NEW EEF Implementation Guidance Report launched with SRS events to support schools.

We are thrilled to share the announcement of  the release of the EEF’s latest Implementation Guidance Report. This comprehensive resource is a game-changer for school leaders, offering insights drawn from extensive research. Packed with actionable recommendations, this guide equips leaders with the knowledge and support they need to spearhead transformative changes and drive improvements effectively.

Staffordshire Research School are hosting a series of launch events where you can find out all about this fantastic new resource.  Sessions are being hosted in Sutton Coldfield, Burton upon Trent and virtually with a variety of dates and times available.

Book your session

‘3 Minutes on Leadership’ Series

Commencing on Wednesday, April 24th, in sync with the release of the eagerly anticipated EEF Implementation Guidance Report, Staffordshire Research School are excited to introduce a brief weekly email series. Each Wednesday, leaders will receive a concise, three-minute read featuring leadership research insights, thought-provoking reflection questions, and additional recommended reading materials to enrich your professional journey.

Please complete the form here if you would like to receive a weekly email.


During our recent Early Years planning meeting, the team chatted at length about arising issues and needs in Early Years when considering future content for network sessions. One aspect discussed was the importance of PD – Physical Development, both gross motor and fine motor skills. Not only does PD play a significant role in mitigating against concerns in reductions in children’s physical activity, it also contributes to cognitive development; the development of strong bones, muscles and heart; the development of gross and fine motor skills and supports the development of personal and social skills.

Ruth Swailes, our Early Years Network Lead at Gateway has shared her blog to explain more about the development of upper body strength with particular focus on its importance in the development of fine motor skills and the stamina required to be a writer. She also shares ideas on what can be done and what is needed to support this vital aspect of child development.

The development of upper body strength.

What is the shoulder girdle?

The shoulder girdle is also known as the pectoral girdle. It is a ring of bones formed by two sets of bones: the scapulae (shoulder blades) and the clavicles (collar bones) which , along with the muscles and ligaments connected to them, form a circle around the top of the rib cage. The shoulder girdle forms a stable base from which the shoulder joint moves. It supports arm movements from the shoulder joint. Shoulder girdle stability happens when the large muscles of the shoulder girdle contract together effectively to stabilise the shoulder blade and the shoulder joint.

Why is it important ?

Children’s upper body strength, including shoulder girdle development is important because it develops the  muscle tone which is required to support children with object manipulation, grasping, and eventually to develop the necessary control and stamina for writing. Good upper body and shoulder girdle stability enables the smaller muscles in the arms and hands to work more efficiently because they have been given a stable base of support. Without this stability children can get into poor postural habits and may struggle to build stamina for writing, as their muscles and joints become unnecessarily fatigued. Poor upper body strength and shoulder stability can affect handwriting and other fine motor tasks. Over time, poor upper body strength can lead to an over reliance on the arms and this can be detrimental to good physical development.

The development of good shoulder girdle strength enables children to develop something called proximal stabilty. This means that the child is able to control the joints closest to the body effectively, which in turn leads to better distal stability, quite simply better control of the joints which are further away from the body. In this case the elbows, wrists and fingers.  It is a necessary building block for good handwriting and fine motor control.

Some signs to look out for:

Children who have not yet developed good upper body strength often work at arms length. When they write they often have the paper far away from their body. Take time to look at how a child positions their arms. A child who has developed good upper body strength looks at ease when writing, cutting and manipulating. Children who have not yet developed this area can look uncomfortable. Limbs may seem “spiky” with children working at odd and awkward angles. They will tire easily and not want to work on fine motor activities such as writing or cutting for any length of time.

How can you support it?

Upper body strength should develop through exposure to a large range of gross motor opportunities.

For small children, lying on the tummy and pushing up on the arms, as well as crawling will help the muscles of the shoulder girdle to develop.  Tummy time at story time, with children lying on their stomachs, instead of sitting up can develop upper body strength. Many schools I work with have adopted this approach to story time and have seen increased concentration as children do not have to focus on proprioceptor control (see previous blog).

Children should be encouraged to take part in activities that involve climbing, pushing, pulling, throwing and weight-bearing through their arms, for example wheelbarrow walking, in order to strengthen all the muscles around the shoulder joint and the scapula. Crawling through tunnels encourages children to bear weight through their arms.

Running, jumping, climbing, swinging, and skipping etc. all allow a child to exercise their large muscle groups, and often support many areas of physical development simultaneously.  Monkey bars are great options for increasing a child’s upper body strength and dexterity. Trapeze bars which are also a great way of increasing upper body strength as the child pulls themselves up, or swings on the bar.

Large whiteboards, chalkboards, and pieces of paper hung on fences or walls for children to decorate with large arm movements can develop shoulder girdle strength.  A large whiteboard or roll of paper on the floor can also support the child to develop their core and upper body strength.

Loose parts and transportation play

One of the most simple and cheap ways to develop upper body and shoulder strength is to invest in items which are heavy for children and which they would naturally want to transport. Large building blocks, tyres, wheelbarrows full of pebbles or sand, pulleys, crates, heavy buckets full of water all provide meaningful opportunities for children to develop their strength alongside a range of other skills such as co- operation, PSED, and the characteristics of effective learning. Sand pits, gravel pits and real bricks in the construction area can all provide rich and meaningful opportunities to transport objects. These require children to take risks, and adults have to teach children how to use these materials safely and considerately.

What do you need?

Further reading: Carol Brown (2010) Improving fine motor skills in young children: an intervention study.

Ruth Swailes has almost 3 decades experience in primary education including primary headship. Ruth has worked as a School Improvement Advisor, Early Years consultant and moderator in several Local Authorities and currently works part time as a School Improvement Advisor to several Local Authority schools.

Ruth is the lead developer and writer of the Oxford University Press International Early Years Curriculum and recently advised on one of the Government Accredited Phonics schemes. She has co -authored a book “Early Childhood Theorists Today” with Aaron Bradbury.  Ruth was awarded Nursery World Trainer of the Year 2021.


If you are interested in finding out more about our Early Years Network events and our other events coming this term, do take a look and contact us on


In the second ‘In Conversation with…’ articles from our Art leads, we hear from Emily Gopaul. Here she shares her thoughts, observations and tips on her passion for art in the Primary School.

What drives you to keep going and advocate art education?

I have been fortunate enough to teach and lead on art for nearly 20 years and in a range of settings: PRUs, primary, secondary, state and private sector. Engaging children and young adults with developing their own creative and expressive ideas, seeing them discover new materials and techniques, listening to them discuss concepts and critique art has been a privilege and something that has motivated me to teach for a long time. My book and broader work as a consultant with the cultural and educational sector is an extension of this. Supporting teachers and therefore more students through training or creating resources is so rewarding.

I am also so buoyed by the changes that I am hopeful to see in art education. For example, I have seen the landscape change and move towards more awareness of the need for diversity in the art and artists we teach about. Research like VISUALISE: RACE & INCLUSION IN SECONDARY SCHOOL ART EDUCATION is really supportive of the changes that must happen on a big scale. The work I am doing with Oak National Academy will also speak to this, look out for KS1 – KS4 full curriculum content coming soon – I can’t wait for teachers to be supported by these soon. It is inspiring to be working on a team with so many experts in their field on creating these resources.

What are some of the key issues you think we are currently facing in art education?

As I mentioned, the need for resources and content in primary and secondary art to be more diverse and representative of the global art world and the students we teach. The narrow perception of what art is or is not is limiting for so many who might want to enjoy the arts or even contribute to the arts. I am hopeful about change, especially as I know there are so many people in the art education community who advocate passionately about the need for reform in this area.

I am also concerned about the decreasing numbers of students taking art related A-levels and GCSEs and the inevitable knock on impacts of this on art and design, all the way to primary school level. Since 2010, arts enrolment has dropped by 47% at GCSE and 29% at A-level. The report ‘The Arts in Schools: Foundations for the Future report that was published by A New Direction on 30 March 2023 has some interesting findings.

Art is already often marginalised and although we are a resilient bunch, it is about time there was a fundamental shift in perspectives about the subject, by many of the people who make policies and drive decisions in schools. There is such a disconnect between the exciting output of the creative industries in this country and the status of art in education. In order that creative jobs and opportunities are open to all and not just a few, we need students to be exposed to the experiences that will inspire them, regardless of their school or home setting. Imagine a world without the arts!

In your experience, what are the challenges faced by teachers with art?

A lack of time is something I hear about anecdotally and more formally. A teacher, whether primary or secondary, is stretched across so many different focuses, many of which take them away from the actual job of teaching. Given enough time most teachers want to plan and teach engaging and exciting lessons, they want to share their own passion for a subject and for learning. Art and design teachers need to feel creative themselves – it is hard to feel that way when you are tired and feeling overworked. In the primary sector, there is often a lack of training in the foundation subjects too, so teachers enter the profession feeling ill equipped about the subject knowledge and specific pedagogy needed to teach certain subjects. They are then forced to rely on resources that are pre-made, often those resources do not exemplify best practice or make best use of inspiring art and artists. 

That is why I am so hopeful that the new art and design lesson packages that I am creating at Oak and NSEAD (National Society for Education in Art and Design) will be supportive of teachers and their need for time. The content will be there to support those who might not feel confident teaching art or simply not have the capacity to plan high quality lessons. The resources are not meant to be prescriptive so they can be adapted to suit the teachers and their settings. Equally, if needs be they can be used as a full package.

What would be your three Top Tips?

  1. Find high quality resources to lean into for ideas and reliable content 
  2. Share resources with other art teachers, create a sharing community so you are not isolated or reinventing the wheel
  3. Take time to be you outside of teacher- Be you and recharge!

If you could encourage all Primary school teachers to consistently do ONE thing in art, what would it be?

Learn about new artists that inspire you and that your students will enjoy. Even if you are using pre-made resources, you can still introduce new and exciting artists to the students, alongside or instead of the status quo of artists that tend to get regurgitated again and again in schools. You don’t have to visit exhibitions, you can look online too. Remember just because an artist is not part of the western art history canon, it does not mean they are not worthwhile and inspiring for your students to learn about.


Emily has led on our Gateway Alliance Curriculum Art event receiving fantastic feedback:

‘Lots of ideas and sharing from the group, new ideas for artists and love that Alma was mentioned as I have introduced her this year to my school’s curriculum. Reassuring to hear similar minded thoughts and questions from other art leads and hearing Emily’s responses which will improve my practice as art lead moving forward.’

‘Inspired by the discussion about the range of artists! Several of which I will be sharing within my school!’

‘The warmth and energy of Emily, she was very knowledgeable and engaging. Good to talk to other subject leaders. Great to discuss the different cultures and how to incorporate them into the curriculum.’


Emily Gopaul is a London-born art educator, artist and art education consultant of Indo-Guyanese descent. With extensive experience in teaching and leading art in both primary and secondary schools, Emily has established herself as a respected figure in the field of art education.  Emily authored the book “Teaching Primary Art and Design” in 2018, sharing her ideas for effective practices and lessons. Currently, Emily operates through her company, The Primary Art Class, where she works as an art educational consultant and advocate. Her expertise is sought after by educational and cultural organisations. Emily has worked with renowned institutions such as Teach First, Findel, Tate, BBC, The Crafts Council, NSEAD, The Thackray Museum and most recently joined the team at Oak National Academy as Art & Design Subject Lead. Her book Teaching Primary Art and Design was published by Bloomsbury in 2018, written to support primary art leaders in contextualising practical art activities using art history and contemporary art practice. Emily engages directly with schools and facilitates CPD events. She is passionate about art education and her work often has an intentional bias towards inclusive, anti-racist and context-aware resources. She aims to introduce a broader interpretation of collections and exhibitions for educational purposes and is focused on referencing art and artists from ethnically and culturally diverse backgrounds and empowering students to be cultural contributors themselves.

You can follow Emily on X (Twitter) @PrimaArtClass


If you would like to find out more about how you can benefit from the expertise such as Emily’s expertise to support in school, please contact us on

Find out more about our other Curriculum CPD events this year at Gateway Alliance.

In the first of two ‘In Conversation with…’ articles from our Art leads, we hear from Emma-Jo Bairstow. Here she shares her thoughts, observations and tips on her passion for art in the Primary School.

What drives you to keep going and advocate art education?

Seeing the impact that art has on children. Teaching art in class and witnessing how they can interpret and develop their own ideas and just watching them grow in confidence, especially the children that find they excel in art more than in other subjects. It’s wonderful to be part of them finding out that they flourish in the arts.

What are some of the key issues you think we are currently facing in art education?

Treating art like it is something that is linear and can be measured on a progression document. The increased pressure to assess art at such a young age. This needs approaching gently and with caution as it could be damaging to creative development.

In your experience, what are the challenges faced by teachers with art?

I have lots of conversations with teachers about their art lessons and something that comes up constantly is subject knowledge and confidence in modelling the skills. I think if you do not have a background in art it can seem quite overwhelming approaching e.g. a lesson in printmaking or acrylic painting.

I think worrying about getting it wrong and the pressure for outcomes can be stressful for teachers.

What would be your three Top Tips?

  1. Build your confidence: Explore the materials yourself first before teaching so you know what to expect and what may need breaking down and modelling more in your session.
  2. Be alongside as an artist: Enjoy the process and learn alongside the children when approaching something new.
  3. The importance of trial-and-error: My career as an art specialist and art teacher has been so much trial and error, learning from the things that go wrong. That is an essential part of the creative process. Don’t be afraid to show the children this process

If you could encourage all Primary school teachers to consistently do ONE thing in art, what would it be?


Do your research when ordering so that you have the right resources, so that your children can succeed in what you want them to do. If you want fine lines and details in a painting – give the fine brushes. If you want them to shade, give them shading pencils. It makes it so much harder for the children to succeed without the right equipment.

Another key message from Emma:

I get asked this question often in my practice- what is more important the process or the outcome?

I feel the process and the outcome are both important. As an artist I need an outcome to aim towards and to drive me forward. The process may change what my outcome turns out like as I learn on the way, but I still get a sense of achievement when I create a finished thing.

From my experience in the classroom I think this is the same with children. They love seeing the finished outcome and knowing that they achieved it. The process is like the magic that got them to their goal. Both are as important as each other.


Emma has led on our Gateway Alliance Curriculum Art event receiving fantastic feedback:

‘Love the practical element! Really loved seeing all of the real life examples too. Every time I hear Emma, I feel reinvigorated and ready to up level our curriculum again!’

‘Lots of fantastic information shared that was very useful. Emma had brilliant knowledge herself and it was great to hear her views. Lots of good examples of work which was great to see. Was also great that EYFS was heavily included. Brilliant!’

‘Really enjoyed the EYFS links and whole school approach. Also great to hear the creative approach and that there isn’t an expectation for a linear ‘one size fits all’ approach.’


Emma Bairstow is an art consultant working nationally to up-skill, build confidence and create positive learning experiences for children and teachers in art within the primary setting. Emma graduated from Wimbledon College of Art in 2002 and has since been based in an educational setting carving her own path as an art specialist for the Inspire Partnership in London and now setting up Artworks Education and working across the country delivering CPD and workshops. She combines her own creative practice with what she has learnt through teaching art to support staff in embedding a rich and skills-based art curriculum that builds on skills over time.

You can follow Emma on X (Twitter) @artworksedu


If you would like to find out more about how you can benefit from the expertise such as Emma’s expertise to support in school, please contact us on

Find out more about our other Curriculum CPD events this year at Gateway Alliance.

Would you like to get an opportunity to speak, face to face, with 150+ senior leaders from schools across the Midlands region?

Do you want a platform to share details of your products and services, directly to decision-makers in schools?

Do you want an opportunity to network with other education professionals?


If so, then apply today for a space in our marketplace exhibition at our flagship Senior Leaders’ Summer Conference.

DATE: Friday 21st June 2024

TIME: 09:15-15:30

VENUE: The Belfry Hotel, Sutton Coldfield, Birmingham


Guest Speakers

We are are delighted to be welcoming some amazingly inspiring guest speakers to our summer conference this year…

Doug Lemov – flying over from the USA especially to speak to our network of senior leaders! Doug is an American Educator and the author of the international bestseller “Teach Like a Champion“.

Kriss Akabusi –  Olympic Athlete, world champion & internationally acclaimed motivational speaker.

Laura McInerney – Co-Founder of Teacher Tapp and Educational Journalist – former editor of Schools Week.


Benefits of Exhibiting

Our conferences are:

The marketplace exhibition is the perfect opportunity to meet decision makers from primary schools and academies from across the region. The programme has been designed to give exhibitors maximum opportunity to engage with delegates, the registration, lunch and all refreshment breaks are in taking place in the marketplace area giving you the best chance to network with delegates throughout the event.

For more information see our Exhibitors Pack 2024 or contact us on


In our next ‘In Conversation with…’ articles, we hear from Lisa Handy & Jan Forshaw, our Curriculum CPD PSHE leads. Here they collectively share their thoughts, observations and tips on their passion, PSHE

What drives you to keep going and advocate PSHE education?

We’re driven by a need to ensure that children have access to the right information at the right time. It’s been brilliant that about 80% of PSHE has been made statutory and has been for the last 3 years, but it’s still early days in the whole scheme of things and there remain some areas, such as Relationships, Sex and Health Education (RSHE) that need working on to ensure teachers are well supported to feel skilled and confident to teach the subject, and to ensure the voices of children and young people are being heard – and that this is informing our curriculum offer.


What are some of the key issues you think we are currently facing in PSHE?

A lack of confidence in teachers and schools to make the best decisions for the pupils they teach in RSE. There’s a lot of scaremongering happening in the media at the moment; RSHE has become very politicised, yet the majority of schools are doing a fantastic job and the vast majority of parents and carers trust that their child’s school is doing the right thing. A recent research report carried out by Durham University found that 91% of parents had never felt the need to contact their child’s school about RSE.


In your experience, what are the challenges faced by teachers with PSHE?

Tackling the misinformation that is out there, which in turn leads to lots of time spent meeting with parents to allay their fears about what is being taught – and when – to their child. This is increasing teacher workload and having a negative effect on teachers’ confidence in delivering the subject. This can have a detrimental impact on schools and lead to them choosing not to teach subjects such as sex education, even though the Department of Education strongly recommends primary schools do. In turn, this leads to children losing out and not getting the information they need and want at a timely point – for example, not preparing them for life in secondary school.


What would be your three Top Tips?

  1.    Know your pupils and ensure your PSHE (including RSHE) content stays relevant to their lived experiences and backgrounds.
  2.    Strive to ensure PSHE is a whole-school and indeed whole-community approach. Learning key skills in the classroom and then not rewarding those behaviours when pupils display them in the wider school environment – such as the playground or the dining hall – can be a real missed opportunity to create a safe environment where all children feel they belong. Involving parents and carers regularly in understanding what’s being taught and why it’s important to teach it also helps to build trust across the wider school community.
  3.    Stay connected to colleagues in similar roles. We regularly see teachers who are members of our SCARF Facebook forum generously giving their time to share their ideas – and doing so with genuinely kind, considered responses. This can be a real boost and support to teachers who’ve encountered a tricky situation.


If you could encourage all Primary school teachers to consistently do ONE thing in PSHE, what would it be?

When delivering PSHE, it’s really important we spend time creating a safe learning environment. It’s important for both staff and pupils to know what’s expected of them, where the boundaries are, and the importance of respecting those boundaries. It helps everyone to feel comfortable, knowing that pupils’ and teachers’ personal experiences aren’t relied upon when learning about issues that can feel sensitive to some. This gives children and young people the confidence to speak out and ask questions, without fear of being put down, laughed at, or belittled in any way.


Lisa & Jan both lead the Gateway Alliance Curriculum CPD – Personal Social Health & Economic education events with the most recent receiving fantastic feedback:

‘The session was excellent, so relevant and really helpful for me in my next stages of subject leadership and developing it more proactively.’

‘They provided us with various ideas that we could use with parents and thinking about the importance of using a shared voice towards curriculum development’.

‘The session was very informative with lots of different ways of engaging us.’


Lisa Handy is a highly experienced RSE Educator, Trainer and Consultant. With over 20 years’ experience within the primary and secondary RSE field, having previously worked for Brook, NHS, National Children’s Bureau and was previously a Sex Education Forum Coordinator. Lisa now leads teacher training courses as Coram Life Education‘s RSHE Training and Programme Manager enabling schools to implement high-quality provision for PSHE and meet Ofsted expectations.

Jan Forshaw MBE is the Head of Education for Coram Life Education and responsible for managing and developing the
education services, including their content, strategic direction and evaluation. Jan oversees SCARF and its effectiveness in embedding a whole-school approach to children’s physical and emotional wellbeing. Her earlier career was as a teacher in middle and primary schools, including senior leadership roles. On Thursday 20th April 2023, Jan Forshaw received her MBE as part of the New Year’s Honours of King Charles III in recognition of her incredible service to Life Education during Covid.


If you want to know more, you can find both Jan & Lisa on X (Twitter):

Coram Life Education on X (Twitter) @CoramLifeEd

Lisa Handy on X (Twitter) @HandyEyes


If you would like to benefit from Lisa & Jan’s expertise to support your PSHE provision in school, please contact us on

Click here to find out more about our other Curriculum CPD events this year at Gateway Alliance.