Andy Falconer


How You Talk To Your Child At Home Affects Their Whole Approach To Learning

9 Sep 2018 | Leave a Comment |

I have two things for you to think about.

Firstly – how much of your skills and talents, which I’m sure are many and varied, do you think is innate? How much do you think you were born with?

Secondly – what kind of things do you think make a significant difference to how well a pupil does at school?

The answers to both of these questions are linked to our growth mindset ethos at St Olave’s School. In the past it was common for schools to test and pigeon-hole pupils into those who could and those who couldn’t and to teach accordingly. We don’t do that. We don’t pigeon-hole pupils. We don’t tell high achievers how brilliant they are and we don’t commiserate with those who find things a bit trickier because they’ve been dealt an unlucky hand. We see things differently.

So what are the answers to my questions?

How much of our talents and skills is innate? Current thinking is that about 25% is there already. That means we have a lot of untapped potential in every pupil.

What makes a significant difference to how a pupil does at school? How well a pupil thinks they will do at school. Pupils who think they’ll do badly, tend to do badly and those who think they’ll do well, tend to do well. If we can get a pupil to believe they can do better, they will.

It’s not a magic trick or wishful thinking, it’s knowing that if a pupil understands and believes that if they work hard and keep going, whatever pitfalls they encounter, they will continue to improve their skills and talents – pushing further and further into the 75% that they are in control of.

We aren’t saying that’s easy to do (it will mean a lot of hard work), or that it’s risk free (there will be setbacks and failures along the way that will attempt to dent confidence and encourage timidity) but we are saying it’s possible, whatever the starting point of a pupil, if they have a growth mindset.

But, we need your help, as we can’t just do it here at school.

It’s all about the language you use at home when you talk to your children.

Your child comes home, a bit deflated. They tell you it’s science homework tonight and they found the topic really hard. They aren’t sure they’ll be able to do it.

What do you say?

“Oh, don’t worry, I was rubbish at science when I was at school. We can’t be good at everything!”

You want to reassure, to make them know you empathise, but you’ve just given your child an excuse not to try in science anymore. You’ve just told them that there’s a reason why they can’t do it and there’s nothing they can do about that. It’s innate.

Your child comes home and tells you that they’ve been put into the highest maths set.

What’s your reaction?

“I’ll get the champagne, you start Googling Oxford University maths degree courses.”

Your child will be pleased they’ve made you proud, but they will probably also start to feel increasingly anxious. If you make it clear that the outcome is what matters (being in the right set) then others who might do better than them become a threat, as does challenging work. Anxiety increases. Confidence drops.

Our setting in maths (our only setted subject) is primarily based on pace. A pupil can be getting answers correct and doing really well but finding it difficult to keep up with the pace of the group. This doesn’t mean they’re bad at maths, it means they need to be in a different group.

But if you’ve celebrated the initial placement in the top set, what’s your child’s reaction going to be when they learn they need to move into a different group?

“I’ve let my parents down. I’ve let myself down. I’m not as good at this as I thought I was.”

Remember, a pupil tends to do as well as they think they will, so this may well become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

So we’re asking you to think very carefully about the language you use around your children.

Praise effort, determination, perseverance.

Don’t praise speed, easy victories. These are worthless.

Encourage resilience, initiative, curiosity.

Don’t give them excuses.

Henry Ford said: “whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re probably right”. We agree.

We know that every pupil can get better at whatever they put their minds to and, with your help, we aim to help every one of your children believe that too. Because we know what a difference that can make.

(This talk was given to new parents at St Olave’s School, York by Cathy Lees – Director of Teaching & Learning)

3 Life Lessons From A Pencil

5 Jul 2018 | Leave a Comment |

The humble pencil. It doesn’t look like much does it? Yet a pencil is the direct connection between our thinking and the page.

There once was a pencil maker who imagined the pencil as a person and said “There are some things you need to know before I send you out into the world, always remember these things and you’ll become the best pencil you can be!”


The first piece of advice was that from time to time you will experience a painful sharpening, but remember that this will make you a better pencil.

No one likes to go through difficult times or experiences. Read the rest of this entry »

Running Each Summer Olympic City Marathon

6 Apr 2018 | Leave a Comment |

One of my marathon running challenges is to try and run a marathon in each of the cities that has hosted a summer Olympics. Unfortunately, they’re not all close to the UK and so some will need to wait until my daughters are no longer my financial responsibility! However, it’s a great looking list that takes in some very different cities. Which marathon would you really love to run the most? Post your answer at the bottom of the list.

Read the rest of this entry »

10 Power Language Techniques To Use In Your Next Talk Or Presentation

1 Feb 2018 | Leave a Comment |

Great leaders use Power Language to grab audiencePower Language Techniques interest and to be persuasive. There are ten core Power Language techniques that they use to create stand-out talks and presentations.

Using the same techniques, you can make your public speaking more engaging, memorable and persuasive.

Remember that these techniques are specific to spoken language, which requires different skills to written language. Words that are effective when read on a page don’t have the same impact when spoken, and vice versa.

Some of these techniques can be used to Read the rest of this entry »

The Unseen Efforts That Can Lead To Success

23 Dec 2017 | Leave a Comment |

How do you define success image

10 Traits of a Humble Leader – How Do You Measure Up?

21 Dec 2017 | Leave a Comment |

As leaders, humility comes from confidence, grounded in10 traits of a humble leader competence, and seasoned with selflessness.

At GiANT, the global leadership consultancy firm, they believe that leaders define culture, and culture under girds the lasting health, influence, and impact of an organisation. Leaders, therefore, have a responsibility to place their people, their customers/constituents, and their causes above themselves. Not out of self-deprecation or martyrism, but out of a confident conviction in their cause. Good leaders are lifelong learners who value the perspectives and experiences of those different from themselves, and always strive to help their team and organisation become the best versions of their individual and organisational selves.

So, without further ado, check out their list of traits that humble leaders always have and/or aspire to – it’s what I’m trying to model as a leader: Read the rest of this entry »

Fingerprints – Little Marks of Kindness

7 Jul 2017 | Leave a Comment |

Fingerprints. What jumps into your mind when I say “fingerprint”?  Maybe it’s something to do with crime. The detective who finds incriminating finger prints that leads them to the culprit. Or maybe it’s sticky children’s fingerprints all over the car windows or the mirror. Or maybe you’re a bit tech savvy and you’re thinking about the digital fingerprints that we leave every time we go online.

Take a look at your fingertips. Can you see the tiny lines & ridges that make your fingerprints different from everyone else’s? Not one other person in the world, and there’s roughly 7.5 billion people on the planet, has the same finger print as you.  Not even identical twins. Your fingerprints are unique. And of course so are you. Read the rest of this entry »

How To Help Your Pupils Revise More Effectively

19 May 2017 | Leave a Comment |

There isn’t one perfect revision method which will guarantee success 100% of the time. revisionWe know that. We’ve all taken exams ourselves and we’ve probably tried various methods of cramming information into our heads. For the well organised planners among us this probably included preparing beautifully organised folders with coloured dividers, a wealth of plastic pockets and a reassuringly huge amount of paper, indexed and featuring carefully copied notes. For the last minute panickers among us it was probably more to do with an overdose of caffeine and sugar and a lot of desperate praying the night before. For some of you those techniques may actually have worked! For some of you they won’t.

The good news is that since we took our exams a lot more is known about how the brain learns, and we have a much better idea of how to use that understanding to guide pupils through revision. Read the rest of this entry »

The Power Of Perseverance

10 May 2017 | Leave a Comment |

Mark sits beside a hospital bed in Italy, surveying the wreckage that is his best friend Jonny. perseveranceJonny is connected to this world by nothing more than humming machines and tubes. Jonny doesn’t realise that he’s been in a coma for the last 4 weeks. Jonny remembers nothing of being knocked off his scooter in a hit and run accident. Jonny doesn’t know how close he came to being killed.


If you are interested in cycling you will recognise the names of successful British cyclists such as Bradley Wiggins, Victoria Pendleton & Mark Cavendish but you probably haven’t heard of Jonny Bellis. Jonny is a European champion and he competed for Team GB in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. His best friend Mark, who sat beside his hospital bed, is Mark Cavendish, one of the world’s top cyclists.


Jonny thinks he’s in for a minor operation & will be back racing with the GB cycling team in Belgium the following week. Jonny has no idea that doctors have just told his parents that he will be paralysed from the neck down.


What happened to Jonny Bellis, who was told in 2009 he would never walk again? Read the rest of this entry »

What Is Good Teaching? – Barack Obama

22 Jan 2017 | Leave a Comment |