Book Review: The GCSE Mindset by @VESPAmindset

Full Title: The GCSE Mindset: 40 activities for transforming student commitment, motivation and productivity

The GCSE Mindset: 40 activities for transforming student commitment, motivation and productivity













  • Carefully crafted activities that fit in with the educational year..
  • Aim of book is to positively prepare pupils to approach GCSE’s in the best frame-of-mind.
  • Pick up and go ideas, which support key aspect of approaching challenges.
  • Not a replication of Dweck’s research.
  • Book offers a VESPA approach to reflect upon how young people deal with life challenges.

With so much pressure placed upon teachers and pupils to produce good results by the time they leave school at the age of 16, ensuring that everyone is focused and able to achieve their best can seem like a battle as the exam season looms.

Combined with a mix of negative emotions – such as rejection, anxiety, anger and denial – young people can approach the looming exams in the wrong frame of mind. Yet supporting pupils with vision, effort, systems, practice, and attitude (VESPA), Steve Oakes and Martin Griffin have created a valuable collection of practical classroom activities that can turn any negativity and self-doubt into a realisation that they can achieve, if the VESPA model is applied.

The subtitle to this book is no accident. The more discerning reader will have realised that there are (usually) 40 weeks in the UK school calendar – I know, it often seems much more than that – so the authors have carefully crafted activities that fit in with the educational year. Starting out in September, the VESPA model advocated throughout explores aspects of motivation, effort and attitude for students offering activities that can be used straight off the shelf. Subsequent months (and chapters) begin to map a journey for students to own, act upon, and achieve beyond the expectations they may have previously expected.

Each activity is designed to take 15-20 minutes, and they can be used as a starting point, depending on the students you are working with. The book concludes concentrating on coaching and implementation of VESPA model offering a justification of the approach, along with supporting teachers to consider key questions that can help young people to reflect upon how they have got to this point, and how to achieve any future goals.

This book is not a replication of Dweck’s research, although the authors do encourage teachers to read and engage with. It’s more than that. The authors have carefully considered practical, useful ideas that help students reflect upon their strengths, focus on what they need to do to achieve their aspirations, all laid out for the teacher to pick up and use, avoiding any further planning expectations. In a busy timetable, when would teachers use these activities? As the book has the activities set out through the school year, timetabling within tutor time each week would be achievable, and not demand extra from the teacher. If you are teaching pupils in the final years of their secondary schooling, then explore this book to give them the best possible opportunity to approach their exams in the most positive way.


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About @digicoled 447 Articles
Colin Hill – Founder, researcher and editor of ukedchat. Also a bit of a tech geek! Project management, design thinking, and metacognition.
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