Skip to content ↓

Thinking Schools Academy Trust

What is a Thinking School?

An educational community in which all members share a common commitment to giving regular careful thought to everything that takes place. This involves both students and staff learning how to think reflectively, critically and creatively, and employing these skills and techniques in the co-construction of a meaningful curriculum and associated activities. Successful outcomes are reflected in students across a wide range of abilities, demonstrating independent and co-operative learning skills, high levels of achievement and both enjoyment and satisfaction in learning. Benefits will be shown in ways in which all members of the community interact with and show consideration for each other and in the positive psychological well-being of both students and staff.

 Burden, 2006.

The Six Starting Points

The journey to becoming a Thinking School involves a strong commitment and careful planning.

Key Points for Our Trust

  • Children first: To provide a stimulating learning environment for all where learners feel safe to explore knowledge and understanding. We believe that children learn best when they are motivated, clear about expectations in their work and behaviour, feel valued, secure and confident, are challenged and receive constructive feedback about their performance.
  • Aspire: To be the best they can be. We believe that all staff and pupils can aspire for personal and professional prowess and become empowered through the Thinking philosophy.
  • Challenge: To actively shape the minds, attitudes and habits of young people through a framework of cognitive education that enables them to become the master of their own destiny. We believe that pupils require an accurate reflection of what they are good at and need to develop personal insight and manage uncertainty confidently. Developing skilled, independent, reflective learners is part of our Vision.
  • Achieve: For all stakeholders to demonstrate the highest levels of thinking and habits. We want our pupils to be questioning in nature, achieving the highest levels of independent and interdependent prowess.

Thinking Approach

Our “Thinking School” approach is consistent with the aims below and helps to ensure that:

  1. Pupils in TSAT are supported to think for themselves, through the development of a thorough understanding of purposeful thinking tools that they can use to aid and monitor their own progress.
  2. Staff in TSAT are encouraged to think accurately and reflectively about their practice and understand a range of thinking tools that can be used to support student motivation and progress.

Feedback from Exeter University on recently accredited schools within our Trust

  • Isambard Brunel Junior School – 2017: “It was clear from the lessons and part lessons I observed that children are very familiar with the tools and strategies, and both adults and pupils were using them confidently and in a range of ways to support and scaffold thinking and learning, develop deeper questioning and to probe for reasoning.”
  • The Portsmouth Academy – 2016: “Students were both articulate and aspirational, and it was clear from the discussion that they not only know about and use a range of thinking tools and approaches, but also have a strong sense of ownership, see them as central to their learning.”
  • The Rochester Grammar School – 2016: “Through thought-full, passionate and inspirational leadership combined with a relentless drive for excellence, ongoing self-evaluation and review and the willingness of governors, staff, pupils and parents to embrace exciting and innovative ideas, the school continues to provide an excellent example of effective cognitive education in action. Cognitive approaches are so embedded in the ethos and culture of the school that it feels as if the school is ‘drenched in thinking!’


Following a successful consultation we are delighted to confirm that we joined the Trust on 1st February 2021 to become the first school in the newly formed Thinking Schools Academy Trust South West hub. 

Further information will follow, however, in the meantime, please feel free to visit their website.


Student and Parent Bulletins

What does joining the trust mean to us? 

As student leaders at Plymouth High, joining the Thinking Schools Academy Trust has opened up extremely exciting possibilities for us. The opportunity to work with schools and students outside of our area fills us with eagerness at the prospect of being able to have an impact beyond our school, making a real positive difference. We hope that this will not only be able to help improve the student experience at Plymouth High from finding out what changes we can implement that other schools have been successful with, but also will allow us to have our voices heard with a broader outreach, suggesting things that we enjoy at our school. From our meetings with Mr Underdown, we have also understood that joining the Trust will accommodate a better funding model and have introduced a more efficient IT system that will further enhance the positive experience of students both in lesson time and outside of lesson time- contributing to better learning outcomes. We cannot wait to see all of the great things that being part of the Trust will bring, and we look forward to getting involved with other student leaders across the Trust in order to establish concrete relationships

The Head Student Team

Joining the trust has opened up many possibilities for the Earth Alliance as it has allowed us to reach a much wider audience and let us have a greater student leadership role to help influence others and make change on a wider scale to benefit our environment and community. Joining the trust has also opened us up to use new resources which we haven't had the opportunity to use before.

Joining the trust has allowed for opportunities that we could have never foreseen when applying to this role; it has and will allow us to engage with more people about a subject that is so important to us and the students at Plymouth High. Whilst this is very rewarding for us it also means that our actions have a much broader reach and will affect positive change around the country. The conference that we are hoping to host is just one example of this. 

The Earth Alliance Team