The Welsh school with award-winning thinking skills

29th July 2011 at 01:00
Cardiff High is first in UK to get university-accredited status

For the past decade, pupils at Cardiff High School have been encouraged to become independent thinkers, drawing on the techniques of renowned intellectuals such as Edward de Bono and Art Costa.

Pupils are given the freedom to think, to be inquisitive, to learn from each other and even to lead lessons.

Meditation techniques are also used to help them get into the right frame of mind.

Now the school has had its innovative practices recognised by Exeter University, with the award of "Advanced Thinking Skills" status. It is the first school in the UK to receive the honour.

Headteacher Mike Griffiths (see panel) introduced the concept in 2000 after attending a teaching conference.

"I thought, 'Here is a way of developing resilient, independent, lifelong learners. If you can get pupils interested and motivated and engaged in their learning, then improved results will follow.'"

The school used two #163;25,000 grants from the General Teaching Council for Wales to send a number of teachers on intensive thinking skills workshops.

Using concepts such as Art Costa's 16 habits of mind and Edward de Bono's six thinking hats, the school created a guide to help teachers deliver thinking skills in lessons.

Year 7 and 8 pupils have timetabled "thinking for learning" lessons to give them an introduction to the concept, but every department is required to reinforce it in every lesson.

When Mr Griffiths arrived at Cardiff High in 1997, about 60 per cent of pupils gained five A-C grades at GCSE, including maths and English. Last year the figure had risen to 89 per cent.

"I don't think we could prove it is because of the thinking skills, but we are pretty convinced it has been an important influence," he said.

"I know some people are dubious about thinking skills, but it's simply moving from a teacher-dominated lesson to one where the pupils become active participants."

Jude Brigley, the school's director of learning and teaching, said: "We would like to think that our teaching extends beyond the classroom and that the things they learn here would equip them to be good citizens who will continue learning long after they have left school."



Widely regarded as one of Wales's leading heads, Mike Griffiths is retiring after 14 years at the helm of Cardiff High School.

Although he found his own grammar-school education in Carmarthenshire "pedestrian" and "uninspiring", a group of friends persuaded him to join them and train as a teacher in Bristol after he completed his economics degree in Cardiff.

His first job was teaching economics at a high school in Essex, before returning to Wales in the early 1980s.

Mr Griffiths joined Cardiff High in 1997, and 10 years later Estyn judged the school to be outstanding.

Mr Griffiths was the first and is current chairman of iNet's (International Networking for Educational Transformation) Wales executive committee, and has worked with the Welsh Government on the development of the school effectiveness framework.

"If I have succeeded in allowing other people to thrive, then that's the only legacy I want to leave behind," he said. "I still love coming to school every day."

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