Can your staff recognise and overcome barriers to learning?

This module applies research and excellence in school practice to enable schools to raise aspirations, using well-evidenced strategies to identify and address gaps relating to ethnicity, gender and social background.

This module was developed in partnership with David Birch, an experienced school leader and a specialist in pupil achievement.  David Birch has extensive experience of school leadership as a headteacher, school improvement partner and leadership coach. He is also associate director of the National Education Trust and works as an associate education expert at The Key.



This module is suitable for teachers and middle leaders from early years to secondary education, and would benefit from the support of senior leaders..

There are four 90 minute sessions available. However, you may wish to adapt the content to suit your timings and the needs of your staff.

To get maximum benefit from the module, we recommend that the sessions are run consecutively, with sufficient time between sessions for participants to complete the inter-session tasks.


Sessions in detail

Session 1 - Identifying gaps and understanding pupil needs (90 minutes)

Gaps in academic performance are often symptoms of social and cultural inequality. This session explores how schools can overcome barriers to raising achievement and develop personalised interventions by gaining a fuller understanding of pupils’ individual needs.


  • Understand what national data tells us about achievement gaps, particularly for those in disadvantaged groups
  • Consider what school data tells us about our achievement gaps
  • Explore the importance of raising achievement for all pupils rather than simply ‘closing gaps’
  • Identify the needs of pupils by understanding soft as well as hard data

Session 2 - Understanding the barriers to raising achievement (90 minutes)

This session explores some of the barriers to raising achievement and supports participants to consider four key areas:

  1. Engaging parents and families
  2. Understanding pupils’ complex needs
  3. Pupil transition and progression
  4. Staff knowledge and awareness of the needs of pupils in key groups


  • Review what has been learned from the inter-session task at the end of session 1
  • Consider what research tells about the barriers to raising achievement

Session 3 - What works in raising achievement? (90 minutes)

This session will explore the potential strategies that can be used to raise achievement and narrow gaps. It will specifically focus on:

  • Strategies which will have an impact in the classroom
  • Approaches which support social and emotional learning and build resilience
  • Ways of raising the aspirations of our pupils


  • Feedback on some of your findings from the research on barriers to raising achievement
  • Build on the work done in the self-evaluation to plan strategies for raising achievement
  • Review three key, research-informed strategies for raising achievement

Session 4 - Evaluating the impact of strategies to raise achievement (90 minutes)

This session brings together all the learning from sessions one to three. It explores accountability and how the impact of interventions can be evaluated, including how you might use lesson study.


  • Understand the importance of accountability of all staff for closing gaps and raising achievement
  • Explore strategies for monitoring and evaluating the impact of actions to close gaps

How it works

We've created The Key CPD Toolkit to take the time, cost and effort out of developing your own training.

“High-quality materials, and saves time and money!”   School leader, from a primary school in London

Using our training is simple:

1. Download the materials, created with subject specialists, and quality assured for your peace of mind

2. Quickly adapt the resources to meet the needs of your school 

3. Deliver engaging training, with the support of comprehensive facilitator guidance

4. Evaluate the impact of your training to identify areas where staff need further support