High Performance Learning

We empower our girls to aim high.

As an accredited High Performance Learning World Class school we develop an evidence-based set of HPL skills and attitudes. From confidence, collaboration and risk-taking to agile-thinking, concern for society and perseverance - we ensure our girls are prepared for study, work and life.


HPL, or High Performance Learning, is a framework of teaching developed from research into how children learn. It reflects what is known about advanced thinking skills and learning behaviours that help us to build 'better brains'.

The founder of HPL, Professor Deborah Eyre, has created a structure for learning excellence that works across different nationalities, cultures and jurisdictions, so it can be shared by schools across the globe.

Room at the top for more

Neuroscience research has shown that there is not a fixed level of ability amongst young learners, and that the brain is more malleable than once thought. HPL provides a style of learning that removes barriers to achievement, by giving children an opportunity to develop intelligence in their own time. This reflects our long-held belief that there is 'room at the top' for more students than traditional approaches suggest.

Nurturing skills and attitudes

We have always strived to develop both intellectual and social confidence, encouraging girls to show concern for others and to prepare for life's challenges. For us, success is not limited to exam results, it is about achieving academic excellence alongside a much wider set of values and attitudes that sit at the heart of our ethos as a Mary Ward School.

HPL identifies key characteristics and attributes that prepare young people to succeed in learning and in life, and categorises these into Advanced Cognitive Performance characteristics (ACPs) and Values, Attitudes, Attributes (VAAs).

Advanced Cognitive Performance characteristics (ACPs) – thinking skills

Taking the ACPs and the VAAs in turn, some examples of the characteristics and attributes we are nurturing in the girls are as follows.


Reflecting on their own thinking, knowingly using a wide range of thinking approaches, and transferring knowledge from one circumstance to another.


The ability to monitor, evaluate and self-correct.

Big picture thinking

Working with big ideas and holistic concepts.


Critical or logical thinking; the ability to deduct, hypothesise and reason.

Complex and multi-step problem solving

The ability to break down a task, decide on a suitable approach and then act.

Intellectual playfulness

Recognising rules and being able to bend them.

Values, Attitudes and Attributes (VAAs)


Seeking out opportunities to receive responses to work, to present their own ideas to others clearly and concisely and to listen to and act upon the views of others.


Overcoming setbacks and remaining confident, focused, flexible and optimistic.


Being able to keep going, to face obstacles and difficulties but never give up.

Creative and enterprising

Being open-minded and flexible in thought processes; demonstrating a willingness to innovate and invent new and multiple solutions to a problem or situation; adapting approaches according to need and being resourceful.


Being curious, proactive and thinking independently.

HPL in Junior School

To embed the ACPs and VAAs in a meaningful, fun way for even our youngest pupils, our Junior School girls have created their own HPL characters.

Pupils designed animal characters for Advanced Cognitive Performance characteristics (ACPs):


Esmerelda the Meta-Thinking Elephant
Esmerelda the Meta-Thinking Elephant
Astrid the Linking Ant
Astrid the Linking Ant
Octavia the Analytical Owl
Octavia the Analytical Owl
Maisie the Creative Monkey
Maisie the Creative Monkey
Sylvie the Realising Swan
Sylvie the Realising Swan

Pupils designed super hero characters to represent key Values, Attitudes and Attributes (VAAs):

  • Hard-working Holly embodies perseverance and resilience – she doesn’t give up when things get tough!
  • Empathetic Emma thinks about others and works well as part of a team – she is collaborative and concerned for society.
  • Agile Amy is confident, enquiring, creative and enterprising, open-minded and a risk-taker!
Hard-working Holly
Hard-working Holly
Agile Amy
Agile Amy
Empathetic Emma
Empathetic Emma

More about HPL at St Mary's School

Junior School - HPL characters

Accreditation as a World Class School

High Performance Learning - why how we learn is as important as what we learn

Dr Flint, becomes inaugural HPL Global Lead Teacher