The Decisive Element

Unleashing praise and positivity in schools

By: Mick Malton , Gary Toward , Chris Henley


Or purchase digital products from our partners:


Products specifications
Attribute name Attribute value
Size: 198 x 125mm
Pages : 208
ISBN : 9781785833120
Format: Paperback
Published: June 2018

In The Decisive Element: Unleashing praise and positivity in schools Gary Toward, Mick Malton and Chris Henley share an abundant array of tools and techniques to help schools nurture a more positive, praise based culture in which everyone can thrive.

Foreword by Jaz Ampaw-Farr.

Forget data. Forget league tables. Forget the national curriculum. Teachers are the true weather gods in education. The default outlook in schools at present, however, seems to be ‘gloom’. Our schools’ staff are under relentless pressure, and their ever-increasing workloads can make it easy to forget about the humans they work with. So what can teachers do to bring back the sunny weather and make pupils’ school lives more joyous?

Gary, Mick and Chris believe that the answer lies in harnessing the power of praise and positivity.

In The Decisive Element they offer an uplifting antidote to the anxiety by sharing praise focused techniques that will help teachers and school leaders create an ethos of enthusiasm: one that reduces stress, fuels ambition and builds confidence – for staff and pupils alike. Crammed full of sound research, fresh ideas and top tips, this manifesto for positive mindsets celebrates the value of meaningful, impactful praise and shines a light on the myriad ways positivity can be unleashed to spark pupils’ motivation and natural curiosity for learning.

The book draws upon the authors’ vast experience and anecdotal insights to provide sage guidance on how to create a self-sustaining positive climate for learning, and contains a wealth of practical strategies to ramp up the feel-good factor in the school setting so that staff and pupils can feed off each other’s enthusiasm. It also flips the script on the stresses and strains of modern schooling by offering a more light-hearted perspective on teachers’ and pupils’ day-to-day interactions – encouraging school staff to be proud of what they do and empowering them to make an even bigger difference in the lives of the young people in their care.

Suitable for anyone lucky enough to work in education or with children.

Chapters include:

  1. The Big R: Creating the Climate in School
  2. Making the Weather in the Classroom
  3. Practical Weather Making
  4. Praise and Positivity
  5. Getting the Most Out of Praise
  6. Praise Unleashed
  7. Weather Gods

The quoted text on the cover of this title has been extracted from Ginott, H. (1972), Teacher and Child: A Book for parents and teachers (NY: Macmillan), p. 15.

The Decisive Element has been named the Bronze Winner in the education category of the 2018 INDIES Book of the Year Awards.

Picture for author Mick Malton

Mick Malton

Mick Malton has spent over thirty-five years in education and has enjoyed senior leadership posts in three different schools, including headship in a secondary school. Recently he has been the lead for the Pilgrim Learning Trust, a formal collaboration of twenty-eight schools across the primary and secondary age range in Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire.

Picture for author Gary Toward

Gary Toward

Gary Toward is a trainer, keynote speaker and novelist who has previously taught in seven schools countrywide. He was head teacher of three schools in Leicestershire, during which time he co-led a pupil referral unit (PRU) out of special measures.

Picture for author Chris Henley

Chris Henley

Chris Henley is a trainer and keynote speaker who taught for over thirty years in three different secondary schools. Chris is an inspirational teacher who moved on from leading an outstanding languages department to become a senior leader. As assistant head in charge of teaching and learning, he played a major role in two successful Ofsted inspections.


  1. PROS:

    - Forget data. Forget league tables. Forget the national curriculum. Teachers are the true weather gods in education.
    - An uplifting antidote to the anxiety by sharing praise focused techniques that will help teachers and school leaders create an ethos of enthusiasm.
    - Draws upon the authors' vast experience and anecdotal insights to provide sage guidance on how to create a self-sustaining positive climate for learning.
    - Suitable for anyone lucky enough to work in education or with children.
  2. The Decisive Element offers a well-structured insight, drawn from the authors' wealth of experience, into the merits of focusing on praise and motivation as strategies to create an enthusiasm for learning. I particularly enjoyed the chapters on creating a positive climate, getting the most out of praise and making the weather in the classroom. The authors contrast the skills and attributes of dynamic, positive leaders with those of failing leaders who are constantly seeking to allocate blame for shortcomings, failures and errors. The analogy of Mick Malton's experience as a footballer who was repeatedly being told off is very effective.

    The authors develop their ideas on positive relationships with the teacher as the decisive element very effectively, backed up with references to a range of acknowledged texts and practical skills such as group praise and pre-emptive and predestined praise. The emphasis is on boosting learners' own -˜toolkits', including their resilience, effort, determination, hard work and grit.

    With the increasing emphasis within schools and colleges on promoting growth mindsets, The Decisive Element provides a practical evaluation of praise's role in raising performance levels, while also highlighting the dangers of false praise. An excellent resource for schools and colleges.
  3. At a time when many in the media are declaring a mental health crisis in our schools, there has never been such a need for positivity among those of us who work in education. We need to change the narrative, and this very readable book provides an excellent starting point - sounding an essential call to action for all teachers to focus on the positive and to recognise the good that is happening around them.

    Packed with sage advice, and written with the unique combination of wit and wisdom so typical of the authors, The Decisive Element offers a wealth of practical tips to help you build better relationships, reap the rewards of positivity in your classroom and become the ultimate -˜weather god' in your own school. There is great guidance here for new teachers on how to provide meaningful and impactful praise, and plenty of thought provoking exercises to challenge the practice of even the most experienced of practitioners. And all of this from accomplished school leaders who ooze credibility and authority having been there, done it all and worn the t-shirts. 

    There is not a teacher or educator in the land, whether experienced or newly qualified, who would not benefit from picking up The Decisive Element.
  4. The Decisive Element is not so much about sunny weather returning to our classrooms but more a convincing claim that it has never gone away.

    Quite rightly too, as Gary, Mick and Chris demonstrate from their collective experience: they have taught so many lessons and led so many initiatives that every chapter, including those on motivation and leadership, echoes with authority and common sense. The authors also share and link back to classroom practice an impressive store of research and theory, but it's the warmth of the personal anecdotes that gives the book originality.

    Teachers may well read The Decisive Element in one session, and will return to the classroom energised to spread more positive weather!
  5. As a school leader I try to never lose sight of the enormous impact that my demeanour can have on up to 750 people every single day, and smiling and treating people with dignity is so infectious. This brilliant book, backed up by theory and packed with practical tips that anybody can use, offers an entertaining reminder of why we do what we do, and challenges us to do it even better. 

    The Decisive Element should be essential reading for anybody who works in a school - highly recommended! 
  6. It's difficult to disagree with any of the sentiments and ideas in The Decisive Element. Filled with unique, real-life examples of how all those who work in schools contribute to make a difference to others and their learning, it highlights how every action we take with pupils over time has a profound impact on their overall development and well-being. And if we are to continue making -˜that' difference in young people's lives, we need to put the philosophy the authors share in this book into action.

    Essential reading - whether you are a classroom assistant, an experienced teacher, a school leader or simply considering going into teaching.
  7. The Decisive Element celebrates the influence of leadership at every level in the school setting and highlights the importance of establishing and maintaining positive relationships with staff and students.

    With its reflection on how inspirational leaders create the positive emotional climate that is so vital in promoting well-being, this book is a must-read for all those who want to -˜bring out the sunshine' in their schools.

Write your own review