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Our Whole School Behaviour System

There is quite a loud demand currently on social media and in educational publications for the implementation of tough whole school behaviour systems. Our profession is worried that we are losing potentially good teachers due to the poor behaviour of students and the lack of support within schools to ensure that teachers can teach and students can learn in an environment where excellent behaviour allows that to happen. There have also been highly publicised discussions between new Free Schools, behaviour Tsars and so on and supporters of ‘zero based tolerance’ and their child centred antagonists. In our own microcosm of MCHS there are the same discussions but they aren’t really channelled into ‘traditionalists v progressives’ and the terms wouldn’t really mean too much!

Whole school behaviour systems may also be interpreted differently as a definition and I would have thought that most schools had some kind of policy that was imposed across the school but perhaps not all have agreed and discussed criteria, centralised detentions and administration, built in systems of rewards/consequences and so on. To be honest, whatever system you have, unless it is fully supported, consistently applied, makes a real difference to learning and teaching and has the weight of leadership behind it; it won’t work and so it doesn’t matter what it is called! It’s also very easy to shout and call for systems to be put in place, but not so easy to do it. I do get really frustrated when I see populist tweets calling for strict all-encompassing systems of any nature e.g. feedback, assessment not just BFL, but no follow up to how their own school has achieved this successfully or at least what their policy is. It may be easier when you are a new school with a small staff and a new students who you can educate to your ways but the ‘turning a tanker’ analogy is a real one for many school leaders. That doesn’t mean of course that it can’t be done and nor am I saying that ours is a good way. I’m just sharing what we have talked about and agreed on because I think that as many schools as possible should be part of the discussion. It’s a warts and all shared experience and it may have a relevance and interest for others. Is it a solution? Time will tell!

As well as the retention issue and natural desire to have good behaviour to enable learning and teaching to happen, each school will have its own individual needs and school systems can never be a ‘1 size fits all’ scenario. Our main concern was that although we have worked very hard on the mind-set of our students over the last few years so that they were far better prepared to learn than they were, the new G.C.S.E. examinations and curriculum demands frightened us [and them] Early discussions amongst ourselves suggested that perhaps only our most able students would be able to achieve well in/access the challenging learning that is now going to be needed. I’m not going to go into great detail on our school profile, you can see it on any of the public data areas, but in terms of progress and Ofsted, we have perhaps punched above our weight for a long time and there is a positivity and almost aggressive approach here to taking on any learning barriers. Our school vision for ALL in our community is ‘Inclusive Excellence for ALL’ and although we mean it, we were still worried! If some of our students weren’t ready to learn straightaway, didn’t have the right equipment, hadn’t completed homework, wasted time being late and not properly attired and we didn’t do something about this; our vision was merely words and not reality.

Both students and staff were involved in the initial surveys to find out exactly what their thinking was on our current behaviour for learning policy. The name itself gives a clue to the age of the system which was introduced 12 years or so ago. I had borrowed some ideas from a SFE course, I think delivered by Ninestyles School, and after a staff discussion and with behaviour LA colleagues, we had a very early BFL system with centralised detention rotas, enforced criteria of rewards and punishments and although it trialled with 1 troublesome year group, the staff quickly asked that it cover the whole school and I am convinced that despite some inconsistency, it was a key factor helping the school to improve massively over the years before our last Ofsted inspection. However time moves on and I was listening to concerns and moved as quickly as possible this year to find evidence for what would be a more effective way of managing behaviour. Students were asked to discuss questions about behaviour and their wellbeing in their tutor group and I shared both the questions and a summary of their views on the school bulletin which goes to all parents and governors.

Student Survey Xmas 2016

All of our tutor groups were invited to discuss some question re our school vision and issues leading from ensuring that all students are able to achieve excellence in all of their lessons. The questions are below.


  • Did you notice the school vision had changed? It would be an interesting start to your discussion if you talked about what you think the words mean and why you think that we chose them. 
  • If we do have a vision of what our school should offer to you; it is important that you tell us if what we are saying actually is 1] what you think we should be offering, 2] is actually happening right now or needs more support put in place.
  • Our vision wants to offers quality teaching to ALL students in all classes and all year groups and support to all students when appropriate-is this happening?  Is the challenge different in some subjects or year groups? Are expectations of your learning always high in every subject and every year group?
  • Do you as an individual have a positive enough mind-set towards your learning? Is your behaviour good enough to allow others to learn well?  What kind of attitudes and behaviour get in the way of excellent learning for all-what do you suggest our action should be if this is the case?
  • There are times when you may not feel ready to learn-you might be worried about something, you might feel poorly, you may need to talk to someone. If you have felt like not being able to learn as you would want to, has support been available and have we supported you so that you have been able to make the most of classroom and extra-curricular learning opportunities?

Our students are always honest and enjoy the opportunity to give their opinions!  Some of the students liked the new vision, others preferred the old one, which they found easier to understand, although, once they had discussed the new one, they could see why it was important.  Some worried that constant excellence was a tough ask [it should be!] and 1 group pointed out that perhaps the vision was more to show others about us-it is important that our own local community has a clear understanding of what we are and what is important to us. The biggest issue raised was probably low level disruption that was annoying and preventing learning as it should be at certain times.  Nobody felt unsafe or that behaviour management was weak but that we should make the current MC system tougher, take away a couple of stages, cut chat/any messing, any delays to learning etc.  They were quite adamant about this and interestingly the staff in their survey, agreed and the MC system will be tweaked and shared again over the coming weeks with suggested changes.  The new examinations and curriculum do expect very high standards of focus and a readiness for learning that isn’t easy for all of our students, and we need to help them develop the resilient mind-set that is needed to be successful. Thank you to all who participated.

Our staff were asked these questions.

I need your ideas and suggestions to make us even better in 2017!

The BFL/MC [Meols Cop] system is 12 years old now and was an innovative and unusual whole school approach when introduced. It was initially designed to deal with a badly behaved year group and then staff, in the following year, asked that it be used for all years with a staff rota of all teachers. In the early days only the MC4/5s were recorded and now, as the focus has moved to deal with low level disruption too, this information is supposed to be monitored by learning tutors and is shared with parents every 6 weeks.

My name appeared most on the rota because it was my idea and I wrote the rota! I would imagine that the use of non-teachers to run the detentions is a popular one but is the whole thing fit for purpose anymore? The weaknesses have always been that the students [and staff] complain that MCs aren’t given for the same things by different teachers, it does take away older teaching skills of dealing with discipline by individuals [although the big plus is that it supports all to be able to get on with teaching], some teachers follow it up by phoning home etc.-some don’t, some subject leaders are far more pro-active than others in supporting their subject colleagues, misdemeanours aren’t always communicated to learning tutors/progress leaders or parents, some teachers don’t use it at all, some jump straight to 3, some use it before the students get through the door, some are frightened to use it because they think they will get told off for having too many 4/5s and so on

I’ve tried to think of questions that will cut to the heart of some of the MC system/whole school behaviour issues. It has been too long since we discussed this and you are the people who teach 20 lessons a week and deal with these issues. I’ll collate responses and feedback-then we can agree as a majority and move forward.

  • It is also time for us to re-visit and agree on the crucial role that learning tutors play in our school. It may be time to have a longer AM reg and straight to lessons in the afternoon. If agreed, the extra time would give important chances for learning tutors to reinforce whole school issues and offer support for both wellbeing and potential mental health concerns. What should be the accountability and role of learning tutors? Have we made it high profile and recognised the importance it really should have? Or shouldn’t be! Your opinions please.
  • What do you feel that the accountability of subject leaders/progress leaders/SLT should be for the behaviour of students in your class? What should they do to follow up behavioural issues and support you with the behaviour of your students? If you are MLT/SLT what do you think your accountability and support should be?
  • If you don’t use the system-why don’t you-what puts you off? How can I reassure you?
  • I’ve talked about the weaknesses in the system but what are the benefits/weaknesses for you?
  • The new vision is to provide inclusive excellence for all-is there anything that I need to try to ensure happens that will get us closer to achieving that? I’m focusing on aspects of school that haven’t changed or been discussed for a while but I’m open to all views that will help us to become a better school. Feel free to add anything!!

We do need to go over the expectations of what an MC1, 2, 3, 4, 5 is again with the whole staff-anything that you feel should be made transparent and agreed upon?

As a subject teacher, what do you feel you should be accountable for in terms of student behaviour? What should you do to follow up behavioural issues yourself?

Is there a breakdown in communications at any time for you in the current system?

How can lines of communication be improved?

An open ended question to finish with-I’ve focused deliberately on behaviour so we can have systems that best support you and that you agree with. We have tried to reduce workload and consider wellbeing and have encouraged collaboration and focused CPD I hope! What more can I do to help you become the best teacher that you can be and help you to make 2017 the best teaching year of your career so far?

Once I had a few responses, I shared those to encourage more discussion and the process went on for a couple of weeks. I tried to originally raise what I had been asked about and it was a fascinating experience and of course there were very diverse and opposing opinions at times. Fortunately our pastoral deputy, Annette, took on the role of trying to make sense of it all and reach staff consensus. Everybody agreed that the criteria should reduce from 5 to 3 but we had to have a good old fashioned hands-up staff vote to decide on a couple of issues! The On Call and Remove facilities, our internal behaviour rooms had been staffed by 2 non-teachers for a long time and the teacher rota for detentions had been replaced this year by the two colleagues who administer the BFL rooms. This was a small workload initiative to free more time but with the anticipated rise in detention numbers, we had to decide that the rota would have to come back.  A couple disagreed but a big majority were happy to be on the rota.  The biggest debating points were about homework and equipment and both probably merit a blog on their own!  After voting it was decided that homework should be dealt with by departments and not the new system and that the students should be given packs of equipment and be expected to look after it, rather than equipment being given out at the start of each lesson. The ‘giving out of the packs’ happened in the assemblies led by Annette which launched the system with the students and emphasised the mind set required to be a successful Meols Cop learner.

A package of information, accompanied by a letter from me went to all parents to explain the system and to seek their support. An early response will be solicited at our Easter Review Day. Posters are displayed in classrooms and around school and these are basic and clear

Behaviour for Learning

Sanction 1 (S1) Low level disruption

  • talking and distracting others e.g. turning round after verbal warning
  • failure to follow instructions after whole class explanation
  • leaving place without permission
  • failure to start work promptly
  • equipment pencil case is missing
  • chewing in class
  • arriving late
  • arriving with an aspect of incorrect uniform that takes teacher and class time e.g. coat on/hoodie on

3 S1’s in a week will result in a half hour school detention

Sanction 2 (S2) 30 minute school detention

  • talking again after S1
  • distracting others again after S1
  • leaving place again after S1
  • refusal to follow instructions
  • throwing items
  • chewing again after S1
  • failure to focus once learning has begun after S1 prompt start
  • inappropriate language/comments to other students or staff

Sanction 3 (S3) sent to On Call, 1 hour detention or a more serious punishment depending on the seriousness of the incident.

  • constant disruption in lesson e.g. continued talking, turning round, failure to focus after S1/2
  • refusal to follow instructions again after S2
  • inappropriate language/comments after S2 Or immediate S3 if deemed serious enough-homophobic, racist, gender specific
  • rude and disrespectful to a member of staff in actions or words
  • unsafe behaviour that endangers self and others
  • swearing at a member of staff
  • assault
  • using a mobile device in lesson
  • having a drink that is not allowed in school e.g. energy drinks, fizzy drinks etc.
  • other inappropriate behaviour in the classroom that the teacher feels should be brought to the immediate attention of SLT and parents.

Failure to attend a school detention will result in a Senior Detention

Amazingly some students forgot equipment very quickly and there were some early 3 S1s in a day especially from year 9, who are always risking their chances in every school, before they settle down to become young adults! Staff reaction was equally swift with a few students isolated for a day and the majority of both staff and students seemingly happy with a tighter ship. Students will be asked for feedback after Easter and staff consulted again before I move on to asking for opinions on our assessment system [again]-have we got that right?

Each teacher will have appeared once on the detention rota before summer and there are always 3 teachers together for the S1 detentions whilst the 2 behaviour colleagues run the S2 and S3 detentions still, which have less numbers. Students who miss any detention automatically have to attend SLT detention on Friday afternoons. The regulations for the detentions are here;

Guidance for staff conducting S1 detentions:

  • All detentions will take place in the …..Staff should separate students as appropriate between the 3 classrooms allocated
  • Students should not be taken to another classroom
  • Students should sit in silence for the duration of the detention
  • Students can complete homework if they have work with them – they must not be allowed out to collect work or see a teacher
  • There is no expectation for staff to provide work
  • All normal school rules apply during the detention
  • Mobile phones are not allowed and students will be given an immediate senior detention for having a mobile phone in an S1, 2 or 3 detention
  • A named member of SLT will be available during each detention and any students who cannot follow the basic rules should be sent to them
  • KD will be at the detention at 3.10 in order to provide a list of names to the staff on duty

Staff should email the leadership group with all non-attendees as they will be placed in senior detention

We have 800 students in our school and the vast majority, of course, don’t get any detentions-ever! There are far more who receive positive feedback and commendations going home or made publicly and I would hope that this was a really good place to work and learn. Our emphasis on a positive Meols Cop Mind Set is a theme which runs through many previous blogs and it still pervades everything that we do.  Mind-set grades are given each lesson and the whole school emphasis, whether it be behaviour or anything else, is there to develop the best learning and teaching possible.

Mature behaviour and ‘can do’ attitude.





Never give up.


Determined to learn from mistakes.


Super smart, punctual and ready to learn.


Effort 100% in both class work and home work.


Take feedback.


I’m not afraid to write about behaviour or admit that not every student behaves perfectly every lesson in Meols Cop. It would be foolish not to listen to what colleagues, students and parents tell me and if they feel that behaviour needs tightening-it does! Equally I have to listen to everyone as an individual in their own right.  Although we are a mainstream school, we do have the highest percentage numbers of SEND students in our LA and an Asperger’s and dyslexic unit. Parents wish to send their child to us to access our expertise and mainstream education and our vision and BFL policy applies equally to all students.  However if a student has behavioural issues due to medical conditions of any nature or perhaps a turbulent home situation, then of course we will appraise situations accordingly but the rules expected are basic ones that we believe all of our students must abide by so that our highest expectations of them all can be met.  We have a wide range of both internal and external mentoring and counselling support available to support and make good behaviour and learning possible.

By 2020, I would hope that I will be able to write another blog to provide persuasive evidence that these adaptations to our behaviour policy have had a measureable impact on learning, teaching, academic success and well-being in our a school. It’s early days and I’m always optimistic-I asked, was told and have acted but I expect to have to ask a couple more times yet before we have anything like the evidence and impact that I would like.

Thank you to everyone who participated in any of our surveys, shared their ideas and thank you to all in our community who are determined to play their part and make this crucial initiative succeed.





Workload and Wellbeing

This is my first blog of the new term and for our own staff, although they know that I keep myself busy, they may be wondering why the once prolific blogging has dried up somewhat. The truth is simple in that I have been trying to model what I preach about workload, wellbeing and the balancing act with life out of school hence spending my spare time on reading, [ok it’s often educational stuff but that’s my choice!] my sporting interests and family and personal issues. I was glad of the break on Friday and felt tired but throughout some of the quite emotionally and intellectually demanding aspects of the first half-term for a school leader-Open Evening, exam results, appraisal, Progress 8, the whole government pressure re MATs/our future etc., I have felt buoyant and on top of my game in the knowledge that I am both fit and healthy and can make myself put my feet up at night to watch TV if I need to and not do school work. After so many years teaching, I don’t find this easy and I do wake up many times thinking about troublesome issues at work. Of course, I can’t bring my anxiety into work with me. I have to protect colleagues from external tribulations and nonsense so that they can work with the students-they have enough pressure of their own! Whilst I have tried my best to look after myself, one of my major priorities does have to be the 2 W,s and looking after, caring for and valuing ALL of our staff and students.

I can’t possibly, as a historian, forget to mention the Hill/Laker study this week that found that heads who are historians make the best head teachers! They were labelled ‘architects’ and interestingly they focused on long term goals, working on relationships with the community, building a new vision, provision for under-performing students, redesigning and building and trying to improve the work/learning climate. If this doesn’t uncannily resemble what we have been working on, I’m not sure what does, and our new vision, ‘Inclusive Excellence for All’ cuts to the chase of much of what exceptional leadership should bring to schools AND workload and wellbeing is a vital ingredient.

The 2 W’s have become buzz words and any tweet or blog mentioning them whether it be the craze for ‘5 a day’ healthy ideas or tales of thank you cakes and the banning of emails after school time is well received whereas any SLT seen to be breaking W rules or not adhering to the DFE guidelines for marking/ CPD etc. is booed and hissed by twitter keyboard warriors! The reality is, that whilst individual acts of W generosity and innovation are to be applauded and will make short term gains and bring immediate benefit to recipients/participants, unless school leaders have a longer term plan to address and keep addressing the constant workload/wellbeing issues such as marking, data collection, behaviour management and appraisal/professional development, nothing will change. This has been said before of course and I’m sure that the weight of evidence is out there to suggest that as yet it isn’t happening everywhere. However, some schools are trying their best [and getting frustrated at the blanket criticism] to try to change and make a lasting difference to the culture and environment within their own school. I shared my early ideas, definitions of workload and wellbeing, and some of my actions and vision last year in these 2 posts.

This year I have shown that I mean absolute business by writing the plans into the school improvement plan and into my own appraisal objectives. The SIP is obviously shared with staff and governors but so is my appraisal! I take accountability seriously and my 3 personal targets are openly shared and asked for feedback on. By doing this, colleagues can see how important that anything on my appraisal is-I’m putting my mouth where my money is-if you see what I mean! I’m not playing to the populist gallery by choosing the W’s-by making myself accountable for them, everybody can see my clear intentions and as an ‘architect’ leader, they know that this is a long-term plan. I have focused on staff W’s as my deputy head will support student W’s in her area of the SIP and in her appraisal.

You will notice in both documents that I use a PICO question-these are explained in this post

and form the second research based objective in everyone’s appraisal.

The SIP question doesn’t have the detail of my appraisal target but this was my original priority. To further support the wellbeing of all students and staff and to always consider the impact of workload on staff effectiveness and wellbeing.

I raised this question-Will our emphasis of reducing workload and considering staff wellbeing [Supporting them to be more accountable for the WWs instead of SLT top down decisions] have a discernible impact on professional performance?

How & when will it be evaluated?

  • Wellbeing group was created in summer and has the opportunity to develop and offer whatever it feels is right.
  • SLT will continue to ask for only data that is important and impacts on learning and teaching-subject leader’s choice. E.g. Zoe’s inset session
  • The new look reviews will continue but will be reviewed in 2017
  • The focus of line-managers across school in 2016/17 is to encourage reflection on becoming more effective and supporting colleagues to prioritise on ‘the main thing’
  • SLT must continue to be open and honest in sharing national trends/DFE guidelines and encouraging colleagues to read/check/comment if we aren’t doing what we should be in terms of workload-current marking/CPD guidelines are examples.
  • Survey again in 2017 by wellbeing group with questions of their choice.

What will success look like?

  • NTEN CPD audit successfully achieved and school awarded gold!
  • Middle leaders develop their own agreed accountability measures-shared openly to drive the school forwards
  • Hopefully positive feedback on the portfolios/appraisal from teachers and on the whole staff survey
  • More colleagues come to see me when issues first arise rather than waiting or not wanting to cause concerns look like?

You can see that school accountability includes external and internal verification/audits/surveys-this has to be the case. I’ve read many blogs and heard head teachers speak about what happens in their school, only to visit or meet people from there and the illusion is sometimes shattered! Anyone can visit our school to check that what I’m saying [or colleagues are saying] is the truth and hopefully that others have followed my lead and that there is a whole school  acceptance and support for the initiative. Of more importance is the fact that  I have written this into my own appraisal, which is more detailed again and can be added to at my own mid termly checkpoints when other issues arise. I may have missed key points and the staff are invited to add corrections! I have taken the targets straight from the SIP  and it compliments my second appraisal target which is to embed our new school vision.

Objective 3 To further support the wellbeing of all students and staff and to always consider the impact of workload on staff effectiveness and wellbeing.

PICO question; Will our emphasis of reducing workload and considering staff wellbeing[Supporting them to be more accountable for the WWs instead of SLT top down decisions] have a discernible impact on professional performance?

Evidence/Success Criteria

  • The Wellbeing group continues to exist and plan activities
  • Concrete evidence is clearly visible of attempts to reduce workload
  • Internal and external surveys/audits show that the initiative is having a quantifiable impact.

Possible action points to be taken to achieve objective:

  • Wellbeing group was created in summer and has the opportunity to develop and offer whatever it feels is right-opportunities for social/fitness events and time provided
  • Constant evaluations of effective systems-this is key. Get rid of anything not effective-don’t replace 1 workload issue with another!
  • SLT will continue to ask for only data that is important and impacts on learning and teaching-subject leader’s choice. E.g. Zoe’s inset session
  • The new look reviews will continue but will be reviewed in 2017
  • The focus of line-managers across school in 2016/17 is to encourage reflection on becoming more effective and supporting colleagues to prioritise on ‘the main thing’
  • SLT must continue to be open and honest in sharing national trends/DFE guidelines/research and encouraging colleagues to read/check/comment if we aren’t doing what we should be in terms of workload-current marking/CPD guidelines are examples
  • Best practice re above continues to be shared and evaluated
  • Survey again in 2017 by wellbeing group with questions of their choice and constant opening of discussions for staff to contribute to
  • New roles/different roles to ease workload for some/provide job opportunities for others e.g. support staff taking MC detentions, more admin jobs, additional TAs, additional cover supervisors
  • Internal wellbeing audit in 2017 and external TDA CPD audit to provide evaluation
  • Various mental health initiatives evaluated and adapted for use if appropriate for both students and staff
  • Continuous offer of support for students/staff who may feel that they are struggling to cope
  • Rigorous following of legal guidelines re workload and wellbeing BUT a constructive dialogue with all trade unions and regard for suggested guidelines
  • As fair approach as possible to considering absence requests e.g. 2 family days
  • Appropriate professional development provided and support offered to both new staff and new in role staff-buddies available for both staff and students
  • Keep asking how can technology help workload e.g. SMH and evaluate
  • Effective and appropriate communication-no work demand after school/weekend etc.
  • Uphold new school vision and consider workload/wellbeing of ALL
  • Continue treats/thank you but nothing that is divisive e.g. Heroes Week, Random Acts Kindness-any celebrations should be for ALL in group/staff
  • Change the times of parent’s evenings to better suit both staff and parents/survey afterwards
  • Ensure BFL is supporting all staff equitably

I’m sure that colleagues from other schools may well have some other ideas and examples from their own establishments that I’d love to hear about and add to our own. If you have read our blogs you will probably know that we have been working hard to reduce our marking workload.

If you don’t know our school, then you won’t, as my own colleagues will verify, [I hope!] have realised that I haven’t included some of the key philosophy and vision that underpins our workload/wellbeing. We do set ourselves the highest professional expectations but within that there is much flexibility based on what is best for individual teachers and their subjects. Whole school policies are not straightjackets and collaboration and sharing of ideas and resources in expected and is the norm. We work really hard to reward and retain staff, within tight budgets, and we want our staff to feel valued and loved! If the staff are happy, safe and supported, small matters like Progress 8 will be fine and in any case, if we have a bad year, we believe in what we are doing and will simply roll up our sleeves, reflect and get on with it. Appraisals are guidelines too and provided that we have all tried our best to fulfil objectives, that’s fine too.

I would say things like this wouldn’t I-which head wouldn’t want their staff to want to stay, be happy and be passionate about working at their school. The impact of a valued staff whose workload and wellbeing matter on the effectiveness of their teaching and care for their students must be unbeatable. Don’t just talk about it though, make it happen and make yourself accountable for its success and measurable impact.

Have a great half-term.

KS4 Learning walk/student voice

In March 2016 students 4 student from every teaching group in school were interviewed about their progress here at MCHS and how they think their learning is going. We quizzed KS4 on their mocks and recent assessments and how strategies their teachers might be trying are working. In KS3 we focused on growth mindset and on literacy. The following two blogs represent the collated results of all discussions.

Learning Walks – KS4
1.Based on your mocks/assessments so far and your gut feeling-what are you realistically going to achieve in this subject in summer/next year? Justify your answer with concrete evidence.
All students were very familiar with their mock results and could talk at length about how they had done along with their strengths and weaknesses. They were able to reference particular areas within a subject that they had done well on and also knew very clearly the areas that they needed to develop.
Students studying practical subjects were very clear on their progress in the different elements within the GCSE and could clearly state whether it was theory or practical that they were stronger at and why. At times they were very specific about the practical skills they needed to develop.

2. What do you need to achieve/what does your aspirational target say that you have to achieve? Is there a difference between 1 and 2-if there is what do you need to do about it? How can your teacher help you? If there is no difference or you beat no 1-how will you ensure that you do it again in summer?
All students were very clear on the gap, if any, between their current performance and their aspirational target. Again, as with question number one they could give clear evidence as to why the gap existed and were able to identify strategies that they could do develop as well as areas that their teachers were helping them with. Many of them referred to the need to “practice” and the role of interleaving in helping them to revisit work. There was a real appreciation of the value of completing past paper questions.
Students were very clear on where they could go for help and support and made specific reference to where individual teachers had supported them.

4. Interleaving, interleaving, interleaving! How have you got the knowledge to stick? What are the best tactics in this subject to memorise the facts that you need to help you achieve your very best in this subject?
Students were able to identify a wealth of strategies being used that was helping their memory recall and this was evident across all subjects. A selection are listed below:
• Question templates to help answer exam questions
• Focusing on the layout of the exam and how to approach each question in turn
• Time for practical rehearsal (where applicable)
• Breaking down the GCSE content into what we must learn each week
• “Formulas” and mnemonics for approaching different exam question styles
• Reviewing topics from earlier in the year regularly
• Flash cards
• Having access to lots of past papers
• Glossaries
• Revision booklets which contain key information the exam questions that go with them
• 5 a day questions
• Weekly facts tests
• Being able to access apps and revision websites in lessons as well as at home
• Breaking down mark schemes so that you understand all of the “jargon”
• Using example answers of what good work look likes
• Getting the revision guide at the start of the year so we can annotate as we go through each topic
• Revision O’clock
• Visual strategies like making causal webs on the table or Venn diagrams with hula hoops
• Making models of important processes as part of revision
• Hints and tips for how to answer each question
• Mind mapping
• Access to revision materials on the VLE

KS3 Learning walk/Student voice

Learning Walk – March 2016 – Years 7-9
1. We have added an extra growth mind-set grade to the progress reports this year. What do you need to work on in this subject to achieve GOLD in this area?
Students across KS3 were confident in their understanding of growth mindset and could both talk and write about what they thought growth mindset meant in the subjects they had come from. For example, in PE students referred to leadership and teamwork as well as persevering with skills they found difficult. A number of students talked about the role of motivation in their growth mindset and how it was easier to be resilient in subjects that they enjoyed. Many students discussed the way in which their teachers are constantly challenging them to improve and putting them in situations that take them out of their comfort zone. In Maths Year 8 students talked about challenging themselves with problem solving questions and learning from mistakes. Some students also commented on the fact that they needed to use other resources to support their progress before instantly going to their teacher.
Many students also commented on the need to “aim high” and to “ask for feedback” from their teacher so they know how to improve. In Spanish students referenced the fact that they need to practice their weakest of the four areas; speaking, reading, listening and writing so that they come out of their comfort zone as well as ensuring that they spend quality time revising their vocabulary for the weekly recall tests. In English some students made references to the way they approach tasks; “I need to work on the way I think about the work, instead of going in and thinking I can’t do this I should go in and think I might struggle but I should still try,” as well as stating that they “should keep calm and not get cross” when they can’t do a task. In DT students were able to recall specific skills they need to work on and not shy away from. For example, “if I am good at isometric drawing I should challenge myself to do it in 2D design.”
For those science students who have been using the iPads they commented on how they find it easier to persevere and show resilience when completing a task on the iPad as further support is readily available and you are able to pick up tasks much more easily at home through the showbie app. They also commented on the immediacy of the feedback which allows them to address mistakes quickly.
Few students could differentiate what a gold growth mindset would look like compared to a silver or a bronze. As this is a new aspect of the reporting system it is something that as a school we need to address and raise the profile of the growth mindset grade to ensure that all students are “going fo gold” with this. In order to address this we need to work on visually raising the profile of the gold growth mindset with posters that can be displayed in classrooms for students to refer to and for teachers to integrate into their lesson delivery. In addition to this there is scope to unpick the characteristics of a gold growth mindset in tutor time.

2. Which bit of the GM criteria do you find the toughest barrier to consistently achieve in this subject? Is there anything your teacher can do to support you?
With regards to barriers the students showed that they could identify the areas that they felt prevented them from always having a growth mindset attitude. At times they were quite specific about the areas within certain subjects, for example in PE they talked about how growth mindset becomes particularly difficult in bad weather! A number of students showed some really maturity in discussing how they find it difficult to always stay positive when they find something challenging. Similarly, several students also commented on how hard it is to “constantly have a desire to conquer the toughest parts of your learning.”
Students across the subjects were able to pinpoint a specific topic or skill that they were struggling with from bearings in Maths to vocabulary in MFL to SPaG in English. There was a real clear sense that they were very aware of their own strengths and weaknesses.
Some suggestions that came across in terms of teacher support:
• Challenge time
• Continuing to break down questions into small chunks
• There was even a call for “random tests” to “keep me on my toes”
• Personalised homeworks
• Spelling books for subjects with lots of key terms to remember
• More training in using dictionaries and thesaurus

3. Which areas of literacy do you have the most difficulty with in this subject? Which of your teacher’s literacy strategies have helped you most? Can you provide me with evidence to prove that their help was successful?
Across all responses students referenced focus on the learning of key terms and SPaG as their areas of difficulty. Students all appreciated the way in which their work is tightly marked for SPaG and the codes that are used within subjects. Many students made references to spelling tests for key terms, for example in History and in English and they said that they felt this helped them to focus more on spelling key terms correctly in all work. History students also made reference to the use of stickers for literacy errors so that they know there is a spelling or grammar error within a paragraph and they then have to find this for themselves. Similarly, French students referenced the dot marking as a way for them to pick out their own mistakes.

Strategies that the students liked for helping them with literacy:
• Visual aids to remember key terms
• Repetition of key terms so they “stick”
• Breaking the questions down to unpick what each word means
• The use of mnemonics to break down components of a piece of work, for example ACCESS FM in DT
• Key term bookmarks
• A running glossary within exercise books to add key terms to as they come up
• Highlighting all key terms within a piece of work
• Highlighting command words, names of people and places within an exam question

Literacy is an area we will continue to work on and with three learning hubs focusing on this there are a number of things being trialled. Perhaps a consistent set of codes used across all departments for SPaG could be an area to explore?

4. It is always difficult trying to remember all of the knowledge that you have to for your assessments and exams. Your teachers have been trying lots of different strategies to make your learning stick in your memory. In this subject which tactics have worked best for you-prove it with evidence please
Students were able to identify a wealth of strategies being used that was helping their memory recall and this was evident across all subjects. A selection are listed below:
• 5 a day
• Repetition of key terms
• Personalised homework
• Mini tests –
• Annotating model answers
• STAR questions
• Rally coach
• Mind mapping
• DIDY 5 a day
• Weekly recall tests
• DIRT questions
• 20 word vocab tests
• You tube videos linked to the VLE
• Flash cards
• Re-drafting work
• Revision O’clock

Book Look Part One

Since taking on my role at MCHS I have not failed to be surprised by some of the ways in which things that are done in schools nationwide are done here…Book “scrutiny” is no exception. I have, in the past, seen book “scrutiny” or “monitoring” as something done to me and one in which I have very little part to play. However, monitoring of pupil’s exercise books/work here at MCHS allows the teacher to showcase the best of their marking and to really show off the things that they are proud of, sharing the ideas they are trialling. Over the course of the next few weeks there will be a number of blog posts related to this, collating some of the amazing work related to marking and feedback that is taking place here at MCHS. “Book monitoring” is based upon a series of key questions, with staff being given the opportunity to explain where necessary and to photograph examples of their best practice, really demonstrating where their feedback has had a real impact on pupil progress.
The first two departments that I will start with are maths an English and one of the nicest things about reading the book monitoring is that staff have the chance to really show where they think their feedback has had the biggest impact, and the quotes below are just a few taken from the English departments:
“Students respond to feedback more independently.” – Jordan
“Students correct SPaG errors automatically or with little prompting and they help themselves to dictionaries in order to do this.” – Katie
“Spelling is improving and students are becoming better with proof reading.” – Marie
“The use of model answers to allow students to set their own targets.” – Sarah
“Students are becoming more independent learners as they are able to identify their own mistakes through self-assessment.” – Laura
“The use of DIRT sheets for self-reflection and improvement is really helping to move students forward.” – Rachael
“Students are engaging with set targets from a previous piece of work.” – Hannah
“The use of modelling is really supporting progress in year 8 – ideas taken from Katie’s Breakfast Jam.” – Lisa
The maths department, whose marking is entirely different to that of English have also shared the areas that they feel have had the greatest impact on learning and these extracts demonstrate not only their opinions but those of their colleagues:
“Prior knowledge tests are already making teachers think about their planning and the range of students. The development of schemes of learning to include LAT’s style questions will prepare students well for the final exam. I really liked the experiment with the yellow square as this could have a massive impact if the students then follow up with their own improvements.”
“Regular use of challenge questions is encouraging further resilience amongst the students and helping to develop their learning in maths.”
Clair’s comments on Beth’s books…”It is obvious from your planning and marking that your students really care about their progress. You are doing everything in your power to help your students become more resilient learners, with the Miss K’s challenge questions and GCSE reasoning questions.”
Jen commented on a number of areas she liked in Clair’s books…”chapter check-up, the marking between STAR stickers, the negative numbers LATS and the prior skills tests.”
“The use of the A and E arrows are really making the students think about their growth mindset and how they tackle their work in lessons.”
Clair commented on Zoe’s contribution to the whole department’s marking…”Your idea of the A and E arrows has helped the whole department manage their marking and the students really like having immediate feedback. This year you have also bought in DIRT worksheets that have helped the students reflect/revise what they have learnt so far. Many students mentioned in their books that they feel these have really helped. “
Jen loved Fran’s… “Effective use of the A and E arrows and the fact that the students take real pride in their books.”
All of the English department have identified within their self-assessment of their marking that students are not making as many basic errors as they had been doing, as they are spending more time drafting work and proof reading, with the aid of a dictionary and thesaurus to develop spelling and vocabulary use. With the increasing impetus on SPaG in not only GCSE English, but across all subjects, this has been a huge focus for the department since September. Hannah has devised homework which is linked to SPaG tasks and it has become a common starter in all English lessons. All members of the team noted in their self-assessment that the number of basic errors that students are making is decreasing as a result of the constant reinforcement of SPaG and the increasing onus being put onto the students to proof read as well as peer assessment to check for errors. It was lovely to read that students are becoming increasingly confident to develop their vocabulary through the use of a thesaurus and this was evident in the feedback being given. Highlighters have also been used across the department to identify certain errors so they become even more familiar to students, making them really stand out. Both Katie and Jordan noted the impact that this has had. Laura has also been developing SPaG flags to enhance pupil understanding and reduce errors.
One of the real strengths of the department is the consistently high expectations set for all students reinforced through both modelling and feedback. Students in lower band sets are being exposed to what an A* response looks like and this is important in terms of the development of aspiration and growth mindset. Across the department there are many examples of where this has had an extremely positive impact, with students achieving consistently above their expected target.
In line with the development of independent learning students are also tracking their own bronze, silver and gold levels linked to assessment feedback in order that they are clear on what they need to do to progress. Evident in all books is the intrinsic link between feedback and BSG/GCSE criteria and the extensive use of modelling to develop student responses. It was great to see Katie share all of the great modelling work taking place in English in one of our Breakfast Jams and then going on to try out an idea shared by Greg in the same session. Katie referenced the positive outcome from using rotation squares for modelling in her book monitoring.
Peer Assessment is also a real strength of the department and is being trialled in a number of different ways by the team. Katie notes that she felt her student’s use of peer assessment had really developed, with year 10 set 2 identifying a quote for their peer to analyse and then setting a task to be answered to further develop a piece of work related to a text. Growth mindset is a constant priority across school and it is great to see staff using the language of GM in their feedback to students. EBI comments in English are often posed as a question to complete so that students can push themselves even further. Jordan has been developing her “killer challenge” questions as part of this, raising the aspirations of all.
One of the biggest areas, with regards to feedback, being trialled by the English team is fast marking using marking codes. This consists of a series of codes which are used to abbreviate WWW/EBI comments. For example, ‘P’ as WWW feedback would mean that the student had written for purpose or ‘A’ would mean that they had considered the audience. Students use their DIRT time to look up the codes on a grid in their exercise books and then fill in the WWW/EBI comment in full.

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These marking codes are also being used for peer and self-assessment and the team noted that the students had found these useful in helping to focus their feedback.

BL 2 BL 3

This has also fed into the tracking process as the codes can be easily recorded and tracked within an excel spreadsheet. This allows Sarah to see where the issues are across a whole year group and to target interventions accordingly.

January Inset 10

The maths department are trialling a number of new ideas at the moment and you will have read about this in previous blogs. With regards to marking Zoe’s “A and E” arrows are now being used across the department as a method of fast feedback.
The “A&E arrows”
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Alex’s example here shows how it can also be used as a way for students to self-assess and for this to be verified by the teacher. Jen’s example shows how it has also become part of STAR marking, used across the maths department. These codes are also a valuable part of our GM drive and Jen noted in her book monitoring that this is an area that they wish to develop further. The arrows have become a valuable part of instant feedback to the students and they articulate well the meaning of the arrows.
Alongside the arrows the department are trying out a number of new ways of marking and Beth, who has shared many of her ideas over the last term, has developed the use of stickers from her work in the learning hubs. This is something that the rest of the department are also trialling and Clair commented that she feels this is a priority for the department. Beth has also been working on adapting the 5 a day to include command words and also a DIY 5 a day for students to write their own questions for each other. She shared these at a recent Breakfast Jam.

BL 8  BL 7

All of the department have been trialling the use of LATs as part of their interleaving research and there were some fabulous examples of this in the book monitoring. This is something that the department feel is really moving the students forward as they learn to deal with the greater demands of the new GCSE.

BL 10 BL 9

In addition to this the department have really been developing their use of STAR marking with questions set for students to reflect the level of challenge and hints and tips given where necessary. The questions set as part of the action are all checked after the response, which gives a real sense of dialogue between student and teacher within the book. The fortnightly use of DIRT time for reflecting on homework and completing the STAR tasks is really showing progress in books and having a big impact on learning.
Bl 12There is clear evidence of self and peer assessment across the department and Jen showed off the way they are giving students set key words to use in their peer assessment so they can target their feedback most effectively. It was great to see some more examples of Sheila’s rally coach in books, after seeing it in action during a lesson. The STAR marking is not confined to teacher feedback as students are also given the task of self assessing using STAR.
Fran showed off the way students have set themselves their own questions as part of this process. Clair shared her use of peer verification when students checked answers to questions against their peers, leading to discussion and debate around their working out and problem solving. It was great to see Beth’s book showing students setting questions for each other, answering them step by step and then the peer checking each step.
It is always great to see literacy in action in maths books and Beth, through her DIY 5 a day, based around command words, has really pushed this. All the team showed how they are exposing students to longer, more problem based questions which require them to extract information and apply method. Marking codes are being used by Zoe to highlight literacy errors and students are then reflecting upon these and making corrections.

The maths and English departments have also been using the student’s exercise books to gain feedback from parents at the end of a term. Alex shared with me the examples below from some very proud parents.

AW parent comments 5  AW parent comments 8

Overall my first taste of book monitoring here at MCHS has been a wholly lovely one, with an opportunity to see the impact that feedback is really having on learning in maths and English….other departments coming soon.

Magic Summer Literacy and Numeracy Moments part 2

Faculties and teaching assistants have continued to share strategies they have been using to support literacy and numeracy across the curriculum. Our scientists provided these current tactics for me to share.


Holly – Literacy in Science

I use the dot method – dot over the spelling, they have to find the correct spelling, then write it out 3 times.

I also put a star over a sentence that has a grammatical error, for them to copy out again.

Trialled (and now regularly) use ‘the story of…’ or comic strips with year 7 to explain processes. They really liked this idea as they can be creative and/or draw. And now they’re used to including the keywords correctly and underline them without being asked to (I give them 0, even if it’s brilliant but has no keywords in – after the initial ‘that’s not fair!’ they quickly got used to adding in as many keywords as they could)

Trialled with year 8’s ‘making a dictionary’ – Bronze, write the definition of the word, Silver, put the word into a sentence, Gold, write synonyms for the word. They found it very tricky, but with practice they should get used to this idea. Should help raise attainment by not only reinforcing definitions, but also making them think a bit more about the meaning and any links to other keywords in science – deeper thinking should lead to deeper understanding.

Form time – silent reading twice a week, reading from the board for collective worship, daily Q&A discussions about theme of the week or news articles.

Main barriers – science contains MANY keywords, involving a lot of memory which the pupils struggle with.


Phil– My literacy moment of the term was with Yr7.1. For a starter in the lesson I gave students the keywords for the lesson and told them to find the definition of them. They all started heading for the computers until I informed them the only thing they could not use was the computer. It was like I had stolen the oxygen from the room and they all just stood there not knowing what to do. Until one girl shouted out that I had books in my cupboards. They ran over and started looking through each book at random but soon they realised to look in the glossary to find the words.

I am hoping to carry this on as I ideally want the class to use this without asking whenever they come to a word they do not know the meaning of literacy in Science.


Hannah – Numeracy can be common in science with focus on equations, graph and table skills.  Often students struggle with using a scientific calculator, especially with standard form. Giving them an example of how to enter the numbers correctly works well.


Then once all the students can enter the data correctly, completing a game such as “Fastest First”, this often highlights to students to double check their answer, as often we will hear, “but I put that in the calculator and that’s the answer it gave me, there must be something wrong with it.”  This is usually due to an error inputting the data.

Literacy- many in the science department have been trailing dot marking themselves and with peer assessment.  A dot (or a mark of some sort) is place above an incorrectly spelt word. During extended writing or 6MQ practice marks are always awarded for quality of written communication.  During peer and self-assessment students will make sure the work reads correctly in a logical and concise manner to be able to award full marks. A planning frame is often given to help students with these questions (fish bone):


The main issue I have found with literacy in science is the general vocabulary in some exams which students don’t know, for example, in a year 9.4 test there was a GCSE past question asking for the student to get another 2 methods of harnessing the suns energy.  A student asked what harnessing means, however I do wonder how many other students would not have asked.  This problem crops up for us in exams.  However there is no set vocabulary for the exam except the command words.


Complete language use in science:

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Literacy issues in science-Wendy


Can you spot what made this GCSE question so very difficult for our Foundation students?

The answer may be obvious if you are under 30 – what is an anorak? To many young people an anorak is a train spotter/ boring/ intellectual type person. This unknown word put them off and a number of candidates therefore left out the question completely.

This highlights some of our issues in science, when use of higher level language disadvantages our learners, not due to a lack of science understanding, but an inability to comprehend the meaning of the question.

Clearly it is my job as a science teacher to make sure that they know “function” means “job” and “emit” means “to give out”, as these are scientific terms, but often the phraseology used by examiners can be a real barrier even when explained.

In a Year 9 set 3 class, the following question proved very problematic. The students correctly interpreted the trend as being as the x axis increases, the y axis increases, however, they were stymied by the use of the word “severity” and even when I explained that it meant “more severe”, there was little understanding and I had to resort to using “getting worse” to get the idea across.



Also we get the same word used in different contexts, one scientific, and the other more descriptive.



Here, “remote” is used to describe a location and as an object. Remote part of the country is complex vocabulary for many students, whereas they are obviously familiar with a remote control. Other examples the department has come across; “How do you harness the Sun’s energy?”

“What is the nature of alpha radiation?” What characteristics……….”

Several years ago the trend was to write objectives and information in “pupil speak” – are we now reaping the consequences of this strategy as examination board question setters appear to be using vocabulary beyond our common parlance?

The issue is: where does subject specific start and what can we expect is likely to be heard and used in their everyday life? For the sake of science and no doubt other subjects, please do not dumb down your vocabulary, nay elevate the students to a much higher level by using and explaining more complex expressions.

To leave you with something to ponder, evolution of language over time is also a consideration. Whilst teaching about the blast furnace and the reduction of iron oxide by carbon, I was blithely wittering about using coke as the material supplying the carbon.

An unnamed student in year 10-1 quite seriously put up his hand and asked “Would it work with Pepsi?” At that point I realised that few of the class would ever have seen a coal/coke fire and all their experience of coke revolved around soft drinks. A change in the meaning of a word over a period of time – it makes me feel really old. Needless to say, this point is has now been disseminated around the department and is emphasised so this misconception can be addressed!

So where does it leave me now? I have reflected on this and am trying to make a point throughout my teaching and interactions with students both as a science teacher and learning tutor, that it is my job to educate expansive literacy at every opportunity and I am looking throughout the coming months and years to look for openings to encourage students to write with more ambition and fluidity as the English language is a beautiful thing.

This approach has caused much discussion within the department and another colleague has quite legitimately spoken from a completely different perspective, where it is felt that we should modernise ( not dumb down) our language, including exam statements, and that the beauty of science should be accessible to all people irrespective of literacy standards. A question of debate!

Performing Arts


We put an emphasis on higher level keywords in both music and drama, linking the GCSE spec to KS3 lessons. We use keyword cards and have word of the week in every music lesson. These are subject specific.

We manipulate schemes to create opportunities for other literacy strategies with extended writing with stories and scripts that persuade/inform/entertain/are formal. We have worked on developing marking strategies in line with the rest of the school (in photos you can see students peer mark in red using codes such as ‘sp’ for spelling ‘//’ for paragraphs. In this task they have highlighted Chinese references in yellow, metaphors in blue and similes in orange, then given feedback which has been responded to. When a colour is clearly missing, the feedback was fairly clear to see!) This was most informative to me as I was really impressed by how good the students were at it, even in lower sets. It is clearly routine to them and they gave excellent feedback.

It’s easier to use numeracy in music rather than drama because really, when doing music theory it is in fact all maths! Teaching note lengths and values are actually enhanced by numeracy questions as you can see in some photos. In addition to this most activities are timed.

In drama everything is done verbally and mostly done through emphasising keywords. I was really pleased when this was picked up on in the assistant head interviews where literacy concepts such as ‘stereotypes’ were actually used to enhance acting and skills selected by students. Even feedback is done verbally by students in drama which enhances speaking and listening skills. This really enhances students’ confidence in their own knowledge. A range of strategies such as ‘numbered heads’ are used to ensure all students speak and verbalise viewpoints.

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At the beginning of every lesson students listen to Song of the Week and are each given a key musical word. They are randomly number and one from each group must define the keyword and then describe how this was used in the chosen songs. This allows students to analyse key areas of the music using the correct terminology and also means GCSE key words are taught from the offset in KS3. The words rotate each week.

Current year 8 students have been studying the Orchestra and pushing literacy further, the students are required to use Italian terms to describe the music e.g. forte = loud allegro = fast. They have been completing listening tests each week with new words added in each lesson. By the end of the term students should have a vast knowledge of Italian terms used in music.

All students peer assess each term. When this involved lyric writing, students use highlighters and different coloured pens to pick out key literacy features such as rhyme, metaphors and similes. Key terms to do with the topic and subject comment are highlighted in another colour. They also correct punctuation and grammar in Red with the student feeding back to their peer in blue. This is verified by the teacher in green and with a stamp.

Literacy in KS4 revolves around key musical terminology. In addition to written tasks students complete revision games that focus on this such as ‘splatagories’ – where students must use a key word to win again their partner e.g. harmony (chromatic/diatonic) key words go fish – students have to match 3 cards from each AOS and to play the hand must be able to define all of the words they have on their cards correctly.


Numeracy revolves around time signatures and the counting of beats/rhythms. Students have to find the pulse in the music and decide if it is counted in 4 (4/4) or 3 (3/4) Rhythm games help to focus on this such as passing a ball on a certain beat number, silent counting in time and clapping on a defined number as well as movements in counts of 8.

Form Time

The form time ideas website is excellent for a variety of numeracy and literacy tasks. As students are in GCSE we have been watching revision videos that highlight key areas of each book’


At KS3 I have been reflecting on the needs of individuals and differentiating the focus of class discussions and activities. For example; 7.1 are a very keen and creative class and have been working towards more higher level learning- I have been pushing them to consider style, target audience and genre and how they are all linked through both discussions and the success of their performances- The impact of this is that they can talk in a much more sophisticated manner about their work and consider the ‘bigger picture’.

8.6 I have noticed are lacking in their ability to analyse characters and what their acting skills tell us about their emotions or their personality so this has taken a much bigger focus in our lessons.

Yr10 have been struggling with getting detail into their work and describing exactly what they are doing. We are working towards improving this by re-watching our work. I have provided them with body language cheat sheets that I have found online to help with this as attached!

In terms of numeracy students must consider the sequencing of their work each lesson- yr10 have been using beats of 8 in their practical work as they are using music with physical theatre.

Boby Language Cheat Sheets


Katrina found the body language sheet on Pinterest and finds it useful.


A quick idea to support colleagues in other faculties from Jen.

“Something I’ve always wanted to share with staff and thought I’d take this opportunity, is a method of how to calculate and fraction into a percentage.

I’ve just stuck with CALC for the moment as I think this is the one that people across the school use first… I want to develop conversations with staff ‘if you’re scoring a 5 marks questions make sure you just double to help turn into a percentage’.”



Couple of ideas Alex found on the internet.


I used this as a noughts and crosses but erased some boxes.

Students have to write a new question in the blank boxes and then they swap and their partner answer the questions.

Then they take it in turns to answer one, if they get it correct they claim that box.

Whoever gets 3 (or 4) in a row wins


I used this as a card sort. They students cut them out and have to take the information to process to decide whether to make or buy the cake.

Solving Equations Thoughts and Cross

Proportion Mystery

Jen about Beth!

Thought this was a nice twist from Beth which really got some of the more ‘reluctant’ learners thinking.

Beth tried this with her 9(2) with some interesting results!

Might be worth trying every now and again, good twist to the 5 a day.

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5 a day is used mainly in maths and science to begin the lessons with a re-cap of long and short term memory-Beth here is asking the students to come up with their own questions rather than using the usual teacher ones. I like this!



Like to use this as a starter activity sometimes, to build in the literacy of a topic before we get started.





Has been making some ‘follow me’ cards to encourage both literacy and numeracy.




British Values

We have a variety of surveys throughout the year to ask our students about different aspects of their learning and teaching-some are whole school and some are subject specific. Once or twice a year I do like to involve the whole school via tutor group time, in a more philosophical speaking and listening exercise. It’s important that as they become young adults, our students have the opportunity to discuss and be made aware of, some of the big issues that school doesn’t always offer curriculum time to. Their opinions will matter very much to our nation in a few years’ time-they are our future electorate and future of the UK-most schools would accept that they should prepare their students academically, socially and culturally for the responsibility that will be theirs-we do!

In the last week before Xmas and first 2 weeks of 2015, every tutor group has been given a set of questions about British Values [and school values] to discuss and feedback to our school community via our bulletin, posters and this blog. The topic was chosen because it has become a much discussed topic in education [and beyond] along with ‘resilience’ and ‘grit’ [check out our growth mind-set blogs] and I wanted to gather the views of the most important people in our school-our students! I don’t want to see British Values being ‘done’ to our students because Ofsted or politicians want evidence of it-no tick boxes-I want to see if they have an opinion and what it is. That should provide current evidence should we [and they] wish to action some of their suggestion re school and consider curriculum gaps where they suggest we might discuss British Values and Meols Cop values further.

It goes without saying that in this type of discussion the political views of teachers are not aired with the students; great care is asked to be taken with how the discussions are shaping so that no students feel uncomfortable and as a secular school, our values should reflect no political, religious or any other ‘group’ value other than MCHS and our community. During the chosen weeks, however, the terrorist incident in Paris occurred and this was added to conversations about the freedom of speech, if appropriate and this could include other issues around the world e.g. Nigeria, Syria, Pakistan, to talk further about our own democratic values and freedoms. I shared a set of great resources compiled by another blogger Emma Kell @thosethatcan to help discuss the French situation which, although the current debate involves some very difficult and confusing concepts, [for adults!] may have raised questions that our students wanted to pursue. Again caution was requested in choosing the suitability of any resources. Greg Thornton shared another resource he had found to make British Values easier to understand for his year 7 form, which was shared with all staff.

The questions asked of each form were these.

01 02 03 04 05 06 07

The curriculum areas where British Values was covered already, according to the students was in PSD and RE with smidgeons in history, English and RE. The actual descriptors covered least were;

An understanding of how citizens can influence decision-making through the democratic process;

An understanding that there is a separation of power between the executive and the judiciary, and that while some public bodies such as the police and the army can be held to account through Parliament, others such as the courts maintain independence.

I used the DFE descriptors rather than giving student friendly sentences and the separation of power was difficult for them to understand even with guidance. 8HW commented, ‘Don’t do anything about that – what does it even mean?’

The values that they thought were more important than the others covered a range, apart from 1 and 3 but probably more went for 2 and 4.

An appreciation that living under the rule of law protects individual citizens and is essential for their wellbeing and safety;


An understanding that the freedom to choose and hold other faiths and beliefs is protected in law;


8AM said- “We feel that number 4 is more important than the others for people in our country because we have to accept that we have people who live here from other countries.

If it wasn’t protected in law then people would not feel safe expressing their feelings” whilst a couple of forms thought that no 5 was becoming more and more important as we became increasingly more multi-cultural.

An acceptance that other people having different faiths or beliefs to oneself (or having none) should be accepted and tolerated, and should not be the cause of prejudicial or discriminatory behaviour;


Some students felt that the current list of values covered similar values to what they would have chosen If you were to draw up a list of ‘British Values’ would you choose anything different? Why?-whilst interesting additional ‘values’ suggestions included a greater focus on combatting racism, no family in the UK should go hungry and all should have access to food [food banks] 7GT considered the attacks in France and then sir told me that “this came up during out talks about the French attacks. Pupils in my form are torn on the issue of free speech. Many feel that you should be allowed an opinion on anything, this includes religion but many of the form believe there should be a line drawn when people feel discriminated or targeted. They all do however believe that we should be allowed to have a say and opinion over this, as we do naturally and we should be allowed to say it without a risk of violence.”

The discussion focus for the questionDoes your group think that ‘British Values’ are any different to the values other countries may have?-tended to talk about countries who lack many of the rights and freedoms that we take for granted. China and its 1 baby policy was mentioned as was the secret state of North Korea, religious intolerance in Israel and lack of freedom of speech in Russia but more general comments were made about the fact that they felt that we had freedom of choice over religion, we have a separate judiciary and we have a voice. Some other countries they felt were sexist and racist and that in the Middle East some countries lacked respect for women, gave them no clothing rights and discriminated openly against different religions.

As an adult I thought that they might have suggested that many countries had very similar values to us and may question the idea of ‘Britishness’ as unique. They didn’t!

I certainly had no preconceptions on how they would answer my question– Why do you think the government has drawn up a list of BVs? Should schools have to follow this list? I suppose that I believe that they should, as active citizens in a democracy, question what they have been asked to do [apart from when I tell them to put their blazer on-could lead to a serious big question about freedom/rights in school!] so I was interested to see if they had picked up on current political rhetoric. Some felt that the list of values was to keep everyone in order, show what you are supposed to do, to know good/bad or to help us to feel safe and secure. –‘to help us grow up in a happy world and a country without war’. One form said that it was important to know British Values from an early age so that you would be less likely to be racist and another said that schools should follow the guidance to help prepare children for their life ahead.

11AO added that ‘Yes they think these values should be followed in school in order to have a respectful and peaceful learning environment. Whereby everyone feels safe to learn.’ 8HW getting their teeth into the debate suggested that they, ‘didn’t know, what’s the point? Shouldn’t we be learning Maths and English instead? Isn’t it what we learn from our families?’

This wasn’t the first time that I’ve asked the question, what are the most important values Meols Cop should have for our students and staff? , and it won’t be the last. I make no apologies for this-is there a more important question for a school to consider and constantly raise with its own students and wider community? There were a range of answers on a similar theme;

  • Treat everyone as equals.
  • Don’t judge others by their appearance.
  • Students and staff should respect and tolerate the differences in each other, so everyone feels safe and happy at school.
  • Make sure people are fair.
  • Freedom of speech.
  • To feel safe and have access to a good education.
  • Respect the promotion of individuality.
  • Freedom to express ourselves and our values and beliefs-free from discrimination and prejudice.
  • Respect and appreciation of others in the school.
  • Working hard to improve yourselves.
  • Everyone has a say but also having someone in charge.
  • Mutual respect for all – treat others as you would like to be treated.


7ZE took the discussion another way;

7ZE consider the following things to be British:

Proud of WW1 and WW2

Respectful of other faiths/religions


The Queen

Victorian and Tudors – still see the buildings

Fish and Chips, All day breakfasts


Rights to Education, housing

Equal rights for everybody

And Miss E’s favourite…

Top hats, canes and monocles.

It wouldn’t be a student survey if some didn’t mention their own lack of freedom in school! The earring rule probably isn’t about to change but the students have the right to raise their grievances and we need to explain why some of our rules exist.

Interestingly none of the students  mentioned that schools should have the freedom not to teach what they were told e.g. British Values if they didn’t wish to for whatever reason and nor was it easy for them to consider where the lines of freedom should be drawn. Some were uneasy with the cartoons ridiculing religion or any hint of unpleasant words or deeds towards others who were different in race, gender, religion and so on and as 7TE said, ‘it’s a free country, we have many religions and beliefs in Britain and we all need to live happily together’

I did mention on our bulletin that I would share this blog for parents to see today and will add other comments as they are emailed to me. Thank you to all for sharing both personal and group ideas; I’ve enjoyed reading them and hope that the freedom in which each student was allowed to express themselves openly, honestly and without prejudice is something our young adults of the future will always defend and cherish.




CPD-The one where our NQTs did peer assessment

Our NQTs finished their first term at Xmas with Lisa successfully completing her year in October and Toni beginning hers then. They received their additional CPD on Wednesday evenings from a range of colleagues and then were asked to suggest other topics which they wanted to learn more about. Peer assessment [or critique as some call it] and especially peer assessment with our lower ability students came up as a concern. Perhaps that’s my fault for including it and not explaining again for new staff in our recent marking/feedback criteria, book monitoring, DIRT and GM inset and internal blogs-this probably makes it seem for NQTs as though peer assessment has to happen all of the time, with every class and with every learner-it may be the right time to consider its use as an effective learning and teaching strategy.

Sometimes when I’ve had plenty to say or ideas to share on a topic, I don’t necessarily review its effect on learning as quickly as I should or encourage others to do the same. It’s also easy to forget that NQTs may not have ever had a ‘learning conversation’ about different aspects of teaching that more experienced teachers see as the ‘norm’. Examples of peer assessment and research on it appear in our big marking blogs, noticeably these two;

Our original and more recently NQT examples in;

I can’t even remember when we started to ‘do’ peer assessment-perhaps it came with group-work and national strategies, AFL and eventually Ofsted. Like any other teaching strategy it shouldn’t just appear here because Jonesy says so! If done well it’s a difficult teaching strategy to employ-done badly and in haste, because you are worried that MCHS expects you to do it-don’t go there! I do worry about the formulaic approach to teaching that many NQTs come with for whatever reason-experienced teachers here [and leaders] need to model flexibility, adaptability and be able to react to the learning needs presented. There are so many individual and class needs to consider that it’s worth re-considering the big questions below before trialling your ideas in class, measuring the impact and adapting-if you think that peer assessment will be a worthwhile learning activity.

Our session began with quickly completing an A3 sheet to prompt discussion and help me gauge experience and concerns. The research bits were left blank to begin with. Without any prompting from me they jotted down some initial thoughts based on their short experience firstly in their ITT and then in their first term here. Their own experiences are the best place to begin with the most important question to ask of any pedagogy-

  • Does it help learning in your classroom? Followed by;
  • If it doesn’t at the minute but you can see the value of it and want it to work-that’s fine-we can help.
  • If you have tried it, it doesn’t work and you can’t see any value in supporting learning-abandon it or listen to others who have an opposite view-are they right, do you want to see them in action?
  • Has it worked with some and not others-why not-we can help.
  • Have you tried it, adapted it-show and tell us more.
  • Have you observed someone else teaching PA-what did you learn?

PAWe discussed peer assessment in general to begin with and the main positive aspects that they thought of amongst many others were;

  • The students can learn from each other.
  • They can question each other.
  • Encourages team work/confidence.
  • Allows private reflection.
  • Gives insight into other methods of doing something.
  • View common misconceptions.
  • Views from peers might mean more.
  • May take help from peers better than from the teacher.
  • Using the mark schemes reinforced essential learning/knowledge/skills.
  • Extends knowledge/answers

I was interested to see that they didn’t mention PA as a time-saver for marking/fast feedback or its role in growth mind-set/preparing for life but their negative aspects of PA held few surprises.

  • Silly/not useful comments.
  • Time consuming [FS subjects only have 1 lesson a week in KS3]
  • Inaccurate answers-can bring misconceptions rather than stop them.
  • Can cause a lack of confidence when better work is critiqued.
  • They struggle to think of their own questions to raise-some too easy-some too hard
  • Long-winded explanations.

Their specific concerns with low ability students attempting PA [their initial CPD request] focused on;

  • Their difficulty in processing instructions.
  • So much support was needed that learning time was wasted.
  • Does the time spent really help progress?
  • Basic issue of not being able to read each other’s writing.
  • Sometimes it went on for too long and was incomplete anyway.
  • If it worked out to be too complicated that had a knock on effect on behaviour.
  • The quality of the answers and feedback wasn’t always worth it.
  • They found it harder to pick pout the key pints for marks.

We briefly chatted about the use of more able students being linked with students of less ability in both our mixed and set groups-the old stuff about learning by teaching others and that is fine for some occasions but if it is always the case, the learning gain is one-way-the more able need to work with each other to challenge their learning sometimes too whilst students of similar abilities can ‘struggle’ with a problem and have the learning satisfaction of conquering it!

The group decided that teaching peer assessment was different for more reasons than low or high ability-some salient points based on their experience.

  • Different with different ages-more difficult with younger students whilst they learned PA skills. Their first attempts at learning often don’t give feedback that will help learning progress.
  • Low ability sets have less students-smaller numbers make it easier.
  • Higher sets have larger numbers-can make it more difficult but they access the vocabulary more easily.
  • Really makes a big difference at G.C.S.E. level [more later]
  • The amount of lessons per week influences planning.
  • Different in different subjects-PA in MFL is hard to create dialogue, maths use to be marking right or wrong.
  • Some sets and some students are far more amenable to peer interaction of any nature than others! [I wouldn’t attempt PA until I knew the class really well.]

For those who had already attempted a fair bit of peer assessment they had realised quickly that their planning needed to include the following;

  • Specific vocab and structure.
  • Very clear criteria and mark scheme [as student friendly as possible]
  • Clear instructions-what exactly should the students include when assessing or giving feedback.
  • Broken down in stages for the low ability sets.
  • The use of purple pens, EBI, WWW often helps.

We did discuss the semantics involved-they thought that ‘assessment’ sounded more like a tick box approach whereas ‘critique’ suggested a more thoughtful approach with evidence and advice given. It does sound like ‘critic’ to the students but it fits nicely with our GM and perhaps we should use the C word and explain to our classes why we have decided to use it and the more mature approach it expects from learners.

Some of their initial thoughts may have been shaped by what they have read on our shared blogs or at their ITT schools or courses-that’s fine but there are other views and we looked at extracts from 4 different educational books, just skimming and scanning to highlight ideas that might provide solutions or guidance. In the busy school day and after school planning and marking, it isn’t always possible to check out more theoretical ideas as the need to find ready-made resources tends to take precedent. Mixing a bit of both, we moved onwards! Extracts of differing lengths were from; ‘Feedback and Marking’ by Robert Powell, ‘Evidence Based Teaching’ by Geoff Petty, ‘Putting AFL into Practice’ by David Spendlove and ‘Perfect AFL’ by Claire Gadsby.


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We had already considered solutions but were able to add a couple more that they liked.

  • Structures as mentioned previously.
  • Oral rather than written feedback is fine-the learning anticipated may be more to do with communicating ideas rather than imparting knowledge/specific feedback.
  • Simplified criteria tick boxes will support feedback and provide discussion points.
  • Stems need to be in some cases to get the questions/feedback flowing.
  • Colour coordinated is nice!
  • What Petty calls ‘spoof’ feedback-examples to peer critique from other classes/teacher models before using the actual class work-builds confidence. Seen in lots of my observations along with the use of WAGOLLS!
  • Get the students to write their own questions and mark-schemes to use on each other-again observed in more experienced teacher’s lessons and a good ‘un-so much useful learning in this activity.
  • If you like ‘effect size research’-claimed that peer feedback done well has a good impact but done well and done quickly after the initial learning-even better.

The humanities faculty are very keen on their development of peer critique and both Greg and Andy felt that in their G.C.S.E. classes, they could evidence the positive impact of PC especially when the students were giving extra advice to build up answers for the 6 mark questions. The process had helped their students to understand the key marking processes and to see the need to include reasoning to attain top marks. This was becoming embedded as an important teaching tool in KS4 but was more problematic in KS3. Greg had used peer critique to provide feedback to move up the BSG leader and had developed a ‘staged’ approach towards supporting his less able students access PC. Helen had also used very brief PC when her younger classes were working on their BSG but the linguistic barrier to offering target language feedback is a tough one and she will look to the ideas developed by Helen H and Bronagh with their MONSIEUR and SENORITA-explained in the marking blogs and in this blog from exactly 1 year ago.

The difference between ‘assessment’ and ‘critique’ was highlighted by Beth when she explained that she has tried to move beyond right or wrong peer ticking to getting her students to peer critique the processes involved in answering her maths problems and when she plays the maths favourite-‘beat the teacher’ when the sum and working out are given to the class to dissect to find Miss’s mistakes. She will then ask WWW and EBI.

Toni has the unenviable task of taking over, on a maternity cover to begin with, from two more experienced teachers and although we brought her in early to work with Emma before she had her baby, her priority is with year 10 and 11 [hence the very handsome teaching assistant she has in those lessons!] and she has to make the decision of whether or not peer critique is for her at this moment in her fledgling career. If she fancies having a go with KS3, it would make a good joint lesson planning venture and observation or I can model with KS4. The other NQTs because they started earlier are all paired up for lesson study and can work on tricky pedagogy with their partner-Toni might have to end up with me-sorry!

These are some of Greg’s early attempts at PC shared in October as he experimented and trialled ideas. The red comments suggest possible stems the students can use but they would have to explain their chosen sentence and provide an example.

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Red peer critique and feedback given to which the students respond to in purple to increase their score.

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Yesterday’s peer critique with the lowest set in year 7-my advice is to add a section where the student respond to the peer critique by agreeing/disagreeing/pinching ideas.

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Beth shared her examples below and explained her thinking for us-this is a really important process for her to develop, important for me to see it happening and important for any teacher to respond to the learning as it unfolds. Our lesson study encourages anticipation of the learning that may happen and planning for it/or for anticipated misconceptions. Learning isn’t an exact science like this and there is an excitement [ok despair sometimes!] when the students throw spanners into our planned works and we use our skill to react and adapt-NQTs have to learn this quickly!

The explanations are Beth’s words.

I first trialled peer-assessment with my year 9 class in the autumn term, during the previous lessons we has been working on finding prime factors and then using them to find LCM and HCF. They had had quite a bit of practice on this so we started the lesson with them answering a question in their own books.


They then swapped books and we discussed the key processes of answering a question on HCF and LCM as there were several stages to go through. (See below)


We then practised peer-assessing my attempt at answering the question. I deliberately left some of the steps out in order for us to discuss improvements. We came up with What Went Well (WWW) and what could have been done better. (EBI)

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The pupils were then asked to do the same with their peer’s work. They had to identify which of the key steps their peer had done well, and then had to suggest an improvement for their work.

I feel the lesson helped us to really “home in” on the key steps to answering a question on LCM and HCF.

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After our discussion at the meeting last night I also tried a similar technique with year 7 this afternoon.

They had been working on the topic of angles in parallel lines for a lesson or two and were comfortable with answering standard questions on this topic. To stretch them I gave them a problem solving question which required them to give a proof (shown in book below)

I then allowed the class to attempt to answer the question, they then swapped books and we discussed the key processes of answering the question.

I then asked them to give their peer one WWW and one EBI. They had to state which of the processes their peer had managed to do. And then give one way to improve their work. (A lot of the class needed to add in a final sentence to complete the proof).

Again I think our discussion as a class and the peer assessment helped them to recognise the key steps in answering a longer “proof” question like this and showed them the importance of giving reasons for their answers.

I’m hoping to give them the second proof to answer next lesson, and see if they are able to give an improved answer to this second question as a result of the peer assessment.

Pictures below, pupils answer the problem in their coloured pens, peer-assessment is done in purple.

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Me again!

I had already invited those who could to see me modelling peer critique with my very low ability year 8 class and low-middle ability year 8 class. I discussed in our humanities blog [above] that ability shouldn’t be a barrier to any teaching tactics that I think will support and move learning on. Peer interaction of any kind offers vital communication opportunities which some of our students find difficult so I’m always keen for them to maturely talk to each other about their learning and to compromise and learn from others. The criteria for the critique/discussion, I thought offered access to all of my students and I’m quite happy to see lots of talk and not much writing. I’m lucky enough to have 2 TAs with one class to help with any writing or other worries the students may have. Some are fearful of sharing their work, some have learning needs-Asperger’s, dyslexia, hearing, EAL etc. which make written or oral responses difficult and stressful BUT as their mind-set develops they will have a go for me! [As they suck their lollies!]

I was keen to model peer verification-our idea of trying to make peer critique more accurate by adding in a 2nd assessor [and make the feedback and discussion have more body to it] and wanted to also show the key element, often missed, of going back to the original self-assessor and asking if they agreed with the advice given and had they changed their original views as a result of the critique. Both classes critiqued posters they had made so it will be sometime before I come back to the advice given and check that it has been acted upon in the next piece of similar learning.

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The volcano one allows ticks for 3 sections, if need be and the TAs and myself ran round to see if those who ticked could justify their choice. Others were happy to write short sentences and in our class discussion they agreed that it had been a pleasant experience that they could access and understand, although a couple refused point blank to consider that the peer assessor’s views were worthy of their consideration! It was a start.

I was almost ready to send the blog out to everyone when I paused to visit Sophie’s drama lesson to informally peer observe with Katrina the second in a series of ideas Sophie is using for her NPQML project. The girls involved are high flying year 11 students who find self-evaluation and peer critique stimulating and worthwhile-they can see how it is helping their examination grades approach their targeted A/A*. I will have the pictorial evidence newt week but Sophie was allowing her peer student critique to follow our own guidelines for feedback-make the students think, more work for them than us, re-draft to excellent before Miss sees it-in that when they peer critiqued an exam answer, they used dot marking to indicate where they thought there was a gap in the answer and they also had to highlight key words [the top 5 drama exam response words] and mark out of 10 according to the mark scheme. Homework was for the students to look at the peer critique they had received, look at the placement of the dots and figure out what they had missed. They then had to re-draft for next lesson and for the peer to check again to see that their feedback had been met and then the books would be ready for Miss to mark. I’m looking forward to seeing the various stages in action!

The series of New Year blogs are all about taking a brief pause and reflecting on practice and development as teachers and leaders;

  • Where are we at with our CPD and appraisal targets-what has our experience in the autumn term taught us that we need PPD with.
  • As I’m collating this blog of shared ideas, I’m simultaneously compiling a post on where we are up to with growth-mind-set and our methods of embedding it further and asking the students how it has helped them [plus questions on marking and other initiatives] Not sure which one will be finished first!
  • By the end of January I will have shared an uber blog of all of your latest best marking practice gleaned from book monitoring and the next couple of directed time faculty meetings.
  • Probably by next week I will have shared our whole school survey on British values/our own school values to help us to take stock of what our students think about a national discussion.
  • Internally, not for external eyes, I shared our support staff ‘Magic Moments’ of last term-important for them to reflect too and for all of us to share and value their contributions.
  • By half-term, I will have probably shared your latest lesson study research and have built in directed time to allow some of this to happen-but never enough time!

It’s important not just for our NQTs but for all of us that we try to honestly self-evaluate our teaching and leadership. Seeking feedback and advice on how to teach or lead better should be a non-negotiable aspect of working at our school as should always thinking if my students aren’t getting this-how can I change and approach it differently. If our new colleagues want to take on peer critique-bring it on and we can all help at the time chosen by them as the most appropriate in their NQT learning curve.





Meols Cop Mind Set Stars

Meols Cop Mind Set Stars-is growth mind set making a difference to learning and teaching?

On our Xmas bulletin,

students and parents were given the following message:


Our Progress Stars have become a huge success since we introduced those 3 years ago. Over 800 have been sent home and appeared on the bulletin since this term began in September! They have become part of the fabric of our building and it’s wonderful to see so many names on the posters around school and to receive so many positive comments from home in praise of our initiative-thank you to everybody who has contributed to their success.

In January, the focus will change slightly with teachers and support staff being asked to look out for the attributes we associate with being a really good Meols Cop learner. Students need to be aware of these and remind their teachers if they think they have fulfilled one of the criteria and deserve recognition.

These are the MCMS Star attributes we will be rewarding;

  • Students who have achieved above their targets.
  • Students who have deliberately taken on a demanding challenge.
  • Students who have accepted honest, critical feedback and improved their learning.
  • Students who have re-drafted work to make it ‘excellent’.
  • Student who have responded to feedback with a specific plan and successfully achieved what was suggested.
  • Students who have given really effective peer critique with clear explanations about how to improve.
  • When the going gets tough; students who get going!
  • Students who always try to persevere with a difficult question or concept without, asking for help after 10 seconds! [0B4ME!]
  • Students who have gone out of their way to help others and who enjoy others achieving success.
  • Students who may have been feeling low and who have gradually, with patient support, begun to feel more positive.
  • Students who have tried their best when faced with a significant learning barrier and want to overcome it by chipping away with marginal gains.
  • Students who have self-analysed their own performance, decided it wasn’t good enough and improved through their own hard work.
  • Students who turn up to classes and are always positive and respond to ‘yet!’-there are lots of them.
  • Students who have asked for extra work and advice or attended extra lessons.
  • Students who always produce home-learning to the best of their ability because they know that practice at home helps them improve.
  • Students who always turn up for practices and rehearsals because they want to improve and seek excellence in everything they do.

Any more you can think of!

Developing a growth mind-set to help our students acquire attributes which we believe will support their learning at MCHS and beyond, has been a key aspect of our blogs this school year. The initiative has been drip-fed since September, although many aspects are as old as our school, and I’ve shared our ‘propaganda’ posters, early classroom examples and philosophy of staff GM in these posts.

The problem with initiatives, apart from having too many at once, is that often some of the wonderful ideas I spot on blogs and in educational literature are only followed by the person themselves or just a few colleagues. For whatever reason their great idea hasn’t been successfully ‘sold’ to others and hasn’t become part of the whole school ethos/accepted good practice. Without relentless pushing and monitoring, many ideas fizzle out and colleagues always gleefully recall failed initiatives-even within faculties or year teams! To be successful, an initiative has usually to be something that all at school value and can see the worth in, [they may have devised it themselves e.g. learning and teaching policy] it is clearly understood by students, parents and staff and is accessible to all. There are times when initiatives have to happen that may not be universally popular but school leaders feel are for the benefit of the school/students-a test of leadership skills but if leaders have built up the trust of colleagues, hopefully they will go with you in the belief that you haven’t messed up with too many other ill-conceived initiatives and ideas! Sometimes I dip my toes in and see how the tide is flowing e.g. Solo taxonomy, which I quite like and introduced 3 years ago on September inset-a couple of colleagues loved it, for others it was an initiative too far and at that point I prioritised marking and feedback as being a more appropriate focus-doesn’t mean I won’t return to it! For others such as Behaviour for Learning, the 6Cs, non-grading of lessons, lesson study and marking/feedback-I genuinely believed that they had to happen to move learning and teaching here upwards and onwards. I will try to persuade, explain, justify and will actively seek out areas of potential opposition, concern whilst also seeking out areas of great practice to share how, whatever initiative it is, looks when it is working well! I will model the idea for others to see as much as I can do-if we share marking-mine must be there-if we peer observe ideas-I must offer to be observed teaching and so on.

If the initiative is to have an impact on learning and teaching [no point introducing it if it doesn’t!] I will monitor the impact, ask questions of all and change the thrust if students/teachers tell me that there is minimal impact on their learning/teaching or some aspects are working better than others. I might have to swallow my pride and change completely [I didn’t say give up!!] and it is important that I’m seen to listen and react to professional consensus. For any new CPD/initiatives it’s crucial that as a staff we get used to trialling, assessing the impact, adapting, trialling again, sharing the successes and adaptations [and reasons] with colleagues, assess again etc.-If I stand up and talk about this type of professional development [see our last blog] I have to model it myself. My ideas have failed many times in the classroom or as a leader-[Flight Path didn’t take off as I wanted!] but for younger teachers, failure can be a bitter pill at first and we need to prepare them to use their mistakes, and even encourage them-concurrent theme through many of the blogs-teacher growth


My other SLT colleagues are positive Rottweiler’s with their initiatives and once they go for an idea, they chase and support relentlessly and gain respect as they go. If I mentioned the BSG assessment system and the school reporting system as they are recently in our minds-you’ll get the gist! It’s tough as a middle leader to get everyone to agree and follow an agreed format-for an SLT initiative to work you have to consider 100 adults, 750 students, their parents and sometimes the wider community. I hope that I can wind hearts and minds with our GM push and after a term of introductory ideas/great examples and watching for initial reactions, I’m moving up a gear of trying to make the concept an integral part of our learning and teaching psyche. I knew when our 6C [whole school competencies] had made an impact when in student surveys asking about great learning characteristics, they began to tell me the names of our Cs as desirable elements and similarly when the staff devised their ‘Meols Cop Way’  of learning and teaching-the Cs were there again. The Cs had been shared via assemblies, form-time activities, parental information, appeared on lesson planning sheets, used in activity weeks, surveyed and so on until everybody used them and they assumed value and credibility. I would hope that similar tactics will work equally well with GM and that students will see the value of it and tell me and that teachers will include it in their desirable lesson characteristics to be discussed in summer.

The bulletin article begins the next step of embedding GM. Our Progress Stars have proved to be incredibly successful and popular-the school is covered in posters sharing the names of students who have worked well in their lessons with specific learning reasons and 1000s of postcards have gone home to celebrate the learning progress made. The message is loud and clear-learning and progress are good, achievable by all and are celebrated here! I want the same to happen with the GM message. I do rely on teachers sending me the names of students and giving very specific reasons for their qualification to be a MCMS Star-hence the detailed list to choose from-and then then our office staff write up the bulletin names and send postcards home whilst I produce and stick the posters up. The new postcard is this and will have details of the student and their GM achievement on the back.


The same information will appear on the bulletins for all to see and they go home electronically each week [or on paper] Further posters have been placed in the dining room of the criteria so that the students can see what is happening whilst year 7 will have MCMS explained in Monday’s assembly. They are our target group for more intensive GM!

On today’s bulletin, the first mind-set names appeared to get 2015 learning off to a great start. They included;

Kieran Bradshaw, Micha Williams and Jessica Dewhurst for coming along to maths clinic on a number of occasions to seek help with maths homework in order to complete it to the best of their ability.

Malika Guenini has asked for advice on her science homework and for revision for her test. Sat in my room during several lunch times to work, without me asking her to.

Shakil Zaman and Craig Black for showing great perseverance during textiles lessons to over-come the challenges of hand sewing.

Natalia Reczulska or accepting challenges in textiles and developing her hand and machine sewing to a high level of accuracy

Natasha Polansky for always turning up to maths with a positive attitude and always trying her best with a number of difficult topics. Natasha never gives up!

Jack Dahl – 8.3 Science – When the going gets tough, students who get going! On the last day before Christmas, when he’d been off all week because he was ill and still wasn’t fully better, he sat at the back of the class and completed his end of term test even whilst the whole class were doing a fun game.

Eve Lancaster – Art – Eve always comes to Art with a positive attitude and willingness to learn new techniques. Her enthusiasm is infectious.

Lewis Taylor – 8.3 Science – Students who have tried their best when faced with a large learning barrier and want to beat it by chipping away with marginal gains. Didn’t achieve a Bronze first time around in his test, but by slowly working through the questions he eventually achieved it.

Samantha Halloran Smith, Lalibela Bolton, Bella Kenyon, India Clark, Hollie Power, Amy Redman and Molly Crawford will often stay behind at break or lunchtimes to discuss additional questions beyond the syllabus just because they are interested and really want to do well in science.

Tom Mitchell, Daniel Powell and Luke Ashton are really keen and have a super enthusiastic attitude. They go over past papers and mark schemes so they can see how to answer GCSE questions.

Caris Dixon finds the mathematical side of science challenging, but she is coming to intervention sessions and won’t give up – she is determined to achieve.

Erin Thornton, although she missed a lot of work from the Physics unit, she still chose to sit the end of unit test and did really well. Attempted all questions, even when they were difficult.

Charlotte Tye always attempts the questions first before she asks me. When I check it for her, she’s normally right!

Kayleigh Hayes will readily ask support and attend extra lessons and shows pleasing progress in her artwork.

Katie Macdonald came to extra science revision lessons and it proved successful – she met her target in her most recent assessment.

Louise Humphries completes all work to a beautiful standard and never gives up, even when she finds it difficult.

Nathan Beard arrives at art and is always positive. Completes all work to a high quality standard and never gives up, even when he finds it difficult.

Kyle Bell has identified the topics he makes silly errors on and has attended revision after school to improve his knowledge on these areas.

Students who always try themselves to stick at a difficult question/concept:

Yr 11 Megan Harrison

Yr 10 Ellie McKinnon, Emma Gratton, Kimberley Hickey and Fraser Anderson

Yr 9 Lee Brothers, James Ray and Rachael Connell

Yr 8 Jimmy Rimmer, Erin Sharrock-Ingleby, Amelia Cummins, Michael Hignett, Emily Allen and Xloe Johnson

Yr 7 Ellis Baker, Charlotte Maher, Millie Buckley

Students who have gone out of their way to help others and who enjoy others being


Yr 11 Liam Evans and Daniel Wilcox

Yr 10 Katie Howard

Yr 9 Dylan Burrows and Owen Taylor

Yr 8 Antonia Hirons, Ellie Homewood, Macy Mordey and Alex Mackey

Yr 7 Bekki Hayes, Jasmine Hitchcock and David Keenan

Students who may have been down and who have gradually, with patient support, began to feel more positive:

Yr 11 Maisie Kewin, Laura Redman and Romana Lloyd-Drummond

Yr 10 Alex Matthews

Yr 9 Megan Flint

Yr 8 Callum Hughes and Natasha Polansky

Students who have asked for extra work/advice/attend extra lessons:

Yr 11 Abigail Knapton, Caitlin Richards and Natalie Birch

Yr 10 Alex Matthews, Emily Telford and Elle Massam

Yr 9 Carli Jackson and Megan Flint

Yr 8 Natasha Polansky

I do want the students to be able to talk about the initiative to me-I don’t have actual proof [I’ve just failed no 1 on the educational research criteria!] just an old professional gut feeling that the more we expect our students to talk about their learning-the better learners they become-and will use our Learning Walks to interview students from across all ages and abilities and from every teacher. These have become an important source of student voice for me and I’m able to use what our ‘punters’ tell me to inform their teachers [and the whole school community] about the impact of their strategies and to monitor whatever I am asking about. I’m aware that Learning Walks are not universally popular in many schools and are often seen as management hit squad visits-unannounced drop ins followed by feedback. I’m sure many aren’t like this and are used in a developmental way-I prefer either informal drop-ins to look for ‘Magic Moments’ or organised up-front professional dialogue! Ours interview 4 students [not the teacher] who the teacher chooses to talk to me and the questions are known at least a month in advance. I tell the teachers in advance which lesson I’m going to ask for students from and the student responses are returned to the teacher [for their professional portfolio] and to the faculty leader. I write both faculty and whole school reports and feedback so that we can then discuss the research and use it to inform our next moves. I think that this is perhaps the 4th or 5th year of my ‘walking’ and although staff were suspicious at first [I think because they don’t always tell me!] and wondered what I was up to; I hope now that they can see the value of Learning Walks, the MCHS way, and their place with surveys and other student voice activities.

My questions this year were on the Xmas bulletin for students and parents to see and I’ll visit every classroom before half-term. The presentation went to all staff to show in form or class as appropriate.

03 04 05 06

The questions cover more than GM, although adults in school need a positive mind-set of their own to listen to and act upon student views. This can be controversial if mishandled-I have every faith that my colleagues are dedicated and excellent classroom practitioners-we appointed them and we have developed them-blame Alison and myself if they aren’t; however student views of their teaching, like peer critique, can be based on false premises and concepts of what great teaching should look like. As much as we try to develop student knowledge of desirable learning characteristics, they sometimes struggle to articulate their views on teaching beyond ‘fun’ and ‘kind’-they have probably had ‘learning should be fun’ shoved at them for some time and can’t be blamed for repeating it or perhaps suggesting the teacher doesn’t appeal to their particular learning style! Having issued a cautionary note, I still do believe that we should ask their opinions on very specific learning and teaching issues to develop their own ‘learnish’ [language of learning] and to inform us if our ideas are effective for the individuals interviewed. It would be nonsensical to carry on with a strategy that they tell us doesn’t help their learning or not to listen when they recommend a strategy that another teacher uses. The majority of questions are about their own learning strengths and weaknesses and ask for areas of difficulty so their teacher can respond if necessary. I hope that we have created a learning environment for both students and adults where we can openly question and talk about our learning, teaching and leadership without any fear and with a honest ambition to do so simply because we all want to learn from each other and be the best students, teachers, support staff and school that we can be-Meols Cop Mind-Set in action!

Old dogs have to learn new tricks! Historians and numeracy.

Lesson observations begin this week with half of my colleagues involved in a lesson study project and the others preparing for their developmental observation with their line-manager based on their chosen subject specific ‘great teaching’ pedagogy. I’ll feedback magic moments and ideas I spot over the next few weeks in our winter blogs.

It’s my favourite time of year when I spend most of my time observing superb professionals at their very best either teaching or feeding back their advice to support the development of each other. For a dour Manc with a black sense of Shameless humour, I get remarkably excited, emotional and almost crack a smile during this fest of learning and teaching. I doubt colleagues feel the same way! Although our observations are as kind to teachers as observations possibly can be, they understandably still get anxious and worried, despite the constant informal sharing/drop-ins that happen to support the whole process.

I was actually a tad nervous myself today when Beth, our maths NQT, popped in to observe me with year 8. She, like all of our NQTs, is a superb teacher in the making and I felt that it might be useful if I threw in a bit of numeracy for her in my history lesson. I’ve already had Marion and Andy looking at me trying to help low ability students retain knowledge so hey ho-bring on numeracy! My advice to all colleagues is; should they be using literacy or numeracy in their lessons, and aren’t sure of the skill-go and ask one of our English or maths teachers for some advice. Check if they have covered the topic yet and check if they have a particular way of teaching it so the students aren’t confused by another methodology [usually based on one you learned yourself at school!]

I broke my own rule for today’s lesson-I’ve used graphs many times in geography and integrated humanities/community studies [do you remember them!] and have used them in English to transcribe in to words. I’ve also observed so many graph lessons in maths and science of different types that I felt confident, even in front of a maths teacher! The graphs were pretty simple anyway and by the time we had got DIRTy, assessed a bit of learning and had a few motivational quotes, experience told me that the students would be on fire and ready to take on the graph challenge. Or so I thought! I began to get slightly cold feet in the morning when Miss Ashton called me in to her lesson to hear her maths students tell me how much they had been learning. Some of them were my historians and when I mentioned the afternoon’s lesson I heard, “I’m allergic to graphs”, “I can’t do graphs”-and this was just the teacher!

Of course it’s a good thing to see the old deputy struggle and fail when he is teaching for the NQTs-great example of growth mind set, Carole Dweck may say-she ain’t teaching the lesson though! I had listened to Jen, our maths subject leader, telling the year 8 parents last week on information evening to be as positive as they could about maths. I couldn’t let her down!


No chickening out then and it was a strange start to the lesson. The week before we had completed an assessment on mill children using 5 different sources.


I had marked the work and found that most of the students tended to base their answer on reliability/truth on their own knowledge and had missed the opportunity to add their comments on the purpose of the writer/illustrator of the source. My DIRT questions focused on “why might the author of the source be lying/not telling the whole truth?” etc. The picture was borrowed from an excellent Durrington High School blog I had sent to fellow historians.


The students without fuss began to answer the posed questions but 3 of them had missed the original assessment task, 2 were missing due to planting remembrance trees, 1 was at piano lessons, 1 was going to have to leave to attend her piano lesson and 1 had a dentist’s appointment in half an hour-be flexible David and don’t worry about the mess this will make on the intervention tracking sheets when you try to work out their BSG progress!


Most of the class were between bronze and silver with their limited original answers and DIRT allowed them to give another piece of evidence to add to their finished piece of excellence and improve their BSG. We looked at this new picture of an old favourite I’d found over the weekend. Duck or rabbit, the optical illusion message is to look for as much as possible in our sources-a first look isn’t enough-what is hiding that will be revealed during a 2nd, 3rd or 4th look. Just see the duck of knowledge and you may get a D for G.C.S.E, search for the rabbit of purpose/author reliability and you’ll achieve considerably more-cheesy but you get the gist!


We looked at some other key learning progress measures on our Self-Review sheet including descriptions of the key characteristics of the period [from memory] that we have covered, chose 10 key words to spell and saw that we needed to have a look at change and continuity to complete our assessment. Our graphs would certainly look at aspects of change. 2 shown below.


Beth was available to help if they got stuck and to advise me on key words the mathematicians favour to describe graphs. I explained how useful graphs could be to historians, giving us so much easily accessible information in 1 graph, with the World War 2 graph.


To counteract any potential negativity about graphs I’d used a slide with a sweet dog practising catching a ball. [From my GM assembly] One of the students had to naturally make it work for me!


We got the mini-whiteboards out and they had to suggest how we should mark their answers. I soon realised that quite a few thought that I wanted them to answer the questions-perhaps I hadn’t explained clearly enough. I shared my criteria that we would use to peer mark and just had time to attempt one of the graphs of their choice. Nothing remarkable but a clear guide, I thought to interpreting historical graphs for lower ability students and my attempt to make sure that they covered all the details that my colleagues keep telling me that they miss out later in G.C.S.E. answers in every subject costing them vital marks/grades.


I talked briefly with them to elicit some positive/negative possibilities but wanted to see what they could do before, in the next lesson, gathering good responses from them to help each other aim for excellence.



You can see from these 5 answer cards that these students had got the trend and Beth’s suggested key descriptive maths words-risen, increased and apart from 1 gave the correct numerical information. I wanted to see the power of their thinking, rather than powers of recall so wasn’t sure how they would answer the positive/negative aspect-this is something to discuss next week and I noticed that 1 confused England with the UK-they often do [as do some politicians!]

It isn’t easy for a young teacher to feed back to their deputy head and to give me honest feedback-some of my older colleagues, in the maths faculty would relish the opportunity! I asked that Beth consider our usual feedback questions and asked for specific numeracy advice [which I should have asked for before!]

Hope it was useful to see me-chance for you to give me feedback now based on what we do after normal obs!

Which bits did you enjoy/could borrow?

What was your favourite learning moment?

Did I miss any learning opportunities? Did you spot anything that the students hadn’t grasped or I didn’t explain well enough?

What advice could you give me to make my teaching of graphs better!!

Beth responded quickly and I admit that I teased her and asked if she was frightened to criticise me. Giving feedback is a really difficult skill, I’ve written about it before and it’s a CPD issue on its own. My expectation of all of our staff is that we ALL become coaches and mentors for each other and that we learn from observing experienced colleagues ‘on the hoof’ as they give feedback-often me, if I can get into the observations, or another colleague. Professionally we have a responsibility to each other to provide and accept honest criticism and I want our NQTs to participate in this approach as soon as they can. I know that many schools employ coaches or use ‘outstanding’ teachers [a divisive term if ever there was one!]to observe and support development but we are a small school of 60 teachers-why wouldn’t we want ALL of our staff to learn coaching skills and to help themselves and others become better teachers?

Thanks so much for letting me come in. I did find it very useful, and enjoyed getting a bit of history lesson myself!

I really liked where you asked the pupils how they thought they were going to be marked, I know a few of them thought you were asking them to answer the question, but for others I thought it was a great way to get them focused on “what would make a good answer to this”. I would definitely use this with some of my classes. Perhaps when answering longer, problem type questions for KS3 or 4/5 mark GCSE questions for KS4. I would ask them “what do we think each of these 5 marks are awarded for?” In a sense they are getting a chance to write the mark scheme for a question. Perhaps I could then get them to peer-assess each other’s answers afterwards. This would give them a chance at playing 3 roles: “mark scheme writer”, “pupil”, and “examiner/marker”, and could help to improve exam technique when answering longer questions.

Favourite learning moment: DIRT time – showing them how they could move from bronze to silver and silver to gold with a few small steps. Thought this really helped to underline the idea of marginal gains and GMS.

Graphs – thought they did really well on that, despite them saying beforehand that they couldn’t do maths! One pupil even mentioned the actual difference between the two populations. He wrote “the population in 1914 was about 31million more than it was in 1751”. Which demonstrates him interpreting the data even further which was great to see.

Thanks again for letting me come and watch, I thoroughly enjoyed it!

I did miss some opportunities, especially when we were filling in our review sheet-I was speeding through and afterwards I realised that my planning didn’t allow me to think as deeply as I might have done. Planning is everything-there have been some lively discussions around the issue and I can accept that too much gets you shattered before you even get to the classroom. I also have to be careful and remember that I do not teach a full timetable before I’m reminded! We have a massive amount of information on the learning needs of our students and I make myself aware of what is said BUT I like to see the students in action to make my mind up as to how I can focus on any specific learning needs. As I only see them every week and don’t do assessments every week, I learn a little bit more each lesson. I do need to see them ‘fail’ sometimes to make my own diagnosis so therefore have to encourage a classroom environment where that is fine to happen and where we will work out our individual ‘marginal gain’ to move learning forward. We discussed the Sutton Report at subject leaders last week and the independent learning issues raised is something we will return to and seek further evidence, both externally and internally, on.

What I am sure of, is that if this would have been a lesson study lesson, I think this old dog would have learnt plenty of new tricks! To be fair I’m not sure that numeracy in history would have been my choice of research-perhaps part of a broader low ability interpretation of data/sources-but if it had been; planning beforehand in collaboration with Beth would have helped me find out about different methodology I could trial and test the impact of, she would have been able to see what I was trying to do through the eyes on a non-historian-others have told me how useful it is to have to explain to me as a non-expert [so like one of the students!] what they are thinking to see if I understand and, of course, to bounce ideas of another teacher and to talk about whether my challenge was appropriate enough. By concentrating on the 3 students only and their specific needs and considering how they might react differently to my tactics, I really do think [and I thought about it all night!] that I would have taught the graph section much better-realising how learning barriers might make the numeracy part tricky and without the knowledge [or us going over it again in more detail] to provide enough evidence to show the impact on the UK of the trends on the graphs. I might even have had the IRIS cameras there! The potential of lesson study in developing our teachers is immense and thus improving the learning for our students.

Of course this type of conversation can only happen when grading and pressure to perform doesn’t get in the way. Yesterday whilst I was happily performing, my partner was feeding back with an Ofsted inspector in her school in Special Measures. She was planning lessons at 4.30 this morning and in school by 6.00. Alison was telling me on gate-duty earlier that in recent local inspections, despite Ofsted declaring that this won’t happen-observed teachers were told “in old terms this would have been…” and received terms such as “strong” In the afternoon, colleagues from other schools [at a meeting ironically about lesson study] were telling me that opposition to stop using 1 off lesson grades came from within their own teaching staff.

Perhaps some other old dogs should stop barring their teeth and learn new tricks of development and support, before we lose more good teachers-simply no need for this behaviour. Grrrr!