Mark Dixon https://www.drmarkdixon.com Fri, 31 Jan 2020 11:57:44 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.3.2 Why my heart sinks over the trend for mixed ability maths https://www.drmarkdixon.com/blog/why-my-heart-sinks-over-the-trend-for-mixed-ability-maths/ Fri, 24 Jan 2020 09:36:11 +0000 https://www.drmarkdixon.com/?p=505 I’ve just read an outstanding book.  Mark McCourt’s Teaching for Mastery is an excellent resource for maths education specialists. What’s so compelling about it is how clearly Mark understands the art of maths education.  One part in particular struck a chord with me.  He states that in order to convert to mixed ability classes from […]

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I’ve just read an outstanding book.  Mark McCourt’s Teaching for Mastery is an excellent resource for maths education specialists.

What’s so compelling about it is how clearly Mark understands the art of maths education.  One part in particular struck a chord with me.  He states that in order to convert to mixed ability classes from a setted structure, a school needs five or six years of commitment, forethought and funding to sufficiently develop their teacher’s mathematical pedagogy.

In fact, he suggests that headteachers who convert with “just a few day’s professional development” have no right to be leading a school.

I couldn’t agree more.  This trend of moving to mixed ability classes for mathematics makes me sad – and seeing the impact it is having on the students (and teachers) brings a lump to my throat.  The fact is, there’s a massive loss in motivation for students who find themselves being taught material which is non-goldilocks in difficulty and/or pace, yet it’s virtually impossible to hit the right learning benchmark with every student in a class with a range of abilities.  As a result, teaching staff feel demoralised and the educational environment doesn’t thrive.

So in my opinion, I’d take it a step further.  I believe Mark’s 5 or 6 year timeframe is an underestimation in the current English system where school and teachers are expected to fight for themselves in writing or sourcing teaching content.  Apart from the complex specific training required for mixed ability teaching, staff need to be experts in mathematics and mathematical pedagogy.  This is something which takes most people 3-6 years of full time intensive study.  For teachers who are not already specifically maths trained – and Mark reckons less than a quarter of UK teachers have a post-school maths qualification – this could take 15-30 years of part time study.

There is one point in which I disagree with Mark, however.  That’s on the complexity he highlights in moving the other way around – from mixed ability to sets.  I believe that, in fact, teachers who are expert at teaching mixed ability could create learning at least as good, if not better, with a setted class.  And they could do this from day 1 with no training.  That’s because, in my experience, any setted class is still mixed in ability – the range could be less but it can still be wide and represent the single biggest factor hampering learning.  Therefore, a teacher with any experience in mixed ability teaching would be best placed to overcome this first order problem.

So thank you Mark, for highlighting this important point.  I just hope all the heads considering mixed ability teaching for maths read and heed his advice.  There are exceptions – I wouldn’t advise changing a school with successful mixed ability classes and I appreciate that smaller schools are often forced down this route.  But I would urge any other school who has made this change without adequate preparation to immediately change back to a setted structure, before too many pupils – and teachers – are damaged.

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Compostable disposable cups. Helping or making it worse? https://www.drmarkdixon.com/blog/compostable-disposable-cups-helping-or-making-it-worse/ Thu, 19 Dec 2019 15:40:06 +0000 https://www.drmarkdixon.com/?p=492 Naturally “compostable” materials have enjoyed a rather smug status for some time.  We all know that single use disposables are bad news for the environment, both practically and, increasingly, ethically too.  But name something “compostable” and our halo shines a little brighter, and we feel more comfortable with the idea of throwing away that coffee […]

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Naturally “compostable” materials have enjoyed a rather smug status for some time.  We all know that single use disposables are bad news for the environment, both practically and, increasingly, ethically too.  But name something “compostable” and our halo shines a little brighter, and we feel more comfortable with the idea of throwing away that coffee cup after use.

But how far are we really digging into the issue?  Do we really know if the environmental data stacks up?  I’m worried we’re getting it all wrong and that moving in the direction of using compostable single use products versus reusing what we already have is simply no better – in fact, I’m concerned it’s potentially making the problem worse.

If we want to make progress in changing attitudes at a deep subconscious level, we should be feeling uncomfortable about any single use disposable item, compostable or not.

At Oxygen House, we pride ourselves on being leaders in environmental sustainability and in educating our people.  We provide organic food, EV charging points, reduce our energy usage with solar panels and air source heat pumps and encourage all our staff to think constantly about environmental welfare.  But even here, I fear we are being drawn into the fallacy of using compostable containers over the long-held wisdom of hard wearing, reusable ceramics.

So I’ve done some research. One way to judge is to compare the energy usage (equivalent CO2) from production, transportation and disposal. I’ve focused on comparing ceramic vs disposable, compostable paper cups or bowls.

It’s not an easy comparison – if it was, I suspect our subconscious attitudes would be a lot clearer. Steffen Andersen has done some research and concludes that  a ceramic cup needs to be used 38 times to be as efficient as a paper cup. Our head of catering at Oxygen House estimates that we get an average of 500 uses before a breakage.

So, if we only focus on energy then, it’s a no-brainer.  We should be feeling very uncomfortable about using any single use item – even if they are compostable.

However, this is only part of the equation.  Waste and pollution from ceramics is negligible.  They’re made from clay extracted directly from the ground and when they break can be recycled directly into building material.

The waste and pollution associated with disposables, however, is a different story – even if we only focus on compostable products.  The problem arises when you consider that most food or drink containers need to have a thin water-resistant lining to avoid collapse in warmth and moisture.  Theoretically this is still compostable but often the nature of the materials means the breaking down process can take tens, or even hundreds of years.  What’s more, the resulting compost has dubious benefit to the soil so although eventually, compostables break down, they don’t add to the natural ecosystem, and in the process create wastelands of landfill which simply become another source of pollution.

So I’m thinking we should strive for an environment where we proudly wield our own mugs, and where using an office mug (let alone a disposable) should become rather embarrassing as it suggests you’re not rinsing and reusing after all.

Over time, mug numbers at Oxygen House dwindle through wear and tear and although we top up supplies now and again, I think perhaps even company ceramics aren’t the whole answer.  We need your help – bring your own mug to work and bear it with pride!  Consider reusing your own mug without dishwashing, and always ask whether you need a disposable container.

After all, the impact of such a change on subconscious thinking can be dramatic – and possibly more powerful than the energy and pollution directly saved.  Making a conscious decision to do things differently may drive you to think about other things differently too, challenging a whole range of personal habits in terms of acting and thinking.  It might even become a deciding factor in your choice of candidate to vote for – and that can certainly drive huge change for the future.

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An e-learning limitation – and how we cracked it. https://www.drmarkdixon.com/blog/an-e-learning-limitation-and-how-we-cracked-it/ Wed, 06 Nov 2019 10:11:35 +0000 https://www.drmarkdixon.com/?p=458 When I began Sparx, almost a decade ago, my aim was to find a scalable way to increase motivation and learning in maths and other subjects in schools. We have made a lot of progress by harnessing the power of technology to create an adaptive teaching and learning system for both school lessons and homework […]

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When I began Sparx, almost a decade ago, my aim was to find a scalable way to increase motivation and learning in maths and other subjects in schools. We have made a lot of progress by harnessing the power of technology to create an adaptive teaching and learning system for both school lessons and homework assignments which delivers a personalised learning path for each student.

But a vital part of the effective development of this technology has been to incorporate more traditional teaching methods. In this article, I want to talk about one of those – ‘writing down’ maths.

It turns out “writing down” maths is imperative to learning and retaining new techniques. Yet it’s a hard concept to incorporate into ed-tech based learning. In the end, we found an ingenious way to ensure students were taking the time to write down the stages of their answers without having to audit their books.

Let me tell you how we did it.

I began this quest convinced of the power of writing down maths. A quick Google search tells you much of what you need to be similarly convinced. “The importance of writing in the mathematics classroom cannot be overemphasized. In the process of writing, students clarify their own understanding of mathematics and hone their communication skills. They must organize their ideas and thoughts more logically and structure their conclusions in a more coherent way”, states IDRA, the Intercultural Development Research Association.  In fact, I couldn’t find a single article which disagreed.

And every maths teacher, Headteacher or educational professional I’ve ever met, agrees.

It is important to realise that students complete worked examples to practice the method, not to get the correct answer. And writing down the steps is critical to successfully practising the method. It’s particularly evident working 1-2-1 with students. For example, when a tutor asks a simple question: 2w = 10, what’s w?  Students will just “know” the answer is 5, but how do they know this? If they cannot explain, in logical steps, how the answer is 5, they won’t be able to answer a harder version of the same problem. Writing down the steps to solve the easy equation will enable them to articulate, and hence learn and retain, the method.

The Sparx prototype was a multiple-choice algebra app. On its first use, the app brought calm and focus to a chaotic class. We were delighted as we watched these children quietly working through increasingly difficult algebra questions. We thought we’d cracked it.

As they say, pride comes before a fall. Two lessons later, a paper test revealed they hadn’t actually learnt any algebra. They had merely become good at guessing appropriate answers from increasingly complex algebraic expressions.

So having surmised that, as expected, writing down the maths was imperative to learning, we began changing the assessment, asking students to write down workings – but they did not.  Over many months we tried different ways to make them show their method, to no avail.

It was a big learning moment for us too. It seemed indicative of the modern, app-based learning style. If you look at students using screens for learning, where are they focussed?  It’s on the screen, not working through problems logically with pen and paper. Clearly integrating screen-based testing with paper-based learning was crucial to success.

We researched hard in our pursuit of success.  We tried everything from simply wearing T shirts (“Have you written your working down”?) to iPads with cameras recording their book work or special pens with inbuilt radio transmitters, relaying their working. Yet nothing seemed practical, or scalable.

We were down but not defeated. I rallied the Sparx teams, reminding them of the French philosopher Auguste Comte and his lack of scientific vision. In 1835 he confidently predicted that, due to their distance away, we could never know the chemical composition of the stars. Within 30 years he was proved wrong with some very clever science that seemed impossible at the time of his prediction.

Our problem seemed impossible now, but I had faith that we’d crack our own composition of stars and get students writing down their maths thinking.

And we did. The solution is so simple but ingenious. We call it WACs (Written Answer Checks) and it works by asking the student to re-enter an answer from a previously asked question. If they get that wrong, we mark all work between now and that previous question as needing to be re-done and “this time – please concentrate on written work”.

It worked a treat. It’s scalable. Involves no cameras or special pens and it even had an unexpected consequence for some students as this was the first time they’d had to review their own work.  We soon noticed that legibility was improved, and students were taking the time to write in clear columns, with better spacing. Finally, since the habit was now to have pen and paper in hand, rather than hunch over a screen, and to write clearly with a logical layout, they were understanding the necessity of working through a method.

Additionally, we’ve heard anecdotal evidence that this improved accuracy, legibility and organisation has transferred to students’ other subjects too.

Although not hugely popular with many students, we have been using WACs ever since. We have finally proved through a randomised controlled trial that students make significantly more progress using Sparx Maths Homework. And I am convinced that WAC’s have been critical for this success.

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Replacement therapy https://www.drmarkdixon.com/blog/replacement-therapy/ https://www.drmarkdixon.com/blog/replacement-therapy/#respond Thu, 15 Aug 2019 08:01:10 +0000 https://www.drmarkdixon.com/hello-world-copy-copy-copy/ Have you visited a municipal recycling plant recently? To do so is to see laid bare the damning downside of our consumerist society. Meander through the site on any Sunday: amid the organically decaying deposits in the garden waste skip and the irredeemably rusted contents of the scrap-metal bin you’ll see a tonnage of gear […]

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Have you visited a municipal recycling plant recently? To do so is to see laid bare the damning downside of our consumerist society. Meander through the site on any Sunday: amid the organically decaying deposits in the garden waste skip and the irredeemably rusted contents of the scrap-metal bin you’ll see a tonnage of gear that might be perfectly safe, clean, usable and recyclable.

The innocent vacuum cleaner with the one faulty switch. The guitar with its single broken string. White goods that could be fixed in five minutes by a half-competent electrician. A television set whose only crime is to be smaller than a snooker table. Advertisers apply their dark arts to consumers conditioned always to desire more and better; the next thing you know, overstuffed Chesterfields, undersized T-shirts, last year’s antediluvian CD player and the kids’ toys whose appeal didn’t make it past Boxing Day are consigned with abandon to landfill – irrespective of their condition.

It needn’t be this way. Rather than automatically replacing something that’s ceased to function, perhaps it’s worth considering fixing it at home; or, if it really is so beyond the pale only another will do, looking into something second-hand.

I’ve always had an inbuilt resistance to waste. When the children were young, we established a ‘Dad’s Area’ in which broken toys and household items were placed, ready for a weekly repair session. Fixing most items, usually with superglue, would take barely a minute. Today, although the kids are older, I’m delighted to say that the family’s habit when something has ceased to work is still to head straight for Dad’s Area instead of the bin.

Too often I see people throw out kit that could be mended in no time. Inflatable pool animals, for instance, might need only a small patch; a snapped plastic toy 20 seconds with adhesive; holes in socks a moment with patch glue and a clamp. The list is endless. More thought might be occasionally needed – for well-worn trainers, say – but over the years I’ve even demystified most shoe repairs. Sometimes it takes a few clicks through Google to add to the tools and glues, but mostly it’s quick and easy – and so much more satisfying than casually binning and ordering anew.

A world in which we revert to buying second-hand, easily locating a repair facility instead of defaulting to the local tip followed by B&Q, feels anachronistic, a shadow out of time. But all it usually takes to give new life to something over which others would be reading the last rites are care and attention, patience and a modicum of manual or mental dexterity. If you’re finally forced onto the acquisition trail, sooner second-hand from eBay, perhaps, than unused from Amazon. Otherwise it’s about dealing with still more shiny electronic widgetry, assembled at a factory in China, dismembered at a recycling plant in Chichester, with yet more single-use plastic packaging on its way to unmanageability.

For we live in a world in which items cast so wantonly into those waste-site containers are threatening a lot more than a cluttered garage or an unfashionable sitting room. Unwanted consumer goods theoretically bound for landfill or incineration have an uncanny knack of fetching up where we least need them. As rural streams propel convoys of discarded snack wrappers to the sea, as micro-particles of plastic combine by the billion with virgin snow, as the human food-chain becomes dangerously contaminated, the old wartime maxim of ‘Make Do And Mend’ takes on more resonance than ever. Perhaps we should be keeping that year-old 65-inch TV set after all.

 

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Flying a kite for real organic standards https://www.drmarkdixon.com/blog/kite-marking/ https://www.drmarkdixon.com/blog/kite-marking/#respond Thu, 15 Aug 2019 08:00:27 +0000 https://www.drmarkdixon.com/hello-world-copy-copy/ Stroll down any supermarket aisle. On every shelf, a confusion of food labels. How many of us understand every one? Even if we did, that convenience store is the wild west, our most in-the-face example of the free market in action. With so few labels actually policed, what can be trusted to mean what it […]

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Stroll down any supermarket aisle. On every shelf, a confusion of food labels. How many of us understand every one? Even if we did, that convenience store is the wild west, our most in-the-face example of the free market in action. With so few labels actually policed, what can be trusted to mean what it claims?

The Independent surveyed four well-known arbiters of supposedly quality food: Red Tractor, British Lion Mark, RSPCA Freedom Food and Soil Association. Gold standard at 9/10 was the Soil Association, followed by RSPCA with 5/10. After that the ratings plummet, with British Lion Mark and the theoretically wholesome Red Tractor each tieing for last place with a dismal 2/10.

Now look further into that 20%. It signifies that Red Tractor obeys British legislation in food standards. All good, you’d think; aren’t ours better than most others from overseas? Maybe so. But it also means that food certified thus is compromised: by pesticides, by artificial fertilisers, by factory farming, by livestock that sees neither blue sky nor grass. I’m certain that if consumers truly understood the subtexts of food packaging, were able to put faith in the standards and were unequivocally clear about what they were purchasing, most would shun all current labels except that of the Soil Association.

I firmly believe we should use more humane and environmentally sound, less polluting methods of food production. At present, certification by the Soil Association is the only dependable standard. But it’s expensive; registering for organic status costs orders of magnitude more than Red Tractor. Yet the more people are confused by a plethera of labels, the less they understand of the Soil Association and its objectives. And the less they’ll pay – short of being dragged on a tour of a factory farm whenever they order a lunchtime BLT.

So I’m campaigning to make a numerical grading system of better food labelling a reality. Based on 1-to-5 kite-marked grades, with 5 representing the quality demanded by the Soil Association, the scheme should be targeted at all food providers, including supermarkets, food wholesalers, restaurants and takeaways. The scheme will be based on two main provisions: a compulsory, single, kite-marked food-labelling system that is easy to explain and which everybody can understand; and a way to ensure that producers and outlets adhere to the conditions of the standard they claim.

Given the formidable lobbying power of Big Food, from producers to retailers, and the intensely complex issues attending the feeding of our growing global population, I’ll readily concede that this is a huge ask. To be properly effective, any kite-marking system must be enshrined in law and have real teeth. If an organisation fails to meet its claimed standards, an example will have to be made, backed by substantial financial penalties.

For implementation, we need to bring together all of the many charities, ginger groups and influencers that care about how we produce, prepare, package and consume food and its impact on the broader environment. Then we must campaign vigorously enough to put the topic squarely before the public. And keep it there.

 

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Setting things straight on mixed ability in mathematics https://www.drmarkdixon.com/blog/setting-things-straight-on-mixed-ability-in-school/ https://www.drmarkdixon.com/blog/setting-things-straight-on-mixed-ability-in-school/#respond Thu, 15 Aug 2019 07:59:27 +0000 https://www.drmarkdixon.com/hello-world-copy/ Almost all UK secondary schools use setting in mathematics. However, this system of grouping, wherein students are classed according to their ability, is currently a topic of vigorous debate. Many people think that teaching mathematics in mixed ability sets is better. In general, I do not believe this. Let me explain.  Recently I’ve detected a […]

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Almost all UK secondary schools use setting in mathematics. However, this system of grouping, wherein students are classed according to their ability, is currently a topic of vigorous debate. Many people think that teaching mathematics in mixed ability sets is better. In general, I do not believe this. Let me explain. 

Recently I’ve detected a worrying increase in the numbers of institutions adopting mixed ability in mathematics as standard. It’s my experience that delivery of a successful mixed-ability system relies on the few teachers who have the required level of specific expertise, natural charisma and skilfulness. They are in a distinct minority. So highly specialised is mixed ability that, for most schools, its adoption in practice represents a significant step backwards. Even if mixed ability is pursued well by the school, most teachers will still struggle. However, if setting is properly structured – by naming sets appropriately instead of around a simplistic, top-bottom pecking order; by creating a balanced combination of streams and sets; by allowing a constant, fluid movement of students between sets – the perceived disadvantages of setting largely fall away.

Before appraising my own views as an educationist, however, consider some from the sharp end. In 2011, the experienced London inner-city maths teacher Kris Boulton began his career in a school which applied setting to mathematics. He found the experience wanting; from the divisive, low-expectation language of scolding teachers, to a corrosively implicit belief across school that the bottom set of students would be left floundering with no real hope of improvement.

Moving to mixed ability, at first apparently a godsend, revealed a darker side, the incandescently smart thrown together with “pupils who couldn’t add and subtract negative numbers accurately”. Believing he was repeatedly failing his students, Kris hated it.

It strikes me, as it might have done Kris, that those who shout loudest for mixed ability are unaware of how difficult most teachers find it. And when mixed ability fails, it swamps the disadvantages of setting; shortcomings that largely disperse when setting is structured well.

Between 2011 and 2013, during the development of Sparx v0.1, I sat in on hundreds of mathematics lessons at a mid-league secondary school. With this institution’s structure of two streams and four sets within each stream relatively well-designed, I was grateful for the opportunity; beyond a school’s immediate hierarchy of teaching staff and local-authority evaluators, relatively few individuals are afforded the privilege.

These were formative years in Sparx’s development. With proprietary educational products then largely unstable, we were determined to perfect a solution that would successfully aid children’s learning by way of radical research and data techniques; understanding what applies to the student and, equally importantly, to the teacher.

Nurturing the infant Sparx obliged a maternal attention to detail. Fine tuning was essential, in various learning environments. As I gravitated between different classes, my presence became progressively unnoticed, both by students and by teachers; much as the all-seeing eye of the reality TV show camera is duly forgotten and participants relax and act naturally. Now reduced to a shadow in the corner, I was able dispassionately to watch and understand much about the nature of learning, and how students respond to the shifting nuances of a real classroom.

I wanted particularly to unpack the issues most likely to be inhibiting learning. Among many, the biggest issue was the lack of student motivation and engagement; in the school’s vernacular, being ‘on task’. Often the keen few would give the teacher and/or an observer the impression that all were engaged. My observations told me otherwise. By closely studying their expressions and their body language, I could tell they had lost the thread. It was a feeling reinforced as soon as a question was put directly to a student instead of thrown open to the room.

Following a golden rule always to rigorously check the facts before drawing a conclusion, I designed a way to collect objective data. Based on a straightforward 0/1/u metric, I recorded minute-by-minute stats from dozens of lessons. I’d quickly scan the room, assessing students one by one. An individual fully engaged with the learning process scored 1. Those diverted by thoughts of extra-schoolroom activity were demoted to a 0. Any uncertain classifications we scored a u.

Marshalling similar data week after week, I nailed down an average student concentration rate of around 20-25%. But whenever the all-seeing eye became suddenly material to everyone in the room, this changed. The unannounced arrival of a head-teacher, for example, would herald a palpable transformation in the class atmosphere, young eyes and ears suddenly alert and receptive.

Now there are clearly numerous reasons for classroom detachment. But after much thought and study and many conversations with experts, I concluded that student momentum was among the most important. After starting out feeling motivated, many – and this still brings a lump to my throat – switch off if the learning material or content is not pitched perfectly at their ‘sweet spot’. Cognitive scientists call it the Goldilocks Effect: not too complex, not too easy, just mildly challenging within the constraints of the world they know.

Given the wide range of abilities within the classes examined, only the middle portion – four or five students out of 30, say – was receiving the level of content needed to maintain momentum. The better teachers, those able to blend authority, charm, personality and deep experience, usually overcame this. But keeping an entire class on-point was like swimming upstream: exhausting; impressive if it could be done; and, by most of the teachers, generally unachievable. And remember, this was in a school with eight sets.

With this observation in mind, in developing Sparx we wanted at least four levels of highly-differentiated lessons at every topic, which could be used to pitch teaching at eight setted classes. To my knowledge, no other ed-tech product has more than one level for each topic. Having seen the difficulties in an eight-setted school, I would certainly have no fewer than four.

The idea of a completely mixed-ability, one-set grouping – or, at least, one that lacks exceptional teachers who are amply versed in mixed ability – seems ludicrous. In a typical mixed-ability scenario, with low-achieving students placed in the same class as high fliers, a weaker individual will not attain the exalted position of one who finds a topic easy relative to others in the class; they’ll never be the first to put up their hand and answer a question correctly. With the below-par left listless and languishing at the bottom, the social inequalities are intensified, not the other way around.

In summary, I can see the many pros and cons of both setting and mixed ability classes. If setting is done well, the hindrances go away; most teachers will perform well at schools whose setting structure is fit for purpose. But for mixed ability, even where it is properly applied, most teachers still struggle. A few can make it work but, all told, mixed ability inevitably falls short.

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Stairway to heaven-sent fitness https://www.drmarkdixon.com/blog/stairway-to-heaven-sent-fitness/ https://www.drmarkdixon.com/blog/stairway-to-heaven-sent-fitness/#comments Sun, 11 Aug 2019 16:01:07 +0000 https://www.drmarkdixon.com/?p=1 It’s the first thing spotted by the maiden visitor to our Oxygen House HQ: a multi-story building, but no lifts. Instead, apparently just an airy, modern, elegant staircase. Of course, this isn’t the half of it. Short of installing a stairlift or an anti-gravity device (we’re innovative, but there are limits) we couldn’t possibly expect […]

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It’s the first thing spotted by the maiden visitor to our Oxygen House HQ: a multi-story building, but no lifts. Instead, apparently just an airy, modern, elegant staircase.

Of course, this isn’t the half of it. Short of installing a stairlift or an anti-gravity device (we’re innovative, but there are limits) we couldn’t possibly expect every one of our guests or colleagues to eschew the ease of an elevator in favour of a climb that might for some prove physically taxing. We’d never be so presumptuous. And we do have very nice lifts.

But not in immediate view. In fact, the building was deliberately designed to nudge visitors into taking the stairs, the elevators positioned discreetly, but not entirely invisibly, further away. With a flight of steps this enticingly ergonomic, the visitor’s immediate instinct is to obey the subliminal suggestion: to ‘climb me’.

This goes to the heart of a passion for fitness and health that informs much of how we roll at Oxygen House. For instance, all colleagues are encouraged to wherever possible opt for low-carbon means of getting to work whether that be walking, running or cycling – this promotes healthier, more environmentally-friendly commuting. More personally, I’ve many times sponsored smokers to quit, often by writing to their favourite charity to offer staged donations after they’ve given up for one, six and 12 months.

Subject to the obvious conditions, everyone’s encouraged to run marathons and complete outdoor events, the objective a leaner, fitter, healthier lifestyle for all. And whenever an invitation arrives to anything that involves improving physical activity, my instinct is to prompt people to respond with a resounding affirmative. Put simply, at Oxygen House it’s one of our mantras.

 

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