A Birmingham-based activity education and training provider has won a national business award from Lloyds Bank and expert mentoring after navigating one of the toughest periods in its history.

Founded in 2005, Aspire Active Education Group now works with almost 200 schools across the country, providing PE, sport and physical activity support to primary schools to get more children moving. It also delivers apprenticeships through its training arm and supports around 40 children’s physical activity providers with Aspire Active Partnerships, a network of organisations that came to the fore supporting its members during lockdown.

Director Paul Griffiths said: “We exist to combat inactivity among children and predominantly work with primary schools. When the pandemic hit and schools closed, we pivoted operations to offer more business support to our Aspire Active Partnerships network. This involved webinars, resources, peer support group sessions and weekly huddles, and creating an online forum where the owners of these like-minded organisations could share challenges and good practice.

“Running a small business can be a lonely place at times and that was especially true during the first lockdown. But the network has become a close-knit community and we have now evolved that side of the business into an ongoing support system, all with the aim of getting more children engaged in activity.”

An increase in screen time and more pressure in schools on academic subjects like English and maths has led to less physical activity and education among children, something that was highlighted during the Covid-19 pandemic. A survey by Sport England found that the number of children and young people in the country who were physically active fell during the 2019/20 academic year.

Paul and the rest of Aspire’s 44-strong team have relished being able to operate again in recent months, with delivery including running the government-funded cycle training programme, Bikeability, and, most recently, working with 16 schools and more than 10,000 children throughout the summer as part of the Marcus Rashford-backed Holiday Activities and Food initiative.

Now, Aspire Active Education Group has been named a winner in the Lloyds Bank Small Business of 2021 awards, which celebrate businesses across the UK. The prize is a mentoring session with Dominic Cools-Lartigue, founder of pop-up food market Street Feast. Dominic will provide insight and support to help Aspire to continue to grow the business in the year ahead.

Paul said: “This kind of recognition is very much welcomed. I’m really proud of every member of the team for their constant hard work and dedication, especially during such unprecedented times. It’s been a busy summer and we can’t wait to get back into schools properly at the start of the new academic year.”

Gareth Oakley, managing director of business banking at Lloyds Bank, added: “Aspire provides a vital service to schools and children in the West Midlands, and to similar organisations further afield. It has shown great determination and adaptability during a challenging time and is a worthy recipient of this award.”


Time to celebrate the achievements of Multi-Academy Trust finance professionals: The MAT-Finance Awards launched by IMP Software

A new awards scheme to recognise the achievements of Multi-Academy Trust (MAT) finance leaders, teams and wider Trust champions has been launched by IMP Software, specialists in MAT budgeting and financial management.


The inaugural MAT-Finance Awards is a unique platform for MAT finance professionals to celebrate their hard work, share best practice and showcase their impact. Nominations for The MAT-Finance Awards 2021 are now open and there are six categories available to enter before the 26th November 2021 closing date.


An expert judging panel – comprising Confederation of School Trusts CEO Leora Cruddas, Institute of School Business Leadership (ISBL) CEO Stephen Morales, Dartmoor MAT CEO Dan Morrow, L.E.A.D Academy Trust Deputy CEO Bobby Thandi, Bishop Fleming Audit Partner and Head of Education Pam Tuckett, and IMP Software Co-Founder Will Jordan – will draw up a shortlist for each award. The winners will be announced on 15th December 2021.


The categories are:


MAT-Finance Leader of the Year

To recognise outstanding CFOs, or equivalent, in a MAT for their leadership and management of MAT finances. To be nominated by MAT CEOs, Trustees/governors with strategic oversight/responsibility for finance, or MAT finance team members.


MAT-Finance Team of the Year

To recognise exceptional MAT finance teams, large or small, who go above and beyond in ensuring the smooth running and effective operations of MAT finance. Teams to be nominated by MAT CFOs or equivalent, CEOs, or Trustees/governors with strategic oversight/responsibility for finance.


MAT-Finance Champion of the Year

To recognise inspirational MAT leaders – CEOs and Trustees/governors – who at a strategic level champion innovative practice around MAT finance and/or who motivate and inspire the core team to achieve success through effective leadership. To be nominated by MAT CFOs or equivalent, or MAT finance team members.


MAT-Finance Rising Star of the Year

To recognise younger MAT finance team members, aged 30 or under (as of 31/8/21), who have demonstrated excellence in their role. To be nominated by MAT CFOs or equivalent, MAT finance team members, CEOs or Trustees/governors with strategic oversight/responsibility for finance.


MAT-Finance Project of the Year

To recognise innovative MAT finance projects which have had a direct impact on the financial operations of the Trust. To be nominated by MAT CFOs or equivalent, MAT finance team members, CEOs or Trustees/governors with strategic oversight/responsibility for finance.


MAT-Finance Education or Community Impact of the Year

To recognise innovative MAT finance projects which have had a wider impact on education or the wider community. This could be a Covid-19 project or something they did that went above and beyond expectations. To be nominated by MAT CFOs or equivalent, MAT finance team members, CEOs or Trustees/governors with strategic oversight/responsibility for finance.


Will Jordan, IMP Software Co-Founder, said: “We are absolutely delighted to launch The MAT-Finance Awards which we hope will go on to become a much-anticipated permanent fixture in the education events calendar. There is a gap for MAT finance professionals to be recognised and rewarded through such an awards scheme. We are looking for the unsung heroes, as well as leading lights, to come forward with their nominations for our six award categories. IMP Software will also present an Outstanding Contribution to MAT-Finance award, with the individual recipient to be decided by our panel of expert judges.”


Key points to note:

  • The MAT-Finance Awards 2021 relate to achievements made during the 2020-21 academic year. Entries based on projects or initiatives that began earlier are acceptable as long as the key achievements took place during 2020-21.
  • All you need to do is select the award you wish to enter on www.matfa.co.uk (you can enter more than more award) and submit the online form with a 500-word response.
  • Our judges are especially looking for measurable evidence of benefits/impact and nominations which will be an inspiration for others in the MAT finance profession.
  • Winners will receive a commemorative trophy and there will also be recognition for Highly Commended runners-up.
  • Winners will also have the opportunity to have their successes promoted through the IMP Software website, social media feeds and wider MAT finance community, as well as dedicated press releases targeting coverage in local, regional and education media.




Today marks 12 years since the brainchild of LiteracyPlanet’s Founder, Shane Davis, became a reality.


2009 was the year of Lady Gaga’s Paparazzi, Barack Obama’s inauguration and the release of Box Office hit Avatar. And in September of the same year, LiteracyPlanet was launched. In the 12 years since then, the online English literacy platform has supported more than two million students around the world in achieving literacy learning success. 


“There have been vast advancements in technology since we first created LiteracyPlanet. But what hasn’t changed is that teachers have been, and always will be, drivers of learning in the classroom. You can’t replace the human touch and their intuitive understanding of students’ needs,” said Mr Davis.


“We developed the program to support teachers and students in literacy development and importantly, it continues to do that and inspire a lifetime of learning.”

The LiteracyPlanet platform is curriculum-aligned to help teachers deliver literacy outcomes for students aged 5 to 15. It is intuitively built to monitor individual student engagement and serve personalised content appropriate to students’ learning levels through its Learn, Practise, Test philosophy. The program also provides important support for teachers through time-saving mission assignment tools and insightful reporting.

In the past year alone, the platform has had a major redevelopment, launching with the same curriculum-aligned content in an all-new format. Enhancements include the introduction of an online magazine, Intrepizine, with new articles released weekly; My Words, a tool for students to create custom spelling lists that saw more than 11,000 lists created in its first month; and expanding teachers’ usability of the program for reporting, searching for content, and saving time in assigning tasks.


“It’s been a huge year for everyone – customers and staff – and we’re so proud of how we’ve been able to bring to life our vision for a platform that doesn’t just teach literacy, it makes learning fun! And that’s something to celebrate” added Tom Richardson, CEO of LiteracyPlanet. 

“Our mission of inspiring a lifetime of learning is not just a throwaway line. We have more than 150 years of combined staff experience within the company, which is testament to the purpose we are working towards and how much our people want to be a part of that.”

“And importantly, it’s thanks to our valued customers who have been along with us for the journey. It is their support, generous feedback and continued use of the program that has made LiteracyPlanet what it is today.”

Staff around the globe celebrated the 12-year milestone this week with plenty of cake, coffee and a surprise visit from the program’s most loved character, Word Monster.


Making the world a more sustainable place one resource at a time

The Action Pack is back for the start of the brand new school year, just in time for Recycle Week 2021, to empower pupils to make the world a better and more sustainable place. The free recycling-themed resources are designed for KS1 and KS2 and cover the topics of Art, English, PSHE, Science, and Maths and have been created to easily fit into day-to-day lesson planning.


The popular resources include a range of interactive activities including; posters, presentations, and activity sheets to teach pupils about the importance of community and about how working together can create a sustainable future for all – a great way to engage pupils on the topic during Recycle Week 2021.


Talking about recycling in the classroom can be fun. The Action Pack has a dedicated bank of resources that enable teachers to discuss the topic in a language that their pupils can understand. Using behaviour change theory as the base of the resources, The Action Pack has been accessed by over 4,000 teachers.


Research from Recycle Now1 outlines that it can be hard to visualise just how much waste is being generated from schools, and even more so the sources of waste creating the issue. The average secondary school produces 22kg of waste per pupil each academic year. This figure is even higher for primary schools where per-pupil the average is 45kg per pupil.


Using The Action Pack resources gives educators the opportunity to teach their pupils about ways that they can look to make the world a more sustainable place through a variety of resources that encourage open discussions and teacher to pupil dialogue – all whilst being a little creative.


Dennis Hollywood from Charlton Manor, has been using The Action Pack resources in his school explaining “The resources really help students to understand the importance of recycling in a fun and interactive way. Using these types of resources can really help students to be more action-driven and it helps them understand how the small changes they make can have an impact on a global scale.”


Hollywood continues to say “Using the WRAP Action Pack, we’ve organised arts and crafts competitions for our pupils and have seen so many inventive entries made from recyclable materials such as bottles and paper cups.”


With the emphatic return of pre-pandemic activities such as class school trips now possible, The Action Pack is offering an eco-based school trip, alongside other eco goodies, as part of their latest school competition. To enter, The Action Pack is asking schools to either create a poster that inspires others to recycle OR create a short film to educate others about recycling. The Action Pack has created a dedicated inspiration page to support teachers and their pupils in stimulating ideas.


To submit your own inspiration and ideas for our page, head to The Action Pack, tweet us @RecycleNow using #RecycleNowActionPack, or email us at theactionpack@everfi.com


Best Education Blogs in 2021 for the UK and Ireland – Words by Laura Millington of Twinkl

The face of education has changed radically over the past year and a half. Luckily, we’ve had education blogs to help us overcome all these new challenges. Whether they’re imparting useful advice, discussing important issues in schools, or advocating for better teacher support, everybody can get something out of reading them. That’s why we thought we would showcase some of the best education blogs in 2021 for the UK and Ireland. Click here to find out our top picks!

‘JUST ONE TREE DAY’ – still time to sign up!


There is still time for schools to join hundreds of others and sign-up to the highly popular ‘JUST ONE Tree Day’, taking place on Friday 15 October (England) and Friday 1 October (Scotland).

Schools throughout the UK and around the globe are uniting on this international non-uniform day that encourages children to bring in £1 to plant a tree and help reforest the planet – a tree is planted for every £1 raised. Over 150,000 children from eight countries have already joined together since JUST ONE Tree Day first launched in 2019.

Schools can sign up here.                                                          

About JUST ONE Tree Day

The day highlights to children and young people how their individual actions can make a difference in the fight against climate change and the biodiversity crises. It is the flagship event of JUST ONE Tree, a British not-for-profit dedicated to removing CO2 from the atmosphere through global reforestation.

The event is open to both primary and secondary schools – those taking part can access lesson resources that fit in with the national curriculum. As part of their fundraising activities, children learn about photosynthesis, the benefits of trees for both people and wildlife and the vital role they play in reducing the impacts of climate change.

JUST ONE Tree founder, Amanda Bronkhorst: “JUST ONE Tree Day was born out of my passion to make a difference – not only for my young daughter, but for the future of all children. JUST ONE Tree Day has resulted in over 150,000 trees planted and I know that this year the ‘children’s forest’ can grow even bigger.

“School participation is doubly important because not only do they raise funds, the forest planted on their behalf helps compensate for a school’s environmental impact.

“Many children today struggle with climate anxiety, caused by the reality of our climate crisis. But JUST ONE Tree Day tells them that we can all make a difference with a simple action.  By taking direct action it spreads hope and positivity. It’s important to involve our young, helping them tackle their worries of today while setting them up for a sustainable lifestyle that aids their future.”

The money raised is used to plant the ‘right trees in the right place’ – supporting reforestation projects in Haiti, Indonesia, Kenya, Madagascar, Mozambique, Nepal and Zambia, including mangrove forests and kelp regeneration.

Parent-teacher relationships to be reset, for the benefit of pupils’ social skills, screen time, and mental health

  • Schools are looking to reset relationships with parents, post-lockdowns and home-schooling, with the partnership needing rebalancing for the benefit of pupils
  • New research finds that school staff worry about pupils’ ability to interact face-to-face (67 per cent), and their screen time (76 per cent), as they return to the classroom
  • Working in partnership with parents to support pupils overcome these new challenges is essential, yet almost two in five (38 per cent) of staff had concerns about parents’ willingness to do so


Schools and parents need to work together to rebalance their relationship as pupils adjust back to life in the classroom, new research1 from the Independent Association of Prep Schools (IAPS) and Tooled Up Education reveals.


Lockdown and home-schooling gave many parents the opportunity to be more hands on than ever before with their children’s education, however IAPS and Tooled Up Education found that a quarter (25 per cent) of school staff say that working with parents on home-schooling has been stressful.


Post-lockdowns and home-schooling, more than three quarters (76 per cent) of school staff worry about pupils’ screen time, and more than two thirds (67 per cent) agree that the lack of in-person interactions pupils have had with peers has been detrimental to their social skills and, amongst younger children, their emotional development.


Whether parents or teachers are responsible for certain aspects of a child’s development, such as financial education, has long been a topic of debate. Questions are now being raised about who should take ownership for the behaviours children have learnt – or not learnt – over the past 18 months, as a result of being stuck at home and indoors.


School staff confident discussing issues with colleagues but not necessarily parents


Overall, more than two thirds (70 per cent) of school staff worry about the mental health of pupils as they return to the classroom. While staff are confident discussing these issues with their colleagues and heads, almost half (49 per cent) lack confidence discussing them with parents.


Around two thirds (64 per cent) of school staff say that they would like additional training to support pupils with mental health and wellbeing concerns. Almost two in five (38 per cent), however, had concerns about the willingness of parents to work with them to overcome these new challenges.


Christopher King, CEO, IAPS commented: “Lockdown took its toll on everyone, but for younger children, it was a crucial stage in life for the development of their social skills and learning about their emotions. Schools and parents must rebalance their relationship, allowing teachers to effectively take back control of teaching, and parents and teachers to work together to address new challenges.


“Parents need to support schools with the development of skills and management of behaviours that cross the school and home boundary. We must break down the barriers and concerns expressed by teachers and school staff, so that they can talk openly with parents to address and help manage these new issues together. At the same time, schools need to step up and support their teachers and staff, whether that be with additional training or dedicated teams to step in when worries or concerns are raised.”


Dr Kathy Weston, CEO, Tooled Up Education commented: “Never before has the quality of the home-school partnership mattered more, and staff need to feel as confident as possible when engaging with, and supporting, parents, and carers. The experience of the pandemic is an opportunity for all schools to recalibrate the home-school partnership. It is a chance to redefine the respective roles of parents and teachers and ensure they are aligned in helping to protect each child’s mental health and emotional resilience. 


“Our wider research shows that when it comes to mental health, early intervention is key. Staff and parents need to be equipped to recognise early ‘red flags’ and address them using the most up-to date and evidence-based approaches. This is particularly important with younger children where support early on can reduce the risk of more complex mental health needs as a teenager.”


Inner Cheerleader Helps Young Children Master Emotions

To Navigate Anxiety Pandemic

  • Children struggling with mental health problems during the pandemic are facing “agonisingly” long waits for treatment, a BBC investigation has found.
  • Data from half of England’s services found one in five seen in the past year waited over 12 weeks for care.
  • Half of all mental health conditions present themselves by the time a child reaches 14 but most cases remain undetected and untreated
  • 10% of year 10 and 11 suffer from anxiety coupled with a lack of confidence
  • Covid has created an anxiety pandemic amongst all age groups 
  • Free primary resource teaches simple brain hacks can last a lifetime and turn around a child’s negative thinking within a month 


Half of all mental and emotional wellbeing conditions present themselves by the time a child reaches 14 but most cases remain undetected and untreated. A research pilot by RTT Method within secondary schools found an estimated 10% of year 10 and 11 suffered from anxiety, often coupled with a lack of confidence. The combination can have a crippling effect on their lives, preventing them from enjoying school, hampering their learning and impacting their social life.


That’s why a new resource called ‘I Can’t to I Can’ aims to reduce these numbers by giving primary school children the tools they need to overcome anxiety, build confidence and take control of their emotions. It has been created by RTT in response to the anxiety pandemic Covid has created and features a specific set of mind hacks that can provide immediate help. These skills can help a child throughout life and also significantly lower the numbers who develop adolescent mental and emotional wellbeing issues.


‘I Can’t to I Can’ takes just a week to instil positive new approaches in children aged 7 to 10. Available online, the free resource is based around the RTT concept of installing the inner cheerleader. Everyone is born with an inner cheerleader as, without that driving force encouraging us, babies would never learn. However, children as young as 5 start doubting themselves and listen to their inner critic instead of their cheerleader which is why the skills taught in ‘I Can’t to I Can’ are so key.


Kerin Muddle, lead practitioner for social, emotional and mental health needs at Sandhurst School, one of the schools where RTT therapy has been piloted commented:


‘RTT made a huge impact on our students who felt more in control and understood how to manage their emotions after a single session. They could recognise negative emotions and were able to see them for what they were and turn them on their head. Providing primary children with RTT resources will make everyone’s lives easier – parents and teachers but especially the children themselves.They will experience immediate benefits and emotional know-how that will stay with them throughout their lives’.


The I Can’t to I Can 5-Day Challenge is launched at the end of September with schools being encouraged to participate during the week of 8th November in the lead up to Anti-Bullying Week and World Kindness Day.


Schools sign up via https://method.rtt.com/i-cant-to-i-can-challenge/  and the resources will be made available on 20th October giving teachers the opportunity to review and plan over half term.

New Secretary of State for Education: NASBTT statement

Decision needed quickly on whether fundamental change in the ITT sector, and the likely immediate impact on teacher supply, is really a priority at this time 


Executive Director Emma Hollis said: “We welcome the appointment of Nadhim Zahawi MP as Secretary of State for Education. It potentially represents a new chapter for the Department for Education and brings an opportunity to address the most pressing challenges facing the schools’ sector. It is clear that supporting schools and children through a properly funded post-Covid recovery strategy should be top of the list. From the perspective of Initial Teacher Training (ITT), we do, course, face a number of uncertainties over the coming months as a result of the ITT Market Review and we are aware that many voices share our concerns over the future of our sector. Mr Zahawi will need to decide quickly whether fundamental change in the ITT sector, and the likely immediate impact on teacher supply, is really a priority at this time. We also call for transparency of reporting of the ITT Market Review consultation responses: it is imperative that the Minister responds to what the sector has said. We are here to support Mr Zahawi, however we can, in that decision-making process. We would welcome the opportunity to continue working closely with the Department to ensure continued excellence in ITT provision; once confirmed, the same applies to the new Minister of State for Schools. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Mr Gibb for his immense contribution to the sector over the past nine years. We have worked closely together on ITT policy and always found him to be knowledgeable, passionate and willing to listen to ideas. He was also always supportive of NASBTT and the quality of school-based ITT provision. The sentiments being expressed by others in the sector show how highly he was thought of.”



The digital revolution in teaching during the pandemic – world’s largest international study on teachers and education

15 September 2021 – T4 Education has today published a landmark report revealing for the first time how teachers around the world have turned to technology to overcome barriers to education brought about by the pandemic.


Launched in Spring 2021 and informed by 20,679 teachers across 165 countries, T4 Education’s survey is the largest in the world. The report findings provide a unique and untold perspective documenting how covid restrictions have inverted understandings of disadvantage among school pupils and created a new comprehension of educational inequality. 


The Covid-19 outbreak sparked a global crisis in education. Governments worldwide took unprecedented action in responding to the pandemic by closing schools and entering national lockdowns for long periods. Throughout, teachers and their schools have had to overcome unique challenges in continuing teaching and learning by adapting to remote or hybrid forms of education.


While the evidence details the overwhelming devastation unleashed by the pandemic on children’s education, the findings in this report also tell another story of how teachers stepped-up to meet the extraordinary challenges created by the pandemic. They did so by turning to technology, by embracing and mastering new digital tools for instruction and by exploring and developing new pedagogies.


Furthermore, it was not the generation of younger and more recently qualified teachers who pivoted to adapt to technology and remote learning and instruction. Instead, it was the most experienced, predominantly older teachers who used digital tools the most, who taught more classes online and who deployed the most sophisticated and creative types of remote teaching.


Faced with a once-in-a-generation challenge of switching to a new model of remote learning, the teaching profession worldwide rose to this task. But by having to do so, the digital divide has become the number one factor of inequality in education worldwide.


Nonetheless, despite well-known limitations such as poor internet access and inadequate supply of digital devices, the vast majority of respondents consider their experience of the pandemic has made them better and more enthusiastic teachers.






In summary, the key findings of the report are:


  1. 55% of teachers with between 21- and 30-years’ experience said they taught lessons online in the year before completing the survey in spring 2021, compared with 38% who had taught for between three and five years.
  2. Linked to the point above are the findings that among teachers who said they undertook more than 10 whole days of training over the previous year, 54% were teachers with 30-plus years’ experience, falling to 31% of teachers who had been in the classroom for 5 years or fewer.
  3. Maths teachers were consistently the least likely among teachers of all curriculum subject areas to use a range of digital tools for teaching and learning.
  4. The use of digital tools for assessment is surprisingly very low. The survey found that 27% used technology for assessments daily, 29% weekly and 20% once or twice a month. Another 7% of respondents used technology for assessments once or twice a year and 17% never or almost never did so.
  5. The vast majority of surveyed teachers considered that the experience of teaching during the pandemic had made them better teachers and over half had become more enthusiastic about teaching.
  6. Teachers reported the most frequently observed group of children to suffer learning loss during the pandemic were those with less access to the internet or to technology (60%). This factor accounted for more than other indicators of deprivation including economic status, unemployment, unstable home environments or special educational needs.
  7. Schools are proving to be a greater leveller in providing children with access to digital equipment and the internet. However, the survey exposes a sharp digital divide in which children in government-funded and, especially, low-cost private schools and schools in rural locations were much more likely to miss out and their education suffered in consequence.
  8. Almost a quarter of teachers (23%) reported that their school did not have access to the internet at all. More than half (53%) said insufficient online access hindered their schools’ ability to provide high quality education.
  9. Shortages of technology hardware for instruction also constrained the capacity of schools, more than half of teachers (52%) said. More than four in ten teachers (42%) said that they brought their own digital device, whether it be a laptop, tablet or even a smartphone, into their school to teach.
  10. Schools in rural areas made less use of technology than schools in cities and metropolitan areas. While this might be expected, the digital divide between urban and rural schools is still stark and means that hundreds of millions of children lost out on their learning due to where their families live. The gap in percentage points between rural and urban schoolteachers was 14 points on whether their children’s education was hindered by poor internet access (61% versus 46%) and 13 points on inadequacy of digital resources (59% versus 46%).


Vikas Pota, Founder of T4 Education, said:


“The past 18-months have been an incredible journey for teachers worldwide. This unique report documents globally how teachers have heroically responded to the world-wide education crisis being driven by the ensuing pandemic.”


“This report is distinctive and noteworthy because it shows us the viewpoint from those who have been on the frontline delivering education. We see amazing ingenuity, innovation, creativity, and collaboration amongst teaching peers in every country. The results of which are not only benefitting millions of children and whole communities worldwide, but also the profession.”


“I am really pleased to be launching this report today and want to send my gratitude to the tens of thousands of teachers in 165 countries who have taken the time to respond. Capturing the experience of teachers, the findings present a real opportunity with teachers and schools around the world, as well as with global partners to bring about the required change.”