Thinking Schools Accreditation

Thinking Schools Accreditation, April 2014

From Exeter University’s Cognitive Education Development Unit:

“To become a thinking school requires (shared) vision, skilful in-service training and a great deal of hard work.  In one sense, the process is never-ending, but we do believe that schools demonstrating that they can match a certain number of basic criteria can rightfully claim to be a thinking school. 

A Thinking School is an educational community in which all members share a common understanding and vision of the nature of the high quality learning and teaching for all pupils, and are committed to working together to make this vision a reality.  They think deeply about their work, reflectively, critically and creatively, and spend time discussing the best ways to co-construct both a meaningful and purposeful curriculum and associated activities, drawing on a wide range of learning opportunities.  They are committed to their own learning, keep abreast of research, learn from each other and are open to new ideas, considering these carefully before deciding whether they will usefully contribute to their vision for a thinking school.

A school which is successfully developing as a thinking community will strive to ensure that all pupils are developing and demonstrating independent and co-operative learning skills using a range of thinking tools and strategies.  The school will generate high levels of achievement and an excitement and enthusiasm for lifelong learning.  All members of the community will interact with and show consideration for each other, in such a way as to enable the positive psychological wellbeing of both pupils and staff to flourish. (Knapp, 2006)

In order to achieve this goal, a whole school approach will be necessary whereby all stakeholders (including parents and school governors) are fully committed to the school’s aims and how they can best be achieved.  Staff will need to be specially trained and methods will need to be introduced into the curriculum for teaching the skills of thinking and associated cognitive and meta-cognitive strategies. The widest possible application of these skills and strategies should underpin all other aspects of the curriculum and should guide behaviour policies and expectations about human interactions at every level and care for the environment.”

In our Accreditation Report, assessor Fiona Knapp said:

“Castle Hill Infant School is committed to innovation and excellence, and has high expectations and high aspirations for both staff and pupils, underpinned by a very supportive and caring environment, which permeates the ethos of the school.

The school is also a Rights Respecting School, and achieved the UNICEF UK Level 1 Award in March 2012, when the assessor commented that “This is a wonderful school, it’s so calm here and there’s such an air of respect. In fact, I’d say it was the nicest school I’ve ever been to...”

The most recent Ofsted Inspection in April 2008 rated the school Outstanding in all categories, and an interim assessment in January 2011 concluded that this had been maintained so there have been no further inspections to date.

The school’s positive and caring ethos was evident as soon as I arrived. I received a very warm welcome, the day was well organised and staff, pupils, parents and governors were all aware of the purpose of my visit. Behaviour is excellent and staff and pupils are clearly happy and readily spoke about their school with warmth and enthusiasm, as did the governors and parents I met.

In conclusion, Castle Hill meets all the criteria set by Exeter University’s Cognitive Education Development Unit for accreditation as a Thinking School. This is confirmed by the range of evidence in the portfolio, displays around the school, observation of planning and classroom practice, the application of the tools to support and scaffold thinking, and discussions with the Headteacher, the Drive Team, pupils, parents, governors and a range of staff. I therefore recommend that accreditation be awarded until April 2017.”

We are proud and delighted to attain this award and massive thanks and appreciation goes to all our staff, pupils, parents and governors who together make this wonderful achievement possible.


“Together we are a formidable team”


Michele Amos

Chair of Governors