentiate?
• Over use of worksheets?
• Too many closed questions?
• How do we challenge and stretch all children?
• Differentiation in mixed ability groupings?

Aims of the session:
• To develop a greater understanding of how to differentiate more effectively without using worksheets.
• Explore staff knowledge of differentiation and share examples of current practice.
• To challenge all children without putting a ceiling limit on learning.
• To explore ideas from the book practically with real examples.
• An opportunity to talk and work with colleagues to take an idea and share how they would use it in their classroom.
• Explore and work with practical resources used in sections of the book.
• To be able to transfer ideas explored in the session back in the classroom.
• To make staff workload more manageable.
• An opportunity to plan and prepare some differentiated learning with colleagues, magpie ideas and crowd-source lots of useful tips.
• Staff will receive electronic resources shared in the session.











Dos and don’ts of differentiation – how to do it well.

What is differentiation?

Why do we need to be creative when differentiating?

Are we using too many worksheets?

How can we make sure we do not put a ceiling limit on learning?
What is differentiation?

The education dictionary defines it as this:-
Differentiated instruction is the way in which a teacher anticipates and responds to a variety of students’ needs in the classroom. To meet students’ needs, teachers differentiate by modifying the content (what is being taught), the process (how it is taught) and the product (how students demonstrate their learning).

The national archives of DfE state the following:-
Differentiation requires teachers to recognise that:
– Knowing individual pupils well is essential to good differentiation
– Children with SEN like their peers are all on a ‘continuum of learning’. This fact makes formative assessment even more important as we cannot assume pupils will always be operating at the same level.

Sean Harford, Ofsted, has blogged about the myths regarding differentiation.

He writes, “Inspectors don’t expect work and tasks in all lessons to be tailored to meet each student’s individual abilities. This is an unrealistic expectation. However, teachers should make sure that all students have opportunities to fulfil their potential, regardless of their starting points or abilities. Inspectors will expect to see evidence of this throughout the course as a whole.”

To summarise:-
Curriculum adaptation – Changing what is taught
Instructional modifications – Changing how we teach
Environmental considerations – Changing where we teach
People resources – Looking at who teaches or supports teaching and learning?

The place of worksheets?
If they can do the worksheet, they don’t need it.
If they can’t it won’t help.

I always say to student teachers, established teachers and TAs when they are working with groups – what difference are you going to make to these children’s learning because of your input working with them. If the adult is simply keeping children on task or under control – is the learning right for these kids?

I like to associate differentiation with shoes.
If we walk around in ill fitting shoes that are uncomfortable, too big or too small we will struggle to learn.

When our shoes are too big we have not yet secured the foundations of prior learning to be able to take the giant leap – there are too many gaps.

When our shoes are too small we are lacking any challenge because we can simply achieve the task without any thinking – this can lead to disengagement and switching off to learning just as much as when our shoes are too big.

We need comfortable shoes that enable us to be excited about learning, engage, explore, investigate and dive in. However, we need to recognise when our feet have grown and our shoes are becoming a little tight and we need to go shopping for the next size.

We do need to celebrate the differences as they bring different dynamics to the classroom.

We need to ensure we don’t put children and students into categories – encourage them to be unique and not try to be like someone else. Children very quickly work out where they stand in a class depending on the table they are on, especially if it never changes. If you set according to ability are you putting a ceiling limit on the learning because of the smaller range of ability, especially in a lower ability set? Children need sparks. They bounce off each other.

Make sure you are not capping the learning for children simply because you think they can’t manage it. Ensure all children are able to access the learning at their level but with great challenge. A lot of differentiation is done well through outcome. The biggest difference is simply not accepting a pupil’s first response. Careful questioning and guiding is key to making them responsible and taking charge of their own learning.

Pupils can raise their own bar where there is a can do and inclusive culture.

Aim high. Be the best you can be.

Good, better, best. Never let it rest until your good is better and your better, best.

There aren’t any limits.


Amazon – https://www.amazon.co.uk/100-Ideas-Primary-Teachers-Differentiation/dp/1472941357/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1505308280&sr=1-1&refinements=p_27%3ARachel+Orr

Bloomsbury – https://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/100-ideas-for-primary-teachers-differentiation-9781472941329/

Teaching Assistants – Effective deployment

The Teaching Assistant

Most primary schools have an army of teaching assistants supporting children’s learning throughout the day.

In 2005 when workforce reform was implemented teachers were given a list of 21 tasks deemed to be of an administrative nature. Many unions produced a list similar to the following:-

o Collecting money from pupils and parents.
o Investigating a pupil’s absence.
o Bulk photocopying.
o Typing or making word-processed versions of manuscript material and producing revisions of such versions.
o Word-processing, copying and distributing bulk communications,including standard letters, to parents and pupils.
o Producing class lists on the basis of information provided by teachers.
o Keeping and filing records, including records based on data supplied by teachers.
o Preparing, setting up and taking down classroom displays in accordance with decisions taken by teachers.
o Producing analyses of attendance figures.
o Producing analyses of examination results.
o Collating pupil reports.
o Administration of work experience (but not selecting placements and supporting pupils by advice or visits).
o Administration of public and internal examinations.
o Administration of cover for absent teachers.
o Ordering, setting up and maintaining ICT equipment/software.
o Ordering supplies and equipment.
o Cataloguing, preparing, issuing and maintaining materials and equipment and stocktaking the same.
o Taking verbatim notes or producing formal minutes of meetings.
o Coordinating and submitting bids (for funding, school status and the like) using contributions by teachers and others.
o Transferring manual data about pupils not covered by the above into computerised school management systems.
o Managing the data in school management systems.

As a class teacher I like control and I suppose my OCD licks in a little. Although if I truly had that level of OCD I’d be CDIO and put them in alphabetical order.

Needless to say, when you develop an effective partnership with a TA you achieve so much.

The role of the teaching assistant has changed over the years. Their title has gone from learning support assistant, auxiliary, nursery nurse, classroom assistant TO teaching assistant. The key word is TEACHING. All of those jobs still have to happen. Personally, I loved creating display because I involved the children. I never thought of any task as one I shouldn’t be prepared to undertake myself. I couldn’t ask someone to do something that I wasn’t prepared to do myself – even if that meant cleaning up the wee and poo.

We are all working with children and putting them at the heart of all of our decisions.

Work with your TA – set the expectations. Teach they how you want them to deliver learning the way you would deliver it. They want to know how to do it. Don’t give your TA the SEN group and lower ability children all the time. Those children need quality first teaching just as much as the rest of the year group.

Teach the SEN and lower ability groups to be resilient, independent and not to rely on adult support.

At the end of the day the paint brushes have to be washed, the glue pots cleaned, the data inputted, any photocopying sorted – as long as it isn’t 30 copies of the same worksheet! One size does not fit all.

Work together. Talk, feedback and learn. Don’t fall into the trap of it’s not my responsibility otherwise you will end up with:-

“That’s Not My Job!

This is a story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody. There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about that, because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought Anybody could do it, but Nobody realised that Everybody wouldn’t do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have.”

We are all a somebody.