Growth Mindset Strategies

Growth Mindset Strategies

How to Implement Growth Mindset in Primary School Part 3: A Whole School Strategy

In part 3 of our growth mindset series, mindset expert, Ross McWilliam, will tell us about:

  • Whole school growth mindset strategies that cater for all key stakeholders
  • Implementation across school
  • How to monitor progress at school and at home

A Whole School Strategy that Works for Pupils, Parents and Staff

Integration of key stakeholders is crucial if any sustained ‘success gains’ are to be achieved, i.e. higher grades, better attendance and behaviour, greater development of lifelong non-cognitive skills (including thinking growth mindset strategies and resilience) and increased parental support.

So, how can we engage the key stakeholders?


Overlook the needs of staff at your peril! The secret is to not only get staff onside, but to demonstrate the benefits of Growth Mindset to pupils, and also to themselves. There are various ways to start this planning process – here are some examples:

1. Ask for volunteers for a cross-school working party on GM. The aim is to review current GM thinking and evidence of success gains. A simple SWOT analysis will yield tangible benefits to the school, but will allow for individual differences and needs.

2. Share their findings with all staff to iron out theoretical and logistical issues.

3. It may be a good idea to find a GM policy used in a nearby school and see the impact it has had.

4. There may be a reasonable need to pilot GM across a nominated department or year group, perhaps with a targeted focus group. This will allow for changes and improvements on a smaller scale before it is rolled out across the whole school.

5. This may be the point to inform parents about the pilot and perhaps asked for their views. Ownership by parents is key and they should be at the centre of GM change, perhaps with their own GM support group.

6. Review the GM programme consistently with all key stakeholders against the nominated success gains.

7. To raise the profile of GM amongst staff, appoint staff mentors to facilitate learning and start liaison with parents.


1. As with staff, it may be a good idea to ask for GM volunteers. Older pupils’ involvement would be a good starting point, especially if a mentor system is eventually incorporated.

2. Raise the internal profile of the group by holding meetings in the school boardroom with a combination of within school time and outside school time meetings.

3. As with staff, guide pupils to identify the benefits of a GM approach. Crucially ask for their ideas, especially about implementation and potential barriers.

4. Once you have agreed a provisional plan, perhaps take this to further pupil groups to canvass wider feedback, and gain buy-in.

5. Maybe start off with an Enrichment Day/Carousel delivery using some of the ideas already mentioned.


There is no one way to engage parents. The best starting place is to list what the school already does and then create a wish list with a central involvement from parents. Prompts could be:

  • Where communications take place
  • Setting their own agenda (ownership)
  • Simple home GM language and feedback wordage
  • Presence at Parent’s Evenings– Year 6 transition

Implementation Across School

The first task is to agree and clarify the Pupil 5GM so that everyone knows what is involved (from understanding the 5 areas and then ‘drilling down’ to understand how each can be implemented).

Growth Mindset - Pupil 5GM

Visualising Growth Mindset

A visual GM presence, not only makes an impact, but is a constant reminder for pupils and staff. One good idea is TV and classroom displays of posters, logos or mottos, where space is identified for pupil contributions to ‘grow’ the displays. Common pupil areas such as entrance halls, assembly halls and dining areas are ideal to displays, for example, Hawkley Hall High School in Wigan has quality framed pictures and images in the school dining areas.

There could even be weekly department/class ‘changeable’ noticeboards where news items are shared, featuring specific GM news examples. For example:

  • For PE and SEN, articles about Rio Olympics and Paralympics
  • For English, news about Michael Rosen’s latest projects
  • For Business Studies, articles about Richard Branson’s activities

Encourage contributions from both pupils and staff.

A phrase I use often is ‘Success Comes In Cans’; this could be a school slogan on its own or to collectively group the ideas above.

More Ways to Get Pupils Involved

Mindset Mentors – This is an excellent idea that allows pupil ownership and allows mentors to take responsibility for facilitating school GM.

Prefect Systems – The selection for this role is built upon various factors particular to each school. However, you can build GM into the job specification, or even adopt GM Prefects!

Role Models – This could comprise various role model school visitors who tell their stories of success and achievement within a GM context.

Former Pupils – These can create a connection and real relevance for current school pupils i.e. if they can do it, so can I.

School Policy

Your school GM journey may well be reflected in the school policy! Hymer and Gershon (2014 pg 103 – adapted) call this a ‘find and replace’ exercise where FM language is replaced (or at least added to) with GM language and GM objectives.

Growth Mindset - Fixed Mindset Overtones

How to monitor progress at school and at home

Buy in for Growth Mindset strategies from pupils may be a continual challenge as the benefits of GM may not be as immediately gratifying for some! Awareness and identification of short- and longer-term positive change is crucial. Examples of this could be:

A reward system that caters for all abilities. GM can be integrated into existing reward systems or be a stand-alone project. One example is KASH = Knowledge, Attitude, Skills, Habits. Knowledge could be grades and academically focussed, but Attitude and Skills could be a series of GM actions recognised by staff during class, school or extracurricular. Habits are the Pupil 5GM demonstrated over time.

Class Pings are a simple yet effective way to get class buy-in. Covertly or overtly, GM points are scored by the class for GM language and demonstration of Pupil 5GM. Set targets which are incremental but realistic (high expectations is GM territory). I have known teachers to ring a bell when a point or ping is scored!

School GM recording and tracking ideally should be integrated into existing feedback systems to reduce workload and to be seen as an integral, rather than a bolt-on, activity. Collating GM feedback is a task in itself, but it can be integrated into existing reward systems. Collecting evidence can be done both overtly and covertly, but always look for immediate feedback i.e. during or at the end of each class.

Pupil Diaries – Pupils taking ownership of their learning (by identifying and recording) and GM is very effective. Their recordings can be countersigned by staff/parents. This could even be peer marked.

Gantt Chart Pupil 5GM/Non-Cognitive Skills – Use these charts to measure progress over time. Dedicate weeks to each of the Pupil 5GM.

You may want to include classroom rewards as part of your Growth Mindset strategies. Find out more here.

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