How Can We Make Our Students Tougher?

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Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit in 2010, and today, he is one of the 'most followed educators'on social media in the world. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the '500 Most Influential People in Britain' by The Sunday Times as a result of...
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Students from challenging backgrounds are born tough, but how can we make them long-term resilient?

We want to support our pupils in developing their own habits of self-regulation; strong evidence shows that Tougher Minds and their programmes for students, dramatically improves all aspects of school work; including learning, homework, concentration, behaviour, exam performance and extra curricular sport; all useful habits students should develop.

We are very excited to be the first state school in the country to be working with Tougher Minds.


The Tougher Minds Personal Change Management (PCM) programme, which explicitly teaches self-control and resilience for improved academic and personal performance was voted 2014 Education initiative of the year at the Independent School Awards. The Tougher Minds approach is based on extensive academic and practical research. This has been undertaken in the last decade and much of it has been published in major peer-reviewed journals.

Watch this introductory video:

Tougher Minds practical and effective training will help anybody improve their personal performance in every aspect of their work, education or life. Tougher Minds is for everyone involved in business, school, university or sport and fitness. The training will help people understand how to be personally productive and efficient so they can work hard and effectively, every minute of every day. It will optimise all types of learning and study. It will help people to be mentally tough and resilient.


A London state school, which encourages aspiration and achievement among pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds, has engaged Tougher Minds to enhance its successful teaching even further.

Quintin Kynaston (QK) in North London is to work with us and benefit from the resilience and character training programmes, which were voted Education Initiative of the Year.

Agreement has been reached for the 2015/16 school year, with the St John’s Wood based mixed comprehensive, which has 1,400 students in the 11-18 age groups, including a 350-strong sixth-form. Many QK pupils are from first generation immigrant families and from backgrounds which are traditionally underrepresented at élite universities.

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Image: Shutterstock

Tougher Minds programmes have been proven to deliver benefits for the whole school. These include enhanced motivation, improvements in morale and growth mindsets. Their work at QK will involve pupils, teachers and parents. It will be delivered initially to Year 7 pupils, which the school encourages to aim for Russell Group University places, at the start of their first term.

The Tougher Minds Personal Change Management curriculum trains pupils, teachers and parents how to boost their performance, their health and their happiness.

Tougher Minds

Tougher Minds Head of Education Andrew Foster will lead programme delivery at QK. He commented: “Quintin Kynaston is clearly a school that is really going places, with their fantastic new buildings, their dedicated and friendly staff and their dynamic leadership team.

“We are very excited to be invited to help support their pupils achieve even more, both inside the classroom and out. Their ethos of Aspiration, Resilience and Community is one that fits exceptionally well with the values of Tougher Minds.

“QK has already created an environment which successfully encourages learning and we feel our training will help develop the self-control and mental skills required for even greater success both academically and personally.

Foster continued: “We will be helping QK staff and pupils to understand the neuroscience of learning, concentration, motivation and confidence. We have been in the school observing lessons and meeting with both teachers and pupils. We are confident we can all work together to achieve something very special.” (Source)


We hope to be the first school to be accredited and formally designated as ‘a Tougher Minds high performing school’.


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5 thoughts on “How Can We Make Our Students Tougher?

  1. This is nice Ross. Some students will find these kinds of insights beneficial. I’m personally a fan of the GTD (Get Thing Done) approach and you can see a presentation for google HQ on that here: There will also be students who already naturally disciplined, or have learnt to be disciplined in order to do well at school. For them I hope there is space to think about what they are being disciplined for. Being disciplined and resilient as a stand alone ‘thing’ is impressive – take my personal statement, for example, which really demonstrated my own discipline/resilience and got me offers from all the top universities I chose (without even proper interviews – one didn’t even see me and gave me an unconditional, the others spent the interview telling me why I should choose them- was very odd!) except Oxford; the only one who interviewed me to discover the truth that I’d learnt to be disciplined without personal purpose. This made me useless to them and, in fairness, useless to any university but they don’t reject A-grade students, because they need them. I’m talking about what I wish I’d known in this post with another lady who’s coaching students on uni applications and revision- she’s amazing!

  2. Wow! Rotating cogs! I’m sorry but the promotional video reminds me of other ‘snake oil’ products. The brain doesn’t look like this. (I know that’s not the point!). According to Guy Claxton’s BLP, it looks different
    There are even small people climbing up this one.
    My point is … let us not allow ourselves to be impressed by these type of images and bold statements. No offence meant to the actual product which may or may not work. But we have been here before many times?

  3. Hello Ross,

    I think that there is indeed useful strategies regarding self-regulation that are cited in programmes like this, but the evidence is not “strong” on teaching resilience or character, so I think we have an obligation to be very tentative with our language. The “decade of peer reviewed research” implies that this programme is supported by peer reviewed studies. It isn’t, at least yet.

    Tougher Minds cannot really claim this programme improves grades with any causal evidence. It may be great and I hope is works at QN and becomes a solid piece of peer reviewed research. I understand everyone has to promote their programme or product, but I think school leaders like us should be wary of overstatement.

    1. Thanks for your comment as a school leader. I don’t know if teacher toolkit is meant for non leaders but anyway as an ordinary teacher I have a (self) interest in the present workload crisis. The decisions that managers make on behalf of their school can have a huge impact on teachers’ working lives. The problem comes when a school management buy into something and then start saying for example ‘we are a learning is fun school’ or whatever… I can tell you that this official policy immediately creates workload – teachers have to convince their students to provide enough evidence to convince management that they ( the teachers) are following the school policy. The whole thing can be a huge distraction to the learning itself. Unfortunately even if the management decide they have made a mistake and the product lacks the substance that it claimed they then find it hard to do a U turn in front of all the staff who have just spent the last year being bullied into doing something they don’t really believe in. PS I am not disputing common sense like wanting students to be resilient etc, but do we really have to have expensive whole school policies on common sense. Thanks again for your point about lack of research.

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