Category Archives: Our school learning journey to a nice Ofsted!

Ashes to Ashes Part 2

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From primary school to grammar school-from mixed cricket gear to all white! Still the same game though even if I was carrying a little more hair this time. Note the badge on my sweater -that was for winning the trophy I was holding in Part 1-the Denton Primary Schools Cricket Championship-I still have it! I began Ashton u Lyne Grammar school in short pants in 1969 and left in 1976 with platform shoes, 32” parallel trousers and Noddy Holder sideburns ready for Sheffield University. My mum went to the R.S.P.C.A. the day after and got herself a dog to replace me-probably a fair swap! Part 2 of Ashes to Ashes is a short version of a discussion document the staff received which included all of the latest Ofsted information and some comments about the changing local and national school situation and the future of local authorities and community schools. Bit heavy going so I’ve chopped those aspects to tell you about some of the ideas that are currently in action at school or will shortly be discussed.

Quality of teaching-evaluating the contribution of ALL

I’ve written about how lesson observations have been evolving since 2005 and moving towards a system of discussions about the learning rather than an emphasis on grades. When Ofsted visit they ask to see a list of all the observation grades over the last 3 years for each individual teacher, want to know how the observations have been used to determine pay, what has been done to support those who haven’t scored well as well as having the overall exam results, residuals and data to determine whether or not the teaching is making a positive impact on students attainment and progress. The one –off lesson assumed an importance [and thus stress level] out of all proportion to the hundreds of other lessons that teachers teach. The Super Teacher quiz I explained in September’s blog and talked about at the North West teachmeet was an early testing of the water. http://blog.meolscophighschool.co.uk/?p=69

I want to develop a far more detailed and fairer method of evaluating each individual’s contribution to the ‘quality of teaching’ within the school and have been thinking along the lines of a document which encompasses the key criteria of;

NQTs

Key QT driver
Lesson observations
CPD
Collaboration-learning
Collaboration-teaching
Leadership
Book monitoring
Other contributions

 

Emerging teachers 2-5 years, progress managers, subject leaders

Lesson observations
CPD
Collaboration-learning
Collaboration-teaching
Leadership
Book monitoring
Exam residuals
Appraisal targets
Other contributions

 

Time would be given to complete the evidence and provide a portfolio [as we do already with CPD] and each area would be differentiated as appropriate to experience and role. For example here are different versions of ‘lesson observation’ for an NQT, an emerging teacher and a subject leader. Key descriptors would be highlighted and evidenced and I would be ready to present the evidence to any external visitor. The words in italics represent leadership skills.

 

Key QT driver Developing Developed Aspirational
Lesson observations One lesson obs at least every half-term   with feedback given.  Advice given has   been acted on-examples please. Mixture of classes observed-examples please.   Teaching standards met and verified-successful NQT year! Lesson plan produced –all key areas   verified by observer. Each lesson observed has shown teaching skill   development based on advice, informal observations etc.-examples please. Which areas of your teaching skills do   you want to focus on next year?Are there any types of classes,   students that you will meet that will bring a new challenge? How can we help?

 

Key QT driver Developing Developed Aspirational
Lesson observations Two formal lesson obs every year   [unless others are required] with feedback given-1 with the line-manager and   one peer. Triads in most cases. Mixture of classes observed-examples please.   What were the key criteria points for exceptional teaching that was chosen?   Which predicted learning outcomes were different than you expected-why?   Advice given has been acted on-examples please. What was the biggest risk you   took in your lesson obs? What happened! Lesson plan produced –all key areas   verified by observer. Each lesson observed has shown teaching skill   development based on advice from the last observation and have met the   appraisal targets.Which areas of the subject specific   criteria that you are weakest at, have you been working on-any measured   impact yet? Which areas of your teaching skills do   you want to focus on next year?Are there any types of classes,   students that you will meet that will bring a new challenge? How can we help?

 

Key QT driver Developing Developed Aspirational
Lesson observations Two formal lesson obs every year   [unless others are required] with feedback given-1 with the line-manager and   one peer. Triads in most cases. Mixture of classes observed-examples please.What were the key criteria points for   exceptional teaching that was chosen?Which predicted learning outcomes were   different than you expected-why?Advice given has been acted on-examples   please. What was the biggest risk you took in your lesson obs? What happened!Who did you formally observe?What feedback/advice did you   give?

How will you check that it   has been met and supported?

Have you shared any of the   good practice you observed?

Lesson plan produced –all key areas   verified by observer. Each lesson observed has shown teaching skill   development based on advice from the last observation and have met the   appraisal targets.Which areas of the subject specific   criteria that you are weakest at, have you been working on-any measured   impact yet?After the lesson   observations, did you feedback and develop any responses to great practice or   concerns that you observed? [individual or faculty]

 

 

Which areas of your teaching skills do   you want to focus on next year? 

 

 

 

 

 

Which areas of the faculty   learning and teaching skills do you need to develop next-why and what are   your initial plans?

Success criteria?

 

Each area has its own set of developed, developing, aspirational criteria thus I can look at all the areas and work out strengths, weakness and contributions far more accurately and fairly than a few lesson grades! The staff hasn’t seen this yet-it’s just a taster and so for Progress Mangers, this is their criteria for ‘learning’ Plenty of discussion to come!

Collaboration-learning Which lessons have you informally   observed? What did you hope to gain from these obs? What were the key   learning points you gathered from these? Which target groups did you aim your   hub resources/ideas at? Why? Which ideas/resources have you ‘borrowed’ from   colleagues and who did you target them at/why?How have you tracked learning   progress of your students? 

How have you supported the   learning of students in your year group who have fallen behind their targets   for 1] academic reasons, 2] behavioural reasons, 3] attendance reasons, 4]   any other reasons-please explain and explain how you prioritised your   intervention.

How have you tracked and   monitored the learning of the cohorts in your year-any interventions   required?

Have you been able to use the   flight paths to support conversations re learning?

What did you try out in your lessons as   a result of informal lesson obs?What was the impact on learning and how   did you measure it?What was the impact on learning in your   lessons of any hub/borrowed ideas? What is your evidence? Any specific   groups/cohorts of learners?Have you managed to share any of your   ideas in any forum?Can you provide evidence of   the impact of your intervention on student learning? [prioritised students]Can you provide evidence of   the impact of your intervention with students in any cohort?

How actively have you been   able to support generic learning and teaching issues in assemblies, parental   engagement etc.? Please explain and provide evidence of your impact.

How will you take your lesson study   forward to develop your ideas further? Which aspects of our collaborative   work do you need support with or need more of? 

 

Is the intervention process   working for you-how can you adapt it to suit your purposes-what can we do to   support you?

 

Collaboration-where next?

 

In Part 1, I stressed the power of collaboration in shaping learning and teaching here and naturally most of it involved our own teachers supporting each other. We were trying out lots of different ideas and occasionally we would correspond with other schools but the business of Meols Cop was Meols Cop and we had to get it right internally before offering to support others. Since Ofsted we have opened our doors to many schools and I wrote previously of the benefits of this;

“Contact with other schools has confirmed our own practice and given opportunities to our own staff to reflect on their practice and to prioritise the key drivers behind outstanding schools and the transferrable nature of those drivers to others who wish to transform their schools. Potential leaders have emerged after our observation of how colleagues have prepared and have presented their own practice and that of the department and students. This has helped us at a crucial time in the school’s development as we seek to sustain and develop our own leadership capacity and succession planning.

Our students too have benefitted from the chances to speak to visitors-their own language of learning has improved and after making a huge impact on visitors we realised that we should develop student leadership even more. In fact, the visits have helped us to tighten areas that we know will be under scrutiny-the spotlight of other school’s perceptions of our practice has highlighted any issues that are lacking in rigour or not sufficiently supported by evidence of impact.”

The only problem was that our own staff wasn’t able to get out enough to learn from others-we can use conferences, courses and blogs etc. but we need to visit best practice too and learn from the best schools in the country. Joining Leading Edge and NTEN will hopefully help us-we have quite an inexperienced staff that is keen to soak up ideas and need a change from listening to the old ‘uns here!  I f we do become a teaching school, that will be great but in the meantime we have joined forces with other Sefton schools and Edge Hill to deliver NCSL leadership courses and are looking forward to sending more of our teachers out to support further schools. Internally we have continued to work with each other developing lesson study, continuing with new leaders of hubs when we can and bringing in the TAs and mentors into our Friday sharing of ideas. If we are to sustain and improve what we have achieved, everybody must play their part. Our work with TAs has been recognized by Unison and the DFE and by the end of the year; I would hope to have included all of the other support staff in our ‘collaborative sharing’ venture. No volunteers-no hiding from collaborative responsibilities! Our ideas have been shared nationally via our blogs and we will continue to freely give our ideas. I read a blog over Xmas that drew an analogy with some schools behaving like the child, we will all remember from our own school days, which put their arm around their work so nobody else could see it. Please enjoy our ideas and send us some back!

http://blog.meolscophighschool.co.uk/?p=180

http://blog.meolscophighschool.co.uk/?p=154

This term’s learning hubs are;

High attaining-strategies to engage our A*/A high fliers-all great tactics for any student

Numeracy, Not much from above on numeracy-Welsh ideas are nice! Designing our own numeracy ideas for use in different subjects

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10 markers/bit of morality-The students drop marks on 6, 8, 10 mark questions-lots of different subjects include them on their exam-can we think metacognitively to solve the problem

Bit of everything, Chance to read through our shared resources [there are thousands!] and have time to plan new ideas into lessons

Flipping heck Like-minded colleagues who encourage their students to plan their own learning and deliver the lessons

Literacy, Last session of 3 to incorporate new literacy ideas across the curriculum

SPAG commandos, Spelling, punctuation and grammar mean marks lost, rather than gained for many of our students. Tactics to support across the subjects

Olympic cycling team, Marginal gain tactics increased the Olympic cycling team’s chances of gold-why not use them for our students?

This term’s hubs are all based on practical needs that staff indicated they wanted to have extra planning and discussion time on. They are led by volunteers and all of the staff signs up to be included in one of the groups. Planning time is written into the meeting’s schedule, as are the feedback sessions.  Internal accreditation is given to gold or platinum, standard of our Leading Learners. Part of the platinum award information is below and the whole system links with our CPD evaluation and future quality of teaching self and whole school analysis. There are no paid posts for leading generic pedagogy-the opportunity is open to all and all are expected to participate and can use the experience as part of their appraisal and obviously leadership development/personal CPD.

Effective change is not only led from the top, it is led from many places, including the middle. Andy Hargreaves-all quotes are from the SSAT conference in Dec 2013

What are you currently reading that is making you think about your teaching?

When did you last undertake a piece of classroom research? What was it? Bill Lucas

Evidence for accreditation

This can be provided by your learning hub records, coaching conversations, examples of student’s learning, resources produced, emails sent, courses attended, bullet points of meetings, CPD proformas-anything at all that you  feel is relevant.  Discussing your learning will be equally worthy of points!

Leaders of Learning Platinum Award

“A‘ learning breakthrough’ which requires you to demonstrate deeper reflection and analysis, making reference to relevant sources of knowledge, including effective practice, literature and research findings.  This could be achieved by feeding back and leading inset and staff development based on externally accredited leadership courses or leading and organising a learning hub or introducing new areas of curriculum or pastoral initiatives.  Your evidence must include your evaluation of the impact on student learning.  This will mean collating the views and evidence from other colleagues e.g. evidence about the impact that has been made, using evidence provided by your hub colleagues-this might be a student survey, progress shown by skill/level/measure of your choice-but will need to represent 3 or more colleagues.”

 

Research shows the thing in education which makes the biggest difference to pupil outcomes is the quality of teaching:

•How you plan your lessons

•How you execute your lessons (what you say and do)

 

•If the expertise and experience of staff are the schools most precious resource then the training and development they get must have high impact

We must know what the impact of our CPD is on Learners Cramlington School

 

“Imagine a school in which you taught better, simply by virtue of being in that school. What would such a school be like?”(Judith Warren Little)

 

 

Curriculum and assessment

Over the next two terms we will consider the changes in the national curriculum and our responses to the removal of national curriculum grades. Interestingly over the years mentioned in Part 1 and in our NTEN CPD survey, most training has probably been focused on generic teaching skills rather than, as used to be the case, subject specific pedagogy. Will the latter make a comeback as we discuss the particular needs of each subject more than perhaps we have? We began in September having time to talk about our subject needs but since then national concerns about the role of content [knowledge] v skills in subject and whole school terms has raged and whilst some see the imposition of more change as a unnecessary burden, others see it as an opportunity to shape the future of the curriculum and pedagogy as an exciting opportunity.

http://blog.meolscophighschool.co.uk/?p=167

Some schools may keep NC levels but I would want us to think about bringing together the needs of G.C.S.E students and marrying those with KS3 students to create a subject ‘mastery’ approach that could be individualized e.g. each student had developing, developed and aspirational targets in each subject based on both knowledge and subject skills. I know that some are moving that way now but we will discuss this at our next FOCAL. Hopefully better ideas will emerge and they may be different for different subjects-will this matter?

The exam system constantly changes with the emphasis on 5 A*-Cs in English and maths adding in the Ebacc, to progress 8, to the role of English literature and an uncertain future.  We do have to react with our curriculum [not my area of expertise!] but also have to consider the needs of our students, although it is difficult to explain at times to students and parents. We delayed making moves with the Ebacc and were prepared to have a low percentage in the league tables and in November, when the goalposts moved again, entered students for English and waited with the maths. We try to do the ‘right thing’ but are also aware of the consequences that poor showings in league tables can bring.  I’ll concentrate my efforts, as will all of my colleagues, on trying to get the best possible outcomes for our students in terms of exam preparation, revision and actual results. Our progress measures slipped last summer for the first time in years and we need to be focused on the why, where and how of moving them back to 1030/1040. No complacency.

Student cultivation

I would hope that our student ‘Fight Path’ idea will support the whole process if it develops strongly enough. I mentioned the approach in an October blog and passed it onto our data man and technical expert Mark Brownett to make the most of my original Blue Peter paper version.

“Allied to this will be our Flight Path idea which will allow the students in different lessons to track their progress and explain the impact intervention by themselves or by the teacher has had when their plane has taken a nose-dive! Many schools use the notion of a Flight Path tracker, often with staff only to track progress against targets or when used with the students, it tends to be a graph without much explanation. We will be expecting ‘black box’ explanations to show on parent’s evenings and I hope that rather than the teacher explaining progress to mums, dads and carers, we will be able to let students explain their flight path to progress”.

http://blog.meolscophighschool.co.uk/?p=106

‘The remarkable feature of [all this] evidence is that the biggest effects on student learning occur when teachers become learners of their own teaching, and when students become their own teachers…Many of the most debated issues are the ones with the least effects.’ John Hattie

I’ve already observed in recent observations, new ideas to make peer assessment even more specific and accurate and the use of marginal gains ideas to hone the students in onto the key areas of examination learning. I mentioned in Part 1 how we had been developing the  ability of students to evaluate their own learning but the key to sustaining great learning is to return to deliberate practice to reinforce skills-selecting what you aren’t good at, reminding yourself of key skills-resilient hard work! I’ve talked before about ‘growth mind-set’, everybody does at the minute! Making it happen though is a different issue and as with developing great teaching and their mind-set to achieve, it takes constant reinforcement and reminders of what is important and must have the aspirational aim of including everybody, whether they want to be included or not! Anything is possible. [Assembly slide]

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Our parents

It may be next term before it takes off but hopefully the system will be embraced and successful. Whatever happens we will continue to develop our student voice-the Learning Walk will be ready once observations are over and Anne Pickup is interested in developing our parental engagement more after a visit to All Hallows in Macclesfield. Our parents have been fantastic supporters of our school, attendances at all parent’s evenings, Review Days, exam evenings and so on have all grown and we have tried to make the bulletins more interesting and have even added these blogs! What else should we do? What would you like? Questions coming your way!

It should be another exciting term ahead-new teachers will be joining or being appointed and I was delighted to see 20 colleagues attend our Future Leader Mark Brownett’s Middle Leader’s training before Xmas. I know that a popular aspect of the internal training is when colleagues role play meeting an awkward person [parent, colleague etc.] played by one of our governors, Les Gomersall. When I say popular, it goes down well with the colleagues who are watching another colleague tackle Les in his role! Differences of opinions and views are all part of life and education and I hope that if you have read to this point and have read our other blogs that you have found them honest and interesting. If you don’t agree, or have questions; shout [not too loudly] and I will respond. The last three have been very long to include lots of evidence and I’ll return to shorter ones to share ideas from our observations and general teaching over the next few weeks.

Thank you for reading.

Ashes to Ashes Part 1

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One of my guilty bed-time secrets as a young lad was listening to the radio under the sheets when I should have been asleep-nowt better than listening to test match special from down under in the depths of 1960’s and 1970’s winters. My radio is by the bed now and I still flick to TMS when I wake to catch the latest score. Ok it hasn’t been worth waking up early for this Ashes tour; even my mum keeps asking what has gone wrong-why, she asks, have England gone from Ashes heroes to ridiculed frightened rabbits caught in the Aussie headlights. It isn’t unusual for schools to take a similar alarming nose-dive in fortunes perhaps due to complacency, changing Ofsted criteria, changes of circumstances and personnel and so on. The England cricket management will no doubt be thinking back in time to consider what they did right in previous years and as a matter of urgency, how they are going to respond to the current much changed situation and plan ahead for future success.

The New Year and reading lots of blogs and articles with resolutions and highlights of 2013 did make me think that, as a school, we might consider this an apt time to go back 7 or 8 years in time to look again at our learning journey, selecting key moments and decisions which transformed Meols Cop whilst in part 2, looking to the future to invite a discussion from everyone as to how we should respond to the changing demands of education in 2014 and beyond. I did promise never to look back but we have a lot of new staff, parents and students who may not be aware of where we were and how we have moved onwards.  After our 2012 Ofsted lots of schools came to visit to chat to different colleagues about how we had managed to achieve pleasing grades. I produced a presentation covering mainly the quality of teaching aspects to show to visitors or to use at conferences/other schools and I’m aware that I didn’t share most of it within our own community-it does have 69 slides though to cover lots of potential discussion points and give examples-who would want to read it all! I’ll show the key slides and add some commentary and admit, before I get told off for ignoring other aspects of school that, the focus is on learning and teaching, simply because that’s what I know most about and because of the importance the changed Ofsted grading system gave to the quality of teaching, visitors were keen to see what we had been doing.

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You can see from the photo why I haven’t shared before! The title came from the words Ofsted tended to use and look for and how we felt that we had developed a kinder version of their demands!

Other schools are always interested to see in terms of national descriptions and data what your school is like.

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We had been inspected in 2007 and received a good with outstanding features grading but the vision for our learning and teaching development [and all other factors] had began before this as changes in leadership and the school’s situation occurred. In the early to mid 2000’s the school was struggling for numbers-70 in year 7, and had propped up the 22 schools, then in Sefton, in the league tables, had to make redundancies, needed a fair bit of refurbishment and was finding it difficult to have good quality teachers apply for posts at the school. The numbers situation was eased slightly when sadly Ainsdale High closed and a new influx of European immigrants came to the area-mainly Polish and Portuguese families. There was a challenge ahead and some colleagues would leave, new ones arrived, sleeves were rolled up and the hard work began!

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Collaboration-absolutely no 1 for me in developing learning and teaching! Most schools have great teachers and interesting practice-you only have to read blogs, go to teachmeets, check out magazines to see wonderful ideas BUT  often when you check out the schools involved the reality of their data/reports etc. don’t always match what has been read perhaps because there are only pockets of greatness or volunteers involved. How do you get everyone to buy into the vision and by everyone I mean teachers, students, TAs, mentors and all involved on the school. 8 years ago we did have a volunteer group [Teaching and Learning Group-. always LEARNING first now!] who read about new ideas, tried them out and discussed them in an informal setting.  Learning Thoughts went out weekly to all teachers with extracts from the TES, books, web-sites etc. to keep learning and teaching drip-feeding to all-not everybody read them and to be honest not everybody was interested in reading about or improving their own practice-seems bizarre now but most schools didn’t talk too much internally about teaching! I was the first learning and teaching SLT appointment in Sefton and some schools are only just making the appointments now.

Because we are a small school it seemed relatively easy to involve all teaching staff [others would come later] in discussions about learning and teaching-most inset sessions involved sharing ideas, learning hubs led bottom up by teachers not SLT developed, cross curricular meetings [FOCALS] discussed whole school issues e.g. marking and meetings became much more directed in their nature to discuss agreed priorities. The teachers developed their own version of what they believed outstanding teaching should look like [no SLT input] and what outstanding learning should look like too. [Part below] Ideas began to fly around, opportunities to lead meetings and hubs were provided and eventually accreditation was given to colleagues who informally observed others, were informally observed themselves, who led hubs, who feedback ideas and so on. These were all new developments in our profession and our staff probably didn’t [and still don’t] realise that this was different to many other schools. No paid posts were created and our culture expects all to play their full contributory role and to seek opportunities to coach, mentor, lead hubs etc.

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06

Because of our 22% A*-Cs scores we were asked to become part of the RATL conferences that the government had created to share ideas to raise attainment. External ideas from conferences added to our sharing of internal good practice and we began to make gains in the all important exam percentages and we were able to celebrate every ‘marginal gain’-not sure what we called it then [TG perhaps-Thank God!]

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Each year our grades moved upwards, we achieved national prizes for improvement and the 2007 Ofsted showed that we were on the right tracks. When the progress tables appeared, we found a table that we could top in Sefton and that showed our teaching was making a huge impact-I don’t like comparative tables-forgive me! BUT teachers and students felt good about our achievements and we felt that we could really push on and set aspirational targets. Our teaching was good-the data was screaming it at us-but would it stand external scrutiny? We were waiting and waiting for Ofsted and when the phone rang to tell us that a history inspector not a whole school team was due to arrive; our hearts sank a tad! The history results weren’t great, the subject leader had been absent after a crash which sadly forced her retirement, the new subject leader was only in her second year of teaching and the other 2 teachers were NQTs [one not a subject specialist!] The inspector more than hinted that a grade 4 was inevitable with our results BUT was prepared to give our teaching a chance before making his decision. As you get a week’s notice before the inspector arrives in a subject inspection, the whole school sprang into supportive action and what happened next was an amazing tribute to everyone and not just the historians. The SLT touched up the department self evaluation and prepared the data, emails of support and offers of help swamped the teachers involved, lessons were covered by colleagues to help them prepare, TAs asked for the lesson plans and how they could best support the young teachers-everybody mucked in as best as they could.

On a personal level, this was the most pressure I had felt in my entire very long career. I was covering a maternity leave [just in case Ofsted came!] with classes I didn’t know well and although I have taught more Ofsted lessons than anyone else in the school, this time it was in my own subject and…. as the learning and teaching bloke! As a senior leader you have to teach well for Ofsted-no excuses and no sympathy from colleagues if you don’t! If you talk a good game to the staff –you have to play one when the time comes and if it had gone badly I had already decided that I would call it a day. It is only one lesson out of a career of thousands but the brutal nature of inspections makes such decisions for you [part 2 will see my aversion to the pressure and nonsense  of 1 off lessons and my solution!] I couldn’t get the lesson plans out of my head, fiddled with them constantly, read and fiddled with my colleague’s plans and tried to rally them and seemed to lose a week of my life-I forgot to turn up to a drama evening and was oblivious to normal SLT duties-the other SLT must have wondered what had happened to their favourite wind up merchant!

The historians performed magnificently, teaching brilliantly and answering their interview questions with subtlety and wisdom beyond their years. They turned a 4 into a 2 and the when they appeared in a question time session in front of the staff afterwards to be interviewed and tormented  by myself, there was a palpable feeling that if our least experienced colleagues could deliver so well in front of Ofsted-bring  them on NOW! We didn’t have long to wait!

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Of course I was aware of colleagues counting the times in inset of when the word Ofsted was used and we were prepared to the nth degree and naturally I always began inset by saying that the most important thing in school is the students and not Ofsted-I was sincere but nobody believed me! It’s easy to criticise SLT for using Ofsted as a guide to many of the practices within school but the results of a poor Ofsted can be devastating and I could never let our staff teach in front of an inspector without the full knowledge of the criteria being used to assess them and of very recent reports from other schools or annual reports outlining what they liked to see. We discussed the issues as a whole staff, it was written into plans to support their teaching, it was explained to TAs, we used external inspectors to visit lessons, we always wanted to learn and listen-we tried to use Ofsted preparation as positively as we could alongside the other key developmental work we were trialling.

09

The systems of monitoring in schools were never as rigorous as I hear friends talking about in other careers. You got the odd observation as a new teacher and I know of schools where the head may have taken in planning books and sets of books here and then-but  not much more in the 80s and 90s. Not so now! We began to have quite detailed reviews requiring lots of answers, data and self-evaluation and accountability from middle leaders some time before it became the norm and our cycle of monitoring of all of the teaching staff included all of the tactics in the slide. Unusually we always gave choices regarding the lesson observations and had very clear criteria shared at the beginning of term for what we wanted to see in books. Our learning walks visited the students and talked to them rather than the teacher and our extensive student and parent surveys were produced by us to match our needs. We never buy anything in, preferring to develop our own monitoring devices and systems. Ofsted, when they interviewed me regarding our teaching and CPD, did say that our system wouldn’t work elsewhere and I guess that if my colleagues hadn’t taught so well the inspectors  may have told us to be more rigorous in terms of unannounced observations and the like-I think that we proved developmental observations sustain great teaching-see part 2!

10

We have used the Ofsted criteria at different times and have used our own 20 point criteria on what we felt good teaching should be. Grades were used for a time but whatever the criteria used, the descriptors always had teacher friendly examples to support planning and judgment discussions/observer feedback. This gave us the opportunity to provide extensive specific advice and feedback to all the staff on the areas identified as weaker than others.  Strange to see part of the old criteria now, especially for new teachers, but perhaps useful at the time [I think!]

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I have blogged elsewhere about using grades for lesson observations and have devised ones for schools who have asked- if they want to use them fine-it isn’t for me to tell them what to do BUT my advice is always to focus on just a couple of key areas at a time [usually the ones Ofsted tell you to!], explain and discuss with all of the staff first so that they understand clearly and are agreed on what each foci needs in terms of practical teaching skills, only plan for the two agreed foci, tell them when you are coming in [no need to plan every lesson and frighten them] and feedback a.s.a.p. only on the agreed areas. Use the grades to inform all staff how much progress is being made and the areas of concern and share all the internal great practice that has been observed.

We introduced peer observations about 5 years ago with volunteers [ish!] and now everyone observes someone else at least once in a formal situation. This was a pivotal moment for me and I worried that it might not take off despite me believing in the benefits and being desperate for it to happen. The feedback forms were too complicated in the early days and the feedback sessions [I was in most of them too] were difficult for some who were more nervous about those than teaching a lesson! The knock on effect of the peer observations led to informal sharing, coaching and mentoring and led to a much more useful discussion of teaching, leading to the lesson study of part 2. We have never encouraged the observer to sit stony faced with a clip board and I model ideas, interrupt frequently and want our observers to be interactive learners too.

On last year’s data we had the lowest percentage of high attaining students in our LA-learning and loving school isn’t necessarily the preferred lifestyle of many of our young people-the same the world over! We needed to make learning relevant to them and to build up a learning resilience in them that would help them to engage with the language and skills of learning so that they could taste success and raise their aspirations. No matter how well we were teaching or supporting them –they needed to want to do well and progress. Blaming them for poor exam results was out-developing them as a learner was in.

11

We began to use our own very specific surveys to question the students about their learning habits and what they thought were valuable learning traits and skills. Their answers were displayed around school, published on the bulletin and so on to show that their opinions mattered.

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Some were designed for a more open form tutor group discussion, as above, whilst most focused on whole school issues as this Learning Walk one shows below. The students responded really well and we began to feel that they were taking their learning far more seriously and we noticed when they were asked to comment on teachers on interview or on learning in surveys, that they were now becoming quite articulate in their views and this was, I felt, a real support to developing better literacy, more accurate self and peer assessment and more confident, analytical learners. Once their confidence grew, they did of course have plenty to say about our teaching-a risk worth taking and one that had to be taken to move ALL learners and teachers on. Many were now confident enough to become leaders in their classrooms and the foundations were being laid for the co-construction of lessons and flipped learning that we would see now.

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It was also important to unleash the constraints now and then and to show that
school could be fun and that we trusted them to behave well in different
situations such as Children in Need, Sport’s Week and mufti-days. These hadn’t
happened for some time whilst we brought in a tight BFL system to encourage
great behaviour [to support great learning] but they have been pivotal, I
believe, in developing a strong feeling of loyalty towards school and care for
each other. What do others think? Interestingly when we knew Ofsted had gone well,
the first thing that we did was to thank the students with a mufti-day for
their support. They had rallied to the calls in assemblies on the day Ofsted
rang to show them what our school could do and were equally as nervous as their
teachers were!

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There was no escape really for the students to avoid the vision of what great learners behave and think like! Our 6Cs pushing desirable learning skills was launched in year 7 to students and parents and quickly moved on to our lesson plans. Bit of CONCENTRATION below! I wrote the Cs with a nod to Opening Minds, SEAL, PLTS etc. that were current at the time but again made it fit into what our students needed and what our teachers could use practically in form, PSD and lessons.

I begin my learning but can’t resist beginning to chat to others about something else.

I begin my learning but if someone talks to me I can’t resist talking to them.

I am a strong character and if anyone interrupts my learning I politely tell them not to!

We also introduced our BFL policy 8 years ago, beginning with year 9 [who needed it at that time!] and then the staff asked that it be introduced to all students in all year groups. The students didn’t like the MCs [Meols Cops!] and detentions, especially if they felt wronged but they enjoyed the praise system which has been developed by Annette Peet into the Going for Gold system of rewards, culminating each July with free trips. As learning and teaching person, I’m bound to tell you that if you teach well, good behaviour will follow, but I’m not naive enough to think that all students behave well all of the time, even if the teaching is fantastic! I have no regrets about introducing BFL and hope that it has allowed learners to learn and teachers to teach!

I blogged last time about feedback or praise and mentioned our Progress Stars which cover the dining room and corridors with names of students who have achieved a specific learning ‘jump’ Along with the other aspirational posters, I just believe wholeheartedly that they create an environment that celebrates and expects learning success-isn’t that what we should be doing? Visitors [and Ofsted] comment very positively on the displays and posters and often ask for copies/templates to use back at their own school. The very first poster is below-Keri is a bit older now but still a great learner!

The emphasis on dialogue in the books reinforced critical self-awareness and evaluation for the students and the whole data tracking systems supporting individual intervention, the use of mentors and TAs, the commitment of parents and so on, all helped the students to become far stronger learners than before. Year Heads became Progress Managers and the whole school systems began to reflect the changing emphasis on LEARNING rather than teaching. As numbers grew and we became oversubscribed, money was spent on the environment, teachers began to want to come and work here and our 2005 aspirations began to come true.

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I’ve covered the story in 14 slides not 69-so much has happened in such a short time that I will have missed key areas and not done justice to the hard work that all here have contributed. I did say that my emphasis would be on the ‘quality of teaching’ and sometimes when you are part of change, you don’t always realise what is happening and what the key factors were. Data has been kind and we had a couple of good days with Ofsted as a result of hours of collaborative energy. Nothing happens by accident!  We have to respond again to the changes in education and the process of following our next vision has already began in earnest. The future will be revealed-see Part 2!

Why Ashes to Ashes? I love cricket but guess what was no 1 in September 1980, when I began teaching and guess what David Bowie’s real name is! Happy New Year!

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