School makes move to £5.2m facility

SUNDERLAND students are jumping for joy after making the move into a new £5.2m facility, funded and designed by Sunderland City Council and built by Esh Construction.

Willow Wood Primary School, which replaces the former Willow Fields Community Primary School in Witherwack, has opened its doors to 168 three to 11-year olds, having been completed over the summer. The new school building on Redcar Road – which was funded by Sunderland City Council from its own Capital Budget as part of a £35m programme that will see six schools across the city rebuilt or refurbished – has been custom-designed to cater for modern learning with a range of facilities including vast outdoor spaces from hard surface sport and play areas to a large football pitch and wetland areas, as well as enhanced indoor facilities.

The new school, which has been designed in partnership with the Willow Wood’s leadership team – with the council’s in-house architects designing the space – will allow teachers to deliver enhanced learning for students, making use of amenities such as therapy rooms for children with special educational needs and disabilities.

Headteacher, Lindsay Robertson, who has been at the helm for four years, said teachers and students were delighted by their new learning environment.

She said: “We’re all absolutely thrilled with the school, which is just night and day compared to the old building. Everything about our new school building is aspirational and inspiring, and we know that will rub off on our amazing students who will be able to take so much pride in their learning environment, which in turn will see them take more pride in their work.”

She added: “I think our students know that, academically, things are changing. This new school building means they are now in a fresh, modern, clean environment and that will make an incredible difference to our children, our staff and to our community.”

The school will include spaces that can be used by the community, to ensure that families of the children who study there can enjoy the space. It will include state of the art technology, stunning outdoor learning spaces and a dance studio, as well as specialist facilities for children with special educational needs and disabilities – accounting for 20 per cent of the children at Willow Fields.

“We had been managing as best as we could in the old building, but it was clear to us as educators that they deserved better and that the school was not able to meet their needs or ours as teachers who want the absolute best for our children.

“Today is a fresh start. Seeing the faces of parents and young people coming into this amazing new space has just been wonderful. It’s such an exciting time for everyone, and our children deserve this more than anyone.”

Willow Fields, the school’s old site – tucked away in Witherwick – is set to be reinvented with new-build homes set to rise from the ground on the site, as part of the council’s £59m Housing Development and Investment Plan (HDIP) to create affordable homes for rent. This will create an exciting new community which will also be served by Willow Wood School.

Councillor Louise Farthing, cabinet member for children’s services, said: “Our schools programme shows the absolute commitment we have to our future generations, and seeing the impact this has – directly – on young people from Sunderland is just wonderful.

“Willow Wood Primary School is an incredible new facility, that the whole community will be able to benefit from, with amenities for parents as well as children. And added to the fact that the old school site is now paving the way for a new community in Witherwack, as part of our £59m HDIP, and we’re convinced that this will regenerate and inspire our communities.”

Local contractor, Esh Construction, was responsible for building the new school. Construction Director, Brian Joyce, added: “We are delighted to hand over this fantastic new school which will provide a much-improved learning and teaching environment for the local community. I am very proud of the team, having managed the additional challenges brought by the pandemic to deliver an outstanding development in time for the new academic year.”


Discovery Education today announced new features and enhancements to its award-winning primary school learning platform, Discovery Education Espresso. The latest updates combine dynamic new tools with the amazing, timely content teachers have come to know and love, giving educators new ways to seamlessly create exciting and engaging learning activities every day. Discovery Education is the worldwide edtech leader whose state-of-the-art digital platform supports learning wherever it takes place.

Ever since its debut more than 20 years ago, Discovery Education Espresso has been known for its expansive treasury of digital resources, which includes videos, text, interactives, audio, worksheets and images that span all primary key stages, subjects and critical topics of today. Each month, Discovery Education adds new resources — including ready-to-use activities, age-appropriate news video from trusted partners and curated channels — to excite, engage, and connect school pupils to the real world.

Now, Discovery Education is building on its legacy as the leader in digital content by adding a host of new time-saving features to support teaching, creativity and professional growth.  These new features include:

  1. A new, interactive Quiz tool, giving teachers new ways to promote active learning in the classroom and track pupil progress in real-time with:
  • Ask Live Quiz – enabling teachers to spark lively classroom discussions by asking pupils live questions through virtual meeting solutions like Zoom, Google Hangouts and Microsoft Teams
  • Standard Quiz – helping teachers to check for understanding and pupil readiness through a range of question formats, from polling and open-ended questions to multiple-choice and image annotation.
  • Video-Based Quiz – combining video from Discovery Education’s rich vault of high-quality content with embedded questions to create engaging interactive learning experiences.

Quiz results display in real-time, empowering educators to measure participation, offer just-in-time feedback, correct responses and identify where pupils need extra support or challenge.

  1. A new improved Studio tool, making teacher and pupil-created activities easier than ever. Studio, Discovery Education’s collaboration and presentation tool, serves as educators’ creative outlet to imagine and practice new activities. And because Studio and Discovery Education’s world-class content are part of a unified system, creating interactive and media-rich lessons is more straightforward than ever.  With Studio, educators can:
  • Use new Activity Templates based on Discovery Education’s SOS Instructional Strategies —­ the research-based instructional strategies created by teachers for teachers —­ to create lively presentations that engage pupils.
  • Give pupils the opportunity to sharetheir knowledge in creative ways through their own presentation boards and slideshows.
  • Collaborate with pupils in real-timewithin the confines of a safe and secure environment no matter where the classroom is.
  • Promote literacy, accessibility and comprehension for all learners with the embedded Microsoft Immersive Reader Tool.


  1. A completely redesigned Video Player. The new Discovery Education Video Player not only matches the platform’s lighter, redesigned look and feel, it also makes it easy for teachers to incorporate rich media into the learning experiences they design and deliver every day. From the new Video Player page, teachers can:
  • Build interactive video quizzes or slideshow activities in a few simple steps.
  • Assign videos directly to pupils and add context and instructions.
  • Share videos with pupils and colleagues using a simple link.
  • Find supporting resources and content such as images, interactives and audio.


  1. New ways to easily log in to the Discovery Education platform. 

Pupils can now use QR codes for quick access. Administrators can bulk-issue these codes at the school level or teachers can issue codes for their own classrooms. 


Together, these new features and enhancements support the creation of interactive learning experiences that spark curiosity, make classroom activities livelier and engaging, and provide the literacy and language supports that give every pupil the opportunity to have their “light bulb” moment.

“Integrating all the edtech resources stood-up to maintain the continuity of learning during the COVID-19 pandemic is a major challenge facing school leaders,” said Discovery Education’s Managing Director, Global Initiatives Howard Lewis.  “The new features and enhancements we are announcing today help solve that challenge. The improved functionality of our flagship platform puts all the tools needed to engage pupils with digital content at educators’ fingertips and the work to boost our service’s ability to easily dovetail into school systems’ IT infrastructure makes it simple to merge our content and resources into the learning environments schools already have in place. Taken together, these features and enhancements will help schools improve the return on the edtech investment they made over the past year.”

Educators using Discovery Education Espresso and all Discovery Education resources benefit from the support of the Discovery Educator Network (DEN) Community . This global community of education professionals connects members in schools and around the world through social media, virtual conferences and in-person events, fostering valuable networking, idea sharing, and inspiration.


Explore the re-imagined Discovery Education learning platform at


New Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Teaching School Hub officially opens to support teacher professional development

Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Teaching School Hub, one of 87 Hubs selected by the Government in a £65 million investment to provide high-quality professional development to teachers and leaders in England, has officially opened.


Back in February, it was announced by the Department for Education (DfE) that Histon and Impington Junior School, part of Cambridge Primary Education Trust (CPET), would be the designated Teaching School Hub for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough schools from 1st September. Now the Hub is set to support 336 schools, making it the third largest Hub in the country, with a range of professional development for teachers at all stages of their careers.


Initial priorities in the next 12 months are implementation of the Early Career Framework for all new teachers, delivery of National Professional Qualifications for school leadership, and providing initial teacher training with partner organisations locally. It will also undertake collaborative working with curriculum hubs and signposting professional development for DfE approved and partner training programmes in the region.


“We want every teacher, school leader and wider school staff to have the best professional development they can,” said Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Teaching School Hub Lead Lynne Birch, formerly Schools Engagement Adviser at Cambridgeshire County Council. “We are committed to facilitating this through delivery partner providers, signposting, and commissioning development opportunities where there are gaps in the region. We have a long track record of working together in our area which has brought us to the creation of this Hub. Integral to the success of the Hub will be the continuation of that approach and deepening our relationships with schools, Trusts and partners in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. We strongly believe that this Hub belongs to them.”


The Hub is committed to working in collaboration with early years’ providers, primary, secondary, alternative provision, special schools, further and higher education providers and other regional stakeholders. These include Suffolk, Norfolk and Essex Teaching School Hubs, local authorities, Ely and Peterborough Dioceses, Anglia Ruskin University, the University of Cambridge, curriculum hubs and research schools.

CPET Executive Principal/CEO Lesley Birch, one of just 12 school leaders to have been appointed by the DfE to the new national Teaching School Hubs Council last month, added: “The Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Teaching School Hub is a significant development for the region because it forms part of the Government’s plans for the implementation of the recruitment and retention strategy to raise teacher quality and effectiveness. We exist ultimately to support Cambridgeshire and Peterborough schools and Trusts in having the best professional development offer from the moment someone decides they want to train as a teacher and throughout their career. It is privileged responsibility, and one that we embrace.”


For more information about the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Teaching School Hub, please visit the interim website at


NEW Game-Embedded Teaching maths app is proving that short bursts of learning is optimal for academic progress in maths

Swedish maths app Count on Me! based on science + technology is now available in the UK   

Akribian, a Swedish education technology start-up, is spearheading the way in which children learn maths through short adventure game-based learning which helps children retain information and encourages long term academic success. Its first product Count on me! is a maths app for children aged 6-9 years based on a new concept of Game-Embedded Teaching (GET) which involves a unique combination of science and game design to encourage children to discover the magic of mathematics and accelerate their learning. 

The development of Count on me! is based on the latest research in learning psychology, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and research conducted by Martin Hassler Hallstedt, PhD, CEO and co-founder of Akribian.  

Research published in The Journal of Educational Psychology (2018) has shown that children who practiced maths by playing Count on me! improved their maths skills by 60 percent, compared to children who did not use the app. Results of the study of 283 eight year old students in Sweden showed that using Count on me! for just 15 minutes per day, 3-4 days per week during a 19 week term, significantly improved their critical maths skills compared to students who did not use the program. The gap between academically low-performing students who used the program and higher-performing students who did not use the program also decreased because the low-performing students improved at a higher rate. 

The UK currently ranks seventeenth in the world league tables when it comes to maths competence assessed at the age of 15, with China, Singapore and Macau in the top three places. Sweden, the birthplace of Count on me! sits alongside the UK, in equal seventeenth place.  
Co – Founder and CEO of Akribian, Martin Hassler Hallstedt says“Learning should be an adventure. What distinguishes our game-embedded teaching from more traditional educational games is that Count on me! has been developed with one foot in science and the other in game design. Our unique approach to learning allows a child to engage fully in the moment for 15 minutes a day which means a short burst of wisdom is embedded with minimal screen time. This encourages a happier state of wellbeing and is a more sustainable way of learning that results in long term knowledge retention.” 

“When we look back at our school days, there are many adults who sadly have no positive memories of learning maths . With Count on me! we can help change this for future generations by creating captivating gaming experiences that increase children’s willingness to learn important mathematics skills”, adds Martin.  

Count on me! was developed by Akribian using leading education psychology techniques including cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) combined with advanced gaming technology. The story-driven game is designed to last for just 15 minutes each day. Through adventure play and discovery, children learn and master early maths concepts such as pattern recognition, addition, subtraction, multiplication, division and equalities.  

The approach and design of Count on me! is based on science and insight showing that children benefit and learn more from performing repetitive tasks for smaller chunks of time more regularly, rather than finishing the full game in a shorter amount of time. This also improves learning outcomes. 

Early-age maths competence is the strongest predictor for future academic success – yet many children struggle with maths and it impacts their learning and motivation as they progress through school. A study found that maths competencies among 5-6 year olds is the strongest predictor for general school achievement at 13-14 years of age. Additional studies demonstrated how maths performance significantly predicted socio-emotional behaviour and low math skills was more strongly associated with negative outcomes on employment, physical and mental health. 

Launched in Sweden earlier this year, Count on me! includes 4 tailor-made chapters to play, each containing 10 days of training for the child to complete the quests and master Math Magic. The app is been rolled out across Sweden with schools using it as part of their curriculum. The game will be offered to UK schools and directly to parents as part of the launch approach. 

Count on me! is now available on the App Store for iPads*, and will be available on Android tablets later this year. Count on me! is £9.99 a month with an introductory offer of the first three months for £2.99 (available until 30 September 2021).  

For more information visit 

White Rose Academies Trust launch their first primary academy – Alder Tree Primary

On Wednesday 8th August 2021, a huge celebration was held in Leeds to officially
launch Alder Tree Primary, the first primary academy to be a part of the White Rose
Academies Trust (WRAT) – a group of schools who are all invested in the success of
each other’s schools.
The official unveiling party was led by Councillor Lewis – Leader of Leeds City
Council, along with Dr Shaid Mahmood – Chair of Luminate Education Group, Colin
Booth OBE – CEO of Luminate Education Group, and academy pupils Ruby,
Christiano, Lorraine, Crislynn and Marilou.
Speeches were given by Andrew Whitaker, CEO – WRAT, Christian Wilcocks,
Executive Principal – WRAT and also Kate Burton – Principal of Alder Tree Primary. The
official name plaque was unveiled in front of all invited guests with loud cheers from
everyone, especially the children, as an aeroplane carrying an ‘Alder Tree Primary’
banner flew over the school to also bring in the wider community to share in the
excitement of the day.
The Trust were delighted to welcome hundreds of people to the event, including
local neighbours, pupils and their families, staff and also local MP’s, councillors,
members of the Luminate Education Group Board of Directors, White Rose
Academies Trust Board of Directors, members of the Leeds Learning Alliance, Leeds
Trinity University, Hamara, other partners of the Trust and also the Principals from all
the White Rose academies.
Everyone enjoyed a free BBQ, hot and cold drinks, ice creams, bouncy
castles, a raffle and dancing. Pupils were presented with goody bags which
included free branded items of uniform, water bottles, pump bags, book bags and
One highlight of the event was when Year One pupil Alfie won the main raffle prize
of the day; a new bike! Staff were delighted when Alfie told them that it is his
birthday on Sunday and he has been wishing for a bike as his present, he said “I
cannot believe I now have a bike for my birthday from my school”.

Colleagues from the Leeds United Foundation attended the event, teaching
football skills to the pupils, their mascot Kop Cat also attended to welcome the
children into school and they also generously brought along numerous items for the
raffle, which included two free tickets to a match game!
The event was described as “excellent … really well organised and very energising”
by Colin Booth OBE.
The Trust has already worked to develop an exciting new curriculum for the school,
to open young minds to the wonder of learning, also introducing ‘High Performance
Learning (HPL)’. HPL is a new philosophy for learning across the Trust. Christian
Wilcocks said “Whilst all WRAT schools have transformed beyond recognition over
the last five years, this year really marks the start of something special. It marks the
start of HPL – until now this has been a preserve of international schools, private
schools and it has been a pillar of success amongst those schools, it has been
proven to work without exception. Here at the White Rose Academies Trust,
we don’t believe it should be reserved for just private sector schools, we want to
bring it to our communities. HPL is built on the genuine belief that all students can
perform highly, it advocates that if we deliberately teach students the skills and
characteristics that really underpin the highest performers in our society, that it will
radically improve their performance as well, without exception. So, in addition to
teaching maths, English, literacy etc., we also teach our students how to think and
approach learning”.
Throughout summer the school has been undergoing many improvements, both
interior and exterior, and it has also undergone an exciting full rebrand. Christian
Wilcocks added “this is only the beginning, we have so many plans, lots of building
work has taken place over the summer but there is lots more planned to make this
school the best it can possibly be, and we won’t rest until this building and the
school that is represents is a hub of hope and harmony for the local community. We
want to make this a place of magic and wonder for every child who walks through
those gates”.
Commenting on the event, Kate Burton, Principal of Alder Tree Primary said:
“What a memorable way to launch our school – alongside children, families and our
community. Alder Tree Primary and everyone on its journey has a very bright future
When asked about his thoughts following the event, Andrew Whitaker said:
“It was wonderful to see our community come together for this momentous
occasion. We are dedicated to giving all our children a phenomenal education
and for Alder Tree Primary to become a ‘world class’ high performing primary
“We hope everyone is looking forward to what will be a brilliant academic year at
Alder Tree.
“Our overarching mission is to ensure that all our children are happy, that they enjoy
their time at the academy and that they leave as confident young people who are
proud of their school and are ready to excel in secondary school and beyond”.

New start, old problems: Two-fifths of British schools report above average NO2 levels in 2021. London ranks top for bad air, deprived areas suffer the most.

  • Schools: The air pollution levels around 41% of British schools have higher than average NO2 levels caused by car and factory pollutants
  • Regional impact: Larger numbers British schools struggle to manage NO2 standards, London remains top ranked for worst air pollution. 
  • Economic divide: Schools in socially deprived areas are more susceptible to higher levels of air pollution 

1st September 2021, London: A new academic year starts with fresh hopes but some lingering problems persist. Chiefly, high air pollution levels around schools. Cleantech platform Airly conducted a study based on available air pollution monitoring sources which shows NO2 levels were greater than WHO acceptable levels around 41% of UK schools. 

What is NO2 or nitrogen dioxide? It is a pollutant gas which increases the risk of asthma and exacerbates the symptoms of asthma in children, reduces lung function and increases the likelihood of inflammation of the airways. The main sources of NO2 are road traffic (fuel combustion) and heavy industry.


During pandemic-related lockdowns, air quality around schools improved but over the last 12 months, it has returned to the excessive ‘normal’. The charts below illustrate the problem by timeline. Notably, NO2 levels around schools in London have the highest levels across the UK. 


Entire UK:


41% of British schools exceeded the acceptable levels of NO2 in 2021. This is an improvement from 2019 when 49% of schools across the country had exceeded the norms. The significant drop in NO2 levels during the lockdown in spring 2020 and during the following summer vacation shows the extent to which human activity can impact NO2 levels.

Pollutants such as NO2 and PM10 affect not only health but also learning ability. Several studies from recent years prove that air pollution can harm cognitive intelligence, while  other studies have proven that reducing air pollution can significantly increase the memory of young people. 

Another finding from the Airly study shows that children living in the poorest parts of the UK are more exposed to higher levels of air pollution. The analysis of the mean PM10 pollution (the most common pollutant measured) around schools in the United Kingdom showed that there is a relation between the PM10 concentrations and the IMD Score of the neighbourhood. This graph presents the relationship between IMD Score and air pollution around schools, grouped in boroughs. Selected boroughs are highlighted.

These socially deprived areas have a greater presence of air pollution for a number of factors including the concentration of older cars, dense housing populations, the lack of green urban areas, part of the industrial revolution legacy and have worse aero sanitary conditions. 

What can schools do to improve the situation?  In order to reduce air pollution near schools, it is first and foremost necessary to know what level of pollution there is in the vicinity of the school. To measure this, it is necessary to monitor the air quality outside, to measure the air quality in the vicinity of the facility on an ongoing basis and to analyse the pollution peaks in order to effectively influence their flattening. Airly launched the #LetSchoolsBreathe campaign earlier this year, the aim of which was to provide 50 air quality sensors to schools in the UK so that they could monitor the air quality in their surroundings on an ongoing basis. After six months, each school is to receive a report analysing the concentrations of No2 and PM at schools and suggestions on what steps to take to improve the situation.


The next step may be to reduce car traffic near the school, rearrange the paths to the school to minimize the risk of contamination for students, or also increase the amount of green space near the schools both at the front and backyard.

Enjoy the adventure with Biff & Chip on CBeebies this autumn

Join the famous siblings Biff, Chip and Kipper for joyful adventures and plenty of laughs in new family-friendly CBeebies show, Biff & Chip.


Building on the world and characters from the iconic Biff, Chip & Kipper books from the Oxford Reading Tree Series, and with all new stories written exclusively for the show, this live action series will transport viewers to a world full of imagination and creative play with games, problem solving and most importantly FUN!


Throughout the series the trio will be joined by their slightly naughty dog Floppy, best friends Wilf and Wilma, their energetic Gran and their Mum and Dad who all get involved in the kids’ escapades.

Executive Producer Sue Nott said: “We are so excited for our CBeebies viewers to see how we’ve brought the characters from the books to life in this warm, family-friendly series. At the heart of the show are the friendships of the children and how they play and work together to solve problems, and we hope our young viewers will be inspired to play, problem solve, have fun and use their imaginations to go on wonderful adventures.”


CBeebies’ Biff & Chip is produced by BBC Children’s In-House Productions with Sue Nott as Executive Producer and Tom O’Connell as Series Producer. Biff & Chip starts on Monday 13 September on CBeebies and all episodes will be available on BBC iPlayer.