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.”


NASBTT speaks up for ITT providers following Ofsted Covid-19 report


NASBTT has responded to the publication of Ofsted’s Teaching Teachers during COVID-19 research report


Executive Director Emma Hollis said: “Firstly, and very positively, we are delighted that the hard work of ITT providers during the course of the pandemic has been highlighted in the report. The support providers have given to trainees has been recognised as going ‘above and beyond’, and something we have directly witnessed with our members over the past 14 months. We are equally delighted that our experiences of providers finding innovative ways to support trainees during an unprecedented period of time has been clearly identified by the research team.


It has also been our experience that some aspects of ITT provision have been strengthened by the shift to new ways of working. The report makes positive references to “deeper and more connected thinking about the ITE curriculum” as well as “improved guidance and support {and}…wider access to ITE curriculum content across the partnership”. This is reflective of the ‘Covid keepers’ we have been exploring with our members and signals a new approach to some aspects of ITT in the future.


At a time where broadening access to provision has never been more important, we are also pleased to note the recognition given to providers’ efforts to support access for trainees with a wide range of personal circumstances have been acknowledged. We are confident that such innovations will be embraced going forward, with face-to-face methodologies being retained where these have been shown to be more impactful.


The focus on mental health and wellbeing has also been recognised in the report and this is an area which we believe has been particularly effective for providers. With reports around the decline of the mental health of the teaching workforce presenting worrying findings ( it is promising that ITT providers have made this a central part of the offer they are able to give to beginning teachers who will be entering the workplace at a time of great uncertainty.


The impact of the pandemic was, inevitably, always going to be felt keenly by trainees who have limited access to classroom practice. We are pleased the report has identified that providers have made their best efforts to mitigate this disruption and have done everything within their gift to offer support and guidance through this difficult time. We are clear that there will be unique challenges for Early Career Teachers (ECTs) entering the workplace this September and it will be important for employing schools to appreciate these unique needs and ensure that, with the support of the ECF, they are tailoring support accordingly. Despite some challenges for this year’s ECTs, it is heartening to note that the report has highlighted some ways in which this cohort are at a unique advantage to others – including their immersion in online teaching and learning environments which has well-prepared them for the possibilities for blended learning and given them additional time and space for reflection on key principles of how pupils learn.


We do, however, have to take issue with the report’s conclusions that too few partnerships have a sufficiently ambitious ITE curriculum and too many partnerships are overly reliant on the experiences that trainees gain through placements to provide ITE curriculum content in subjects and phases.


Our experience of working exceptionally closely with providers over the past 18 months through conferences, workshops, one-to-one support and networking opportunities has been that providers have taken the introduction of the Core Content Framework very seriously and are working hard to ensure that their revised curriculum materials fully meet and exceed these new requirements. We have seen excellent practice in the development of highly ambitious ITT curriculums, many of which we have collated and shared publicly. The introduction of an entirely new curriculum expectation, if it is to be done thoughtfully and to a high standard, is always going to take time. We must also not lose sight of the fact that the ITE Inspection Framework was due to be introduced from September 2020, which fell in the eye of the Covid-19 storm. Despite this, the work we have been doing with providers has not lost sight of the importance of curriculum design and implementation.


On the perceived over-reliance on school placements for learning the curriculum, Government policy decisions, made explicit in the ITT Criteria have, over a period of more than a decade, directed providers to ensure that school placements are at the heart of any provision. It is a central part of the unique system of teacher training that we enjoy in England (and which is due to be exported globally with the introduction of iQTS) that real and sustained experiences of live classrooms are a core feature of any programme of ITT. The quality and consistency of school placements are a perennial challenge for ITT providers who have, variously, been tasked with working with schools in challenging circumstances, supporting employment-based routes into ITT and ensuring a breadth of school experiences for trainee teachers. These are challenging priorities to balance and it is our experience (backed up by the outcomes of Ofsted’s previous inspections) that providers have been able to rise to these challenges over successive inspection frameworks and through successive adaptations to government policy.


The positive note in the Ofsted report about the ability of the sector (and in particular the school-based sector) to secure placement opportunities for their trainees despite the tremendous pressure on schools throughout the pandemic is testament to the success of ITT providers’ relationships with their partnership schools.”


Quarter of Teachers Have Less Time to Focus on Their Mental Health

Latest research reveals the knock-on effect of virtual learning on mental health issues

In recognition of the incredible challenge ahead, a new mental health course to look after the UK’s educators has launched today and will be available for free for teachers, teaching assistants, support workers and school leaders.

The training will provide education staff with helpful ways to manage their mental health, reduce work-related stress and engage in self-care as one in four teachers stressed that during lockdown and virtual learning, they had less time to concentrate on their own mental health matters compared to during regular term time, a survey* released today from High Speed Training has revealed.

The complimentary course is responding to rising concerns from the industry that not enough importance is given on the subject of mental wellbeing, with almost half (45%) of teachers across the UK stating that they feel unconfident that they have had sufficient training to deal with safeguarding and mental health matters. This coincides with the concerning fact that the large majority (81%) of teachers expect to see an increase in mental health issues amongst pupils this academic year that they will require the ability to cope with.

Catherine Talbot, Education Sector Analyst and Course Lead at High Speed Training, said: “This year has been more turbulent than most and it is clear that teachers will carry the burden of a growing attainment gap and rising safeguarding issues amongst pupils on their shoulders. This overwhelming amount of pressure to continue having a positive impact on young people’s lives, on both an educational and personal front, will undoubtedly have an effect on teachers’ own mental wellbeing across the country. High Speed Training is offering its Mental Health Training for Teachers course for free for a limited time to ensure that teachers feel confident and content in the workplace.”

Corinne Sweet, Psychologist and Psychotherapist, added: “Currently, teachers are under enormous strain as they manage their students’ and their own mental health issues in an extremely challenging situation. Teachers need to be able to deal with their own stresses, strains and pressures as, if they are not coping, they will not be operating at their best. In my experience, I see how those within the education sector can neglect their own mental health badly, due to the pressures to perform and cope with hugely challenging circumstances. Teachers can often put their own needs last, as the workload mounts and now with virtual learning and dealing with the demands of the pandemic, this has added another layer of high stress to what was already an overstretched situation. Resources that seek to help teachers psychologically, like the Mental Health Training for Teachers course, is gold dust at this difficult time.”

The CPD accredited course will be available for free for those within the education sector for a limited time only. For further information regarding High Speed Training’s Mental Health Training for Teachers course, simply visit the website here.

Teachers Invest in Child Mental Health Training Ahead of World Mental Health Day

Following the surge in online training undertaken by teachers during school closures, new trends have emerged highlighting the critical issues currently affecting the education sector.

Teacher training on the topic of child mental health has increased 510% this year compared to 2019, according to the latest reports shared for World Mental Health Day (10th October). The subject has been the cause of debate within the sector, with concerns raised regarding the impact of virtual learning and COVID-19 related procedures on a child’s mental wellbeing.

With more time spent online this year than ever before, and many children still unable to return to school, training on internet safety has seen the biggest increase of all among teachers this year, with an uptake of 960%.

Demand for online training courses among teachers has been at an all-time high according to the reports shared by High Speed Training. School closures provided a unique opportunity to invest in skills and CPD increased by 114% on average in 2020 compared to 2019 across all topics.

The online training provider is responding to rising safeguarding concerns by creating new mental health training and supporting content that will be available for teachers for free, set to launch later this month.

Dr. Richard Anderson, Head of Learning and Development at High Speed Training, said: “This year has brought with it new challenges and the impact that these will have had on children in education cannot be underestimated. Teachers have a valuable role to play in a child’s wellbeing and our thanks go to all that have gone above and beyond to try and bridge the gap created by moving to a ‘virtual classroom’, and that have invested in developing their skills, particularly those that support mental health. While schools have officially reopened, the challenges are far from over, and we must not forget that there are many young people facing extraordinarily difficult times ahead and who may not yet be able to return to class. This World Mental Health Day is an important reminder for all of us to take extra care.”

For more information and to be informed of new course content going live, simply