Category Archives: CPD

To Peer Review or not to Peer Review-MOT or full service required?

To Peer Review or not to Peer Review-MOT or full service required?

1st part of the blog sent internally for discussion

Perhaps over the last year, depending on your view of the inspection process, hopes have been raised that Ofsted might disappear and be replaced at some time in the future by peer reviews in some form or another. It certainly is an idea that has gained popularity and plenty of discussion but as currently the government seem to be looking for a Wilshaw replacement, the demise of Ofsted appears to be some time off.  Peer reviews may continue to develop amongst schools who wish for whatever reason to have external verification/QA or for schools who are be exempt currently from inspection visits due to their previous Ofsted grade. Having just participated in our first such review by one of the national organisations involved, I want to jot down my initial thoughts, before I forget them, to share after half-term with colleagues to seek their reflections as to how it was for them, how could it have been better, how could we support other schools in peer review and the big one-should we bother again!

We received an Ofsted outstanding grade in the autumn of 2012 and since then have opened our doors to plenty of external scrutiny through visits, sharing huge long blogs of our ideas, twitter and of late, firstly as a National Support School and now a Teaching School. We have been keen to share and discuss feeling that our own practice would benefit from the collaborative nature of our philosophy. I think that we have, although reciprocal approaches aren’t always forthcoming and of course, visitors are usually very pleasant rather than genuinely honest and schools we have befriended via social media tend to have similar beliefs to ourselves. It can become a cosy club rather than a harder edged evaluation of the impact of what we are doing. We believe that our self-analysis and monitoring of all aspects of our school is accurate, never arrogant and prioritises exactly what we should be doing. However we could be wrong; sometimes by being so close to something you have developed you miss what others may spot immediately and there should be a professional interest in listening to the views and ideas of those from other schools, especially those who know nothing of you and have never heard of your school before!

We have involved ourselves some time ago in local visits looking at each other’s SEFs etc. but we found it, at that point, to be a waste of our time. Others didn’t share up to date documents or information and ran off with our current documents in their briefcases to obviously use for themselves! We laugh now but it put us off and we gained nothing from the experience that we hoped would be helpful and the use of schools from further afield and the seemingly well organised nature of the process and recommendations that we checked out pulled us back to decide that external opinions should be used to help us with our own evaluations and future planning. The organisation also provided the opportunities for our senior staff to become part of the review process at other schools and we naturally wished to seek out best practice from elsewhere and wanted to support the notion of peer reviews because we believe that it might offer the best way forward for future school improvement systems as an alternative to inspections.

I did have some initial concerns, after we had signed up [it was expensive!] and some of the paper work appeared. The observation feedback sheets do have a continuum line that you have to put a cross on for the 4 areas they want you to think about. [I’ll say more about the areas later] We haven’t graded a lesson for 4 years and this, despite re-assurance, looked like grading in another form or at least some form of judgement. We have developed a very supportive lesson study style of lesson observation and I needed to be convinced that we could run with what would be asked. Secondly, I read a negative article about the process and the word ‘mocksted’ kept appearing and I certainly didn’t want our school involved in such a process or having staff think that was my intention.

The training for 3 senior leaders to learn more about the process was good and some fears re the nature of the use of the observation feedback form dissipated slightly. The school chosen as the venue for training opened many of its classrooms to facilitate very practical observations and there was a positive feel to the day and the attending schools brought along data to share and there was some quality PD for all. Very soon afterwards one of my colleagues went on their first peer review of an incredibly high performing school and thoroughly enjoyed the experience, observing great teaching and her own professional development benefitted enormously.

The preparation for our visits gave our SLT the chance to organise and reflect on what we hoped to show and colleagues spent time looking at their own areas of expertise and accountability and asking questions of their data and evidence that was invaluable PD. Unlike Ofsted, we knew when the review would be and could choose the lessons that were to be observed and plan our own format, to a certain extent, of the 3 days. We were also able to choose 2 areas of excellence that we could highlight and seek opinions on. Volunteers were sought and we deliberately chose lessons that would cover our chosen areas of possible excellence [research/assessment], subjects which were working on raising their exam data, and teachers who wanted to trial ideas from their learning hubs and so on. Our SLEs and research leads would all teach to gain confidence should they be visited by external colleagues and only the SLT escaped this time because they had to be observing! Each of the lessons would have 1 of our own team in with one of theirs and the format was half an hour observing, 15 minutes of joint discussion between the observers and feedback from the school observer. 4 of our SLT would observe joined by 3 SLEs and another colleague who leads one of our learning hubs. This we hoped would be great PD for them all.

Unfortunately as the day approached, 2 reviewers were unavailable and the visiting team arrived with a team leader [experienced Ofsted inspector] and only 2 others, 1 of whom had some experience in peer reviewing and 1 who didn’t. Our staff had planned their lessons and we didn’t want to waste their time so some lessons had to go ahead with only our internal colleagues to observe. The team leader was also inhibited to a certain extent by the lack of other voices-an Ofsted team has at least 4 experienced people to bounce ideas and test views against [some might disagree!] There were initial meetings and throughout the days, school based views and opinions were sought on everything that was discussed and they were tested against what the visiting team had seen from their evidence.

A couple of teachers did get very edgy and I began to think that I was wrong to commit us to the process. The old Ofsted worries began to surface of what were the visitor’s judgements, I heard the word grade mentioned again after so long of banishment, teachers were cross because the best bit of the lesson was missed and so on. Our own observers felt anxious that perhaps the brief visits are too brief to gain much and it certainly re-affirmed my view that should we ever review schools via our TSA role that a full lesson visit is a must. My initial thoughts were these;

  • If observations are to be part of a review [and they have to be used at some point] then a full lesson should be observed. Teachers have planned and they should be able to show what they wanted to happen over the full lesson and then should be part of a 3 way discussion with both external and internal observers where they can discuss context, learning over time, seek advice and so on. Time may be an issue but if we are to make the best use of external visits we need to use time appropriately. The feedback session would also be more useful for the visiting senior leaders so that they can probe much deeper into the day to day learning and teaching that a 1 off lesson visit can’t provide and make professional links if appropriate. The greater time needed may mean that visitors travel from schools within a certain radius. I would imagine that colleagues will tell me that they would always prefer subject specialists to observe as that makes for more valuable feedback/discussion/sharing of ideas and whilst that may not always be possible with this type of general review, it may be beneficial to begin to develop certainly core subject specialist reviews within this type of national organisation with other subjects supported perhaps by more local networks.
  • The feedback form focused on 4 areas on the continuum line-challenge, engagement, questioning and learning. WWWs and EBIs were discussed and offered as feedback advice. I could write for all day on why learning in the half an hour shouldn’t be there and I certainly didn’t discuss it [to be fair the team fed back that our consideration of long term planning and learning over time was apparent and a strength] but I feel that it may have been more useful for us to let us feedback using our own school format and for our visitors to observe, join in and then feedback on what they had seen. A critique of our normal process and discussion with all involved, would have been more useful than using an enforced process. That isn’t to say that here wasn’t some interesting discussion-there was and we were interested to hear their views but I think that the systems schools develop and use every day offer more interesting and useful external scrutiny and would interest us more. If we saw something wonderful, we could borrow and adapt.
  • The focus on 4 areas, although others could be discussed, is limiting in my opinion and I would prefer, as we do in our internal lesson study/observations to allow the teacher to choose their own focus [usually an area that they have researched/trying to improve their practice] so that the opportunity to plan/discuss critical individual PD with visiting colleagues could be even more beneficial for all parties. The choices of the current foci probably comes from the Ofsted criteria and whilst I can understand many wanting some form of judgement or development in readiness for inspection, we don’t and have tried to use observations to plan/coach collaboratively to support the learning and teaching needs of our school and students. Perhaps there could be a more open format based appropriately on individual school priorities.
  • The chance to talk about chosen areas of excellence has great potential for us [I mention the lack of time due to the limited numbers of visitors later] and again this may have benefitted us further from being able to perhaps have a reciprocal visit/discussion from a school working on similar areas of interest. This is certainly something that a ‘review’ in the future should include for us.

At the end of the first day both internal and external reviewers exchanged views and ideas and these were recorded to use in the final report. The contentious issue arose around the differing interpretations surrounding outcomes and data. At times this did fall into the ‘Ofsted would say’ and they would give outstanding for and so on to basically make a comment on whether or not the data was still outstanding [was the school?] I tried to make it clear from the onset [as colleagues at school know I would] that I don’t like to discuss inspection grades, don’t mention them, am trying to move forward from something that was 3 years ago and am only interested in what we are now and what we can be. And yet here we were with an Ofsted style discussion and data being bandied around like missiles to defend points. It would have been more useful for visitors to discuss how we use data, how we are trying to support best and effective use of data to ease workload and how we feel that by teaching well to everyone that individuals and cohorts will take care of themselves. We want to measure what we value and improve the performance of all and know which groups in terms of exam grades did better than others but our different philosophy was lost in an argument re Ofsted and cohorts [boys] and our understanding of the changes in progress measures and our preparation for that wasn’t clearly and worryingly not necessarily agreed with.

However, even though the discussions moved in an Ofsted way that we didn’t want and almost became heated, humour still prevailed for much of the time and our data person admitted the great benefit defending his beliefs and data had brought and as that was what we hoped would happen, good did come out of that aspect of the review! The final day again featured a discussion between the visiting team and our SLT to solicit our views on their findings and intentions for final report writing. The first report draft came very quickly, arriving after initial QA in half-term and we were again invited to feedback our comments and the area of our contention will once again focus on the outcomes and data section. Whether we ultimately agree or disagree the process itself fosters the hard-edged discussions that we should be having, although we will stick to our own rationale for measurability and accountability as we must do. The continual discussion between the visitors and ourselves was a good experience and we are grateful to them for their honesty and time.

Would we do this again or should we offer the review process via our TSA route? The reviewers gained from their discussions with new colleagues, the feedback to those observed hopefully benefitted them and the final report will be shared with all in our community with any hints of Ofsted grading removed! Because of the shortage of numbers within the visiting team, research leads and others didn’t get the chance to discuss their roles with visitors-we have always found this to be a really useful aspect of PD for our own staff when visitors arrive e.g. the TDA CPD audit. It’s also interesting to see if interviewed colleagues subscribe to and genuinely believe in the vision that we say we aspire to in in all of our blogs and communications!

SLT participating in the reviews of others will also benefit but unfortunately the schools require 2 or 3 nights of accommodation and lengthy travel with costs to be borne by us making the whole process expensive for us and we have to consider value for money. Parents will be interested to see how others views us and we need to be part of such reviews to provide us with unbiased analysis of some of our practices. The review focused on school improvement and learning and teaching which leaves big areas of school untouched by this visit. Should we seek other external reviews to look at all areas of school? Should we develop our own to support other schools who can then reciprocate?

This was very much a MOT rather than full service and I envisage the additional use of external reviews such as the TDA CPD audit, checking out of other external reviews such as the new SSAT one and whatever the proposed College of Teaching may offer mixed in with reciprocal visits to NW schools to create a personalised plan of review that will constantly add externally considered perspectives of our own systems and evaluations. We already have robust external financial reviews but possibly need to consider areas for external review such as SEND, governorship and all of the complex aspects of ‘pastoral’ support that facilitate learning. This was predominantly a ‘learning and teaching’ review-we are a lot more than just that! However, I would be reluctant to have these type of lesson observations each year with the ensuing pressure and the main worry that they take us away from how we are developing the use of observations [still trying to think of a different name that summarises their main point-Reflections of Practice, Learning and Teaching Development Sessions-prize for the best name please!] There is the possibility of having too many reviews before we have had the chance to develop different approaches but I can see the point of including the EBIs from the final report for internal initial monitoring. Others may disagree and so their opinions need to be sought.

It is really important that participating colleagues are given their chance to feedback on the review-it is their professional development and they who were under the intense pressure of observations and interviews. I asked these questions to complete the first part of my internal blog.

For those who participated in any way, it would be helpful for after half-term feedback on the review.

Role in process

What were your hopes and expectations of the review?

How did you feel during the process?

What were the benefits 1] to you 2] to school

Any negatives 1] to you 2] to school

What should I feedback with suggestion for improving the process 1] concerning your individual role 2] the whole idea

Should we participate again? What kind of external reviews/feedback would be most helpful for you/subject/school?

If we were to offer a review service [not a mocksted!] what should we include, make it clear that we won’t do, suggest that we think it would be more beneficial if we did and so on

Any other points that my questions haven’t covered that you want to say?

2nd part of the blog-staff views and my final reflections

Apart from our SLT, 12 other colleagues so far have responded and they raised a range of different valuable ideas. Some staff haven’t been involved in an external observation process before and there was a natural mix of fear and excitement for them. Fear and worry over someone they don’t know coming into the lesson, the possibility of being graded [although we wouldn’t allow it-the continuum line worried people] and the concern that our developmental approach towards observation wouldn’t be understood and that the observations may well be judgemental. Excitement because colleagues wanted unbiased opinion, wanted genuinely to hear what others thought, wanted to hear their ideas and to share them with us and wanted to talk to them about the research and other ideas we are trialling.

There was a general concern that the feedback discussions didn’t involve our visitors with the teachers so that a deeper reflective session with them was missed. When the visitor was a subject specialist and talked in the lesson to the teacher about the subject, that was appreciated but others would have liked a subject specialist [or subject specialist review team] Interestingly someone mentioned that other teachers were cross because they weren’t chosen and surprisingly this often happens in Ofsted inspections, although some are glad to escape. The lack of time prohibited as many being watched as may have wanted to be.

One person felt that more visits over a period of time rather than a one-off would be beneficial and that perhaps [although they wouldn’t like it!] it would be helpful for visitors to be in department reviews to be more thorough in looking to see if feedback had been met. A couple of people wondered if the context of our school and what we are trying to achieve was understood and the point was made that perhaps a 2 way partnership with a school[s] would be better so that a clear rationale of our learning and teaching philosophy, ethos and journey [and theirs] was discussed before so that the observations and discussions were put into context. Our visitors could have shared what they are doing at their school and our staff would have really appreciated to hear about it.

One observer was disappointed that visitors left the lesson quickly [we knew that it wasn’t a full lesson] and all preferred a full lesson and feedback-this isn’t Ofsted! It was pointed out that a snapshot of a school isn’t representative of what a school is capable of and paper work doesn’t represent what staff and students are doing on a day to day basis.

None of this blog represents a criticism of either the organisation, reviewers or process-just our honest opinions and I’m sure that other schools may have a totally different set of viewpoints including the desire to receive Ofsted style grades and discussions. There is much that is positive about the process as more detailed independent analysis has shown and we knew the areas that would be reviewed before we participated. Perhaps schools need a few different reviews to cover all areas of their schools and perhaps schools will begin to develop the expertise to do this themselves rather than tending to have the kudos of an ‘Ofsted inspector’ involved to give the review additional status. Perhaps we will also accept that current or ex Ofsted inspectors do have a set of skills and expertise that schools can make great use of in themselves or perhaps we will reject this as Ofsted themselves changes and school leaders develop review skills. I would imagine that this is already the case in large federations of schools. Ironically the most thorough review of schools that I have experienced was the original Ofsted inspections when they lasted for a few days and each subject had its own subject specific inspector who possibly but not necessarily, knew something about teaching the subject. Lay inspectors were involved and all areas of school seemed to be looked at. Not everyone teaching currently will remember them at the beginning of the 90’s but apart from the mountain of paper work produced for them and the stressful time waiting for them to arrive at least they hit the criteria of thorough. They did grade anything that moved and didn’t feedback to individuals and as my memory fades, I’m sure there were plenty of other negative aspects too. I have no doubts that the talented school leaders can come up with a better plan that can take account of stress, workload, meaningful accountability and honest and useful evaluation.

I’ve listened to colleagues and I will certainly approach other NW schools [not too local] to consider a peer review approach where we can agree on areas of our schools that we would like to be reviewed including systems, agree on a much deeper review perhaps spread out over time and find the time to explain what we are actually trying to achieve and the context of our plans. For schools outside of chains/large MATs I’m sure that the time is right for us to talk reviews and come up with a rigorous regional approach that is achievable at little expenditure but provides superb professional development for all concerned. Before we do this, all members of staff, need to be involved in the discussion of what a review may be needed for, what would be its purpose and benefit and an agreement as to the best methods of involvement and who and which areas of school should be involved. Lots to think about!


Building Our School For The Future

Building our school for the future

A PD vision

It seems ages ago now since the promise of our new BSF build disappeared after a disproportionate amount of money was wasted on totally unnecessary professional development aimed to support the projects. We were forcibly made to go to expensive hotels to listen to speakers and ‘facilitators’ gleefully prolonging their careers whilst the money would have been far better spent on giving us a new school and sport’s hall! Inevitably BSF ran out of pennies and Sefton, due to its late bid, got nowt and we remained the only LA in the North West without lovely new schools and we watched our colleagues in Liverpool and Blackpool put up a fight and win their right to new build. It was a chastening experience and the lessons learned involving best value expenditure and PD clearly draw a parallel with the resources and PD needs of a single school such as MCHS. Plan for the future to sustain and improve what we have but listen to the needs of the individuals within the process and remember that ‘1 size fits all’ is rarely appropriate and ensure that the planning involves all colleagues and all areas of our school.

On most of the measures schools usually self-assess themselves on, we are doing quite nicely and my desire to support the ‘excellence in every area’ notion that I enthuse about, probably to myself, may prompt colleagues to occasionally think, but not say too loudly, that a little breathing space may be due! Tempting! The reality, of course, is that the constant changes that face us with the tightening budget mean that we have to keep actively developing coping strategies to ensure our students continue to learn well and are successfully prepared for life after us. My emphasis this year, as we do build for the future, is to try to develop our staff so that as individuals and groups, they have the specific professional development that they need to drive themselves and our school forward through the next few years AND to crucially not create so much pressure of accountability and workload that colleagues, including myself and other leaders, burn out and disintegrate professionally and personally. Helping each of us to become a little more effective at what we do, creating opportunities to talk honestly and openly about our own roles and the future of our school and making it ‘ok’ to seek support when the going is getting tough for us as individuals are, as important as all of the other systems that schools use to monitor and develop. David Weston shared a visual description of where schools have gone wrong in this wonderful post-it could save you a bit of reading but I trust you to read on, follow our story and see how we are trying to avoid the same pitfalls!

Making it work

What does this look like in practice so far? I shared early progress made in autumn here

and mentioned changes to appraisal, interviews with support staff and department priorities. Since then our inset day in January gave staff the opportunity to discuss how we could make our data system more effective and less onerous on our workload.

Leadership building

Building for our future needs the development of leadership skills, the spotting of potential leaders, the retention of our best and the posts for them to develop and flourish in! We have 15 middle or potential leaders on our in-house NAML training, which as well as giving MLs the chance to become involved in research of their choice, affords 3 SLT the opportunity to develop their own leadership reflections in delivering the course. I’m delighted that friends from other primaries and secondary’s have joined us to give a wider perspective for participants. The initial outlay of expenditure is well worth the PD on offer and we will offer this again next year and hope to find a senior leader course, or write our own to fulfil this PD need. Currently we have 2 more colleagues on NPQSL courses, although we have withdrawn our own leaders from running the course whilst we concentrate on our own course. One other colleague has just been accepted on our fellow TSA Weatherhead’s potential SLT course and we have 1 on the SSAT aspiring head’s course and 1 on their aspiring SLT course. Again the courses aren’t cheap but we continuously overspend on PD and so we should, provided that it is equally distributed!

Our new teaching structure has already created 5 new posts for 2-5 year experienced colleagues who will become our research leaders. They will help to drive evidence informed practice across school and will be attached to different year groups to support age specific needs, as well as developing their own research themes to share across the school. I’m hopeful that the posts will support retention, distribute leadership even more and have a big impact on learning and teaching. These posts are classroom based and I’m aware that not everyone wishes to become subject or pastoral leaders and I’m trying to consider how teachers can progress as teachers-work in progress!

We also have 3 new SLEs who will be able to receive professional development training and the chance to hone their own senior leadership skills and potential through their external support. All of the new SLE, research leads and those on SLT courses have been able to use their leadership of our learning hubs as part of the evidence supporting their applications. The hubs offer cross-curricular leadership and hopefully have a qualitative impact on our learning and teaching strategies. They also cover some of the key issues on our SEF, subject priorities and individual appraisal objectives. The new ones beginning next week are these.

Learning Hubs

IRIS – run by Jen and Phil

We are making great progress with IRIS and it seems important that we continue to develop our practice in this area. Some of you are starting to use it with NTEN lesson study and for sharing videos for peer support and developmental dialogue. It is a great reflective tool and it would be great to see each department represented this time round.

Maximising the performance of the most able pupils – run by Holly and Beth

With the performance of high attainers being a focus raise online and internal reviews it is important that we look to address strategies that will maximise the performance of our most able pupils.

Spelling and vocabulary approaches across the curriculum – run by Katie

With the increased emphasis on SPaG both within English and across the curriculum it is important that we look at strategies and share ideas that can be applied in all subject areas and see where skills can be transferred to ensure consistency in approaches to best support the students.

Developing reading and annotation skills across the curriculum – run by Sarah

Focusing on a range of strategies to develop students reading skills from skimming to reading for purpose, as well as effective annotation skills which can help to break down text to make it accessible for students.

Supporting Lower ability students and those with Special Educational Needs – run by Marie and Martin

As we talk about Quality First Teaching and address the changes to SEND it is important that we continue to challenge ourselves to develop ways to ensure that all students can access the curriculum.

Developing responses to extended questioning – run by Colin, Katrina and Sophie

This follows on from Colin’s previous hub on questioning taking from it the theme of developing consistent approaches to addressing more extended questions. You don’t need to have attended the first hub on questioning and this would be great for those subjects with longer extended questions which require explanation, analysis and evaluation.

Developing a consistent approach to the teaching of key command words – run by Emma

This hub will explore any similarities between command words used across the curriculum and similarities in expectations of outcomes, working towards developing a whole school template for delivering certain command words.

Exploring different ways to give feedback using digital technology – led by Tim and Rosie

As we continue to work on trialling new technology this will focus on developing the use of technology for feedback, looking at different ways to give feedback via digital means and evaluating which is the most effective.

Time is given to share and make new resources and this is crucially followed up by informal observations or agreed lesson studies/more formal observations of choice. Colleagues have a choice of which hubs to attend, although we try to spread out faculty attendance. Evaluations follow the end of each hub term and they have proved to be an invaluable source of inspiration and collaboration. Collaboration only works though if it is followed by a time of ‘doing’, evaluation and adaptation.

Colin has already emailed me his agenda for his first meeting and I was delighted to see the names of volunteers and the potential in each presentation and especially important to me were the names of 2 of our TAs, joining the group and having the confidence to present too.

Below is a draft plan for the introduction Hub on Challenging questioning and command words next Tuesday. From the staff Feedback in previous hubs, it was clear that they like the new interactive approach of sharing ideas and completing a lesson!

The proposed plan for the hub is a follows:


  • Colin – 10 mins intro presentation on challenging questioning and command words (linked to current research and practice)



  • Gill  and Tracey 10 mins – How challenging questioning/command words  works for SEN students



  • Helen – 10 mins to share how her questioning ideas have developed since the first hub.



  • Sophie/Katrina (Katrina is likely to be in Drama moderation meeting)   – 10 mins share how questioning ideas have developed and ideas for NTEN project



  • Colin and other staff to act as TA’s!  -20 mins mini lesson on challenging questioning and command words with VLE feedback.

Please let me know what you think. Look forward to our first new hub!!

Lizzy has supplied each leader with reading information for their groups-

“Many thanks for agreeing to run a hub. I have attached details of the participants for your group and an introductory PowerPoint to recall objectives and outcomes as well as key dates. I will, later today, be sending out an email to all of your group with some suggested reading that can form the basis of discussions within your first meeting.”

The opening ppt slides are below.

Learning Hubs Feb 2016 Intro

Learning Hubs Feb 2016 Intro 2

As the hubs progress I should have 2 more TA 3 posts to provide cover, as well as our 3 cover supervisors so that we can increase the number of informal drop-ins and collaborative planning sessions.

Sharing ideas

Hub ideas are shared via our own teachmeets, blogs and ‘breakfast jams’. The latter, organised by Lizzy, have proved to be a popular sharing of magic moments and ideas for the hard-core early risers! The ideas shared form part of the Learning and Teaching bulletins that Lizzy has also introduced as another method of finding the best current practice and sharing this with others.

MCHS Breakfast Jam!

Every other Thursday

8.10am – 8.30am


Breakfast provided

Date Session Title Brief Description Led by Room
14th January Effective use of DIRT A brief look at the way DIRT is used in History and how stickers have been adapted to aid this.


GT Library
28th January IRIS A brief look at the benefits of using IRIS for professional development and reflection. JF/PJ Library
11th February Reading Strategies A look at the use of slow reading steps to enhance the reading of students and the use of dictionaries for clarity. LC Library

Subject Reviews

We have 3 subject/year reviews a year where the middle leader concerned meets with SLT to discuss their data, intervention, priorities etc. Time was given on inset day to begin the subject conversations with colleagues, so that all are involved in self-evaluation and we already streamlined department SEFS, as explained in my November blog. These were very much paper based exercises and I have changed the format to cater for whatever style the leader wishes to use to tell me about learning progress and the schedule now includes another subject leader being present. They can obviously pre-plan/discuss before the meeting if they wish to, can observe good practice from another ML in action and can see SLT modelling questioning and can themselves ask questions of data/raise concerns and so on. I’ll ask for feedback and see how it goes over the next couple of weeks! The change does allow our ML to be in a scenario quite similar to SLT interviews, and although I don’t want to lose them, I should be preparing them for their next steps.

Challenge Partners

The half-term finishes with a peer review from 4 visiting school leaders as part of the Challenge Partner’s scheme. I was slightly worried when ‘School’s Week’ had their front page covered with a negative response to such reviews and the word ‘mocksted’ appeared. External looks at our self-evaluation and some of our teaching is helpful if it can suggest developmental strategies we can engage with to become more effective. I’m hopeful that this will be the case-it is quite expensive but I prefer external evaluation and ideas from people from far away who know nothing of us, than people we know who may feel reluctant to be as honest as they should! The process also allows 3 of our leaders to visit other schools to review them and bring back good ideas from there as well as sharing our ideas with them. Lizzy had a wonderful experience at the Compton School in London where progress and general data puts them in the very highest ranks of state schools [even better than ours!] and we have to have a mind-set of wanting to learn from the best in the land.

PD for teaching assistants

Whist Lizzy was enjoying her London trip, I was able to interview all of our teaching assistants to find out their views and needs. We currently have 26 or so, the number fluctuates with need and the questions asked were these.

As part of your professional development, I will meet you all individually for a conversation about your work at Meols Cop and listen to your ideas and aspirations. This isn’t part of any appraisal process or anything to do with pay; it’s the chance for me to support wellbeing, development and for you to tell me how we can best support you in becoming the most effective professional that you can. I’ll send out a timetable tomorrow for next week and if you wish to think about and prepare answers to discuss beforehand that’s fine or we can just chat and I’ll produce a written account of what you have to say so you can keep it for your own PD file. Thank you as always for your support and for your understanding of what I am trying to achieve.

What aspect of your role have you most enjoyed or feel has been the most rewarding over the last year? Can you explain why?

 What do you feel has been the biggest impact you have had on one of your student’s learning? What did you do specifically do you think to make this happen?

 You probably work with lots of different teachers-which methods of communication with the teachers actually helps you the most to be most effective in your role? What would you suggest could make communication better-any practical solutions?

 Are there any barriers that are preventing you being as effective with your support as you might be? Please have some suggestions and solutions ready!

 Are you happy with your role and work here. If you aren’t what can you or we do to change how you feel?

How would you like to see your career develop over the next couple of years? How can we help your professional development?

 Are there any aspects of school life/structure that you feel we might consider changing? What would be so positive about your suggestion and what impact on learning would it have do you think?

 Anything else you are desperate to tell me and ask about?

I collated the feedback from my conversations and shared the general points with all on the staff.

The latest progress measure results and continual closing of the gap in MCHS between cohorts of students shows today the impact that our TAs can show for individual students in their care as they along with the teachers and mentors much valued and appreciated emotional and learning support. Breaking down any barriers that prevent learning is crucial in avoiding the risk of potentially limiting life-long opportunities for many of our students and it is important that our teaching assistants receive the best development and resources/support available to enable them to play an effective part. I’ve had a smashing chat with all of the TAs and I’ll try to provide a summary of some of the main issues raised and how I can respond. In line with my belief in honest open discussion shared with all-if I’ve missed anything-please shout!

I have to say that I was overwhelmed with the happiness and positive attitude I encountered but although we are doing well as a school, we can always do even better and I need to hear ideas and suggestions from everyone to ensure that every single area of our school is working as effectively as it can be. Comments, responses and further suggestions are welcome!

Issues raised-in no particular order/importance by individuals or more than one TA.

  • CPD-needs-various requests from individuals and advice given but as a whole the hour meeting with each other, originally in PSD, is missed and due to expenditure, inset day attendance has been stopped over the last years thus opportunities for all of our TAs to be involved in CPD [apart from individual courses] isn’t as much as it should be if we are to be effective enough. Martin has provided some training and meeting time this year, which has been well received and I will close school early 3 times in the spring and summer terms to allow for 1 hour of training for the TAs [and 2 hours on 2 days for the teaching staff] The first 2 days will be; Thursday 24th March and Wednesday 11th May.  Training will also be provided for TAs on the whole school inset day-Friday April 1st. Time in lieu will be offered at the most appropriate time e.g. Sport’s Week, Work Experience and so on depending on who is supported to avoid normal teaching days when TA support must happen. Choices will be offered.
  • TAs do appreciate being asked for advice/opinions on the students they support-they are with them all of the time and I was delighted to hear about so many examples of great collaborative work between the teachers and TAs.  Sometimes though feedback is asked for from the TA and then they are left in the dark about what happens next. Please do keep them in the loop and do try to seek their opinions and advice-they are fellow professionals and all opinions do count. I try to model a leadership style of seeking views and treating all colleagues with respect-same rule for everyone please!
    • The TAs are all very different personalities and with a wide range of experience in different areas. Some are quite happy to intervene for example in disciplinary issues, some aren’t. Most felt that in most classrooms that they know exactly what they are expected to do, what the boundaries of their role is and they appreciated when the teachers were able to tell them beforehand or in the lesson exactly what they wanted them to do. I do wonder if a conversation for all staff might be useful at some point to reinforce best practice in the effective deployment of TAs in the classroom-what do others think?
      • This leads on to the difficult issue of finding the time to talk to teachers about the support needed and to finding time to plan differentiated work/research issues and so on. Some TAs do have time built in and some receive extra pay for additional hours and so on. I’m interested in creating an hour a week on the timetable to build planning/prep time in for TAs but as we discussed, it’s not as easy as in primaries and I’m swinging towards the idea of increasing hours for those who want it from 26-27 hours which would include an hour of PPA to be taken when the TA could fit it in. I would expect to see the evidence, of course, of the fruits of this labour but it seems to be a sensible suggestion. Janet is working out the potential cost for me so I can think about the budget/against the value of my suggestion.
        • A couple of TAs mentioned to me that they felt confident of taking their own class should the teacher be absent-I’m looking into the legalities but I’m convinced that the learning experience for our students would be better with the their TA than it would with some visiting teachers! There would be an additional payment made but Mark will check if we can actually do this first.
          • Of course a few conversations concerned pay and progression and I want to have a good look at the overall TA structure, chances of career progression and the kind of work that we currently need doing, will need doing and whether or not we have the right people in the right roles! The historic nature of roles/grades doesn’t always apply to the current situation in all aspects of our school and over a period of time, I’ll try to create a dynamic that will be better suited to our next 5 years-be patient though!
            • If we do change anything or come up with different roles and opportunities; they must be open to all and fairly advertised and paid at a rate commensurate with the role

A fair bit here for all colleagues to consider but a really worthwhile experience for me and hopefully my visitors!

Our TAs make a considerable contribution to our overall learning and teaching support and it’s important that I find out their views, value their support and provide professional development to support them becoming even more effective hence more inset on the way, additional planning time and the offer of changing roles e.g. covering lessons which will also make informal observations, planning and collaboration amongst the teachers much more easy to organise. Previous posts outlining our work with TAs and others concerning the contribution of all of our support staff are here.

Lesson Studies/observations

Ongoing and continuing through the next few weeks are our lesson studies and developmental observations which give colleagues the chance to plan and together and support the development of each other. It seems such a long time ago now that I first tried to get colleagues to observe each other and open classroom doors to all and 4 years or so since I finally banished lesson grading! Not everyone thought that it could be done or should be done but who now would ever turn back the clock? I’m not quite sure why we even call observations ‘observations’ and am always worrying about the purpose of them and how we can use them more effectively, if at all. NTEN Lesson study has proved to be popular and in terms of allowing collaboration/coaching, morale etc. it is successful but whether or not I can prove that it has actually improved learning and teaching, I’m not so certain and will look to our research leaders to find out the answer!

I’ve shared lots of blogs on lesson observations but for external readers you can see the nature of the feedback sessions for non-lesson study obs here;

Discussion between observer and observed in relation to areas trialled

 Which area of your work from the hubs/research have you trialled/showcased? Did it have the expected impact?

Do you still feel this is an area for development?

Are there any other areas you would now like to focus on developing?

How has today helped to meet your appraisal targets and the “developing” focus of your professional portfolio?

Areas for development:
For the observer:

Identify 3 piece of “great teaching” that inspired you that you are going to use in your own learning & teaching:

For the observed:

Identify your 3 favourite piece of students learning from today (what and with whom)

Lesson study examples can be found in some depth here-

A quick glimpse of where we might go with observations and hubs can be seen in one of many email exchanges on the subject-you will have to guess who is saying what!

“Ooh…following on from my hubs email got some good idea re tracking obs and am thinking next round of Hubs for 2016/17 can be based on areas of development from the lesson obs this year (7 most common themes??) then ran by those that had those areas as a particular strength. Will hopefully link into people’s hubs/trials from this year as we are encouraging them to showcase this in their obs.”

“Yes and it can fit in with your tracking of the feedback from this time’s obs so you square the circle-this can be linked to an agreed appraisal objective. I was thinking in summer of hub people watching each other on agreed focus too.”

Making the ‘main thing the main thing’ the focus of professional development based on individual requests and needs is paramount to building our school for the future.

Book looks

Lizzy has also shared our ‘book looks’ to cover English, maths, humanities and MFL so far.

Seeing the visual image of everyone in the school’s best practice has proved to be great PD and we constantly observe practice shared this way in classroom use when colleagues borrow ideas and adapt for their own use.

Bring, Show and Share

I mentioned our Bring, Show and Share idea in a September blog

The first 3, where we invited colleagues from other schools in to share subject specific ideas on English, maths and science, started slowly in numerical terms and began to grow. They have been good professional development opportunities for our staff, who as hosts did all speak and share ideas and hopefully for everyone who attended and shared back. There will be a humanities event towards Easter and a much bigger research event in summer. Most participated in the spirit of the idea by bringing and showing ideas/resources and our last one looking at lesson study, deliberately tried to encourage our local primaries to ‘lesson study’ with us.Unfortunately they were shy to appear and good links were made again with other high schools. The attendance at these events by friends from local schools encouraged me to approach two of them, Birkdale [boys] and Greenbank [girls] to suggest trialling a directed time meeting where our faculties and departments could meet and make links with each other. All 3 schools are keen to develop their staff and share best practice so in March we will all host various subject staff for an hour after school to let them have subject specific conversations. The days are gone for hidden agendas and a lack of collaboration that might have prevented such events in the past. Our 3 SLT teams will meet before this, just after half-term to introduce ourselves and hopefully make some lasting and worthwhile links. We can all learn from each other and if these events prove to be honest, open and all are willing to share and reciprocate; this will prove to be another professional development experience to build on, invite other schools in our TSA and look at joint inset days. They are early days for such developments in our locality and we lag behind other areas. Interestingly Estelle Morris made a point this week that may be pertinent to our local situation

Heads are coming together because they recognise that where their school is situated is important. It isn’t instead of chains and trusts, but in addition to them. So what is it that heads know that politicians have missed? Two things. First, most teachers have a professional commitment beyond their own school; they are ambitious for all the children in their area. This doesn’t override their desire to compete to be the best, but it means they are willing to take some responsibility for pupils other than their own. Second, education is so often a collective endeavour. It works best when teachers and learners are supported by those around them. Being a good school matters – but being a school in a successful local school system matters as well….”


There won’t be too many schools, I wouldn’t have thought that don’t talk about the use of research to provide evidence or at least have a few colleagues who either read ideas on social media or follow up ideas from courses to find out the latest bright ideas to use in our classrooms. It sounds good stuff but the reality is that finding out what is actually proven to be useful and then deciding whether or not it would work here is a different matter and the growing trend to try to use research, does need careful guidance and advice from those use to working in the research field and its application in schools. Our research conference will help our guests and our own staff but in the meantime we are engaged in national research on English and maths best practice, setting v mixed ability and spacing. The validity of some of the research that I read and the methodology involved may be open to question BUT the involvement of our staff in these projects in the early days of a growing movement isn’t open to question and they will benefit from the experience, whether it be a negative or positive one, and be able to better support colleagues in their quest to be excellent in all areas.

Their choice of inset

We have 2 more inset days this year and both are given to departments to use as they wish. I would imagine that planning together for the new curriculum/exams might feature but it is important that choice is given and that subject specific needs are prioritised by the people whom teach the subject and they are left alone to get on with it. External experts are needed to at times to deliver what we may not be able to and over the last 2 days Dianne Murphy has led our Thinking Reading volunteers, we had a wonderful transgender session before Xmas and many colleagues have either visited other schools, attended courses or selected their own PD from social media-their choices, their PD. I just have to find the cash!

Involvement of all

This is a turbulent time in education and whilst some may prefer to ignore outside jabber and just get on with their teaching/support, others do want to talk about what some of the ‘big issues’ that may be coming our way. I have opened up our normal SLT meetings to invite governors and all staff to join us in different conversations. The first meeting examined the changing Ofsted demands on governors, Wilshaw’s views and an explanation of our pupil premium spending which features heavily on the governor agenda. The second meeting looked at all the different types of academies/free schools/UTCs etc. that are springing up as we sail obliviously on in our maintained LA Ocean of Tranquillity. We await our fate in the green paper but needed to have a good discussion re possibilities and also looked at the impact raising our numbers to try to at least take in some of the students who want to join us but can’t at the moment. Quite a few of the attendees stopped me afterwards to comment on how they didn’t realise how much the SLT have to consider in the big scheme of things outside of MCHS! Teachers, mentors and TAs found time to come along and it is important that all have their say and can begin to understand the possible impact on our school possible changes will have. It’s good PD for them and should moves have to happen, then the rest of our community will be involved.

Our governors are encouraged to attend training provided for them by local agencies but we have also changed the sending of information to them by having a secure network and giving them all a schedule of the committee meetings so that they can attend other meetings, if they wish to, as well as their own committee.

Everything that we do should be open to discussion and all should be welcome to express their opinions.

Workload and wellbeing

The final big meeting of late was the most popular! I’m determined to not just talk about reducing workload and caring for wellbeing but to make some lasting principles that will be need to be adhered to. We have changed systems to consider reporting, data, marking etc. and will continue to do so but do other things need to change to? I would like an agreed charter of workload/wellbeing for us all and could have written another blog on the relationship between the 2 Ws and the issues that I raised re them both. I don’t like to talk too much these days but as I have more time to find ideas on the issues than other people, I did talk for a little while! I shared my own views before introducing ideas from the 3 main unions-NUT, NAS, Unison and lots of others. I left the room to let discussion flourish and volunteers then organised another meeting to discuss more ideas. They were going to use the NAS survey to find our opinions but the time spent on completing it would have been a workload issue in itself and they decided on a more succinct approach.

Thank you for taking the time to complete this questionnaire on well-being.

What is already working well in school that you feel we should do more of?

Is there anything you feel we should include to help us achieve our goal of a happy school where well-being and workload are important to all of us?

Is there anything that we do that is important but could be changed in order to improve?

Is there anything that we currently do that you feel we could manage without?

Is there anything you feel that could be done to reduce workload in school?

I’ll feedback on their feedback!

Up-lifting leadership at MCHS?

Over the weekend I read one of Gary Jones’s blogs [Gary will be speaking at our research day with Alex Quigley and Prof Robert Coe] about ‘Up-lifting Leadership’ where he introduced some of the ideas from a recent book of the same name by Hargreaves, Boyle and Harris.

The definition of up-lift is below.

Hargreaves et al define uplift within organisations as …. the force that raises our performance, our spirts, and our communities to attain higher purposes and reach unexpected levels of achievement (p1)As such uplift is about emotional and spiritual engagements, social and moral justice and higher levels of performance, both in work and life

The research is based on a range of private and public organisations and I’ll include it here as the 6 inter-related factors do offer a structure that I hadn’t thought of but perhaps have been talking about and crucially attempting to put into action! There must be a name for this phenomena but it escapes me at the moment! [Extract from Gary’s blog]

What does Uplifting Leadership involve?

Uplifting leadership involves six inter-related factors which come together to bring about transformations within organisations and these include:

  1. Dreaming with Determination – this involves identifying and articulating a clear, challenging destination, and which is informed by a moral imperative.  Furthermore, this dream is firmly connected with the organisation’s past and building upon what the very best of what that organisation has been in the past. 
  2. Creativity and Counter-Flow – this requires creating the new pathways necessary to reach the desired ‘dream’.  However, it also goes against the flow – in that it is not about following the predictable, it involves the counterintuitive – things that don’t seem to make sense or that others may already have rejected.
  3. Collaboration with Competition uplifting leadership is at times a counter-intuitive process and at times this will require working alongside current or future competitors.  Competition and collaborative are not mutually exclusive and it is possible for both to co-exist within the same context. 
  4. Pushing and Pulling – this necessitates using the power of the group to both push and pull things forward.  Colleagues when faced with difficulties are picked up and supported by others, whilst the higher purpose to which team members are committed pushes them onto higher levels of achievement
  5. Measuring with Meaning  – .  this  involves the extensive use of data  allows leaders to identify the direction the organisation is heading and what still needs to be done, yet is done in such a way which is both meaningful and owned by the people who work in the organisation
  6. Sustainable Success  – this involves working at a pace that is sustainable.  It’s not about leading at a pace which people cannot sustain for any substantive period of time.  It’s about recognising the ebb and flow of energy within an organisation and making sure that is managed in such a way as to bring about years and years or continuous improvement and development

I would hope that all of the leaders in our school have a dash of up-lift in them to build our school for the future. There were a lot of aspirational quotes floating around twitter from people who attended Hargreaves’s current UK speaking tour and others who joined in. I’ll include a few and ask colleagues to think about each one and ask 3 questions of it-1] Does this describe our school? 2] Does this sound like your leadership? 3] What more can we/you do to create up-lift?

Protect and support your greatest asset in any school. Your teaching staff. #teacherpower

Pay attention to teachers’ wellbeing says @HargreavesBC – uplift those we serve by uplifting those who serve them. #teacherpower

“You cannot address student wellbeing until you pay attention to teacher wellbeing” @HargreavesBC #teacherpower

Investment in teacher knowledge pays the best dividends @HargreavesBC #teacherpower @theRSAorg

This was a predominantly teacher’s conference hence the word teacher rather than ‘staff’ or ‘colleagues’ as I would constantly emphasise.

Professional development is very important to me, as I hope that you have seen. It will take some time for the newer initiatives to embed and I will use our membership of the Teacher Development Trust to externally evaluate how far we have gone and to suggest further possibilities based on knowledge of the best PD available in the TDT network. We have a lovely silver TDT CPD plaque in our foyer and whilst it would be brilliant to be considered as a GOLD CPD school, there is work still to be done, but we are on our way and hopefully we have up-lift!









What I want to say to colleagues but might forget!

2015-last term reflections

I have to say that I have really slept well during the Xmas and New Year holiday and have had the long autumn term cobwebs blown out of me by the lashings of Storm Frank on the hills and trails surrounding Threlkeld and Keswick. Time then to turn to school matters and the remaining year ahead. I outlined my vision for the year on September’s inset day, and need to return very briefly to it again on next Monday’s inset, before the people who actually know what they are talking about, get on with their own professional development! Saying thank you only matters when you mean it and there is actually something to say thank you for. Colleagues have been kind and supportive of my leadership but I want to thank them for their support of each other. I know that when they ask for volunteers to cover their lessons when it is nativity season [if we have none available] there is no shortage of helpers and I know that when staff are absent, work is sorted, classes are often taken and student needs always come first. I also know that a host of informal observations and drop-ins have occurred and that ideas have been shared collaboratively without my nagging and chasing and I know that time has been given after school for a range of sporting, cultural, performing arts and academic support activities that many parents and students presume to be the norm and their right! I wonder how many have marked or planned throughout their holidays too. I neither ask for nor expect such dedication but hope to have helped to support a culture where it just happens and I can genuinely say thank you and provide additional time for collaborative work to be tested and trialled. I hope that our systems are flexible enough to meet the family needs of staff and the personal needs of individuals, when required of their school ‘family’

I made it clear in September that I hoped to be ‘happy’ and that hopefully that would ensure that school was a place where people wanted to come and work. Of course, whilst I might try to model desirable leadership characteristics, I’m snookered if other leaders in school don’t follow suit! There is always pressure on all of our leaders and I try to deflect much of it away that comes from national bodies as possible but the day to day management of learning, teaching, behaviour and administration will always raise issues and concerns. Dealing with people fairly and supportively is a skill that doesn’t come easily to all [perhaps not to me!] but I try to avoid certain situations e.g. emailing instead of face to face speaking over important issues, trivialising issues that the person telling me is obviously bothered about, emailing at weekends or the evening that I want something tomorrow, criticising without thought or solutions to offer and not being afraid to say let me think about it and I’ll come back to you later. I could go on and sometimes difficult conversations are tempting to avoid but they must happen. If any member of staff feels that at any time they have been treated unfairly by a colleague, they must say and be clear that in our school they will be listened to and there will be no repercussions. If I don’t know about things, I can’t act!

I really dislike divisive talk that separates teachers from teaching assistants, from support staff, from mentors etc. We all have our roles that support our students and school community and my conversations with all of our support staff, Martin with our teaching assistants and the whole of our teachers in their appraisal conversations should now have brought into the open professional needs and development requests and individual planning needs. I can’t meet them all; you have your responsibilities and accountabilities too but I hope that everybody involved has appreciated the open discussion, has received at least 1 of their requests and agreed that my own shared appraisal objectives and success criteria was the right way for the school to go!


2016-my hopes and priorities

For those of you who don’t frequent twitter, there are many discussions that get extremely heated especially the Traditional/Progressive debate. I won’t bore you with the details if you haven’t a clue about what the issue is but some have tried to argue that folks should move on, the debate isn’t valid and so on whilst others defend the right to discuss and hold views on whatever you want. I have tried to include as many of my colleagues as possible in our discussions, including inviting governors and other colleagues to SLT meetings and some have attended, others haven’t. That is their right and many colleagues are too busy planning and, marking etc. to consider attending or reading documents. However, I do believe that the opportunity should be there. It doesn’t matter to me whether people agree with me or disagree, but I want to give voices the chance to be heard and important issue like increasing our numbers and considering when it is best to academise/lead a MAT etc. need to be aired and considered with the current facts ready at hand.

The new teaching structure is nearly ready to begin to have an impact. Leadership opportunities will be redistributed, faculties will be separated back into subject specific areas to support very specific professional development and teaching expertise and by the end of next week 5 research leaders attached to year groups will be appointed and ready to rock! They will be expected to seek out evidence to inform colleagues of the very best practice needed to support learners and teachers in the year area e.g. transition in year 7, individual or group needs for intervention and to follow their own areas of research. It’s an exciting direction for the school to take and will support our own, and the TSA’s research projects.

6 colleagues received intensive training just before Xmas in ‘Thinking Reading’ and I’m hoping that the intensive support that will be put into place, supported by another whole school push on reading, will have a vital impact on breaking the sometimes impenetrable learning barrier, that poor reading skills brings.

We tried to reach out to other schools via our TSA to share ideas in the core subjects. Numbers weren’t great but grew and I hope that our next meetings-lesson study and humanities will bring more people in to collaborate with each other and us. I have colleagues ready to work with English and maths KS2/3 lesson study projects and hope that our geography and history tweeters are going to bring all of their followers into school! The final show and share brings some great research experts-Rob Coe, Alex Quigley and Gary Jones- into school and I’m grateful to Lizzy, Leon and everyone else who has come along and shared their ideas with our visitors. The TSA has already provided development opportunities for our NLE and SLE with more on its way for our new SLEs. If we can develop a reputation for quality PD and very practical subject specific/leadership support, we will feel the benefits within our own school. The success will depend, as it does with much PD, on our ability to focus on what is really needed based on a thorough evaluation of data and honest talking. Throwing money around will-nilly doesn’t work and tightly constructed, openly discussed, agreed and monitored success criteria have a chance if we open our doors and model for others what we are talking about!

Much of the inset day and professional development is now down to what the staff decide their priorities are. January reviews will be presented in a style of the subject leader’s choice and data is yours to evaluate, analyse and tell us about. You know your data and your students and classes and you know what it is telling you in terms of progress over time and intervention needs. Leon is convinced that this is the way forward and the data should be yours. I’ll do anything to support the most effective ways for you to reduce workload but know that there is no 1 size fits all approach. Teachers are always complaining about the unnecessary use of tracking and data and I would imagine that most of you will be delighted to have a choice but then might panic and think what on earth should I do! Just ask-plenty of support from others is available and having a go and failing is fine too. We’re developing leadership skills and you have to find your own methodology and practice that works for you and your department. If you feel that you have a weak area of knowledge or skills; recognising it and asking for specific PD is the way to go! This applies equally to any of our learning and teaching priorities.

I don’t know yet which areas of research our new appointments will cover but I do want to open up the opportunity for a group of colleagues to begin to gather information/suggestions re work-life balance and workload. I think that we have tried really hard in this area but you may disagree and have some wonderful suggestions to make. As I said at the last inset, I don’t teach 20 lessons a week any more. I get a bit of mither here and there but it isn’t the same and as I want a happy and healthy staff, I will be seeking your advice and words of wisdom. What was that song Ken Dodd sang about ‘Happiness’-time to go methinks and wish you all a successful and happy 2016.




Let’s Work Together!

“Let’s Work Together”

“Together we will stand divided we’ll fall

Come on now people let’s get on the ball

And work together, come on, come on let’s work together, now, now people

Say now together we will stand, every boy, girl, woman, and man…”

I haven’t produced a blog since our first inset day in September-the autumn term is always hectic and the changing emphasis of my role has sent me in new directions, which I have had to learn quickly. I have also tried not to interfere or give too many of my own views whilst our new leadership team establishes themselves, especially Lizzy, who has to feel that she has ownership of areas I dabbled in for a few years! When I’ve managed to pause briefly for reflection, I invariably arrive back at the message from inset day of my desire to be happy in my job, with the knock on effect that will have on all in our community. Understanding what is valued at MCHS and celebrating what we have achieved and seeking to sustain and increase our own performance will, I believe, give us the impetus to not just keep our heads above the waters of economic and educational uncertainty and change BUT to reach new, exciting and effective learning and teaching opportunities for our students and staff. Underlying all of the sound-bites and aspirational rhetoric has to be practical day in day out collaboration and working together of all in our school. Divided we fall and whilst the fine lines between individual, department, role in school and whole school priorities can blur and cause heart felt professional disagreements and differences at times-we have to continue to develop a supportive and listening environment where all can feel valued and contribute ideas, all should have personalised professional development opportunities and all should have an appropriate workload that challenges colleagues but doesn’t break them and that focuses on agreed and discussed needs of our school and students.

Sounds great and lots of school leaders, of course, say exactly the same thing-can we make it work?

For non-teachers, parents and friends of the school who may be reading the blog, much of the time on early inset days and directed time meetings in September is dedicated to teacher appraisal. Last year’s targets, especially the summer exam results, are scrutinised and hopefully celebrated and new objectives are agreed upon and set for the coming year. The process is similar in most schools because the deadline dates are set and the successful completion of appraisal objectives is linked to pay. For many years of my career, appraisal wasn’t taken seriously and was a minor irritation to be put up with. We have to do it ‘properly’

now and whilst it still irritates many, it does represent a golden opportunity, in my opinion, to work together and join up our thinking on linking professional development needs to learning and teaching agreed priorities. The problem is that the October deadline for completion causes a cack handed way of supporting appraisal-there isn’t enough time to organise a logical process. Although we do a lot of preparatory work in the summer term-individual professional portfolios/departments agree on initial priorities-the summer results can change these drastically and the school improvement plan which is written partly in summer to offer ideas for individual/department plans is also only a draft, because I need to see what everybody is asking for so that I can put their views into the whole school plan! Appraisals should reflect individual, department and whole school issues/or at least be fully aware of the latter two. As the deadline for the head’s appraisal is 2 months after that of my colleagues, this means that they don’t get to see mine until theirs are completed. Perhaps this should be the other way round?

Appraisals are confidential but to ease workload [quite a few find them tricky and time-consuming] I did offer 20 or so possible scenarios to try and cover what I imagined would be popular choices for objectives complete with possible success criteria and measures of impact. I know that some schools impose objectives but colleagues seem happy to save time and pinch suggestions if they like them and for the one that we all have-exam residuals-I shared anonymised examples/added suggestions to firm up the criteria and help us all to be able to prove to anyone who asks, that we have done everything possible to achieve targets. Banks of anonymised objectives/success criteria will be ready next time to choose from, if required, and save precious time and effort. We have always provided examples but this is a much more thorough collaborative approach.





The timings are something for me to consider, however, they haven’t stopped us from thinking about streamlining the processes, working together to reduce workload and making the whole reviewing/appraisal process far more joined up. I was hoping that enquiry questions would replace the traditional appraisal objectives and that we could link these to research based PD. This was a step too far for this time and Leon provided a development session to show how we could replace much of the time consuming faculty SEFs with research questions which focused on perceived areas of weakness/subject specific priorities. These linked to the subject reviews and provided areas for us to follow up with faculties in the mid-winter review. A whole load of paper-work based on old Ofsted style demands disappeared and this seemed a much more effective way forward AND it can fit onto 1 side of A4! Our peer review from Challenge Partners will give us a clearer view of how others might view our approach/provide suggestions and feedback.

Department Improvement Plan                        Department – Mathematics

School Priorities
Effectiveness of Leadership Quality of teaching, learning and assessment Personal development, behaviour and welfare Outcomes for children and other learners
Professional development-meeting individual and faculty needs – MUST impact on learning and be researched, evaluated and adapted if necessary Embed ‘MCHS’ Great Teaching Continue to develop student voice Individual faculty responses to the 2015 exam results
Sustaining our leadership capacity Embed GM-link to BSG Continue attendance drive-monitor extra-curricular attendance re cohorts Fully close the gap in all subjects between ever 6 and non-ever 6
Safeguarding and workload Quality feedback-link to BSG E safety awareness when appropriate Focus on middle attainers in most subjects [focus on any areas of underperforming cohorts]
Interleaving / memory retention Subject specific careers positi9cve advice Preparation in KS3 to support G.C.S.E. [BSG, quizzing, interleaving, new NC SOLs]


Department priorities
Middle Attainers – our middle attainer cohort continues to remain a focus for our department. Revision and intervention will target this cohort and extra sessions will include invite only for these students in year 11.
 Curriculum – We need to prepare our students for the changes for the new GCSE. Complete the SOWs and introduce the idea of interleaving (LAT’s). Research into ‘Shuffled’ teaching.
Leadership – JF, ZE, BK, FD are all completing the NAML programme which connects to their appraisal targets. CB needs to attend courses to ensure department are aligned with new curriculum and mastery methods. JF to improve links with primary schools.


Enquiry Questions (Based on department and/or school priorities)
Question: To what extent can <detail of intervention> have on <cohort> How & when will it be evaluated? What does success look like? Led by:
To what extent can shuffling the curriculum have on the impact of our middle attainers? Throughout the year assessments will be used to evaluate impact of teaching. By December break have a view to evaluate sets and shuffle sets if necessary. Prior testing and then retesting methods will be introduced after Christmas. Attainment and students survey feedback will inform us of this type of teaching and impact for our subject. JF & AW
To what extent can shuffling teaching sets have impact on our middle attainers? Student survey – do students prefer to be in a smaller group or back with students in a larger class. By Christmas and then Easter have a student survey completed. An engaged set 5 with high expectations that they can achieve their target grade. CB & SL
To what extent does our curriculum design help our students at KS4 and how can we prepare students for new GCSE with LAT’s style questions ZE and BK will look at the impact of prior knowledge checks before teaching the new GCSE chapters. EVALUATION: by attainment end of Spring term 1 and spring term 2.

The whole department are involved with designing and teaching LAT’s questions for current year 9 and 10 alongside the new SOW’s that CB and JF are writing throughout the year. EVALUATION: completed SOW’s used by staff, survey. Final term of the year.

Decision to introduce prior knowledge assessments into KS3.

Completed SOW with LAT’s included.


Whole department.

Department Improvement Plan                        Department – Geography

School Priorities
Effectiveness of Leadership Quality of teaching, learning and assessment Personal development, behaviour and welfare Outcomes for children and other learners
Professional development-meeting individual and faculty needs – MUST impact on learning and be researched, evaluated and adapted if necessary Embed ‘MCHS’ Great Teaching Continue to develop student voice Individual faculty responses to the 2015 exam results
Sustaining our leadership capacity Embed GM-link to BSG Continue attendance drive-monitor extra-curricular attendance re cohorts Fully close the gap in all subjects between ever 6 and non-ever 6
Safeguarding and workload Quality feedback-link to BSG E safety awareness when appropriate Focus on middle attainers in most subjects [focus on any areas of underperforming cohorts]
Interleaving / memory retention Subject specific careers positi9cve advice Preparation in KS3 to support G.C.S.E. [BSG, quizzing, interleaving, new NC SOLs]


Department priorities
A-A* – Improve exam results within the high ability A-A*cohort.
Interleaving   – Analyse the effectiveness of interleaving topics within GCSE year 10. Investigate the success of this in embedding subject content between two different classes.
Preparing KS3 students for the GCSE transition. – retaining key facts and figures to support extended answers.


Enquiry Questions (Based on department and/or school priorities)
Question: To what extent can <detail of intervention> have on <cohort> How & when will it be evaluated? What does success look like? Led by:
To what extent can additional intervention involving targeting A-A* answering techniques benefit students within year 11. Mock exam at Christmas

14/25 A-A* students will be invited to attend a coffee morning each week to support subject knowledge for the forthcoming Christmas exams. Student’s marks will be compared with the remaining 11 students whom were not provided with this intense workshop. If there is an evident gap in the answering techniques of students whom are expected to gain A-A* then we will continue to use invite only coffee mornings for other cohorts along with the rest of these students.

·         Achieving A-A* grades

·         Answering question papers using sophisticated geographical terminology required by examining board.

·         Incorporating data and example locations for 6mark GCSE questions whilst interlinking each topic to provide a broad understanding of geographical processes.

·         SPaG will be precise and condensed to avoid “waffling” and time wasting.

·         Tests will be fully completed within time scales.

·         GMS – students will be inspired to achieve highly and be successful.



Does interleaving benefit students in retaining subject knowledge to aid overall performance?






Students will study two topics over a period of time completing general class tests and assessments. When topics are completed they will complete a 1 hour exam on the topics taught.


Evaluation of results:

These will be compared to see which class did better overall and if interleaving is an effective way of teaching and supporting retention of knowledge. We will continue this for a further two topics and feedback again the results and as a dept. choose if we will continue with this method of teaching for all GCSE topics.


Cohorts of students can be identified if strategies are working better for different students.

Students whom are interleaving will be able to link their subject knowledge across more than one topic.


Class tests and assessment should incorporate more geographical knowledge.


More facts, figures, data will be used to support their knowledge as they are able to make clear links between topic areas they may use the dame data.


Exam results from one hour test will give a clear picture of what works best from a bank of results from both classes.


GMS – students will want to learn and be eager to do well in all topics being taught.











Can fact building support student knowledge of case studies at KS3 in preparation for GCSE level?





8.4 And 8.1 Students will be given 10 facts at the start of each topic within lessons that they will learn and reflect on over a period of time. These will be used in connection with case study examples that will be taught in lesson as well. The aim of this is to embed facts and figures at KS3 in preparation for GCSE level. Students will complete an end of unit test which will require them to answer a GCSE level question which incorporates these facts.


Classes that haven’t been given the facts as a revision technique at the start of each lesson will learn them through class time activities and individual revision in preparation for their end of unit test. Marks from 8.1 will be compared with 8.2 and 8.4 will be compared with 8.3 to evaluate if fact starters are a way of embedding information.

·         GCSE style questions are answered using facts and figures that is relevant and correct about the case study.

·          They use these willingly and without hesitation when verbal communication is used.

·         Students will be able to recall this information at a later date and end of year test.

·         Students when choosing Geography as a GCSE subject are eager to learn more facts and are prepared for the change in level of content required at GCSE level.

·         Students reach their BSG target and beyond.

·         GMS – students will thrive on including facts in their work and will work hard to remember the key data.




Whilst the teachers were helping us to shape the future direction of learning and teaching, there were still 2 large groups of adults within the school who I needed to hear the views of and who contribute hugely to the overall effectiveness of our school. I have worked with our large group of teaching assistants [varies between 25-30!] and written about their PD and celebrated the contribution of all of our support staff in various previous blogs. The truth is though, that I haven’t been able to constantly provide the discussions, sharing of experiences and necessary PD with our TAs as I have wanted to and I’m delighted that Martin has been working with them this year and that we have planned early finishes after Xmas to provide much needed PD time that doesn’t take them from their students. His initial questions/responses are here.

Professional Development session

Questions for Teaching Assistants


For my part have interviewed all of the rest of our support staff from the office staff, site technicians and mentors-just a couple more to catch! I asked these questions, which many of them prepared for before the meeting.

Name                                                              PDWB conversation                                      Date

Which aspects of your role during the last 12 months do you feel you have been most successful with and should be celebrated and valued?-give me some examples

Please provide some examples of how you have supported any colleagues over the last year when they have needed support/advice/perhaps just someone to listen? Are there any times when a colleagues has really helped you when you needed it most?

What are the key skills that you need for your role?

How could we help you to become more effective in your role-this might be to up-skill you, change systems, anything else?

Are you as happy and motivated with your role here as you want to be? Are there any barriers to happiness/health that you want to share/need help removing?

Have you got any secret aspirations or career moves you would like us to support you with or discuss?

What do you think has been your biggest impact on student learning/development over the last year?

Looking at wider issues, perhaps in your own area or across the whole school, what can the leadership team do to improve any areas of weakness/lack of organisation etc. that you perceive-please offer some practical solutions for me to raise at the appropriate forums.

The PDWB-professional development and work life balance title-showed my clear intentions of giving all colleagues the chance to tell me about their contributions, their own PD needs to help them become more effective and to offer lots of solutions as to how we can improve any areas of school that they wanted to tell me about. I have tried to make at least one of everyone’s wishes to come true but my main hope was that everyone could see how much I value their work and by us all working effectively in our own areas- together we can really make a difference for our students.

Most of the school blogs are about sharing ideas with each other and regular readers will know that everyone is expected to contribute ideas and examples on chosen subjects such as feedback. Hence some of the blogs are massive uber blogs! Lizzy has introduced some new collaborative ideas relying on volunteers, in the first instance, as they get going and it’s important that these opportunities develop alongside the non-volunteer ones-the more the merrier! Her most recent blog should appear at the same time as this one so it saves me from explaining the collaborative Breakfast Jams, middle leader training and Learning Hubs. Below is an example of the latest learning and teaching bulletin she produces with staff input every couple of weeks.

MCHS LT Newsletter 8

The large ‘sharing’ blogs will follow the up-coming lesson study/lesson observations when we feedback to everyone on the great practice observed and also after our first book monitoring of the year when all teachers will share an example of their feedback with each other. Informal observations have already been happening/experienced teachers modelling aspects of teaching and Lizzy has been taken aback at the openness colleagues have with their willingness to invite others in, to share ideas and resources they have produced and actually be welcoming and nice to each other! As we are currently in the middle of our consultation process of proposed staffing structure changes to re-distribute leadership further, it is worthwhile pausing to consider the rationale behind this and everything I have written here about ‘working together’ and perhaps linking it to well-known John Hattie quote, “ Do you have the courage to see excellence all around you?” Whatever else happens in education financially or otherwise, I have to invest in the PD of our staff, value them, develop them, and protect them from excessive top down dictates from external or internal sources.

Working together also includes our parents and governors. Parents have already been into school for our traditional information evenings and parent evenings but I’m pleased that Annette added an extra session to support the parents of students who have left and then found SEN support in FE pulled away and that Annette and Cal had a successful turn-out for an E-safety evening which had parents asking for more of them. Our governors play an important role in school but it isn’t often mentioned or explained. The requirements of Ofsted in their new inspection handbook places a huge emphasis on school leadership which includes governorship and the document was discussed at our full governors’ and then I extended an invite to come into our SLT meeting to discuss the professional development needed to answer the questions effectively and to discuss the changing role and expectations of them. They regularly attend local training but I have asked that we join the national association of governors to offer a wider perspective and both our clerk and chair are keen to sign up to Edge Hill University appropriate courses.

I absolutely welcome the desire of our teaching staff to use research to provide the evidence to inform their practice and bring the best ideas into MCHS, I want them to visit other schools and bring back ideas that are better than our own-I want them to be the best that they can BUT this approach towards professional development has to include everyone who either works here or works together with us. This also has to include the schools and teachers who will work with us in new and developing supportive systems. We have to stand together!

[Student ‘working together’ with us to follow and apologies for the change in font for the final paragraphs-none of us know why this happens-any solutions gratefully received!]




Bottom up CPD at its best!


Over the last couple of weeks we have had a number of bottom up CPD events and meetings here at MCHS. It has been great to see staff working together, sharing ideas, co-planning and collaborating over the learning & teaching priorities that really matter to them.

Our “Breakfast Jams” got underway with the first session being led by Jen, our Maths subject leader, on the theme of interleaving.  Interleaving is something the Maths department have been leading the way on and other departments are following suit embedding revision alongside the teaching of new content and making links between topics, all with the purpose of making it easier for the students to be fully prepared for the increased rigour of the new GCSEs. Jen shared the Maths approach through “5 a day” and “LATs” (Link a topic). Greg and Martin shared some of the ideas from History that are being trialled; looking at the process of revision and the effects that interleaving revision in small chunks alongside new content versus revision in larger blocks at the end of a topic can have.  Bronagh and Eddie from MFL have also been trialling interleaved practice, looking at alternating revision with new content on a weekly basis, with a systematic approach to learning key words. Similarly, Carmel and Rachel shared the impact of the “total recall” facts from Science and the increasing expectation on students to remember not just their weekly ten facts but also those from previous weeks. It was great to see staff from across departments sharing their current practice and collaborating with each other over some pastries and a cup of coffee. Our Breakfast Jams are scheduled fortnightly at the moment, with the next one being led by Katie, on the topic of modelling…however, I have a long list of volunteers to lead them, so much so that we might go weekly in the New Year!

The first Breakfast Jam fitted in nicely with our “interleaving week”; aimed at raising the profile of the idea of interleaving across school. Staff were asked to make their use of interleaving strategies more explicit to students during this week and I went into assemblies to explain a little bit to all our year groups about the workings of the brain and the power of interleaved practice. Interleaving slideThe result for me was an invitation into a number of different lessons to see interleaving in action.  Beth was continuing the use of her “DIY 5 a day” and 8.1 were creating their own questions on five different topics.  The level of challenge and expectation was infectious and some students let their imaginations run wild coming up with their own fabulous questions which their peers then answered. Beth and I talked about the possibility of developing this even further by getting the students to put their questions in scenarios that they might see in an examination… cue Hannah’s sweets!

DIY 5 a day

LATsAlex invited me in to see 10.1 complete a LATs style activity in which they created their own questions based around a set of points and then completed questions set by Alex that covered a number of different topics.  The pupils told me how much they enjoyed this style of activity as it made them feel prepared for any type of question that could be thrown at them.


Carmel invited me in to see year 7 interleaving 14 different facts from their total recall; there are 8 groups on the periodic table; metals are on the left and non-metals on the right and rows are called periods to name but a few. What is interesting with the science facts is that the students are learning the facts, in some cases, before they have got to grips with the understanding in class. For Carmel and her team this is proving to be an interesting approach, where normally students would cover the learning/understanding for a topic in class and then remember/recall/learn by heart. It will be interesting to see how the results of this evolve.

Alongside this the last week has also seen us host our first Bring, Show & Share event for Maths…a great “bottom up” CPD opportunity for Maths teachers from across the NW. Armed with a few spring rolls, chicken dippers and sausage rolls our Maths team set about sharing some of their current work and areas they are trialling. They were joined by colleagues from other local schools, eager to collaborate and forge links to work together in the future. Jen kicked proceedings off by talking about the trial that she and Alex are taking part in as part of the RISE research project – interleaving vs. blocked practice with year 9.  As a non-maths Specialist it was great to stand by and see conversation between Maths teacher’s flow, keen to hear that they are all facing the same challenges with the new curriculum and to discuss ways of tackling it.  In a time where subject specific mastery is becoming more and more important it is crucial that we facilitate the sharing of good practice by subject specialists as a form of bottom up CPD. Our Science, English and Humanities staff will also be leading their own Bring, Show and Share events in the coming weeks and months.

Our learning hubs were in full flow in last Thursday’s twilight and it was fantastic to be party to some of the deep conversations taking place about a whole variety of issues. Greg and Beth had their feedback hub working on creating a bank of DIRT stickers – this is an idea that has been trialled in History over the last few weeks and has seen some tremendous success, especially with some of our lower ability students who can extend or summarise their learning by “texting an alien” or creating some “scrabble words.”

Active learning hubLisa and Fran are leading our active learning hub, and over the last few weeks staff have trialled a number of strategies.  They used the hub time to share their results and to look for further areas to trial and evaluate before the next meeting of the hubs.


Colin’s hub on engaging delivery focused on questioning and he had guest appearances from Beth, sharing her student led questioning and Helen, sharing her approach to questioning to increase engagement. Colin had set his hub session up like a KS4 business studies lesson to model for staff his question generator. Colin has worked really hard on developing an approach to questioning in which students are able to not only answer but also create their own questions. The hub gave him the chance to showcase this and for others to refine and develop for use in their own subject areas.

Question generator final  hints and tips final

differentiation 1The differentiation hub saw Katie, Zoe and Katy  discussing what is meant by differentiation as well as some different methods for implementing it within the classroom.  Katie shared an example of differentiation by outcome in the form of a persuasive writing task and the group also discussed the need to involve the students in shaping what differentiation works for them, with plans to launch a student questionnaire for evaluation before the next hub.

differentiation 2

The promoting independence hub, led by Sarah, used the time for all staff to share a strategy they have been trialling to promote independence amongst the students. Wendy’s building resilience hub were looking at marking exams and tests and giving constructive feedback to students whose effort levels are high but attainment lower. There was a huge crossover with all of the MSHC mind-set work here. Our final group, the IRIS hub, were looking at the various different ways to use IRIS for sharing and reflecting and how a video might be created for one purpose but can lead to discussions around a whole host of topics. Jen shared a clip she had done of her 5 a day with year 10. She had previously shared this at a department meeting and had told me about the whole host of discussion points it raised from punctuality, to BFL to timing, all before the discussion around the 5 a day itself. Showing it to the IRIS hub raised the same questions and discussion points; showing the power of IRIS. The team are keen to further develop the role of IRIS and will be presenting their views and findings in the coming months. As a group they are actively sharing clips and videos and reflecting on each other’s work.

It is great to see staff in control of their own CPD, working in hubs they have chosen to be a part of derived from their own discussions about what makes great teaching. I am trying to ensure that I am exposing them to the latest thinking to ensure their discussions are as relevant and current as they can be and are firmly rooted in an evidenced, research based culture. As we approach lesson study and lesson observation time I am keen to ensure that staff are trialling their ideas and taking risks in a culture in which they can receive constructive and developmental feedback.





Subject Specific Professional Development

Hopefully our inset sessions aren’t quite as tedious as ‘Secret Teacher’ articles complain ones at other schools may be! We do try to provide personal choice, subject specific PD and lots of collaborative sharing of practical resources and ideas that can be used in our classrooms and then evaluated and adapted. However it would be even better if we could organise professional development events where colleagues from other schools could gather and quite simply talk about their subject, swap and share ideas and make new links with schools they might not even have heard of before! I’m constantly asked by colleagues if they can go out to other schools to see great practice and I would imagine that the situation is the same elsewhere. Teachers on twitter, supported by TDA and CUREE advice want to have their own ‘bottom up’ PD choices, want the opportunity to meet colleagues from other schools and want to be able to gather ideas that will impact on their own teaching and student learning. No more talking and moaning-let’s make it happen!

We will host, organise and feed for nowt-all visitors have to do is to bring themselves, their mates, their ideas/resources and be ready to talk to strangers about their current good practice or raise issues they would like to discuss. We will start at 5 to allow the NW to participate and arrive and we will show willing by sharing some of our ideas to warm everyone up. The start time will also allow as many people to engage as possible-if it was in the school day, usually only 1 person would be allowed to attend [the subject leader perhaps!] but we want colleagues of all experiences to feel free to come along.

The growth of teachmeets has been phenomenal and great ideas are gleaned from them [and from twitter] but not everyone feels confident enough to stand and perform so apart from the press-ganged MCHS staff, everybody will be in small enough groups to feel comfortable enough to speak and share openly and honestly. The topics can be decided on the night, although when you let us know if you are coming, it would be useful to know what you feel we should suggest as topics and what you can share. Lizzy, our new learning and teaching AHT’s details are on the flyers; please let her know a.s.a.p.

I feel passionate about the power and potential of collaboration across schools and hope that others feel the same way too and will find their way to sunny Southport. We’d love to organise events for all subjects in the new year but need the support of NW teachers. I hope that you can support the events and look forward to meeting lots of new friends. If you have any alternative ideas for collaborative professional subject specific development, please do let us know your suggestions.






Open All Hours part 2

In part 1 of the post, I shared the benefits that opening our school up to many different visitors and sharing our ideas via social media and conferences has already brought us. The more colleagues from elsewhere ask questions of our practice and look beyond the quick glimpse these blogs can give by coming into our classrooms or interviewing our staff, the more we will reflect on our practice, ‘up our game’, if need be and develop our own learning and teaching for the benefit of our students. Collaboration between schools is the way forward to support improvement and create opportunities for teachers and leaders to grasp and shape the future of what matters most in education-learning and teaching!

If you missed part 1, the questions raised by 3 schools visiting over the next few weeks were;

 Culcheth 3rd June

Three key things:

  • School marking/assessment policy
  • How each department is allowed to develop effective assessment/feedback strategies?
  • Life after levels – liked the blog written by your AHT

Bloxham 5th June.  Here are a few questions that I would be interested to hear about:

  • When do you run CPD sessions on T&L/Assessment and tracking and how often?
  • Do you have any specific teachers’ lead these sessions?
  • How do SLT/MLT monitor the T&L/pupil Tracking within a whole school setting/department??
  • Do you have a whole school policy on book marking and if so does each department interpret that to make it specific to their department?
  • How often does work scrutiny take place on a whole school/departmental level?
  • What support is there for any teachers who don’t meet the standards that the school requires?
  • How do you use student feedback/reflections to help improve their work/progress?
  • How much time in a lesson is dedicated to reflecting on feedback?
  • How does the school keep updated with new developments in T&L/Pupil tracking?
  • How much responsibility do Middle Leaders have? What CPD is given to the MLT?

Marple Hall 22nd June

Thank you again for allowing me the chance to visit your school – I am really looking forward to this opportunity. We would like to mainly look at:

  • Assessment without levels (I have read your blog in detail but I would like to actually see how it works).
  • As you know we have started this year doing some work on growth mind-set. I would like some advice on how to embed it across the whole school and would like to know what work you have done on it. I am also interested in all the systems that you might have in place that underpin growth mind-set.

We hope our visitors gain too and are able to borrow any ideas that they like to take back to their schools to adapt for their staff and students and we hope that they will leave us, or respond later, with an honest professional critique of what they saw and bounce ideas back to us. We already have some great ideas from Bronagh’s visit to Ana at Marple Hall-thank you! I covered some of our marking/feedback ideas I’d been asked about in the first post and although I’ve written about how we organise CPD previously; to answer questions raised by 1 of the visiting schools [see the Bloxham questions] and to share with others our latest ideas and practice, here are our plans for the final half-term.

Our whit inset day was explained in one of our big sharing blogs-

And our latest rota of shared ideas [on literacy and numeracy] followed quickly.

After our teaching staff decided on the most important aspects of pedagogy for their own subject lessons, our learning hubs began to dissect each chosen area to gather a bank of resources and good practice that can be trialled and then shared with other colleagues. All teaching staff are involved in a hub of their choice, volunteers lead them and we use directed time and inset days/twilights to allow for collaborative planning and feedback. The hubs will run to next Xmas in the first instance.

The opening questions for each hub were;

  • What do we all understand the priority to mean for our teaching and our classrooms?
  • In our experience what does a good one [of our priority] look like in action?
  • What made it effective-how should we measure effectiveness?
  • Why did the groups choose this-what is it about this priority that makes it so important for student learning/
  • What do students and staff find most difficult about mastering it?
  • What good practice do we have already?
  • What do we need to find out more about?
  • How will we do that-where is there any information?
  • How will we measure our success as a hub?

The hubs lined up like this;

Engaging Delivery-led by Colin

Lots of argument re the word ENGAGED at the moment. Doesn’t mean ‘fun’ or necessarily enjoyable! I take engaged to mean working hard/learning hard and well, focused, concentration etc. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t attract their interest and organise activities so that they are challenging and involve all learners. Questioning obviously jumps out as a tactic to engage all but what else would you focus on? I’ve got loads of research and ideas from other schools to send you once I know who you all are!

Building Resilience and Risk Taking led by Wendy

I’ve put these two together as they both seem to come under the GM stable. So much info and ideas floating round on this and you may well have enough to share and develop just from our own school!

IRIS training led by Phil and Jen

They had already volunteered to lead a hub on IRIS. We haven’t made a big enough use of IRIS yet to unleash the huge potential it had and other leading schools have developed excellent examples of it in action. The cameras can be used in ordinary classroom situations or to develop professional skills and coaching. The cameras are coming so please use this brilliant opportunity to train someone out of your faculty up to be ready, willing and able! PS I have no intention of using them to spy-I can’t access any of the footage-they are for professional development/teaching purposes only and represent a massive leap forward.

Student Ownership of Own Learning led by Beth and Greg

This takes in a couple of suggestions from Comfortable Learning and for me, the main thrust is to keep our push going to support and enable our students to understand clearly how their own learning should [and can] progress and involve our learning dialogue with them. This covers oral and written feedback, peer and self-critique for starters! We’ve had a massive sharing of ideas already but it’s such an important area of learning and teaching that it has to be constant AND if the hub keeps one eye on staff workload too; they’ll be on to a winner!

Student Centred Planning and Delivery led by Katie

Meeting individual needs and using research and evidence/best practice to inform for Katie’s hub-fits nicely with external research from RISE but in the meantime I would imagine that the hub will discuss their approaches towards differentiation. Again controversial area of current educational debate-what does differentiation mean in practical terms and what doesn’t it mean! I’ll equip you with ideas after the first meeting but the first rule for me is knowing your students [or teachers!] really well in terms of their skills, knowledge, and potential in your subject, explicit and implicit learning barriers/needs. This doesn’t mean 25 different lesson plans, an emphasis on 1 cohort or another but does mean applying active intervention when appropriate based on what you see in your classroom.

Promote Independence led by Sarah

Combining with Preparing for Life-how can we instil ‘can do’, self-awareness and reflection as you prioritised. This links with student ownership but with the emphasis perhaps on the teaching strategies rather than the learning aspects. Big questions of how do they learn best, how do they revise best, interleaving, making learning stick, which assessment tactics help their learning most-I could write a book on this! If we get these right and they are different for different students, we will be able to promote independence-they can’t do it for themselves at first!

Active Learning led by Lisa

This doesn’t mean us shutting up quickly, less teacher talk and letting interactive learning unfold. I think you prioritised ‘active’ to mean student involvement in their own learning [as with a couple of other hubs] and DIRT ideas and the reflection involved springs to mind. With Lisa leading, I would imagine she is thinking about how improved literacy and numeracy can support ‘active’ involvement as well as the use of different learning and teaching tactics to writing and listening.

Modelling led by Anne

A tough one so I’ve used the most experienced of our current 5 lesson a day colleagues! I think that Anne wearing her pastoral hat may well touch on our responsibilities as teachers to model good behaviour, learning and commitment to model the highest expectations but am sure that in the discussions on teaching you will be covering modelling good learning habits and techniques, WAGOLLS, 6 marker prep, use of modelled answers, visualizer and so on.

Hope my bit of an intro to each helps guide some thoughts-I don’t want to dictate but want to avoid unnecessary overlap, although some is inevitable.

These are 2 slides which summarise my ideas but I’m always happy to go with your flow!



 A whole range of current ideas from a variety of blogs and research went to the different blogs and will continue to be emailed out. Many of our staff will find their own and do follow twitter but as I don’t have their teaching load, I find as much good stuff as I can!

Ideas quickly began to come back to me and then out to the rest of our staff.

Student-centred planning and delivery hub (focus on differentiation)




What do we all understand differentiation to mean for our teaching and our classrooms?

Differentiation means to us that we know the levels our students our working at and how each student needs to be challenged in order to progress.

In our experience what does good differentiation look like in action?

Differentiation is often subtle and not so much about different resources for different students but more about targeted questioning dependant on their ability, one-to-one informal chats, explaining instructions in different ways, offering bullet points or sentence starters are suggestions.  It means catering for all but also challenging all. Differentiation is also about making sure that all students are able to get to the ‘end point’- not necessarily in the same way. For example in the new English GCSE there will no longer be a foundation paper and therefore all students of every ability will have to be able to answer the same questions.

What made it effective-how should we measure effectiveness?

On a very simple level, students making progress regardless of outside factors such as EAL/SEN.

Why did the groups choose this-what is it about this priority that makes it so important for student learning?

Zoe and Katy and I all questioned how to ensure that differentiation was effective, without being time-consuming and  ensured that all students were able to succeed, perhaps at different rates.

What do students and staff find most difficult about mastering it?

Time! Ensuring that students are differentiated for and also challenged. That differentiation does not restrict.

 What good practice do we have already?

Teachers know their students’ needs and differentiate, often without thinking about it.

What do we need to find out more about?

Easy and effective ways to differentiate the same skill and then differentiation in applying that skill.

How to always challenge a student whilst differentiating for their needs- the balance between too hard and too easy.

 How will we do that-where is there any information?

Meaningful, manageable differentiation blog

Chris Moyse’s differentiation blog

 How will we measure our success as a hub?

We are hoping to trial the idea of teaching a skill by breaking the skill down into different levels. Zoe suggested colour coding abilities so students were asked to answer the coloured question that would challenge their ability. For instance, in maths, take the skill adding, low ability would have to add 28+51, whereas a middle ability would have a question such as Harry had £28 in his pocket and won £51 on a scratch card. How much money does Harry now have? Katy felt this could be easily applied to Art but wanted to ensure that responsibility was given to them for completing the task once they had been provided with the skills, something we all agreed on.  

The difficulty with this is ensuring that all students’ learning styles are catered for as student A, who is lower ability, may prefer the question in context which he/she may not have had access to and will have seen as 28+51. We decided it would be beneficial to suggest a question for each ability to answer but then perhaps given the choice –as long as it was always challenging them. The thing we kept coming back to was the idea of differentiating but then also ensuring that challenge and options were given- these two things should not be opposing but we feel like there is a fine balance in ensuring they’re not!

We also want to ensure students are given the option to take responsibility for their own differentiation. Zoe talked about maths ‘star-marking’ where they got students to review their work on a fortnightly basis. Students would write down a strength, a target and then a question that they wanted to be able to answer next based on their target. We liked this as it meant students were having to engage with their own needs.

Overall, we would want to come up with ideas that ensured that differentiation was done in a way that benefited both us and the students but also meant that all could reach the ‘end-point’

Learning Hub Meeting Minutes: Active Learning Hub

Date: 12th May 2015

Present: LC, FD, EJ, ST, JD, AO, RM, IE, MD

Discussion Point

RE – oral feedback can be better than written feedback – active idea – record oral feedback.

RE – low ability to demonstrate understanding in a more practical way.

General – low ability struggle to peer/self-assess – weak literacy

Motivation strategies required for some students to engage with peer/self-assessment.

Develop student’s capability to be responsible for themselves and their learning.

Need pupils to verify that they understand learning and can implement that learning in further work. 

Modelling & explaining of learning – JD’s ‘Letter Bodies.’

Allowing Lead learners e.g. Sports Leaders, to teach some learning/technique – student leaders to plan & deliver.

Revision techniques – partners to write revision questions for each other (works better with higher ability)

Issue raised – the need to focus on one idea at a time and embed that idea accordingly. Subject Teams to have confidence to develop and embed appropriate initiatives.

Success measured by student participation/engagement/ enjoyment/student questionnaires.

Will contribute towards student memory retention – making learning stick) e.g. interleaving, 5 A Day). Teach students how to learn for themselves. Literacy & Numeracy can be barriers to learning.

Develop ownership of learning in students. Giving students strategies of how to learn/how to revise/showing students what learning looks like. E.g. lunch intervention in Science – students take ownership to turn up and learn for 10 minutes.

Barriers to overcome: Literacy/Numeracy difficulties, time to embed strategies before commencing more – prioritise one strategy per term.  

  • Idea – opportunities to observe staff from other subject areas to share practice 
  • Idea – Subject leaders to pair up with other subject leaders to develop middle leader’s confidence at prioritising strategies/initiatives. 
  • Good practice already happening:
  • Students to actively design their own experiment.
  • Flip Learning in various subjects.
  • Lead Learners in History
  • Quick off the draw in History
  • Sports leaders in PE
  • 5 A Day in Science & Maths
  • Revision Pong (aka Beer Pong – without the beer!!) in Science
  • Pen colours in Science – easy to see improvements made by students to their work.
  • Dot marking in MFL.

What does the Hub want to look at for next meeting?

  • Martin – SEN focus
  • Lisa, Fran & Amy – Lead Learner focus
  • Rachael – Low ability focus
  • Jen – Revision Pong focus
  • Sophie & Ed – Flipped Learning focus

Senior leaders are not members of any of the hubs so that colleagues don’t feel under any persuasive pressure! Leon and I wander the groups to listen to discussions, answer questions and offer pots of money! This is the 4th or 5th year of our hubs and I believe that they have made a huge contribution to developing a collaborative ethos and helped us to deal with tough learning barriers and teaching strategies together. Its early days this time but already interesting ideas are already emerging.

From Colin to his hub.

Hi Everyone,

I have been trailing the attached with year 10 and its going well so far!

I have come up with a questioning protocol for business studies which they all like!

They also like the challenging questions and ‘Hints ‘n’ Tip’ sheets and especially the visual clues. Thanks everyone for your fantastic /ideas and tactics. They are already having an impact! Look forward to hearing about your ideas next term.   



Sometimes the hub feedback gives me the chance to use my grasp of whole school issues to creatively offer solutions!

Alex working in Wendy’s growth mind-set hub was keen to ask her students to devise an ‘effort’ criteria for their lessons and she asked me to check her letter to parents which would explain the trialling of effort grades [and their going home for parents to see] in her maths lessons. The re-introduction of effort grades/comments for reports/use in lessons has been raised by this hub and our scientists. The question gave me a welcome opportunity to very quickly think about the contentious issue [for some who worry about measuring effort] and try to match it with our GM push. The questions the students had devised to check their own effort tended to be very negative-I didn’t try hard enough, I didn’t concentrate well enough etc. whereas my GM thinking tells me another approach may be worth pursuing and trialling. My response;

I would be tempted to use more of the language of growth mind set in there because that’s what will happen if I go with it for reports-a few quick ideas would be; [no need to rush it out if you can come up with something others can use and looks good for parents-you may have to engineer the students around to what is needed-e.g. show them ideas and let them choose!]

When the work was hard I didn’t give up

When the questions were tough, I asked for a hints sheet

When I looked at a tough question, I thought “I’m not sure how to do this YET-but by the end of the lesson I will2

I tried 3b4me

When another student was stuck, I helped them

I completed my DIRT in as much detail as possible

I took the time to check my answers thoroughly to make sure that my work was excellent when Miss marks it

I made the effort to provide my peers with helpful specific comments and advice

I settled quickly in to my 5 a day and always take a pride in getting as many correct as I can

I was as focused on my learning at the end of the lesson as I was at the beginning

Even when I might not enjoy the topic or find it hard, I am always committed to trying my best

I attempted all of my home-learning and handed it in on time

I know exactly what was expected of me today from the learning objectives and tried my very best to achieve them

By behaving well, I helped today’s lesson to be a good learning experience for all of the students and the teacher.

When I had completed a question, I didn’t relax-I went straight into the next one or asked Miss for the ‘stretch’ question

I focused on achieving GOLD today and got there!

I know [or asked] how I could get to the next more challenging level of work today

I have tried my best to make the learning stick in my memory today-I’ll try and think about what I have learned later so I can recall it next lesson

Just a few ideas-note I haven’t used any negative sentences at all, so that my expectations are only positive ones. I never expect or discuss any negativity because I would make it clear that none are expected!  By ticking [or not] the sentences, you can quickly focus on the areas of difficulty next lesson and let them discuss in pairs how they might get round it OR if lots are having difficulty with the same-discuss as a class with you leading OR let the ones with the same issue go into a group and discuss with a maths leader [student who has achieved the definition] sharing their ideas. You should be able to get clear advice over a few weeks from the students as to how they suggest each of the questions is tackled and can display around the room. How does that sound? I wouldn’t send parents anything that suggest the students might possibly not work hard! Of course they don’t but I would only reinforce desirable attitudes.

Very fast response and I’ll think more

Meeting schedule

This is our meeting schedule for the summer term and although the meeting is only for 1 hour, it gives a snap-shot of our CPD current offer and a pointer to what we consider important and needs prioritising.


April 21 Faculty discussion of BSG questionnaire
28 Faculty BSG moderation
12 Learning hubs to follow up INSET
19 Professional portfolio follow up to inset
26 Half-term
June 2 Lesson obs planning
9 Learning hubs
16 Lesson study feedback share
23 Subject leaders/progress leaders
30 Year teams
July 7 Faculties-sharing of good practice from lesson obs/book monitoring
14 Faculties-final BSG moderation/plans for next term
21 Break-up for summer!

I’ve explained our BSG assessment discussions and professional portfolio work in previous blogs but you can see a couple of other key aspects of our collaborative CPD. The lesson study feedback is a very fast teachmeet come market place of involved colleagues feeding back the results of their lesson studies and the lesson observation planning/book monitoring feedback are further opportunities to talk subject specifically about our latest rounds of line-manager observations and book scrutiny and then to feedback best practice via our internal blogs.

Our subject leaders meetings are open to anyone interested in the topic of conversation-not just our faculty middle leaders and we have a couple of exciting initiatives ready. We have ran our own middle leader CPD in previous years and also offer NPQH, SL and ML via Edge Hill. At £1000 a go, I couldn’t afford to have many colleagues involved and spotted the SSAT NAML new course which Leon and Mark volunteered to become facilitators for. At the moment, I think that 14 of our own middle leaders have signed up to the voluntary sessions which will lead to nationally recognised accreditation. We will be able to probably split the group into aspiring/new and more experienced leaders and have offered the course to our friends in our TSA and beyond. This should allow us to break even with our expenditure but of more importance, offer the chance to discuss some key issues internally and with colleagues from other schools. The flyer is below.



1.Vision and values


2.Developing your leadership approach


3.Building a high performing team


4.Leading your team day-to-day


5.What makes the most effective teaching and learning?


6.Observation for improvement


7.Using data for impact


8.Fostering positive behaviour for learning


9.Leading and managing innovation and change


10.Supporting your team

oh19Yesterday our new look SLT for next year was decided upon and I want to use our subject leader’s meeting to share all of the questions and tasks that faced our new assistant head for learning and teaching and our 2 new temporary deputy heads. We are forever succession planning but I can’t recall having a session where we openly shared the process from start to finish of appointing a new SLT member. It has to be a tough and searching process and our own staff need to see exactly what is needed to be successful.

Our new AHT, Elizabeth will join us from another school to look after learning and teaching but our temporary deputies will come from within and their choice of extra duties [on top of their AHT current ones]  came from either SEND, Teaching School, Research Development or CPD. These are huge areas of current discussion, growing knowledge bases of best practice but still hold vast realms of as yet untapped potential for all of us to develop. Annette will work with our SEND provision and Leon will further develop research to provide us with evidence to inform our practice.

The SSAT ‘Building on Consensus’ booklet with their 2015 recommendations places a strong emphasis on the same key areas stressing their view [and ours] that “teachers’ and leaders’ practice should be informed by a range of evidence, including academic research, and that they should be allowed to make professional decisions about how to use this in their own context.” Leon’s role will be to facilitate this and to help to join the gap between university research and our own by extending our work with the RISE project [Durham], Nottingham and new links with Edge Hill.

As well as dealing with the vast amount of paperwork SEND provides to ensure the best quality first teaching and support for our disadvantaged and vulnerable students, Annette will combine with Leon to dig deeper into the SSAT’s notion of “more research and development is needed to explore the most effective ways of closing the gap and increasing social mobility. We need to ensure that individual students are on appropriate curriculum pathways, receive excellent advice and guidance, feel well supported and mentored and are taught in a way that meets their needs.”

It’s going to be a busy but rewarding summer term of professional development and learning!

Hope this has been useful for both our own staff and visiting readers.

Some of the posts, I’ve sent to colleagues include;

from this morning!- 10 teaching tips … …  questioning summer exam frenzy stretch and challenge independent learning modelling writing-I know Sarah like Andy Tharby’s stuff I send on as above developing independence and modelling lots of ideas in these blogs great ideas re cameras, lesson observations, GROW model-school who have developed no lesson grade obs like us for Katie to read and share if she likes it! Pie Corbett models talk for writing interesting site-few ideas off it below

Written feedback Teach First’s research bloke-bits of everything in his blogs modelling writing modelling and questioning another great set of blogs worth checking-lots of topics effort grading … whole series of David’s response to 20pp is great for discussion-2 key ones for us below … via  making learning stick -useful and important summary for busy teachers!

Just a few examples before our own whiz round the staff emails!










Open All Hours


I have to admit that I never actually cared for the series that lends its title to this week’s blog-I always mix it up with Early Doors, which I do like and the very honest chat in the latter is much more akin to the collaborative nature of school to school support I wanted to share our views on. I’ve discussed, in great detail, in many of our blogs how we have been developing our CPD for the range of staff, not just our teachers, who work at Meols Cop. However, since our Ofsted inspection of 2012 we have received over a 100 visits from other schools, have openly shared our ideas at conferences, teach-meets, publications and via our blogs and numerous tweeters and latterly, have moved down the National Support School route to Teaching School status. From worrying about the quality of our own training and staff development, we have increasingly opened our doors to offer both informal and formal advice, support and CPD opportunities. I’m just getting presentations ready to share with our staff first, and then either our next visitors, the local head teacher’s conference, Teaching School opening inset sessions and felt that this had to be said!


As a school we can surely only benefit from the opening of our doors to others. We can learn from critical friends and if we are really intent on developing a whole school mind-set, we have to be up for the challenge this brave new world brings. We can’t be precious about  others possibly not liking or agreeing with us and as a school we have to always act with humility and show empathy to the situations and needs of others. If we say that we practice certain things and talk about a MCHS philosophy-visitors and new colleagues need to see the evidence in action and need to hear about it from the people who matter-staff and students [and not me!] We joined NTEN, not just for the lesson study but for their CPD audit, so that external visitors could make a judgement and offer helpful advice to move us forward. Similarly we are currently looking towards organisations like Challenge Partners, which will provide peer to peer reviews and give us the critical judgements that we need to consider. Internal rigorous monitoring is great but in 2015 it isn’t enough!

Outward facing schools and leaders are encouraged, of course, by many of the leading educational organisations and commentators from Fullan, EdResearch to the TDA, from CUREE via IRIS Connect to the TSA. Their philosophy is clear but the nitty gritty reality of fellow teachers and school leaders actually coming into your school can prove to be real challenge-they want to dig deep and see the evidence in action. We always ask for a specific set of questions before they come so that we can help them make the most of their time with us and the questions are shared with all of our staff so that they have time to think about a couple of key questions-1] do we actually deliver what we are being asked about and, 2] if we do, is it delivered well enough to stand up to external scrutiny! I then go and round up my volunteers to meet, greet and share practical examples. It’s a great CPD experience for the individuals involved [from both schools I hope!] and for our whole school. Asking our visitors to tell us what they really think can be awkward but we hope that they clearly see that we value and want their views as professional payment!

Over the next few weeks, these are our questions and my initial email to our staff!

We do have some requests to visit from other schools after half-term and I will be coming to grab volunteers to share your ideas with them so they get a realistic view rather than just my passionate ramblings!

 Culcheth 3rd June

Three key things:

  • School marking/assessment policy
  • How each department is allowed to develop effective assessment/feedback strategies?
  • Life after levels – liked the blog written by your AHT


Bloxham 5th June

Here are a few questions that I would be interested to hear about:

  • When do you run CPD sessions on T&L/Assessment and tracking and how often?
  • Do you have any specific teachers’ lead these sessions?
  • How do SLT/MLT monitor the T&L/pupil Tracking within a whole school setting/department??
  • Do you have a whole school policy on book marking and if so does each department interpret that to make it specific to their department?
  • How often does work scrutiny take place on a whole school/departmental level?
  • What support is there for any teachers who don’t meet the standards that the school requires?
  • How do you use student feedback/reflections to help improve their work/progress?
  • How much time in a lesson is dedicated to reflecting on feedback?
  • How does the school keep updated with new developments in T&L/Pupil tracking?
  • How much responsibility do Middle Leaders have? What CPD is given to the MLT?


Thank you again for allowing me the chance to visit your school – I am really looking forward to this opportunity.

Marple Hall 22nd June

We would like to mainly look at:

  • Assessment without levels (I have read your blog in detail but I would like to actually see how it works).
  • As you know we have started this year doing some work on growth mind-set. I would like some advice on how to embed it across the whole school and would like to know what work you have done on it. I am also interested in all the systems that you might have in place that underpin growth mind-set.

The first 2 days involve our core faculty leaders, Leon our AHT and couple of our NQTs. My emails to Chris at Culcheth and David at Bloxham with the proposed activities are below. The 3rd visit will include classroom visits to see GM in action.


I have tried to include key middle leaders so they can explain without me being in the room, how things really happen!

Arrive 9.30

9.35-10.05 meet Greg with his book monitoring and feedback hub info [I’ve just monitored his books!] Greg is an NQT and is leading our feedback hub. He is a phenomenal tweeter of feedback/marking ideas!

10.05-11.05 me and then Sarah who is our subject leader for English. English began with one set of ideas re levels and have scrapped them to begin again! They are also preparing a new feedback idea.


11.20-12.20 Jen our maths subject leader-Beth as NQT and hub leader of feedback. Jen tried 3 lots of our BSG assessment before settling, I think, on her current approach. Beth, as with Greg, has tried out a whole range of feedback/marking ideas and they jointly lead our feedback learning hub. Both maths teachers have been involved in interesting lesson study ideas with peer critique and Beth and Greg with the development of student leaders


1.10-2.10-Leon-our data and BSG assessment-coordinator who can show how assessment is used to track intervention, progress and in parental reports.


Arrive 10.00

10.05-11.05 me and then Sarah who is our subject leader for English. English began with one set of ideas re levels and have scrapped them to begin again! They are also preparing a new feedback idea. Sarah also leads our independent learning hub and they have been looking at revision and homework ideas.


11.20-12.20 Me-I can answer all of the questions you sent and share as many ideas as you want throughout the day.


1.10-2.10 Greg, Carmel and Hannah. Greg with his book monitoring and feedback hub info [I’ve just monitored his books!] Greg is an NQT and is leading our feedback hub. He is a phenomenal tweeter of feedback/marking ideas!

Carmel and Hannah Subject leader and 2nd for science- Our widest read blog on feedback/marking was a sharing of their ‘fast feedback’

2.10-3.10 -Leon-our data and BSG assessment-coordinator who can show how assessment is used to track intervention, progress and in parental reports.

3.20 Me again!

Ours staff have enjoyed some great visits this year to South Wirral, Wakefield, Marple Hall, Runshaw, Wellington Academy, Whalley Range, Flixton and more! Some have come courtesy of being a member of SSAT Leading Edge, whilst others have been arranged after reading something interesting on twitter or by personal recommendations.  Hopefully our visits will have supported CPD at our host schools and although some schools offer a visit and then amidst the hectic nature of schools, forget to get back in touch, I do believe that this growing culture of peer review and visits amongst like-minded schools will lead to the sharing of best practice which can only support the developmental aspect of S2SS which many of us hope will eventually replace the often punitive current system of inspection.

Marking/feedback [I’ll share our CPD tactics David asked about in part 2]

Apparently I have been ‘volunteered’ to speak at the Sefton Head’s Conference and believe that Alison suggested the topic of whole school marking without a detailed and prescribed policy! I guess that means stand up and tell them why we don’t insist on all colleagues 2 starring and wishing, medalling and missioning, purple penning or pinking and greening paragraphs! This leads to a slightly different explanation of our own CPD and sharing of ideas because, although I may well talk about our feedback policy much of what I have to say is more about our whole school philosophy rather than giving practical examples of feedback/marking. As visitors are always keen to ask about this and often take photos/examples back of our feedback [or just read our big feedback blogs!] after visiting our classrooms- no apologies then for adding an extra part to this post.

Our feedback policy exists because we have a clear view on how staff and students should be developed and it may well be different to other schools present. They may agree with the MCHS way, they may disagree and say so-remember slide 1! As a school leader, this aspect of collaborative S2SS is the most interesting for me and I like to hear other leaders talk passionately about their schools and what it is that makes their school different and special to them. Of course, just like with great blog posts I sometimes read and then find out the stirring words don’t actually equate to what actually happens in the school, I have to base my presentation on sound evidence in readiness for follow up visits!

When schools come from afar they will have probably read our data and know our student profile and progress measures-I may set the scene if they haven’t. At first schools came because of our inspection, then because they were a ‘similar’ data school and lately because they have read our blogs and want to check us out. All are welcome but it is important to consider that although we will share our ideas with anyone who asks, they are initially designed to work and be successful in our school-there is no guarantee that if just taken and not adapted, they will work elsewhere [this health warning also comes with any teachers who leave us for greener pastures!] We should be proud to hold up our beliefs to the scrutiny of others.

I’m not going to fill the blog with all the slides I have ready for our visitors and conferences but remember this is an explanation of our feedback policy-any policy has to reflect reality. The slides are a mixture of past blogs and new ideas.




The exclamation mark by ‘All learners’ is just a sign for me in readiness for a bit of cynicism about the use of the term but hopefully it will become apparent pretty quickly if we are a school where self-development via informed research and focused PPD, lesson study, listening to the students, subject and individual teacher needs all matter to us-it would be somewhat hypocritical if I then imposed a generic marking policy on everyone! Feedback is important to us-the staff at our Whit inset chose it in their top 10 MCHS classroom must have strategies [their choices not mine] and I will share why I think that they felt that it was so important and a couple of points to be wary of. Our feedback blogs have proved to be the most popular in terms of hits by far so schools are obviously really concerned with the issue. By sharing our views, I hope a discussion will ensue.



I’m open in my own school about my personal beliefs on any issues and hope that internal colleagues will respond likewise. We may not agree but views are always best in the open and I wouldn’t wish external colleagues to not be presented with my own views. I don’t normally cram PowerPoint slides full of information for audiences to read but have just used these to store potential handouts on! I’m not attempting to insult SLT from elsewhere, just offering considered views and the kind of discussion points NPQSL and our own potential SLT need to think about.


I know that some may not be interested to see why what we believe in and just want to see what we do! I will share a little of that too and offer views on oral feedback, student voice and peer critique. Each of these is worth another blog and they exist as does the evidence back in school should people want to find out more. I will point out my own favourite blogs and research bases for others to read and certainly on my NPQSL courses, stop and provide time for that to happen. Our own staff and feedback hub have been sent great recent ideas from David Didau, Alex Quigley, Chris Hildrew and Andy Tharby and it’s really important that we are seen to give credit where it is due and show how open we are to brilliant ideas from elsewhere-especially if they are different to our own.






I will point people to our own posts on feedback to prove the authenticity of what I’m saying again!

And probably use recent book monitoring evidence from one of our NQTs to explain how we monitor and support staff development and encourage flexible innovation within a feedback structure. It’s important to finish with a ‘real person’ with real names of students-walking the talk is vital not just for others to see but for ourselves. Under the forced reflection necessarily brought by opening all hours for others to see, we have to keep asking, “Is what we are offering our students good enough?” By being involved with S2SS and peer review, we will find out more answers about our own teaching and leadership, will see great practice we can adapt for our school and will support the crucial movement of a growing desire to give teachers the opportunity to seize their own professional development back from politicisation. Join the cause!









Summer Literacy and Numeracy Magic Moments Part 1


Each week since Easter, our Friday rota of shared ideas has focused on sharing literacy and numeracy ideas used in our classrooms. Faculties are given a date on the rota and each member sends an example of their work to me and I collate the responses and share them in internal blogs to all staff [and externally too!] Our teaching assistants are also on the rota and 2 or 3 each week add their magic moments of intervention success.

I began with our MFL faculty and Helen H our subject leader shared some of the work she has been working on in her lesson study.

My ‘magic moment’  was the result of planning a new style literature lesson for my Nten lesson study with 7 set 1.

The new KS3 curriculum advocates using literary texts in the language [such as stories, songs, poems and letters], to stimulate ideas, develop creative expression and expand understanding of the language and culture.

It took me a while to find a suitable piece of literature.  I had the idea of looking on a French primary school website to see what sort of poetry French primary children studied.  From this website I discovered the poetry of Maurice Carême, a Belgian poet who writes nice simple rhyming poems for children.

I selected his poem called ‘Bleu et Blanc’ about a dispute between a blue cat and a white rat.

As the new curriculum advocates the literacy skill of translating, I gave the students the poem jumbled up and they had to match up the French prose with the English meanings.


Students were then asked to put the poem back in the correct order and to give the poem a French title.  (I didn’t tell them the original title until later.)

We also listened to the poem being recounted on Youtube.

I was delighted with the way students took to the task and most pairs were able to find the correct translations for the French poem. There was quite a lot of repetition in the poem so this helped them with the translation.

The poem titles they came up with in French were really creative too! Each pair managed to come up with a possible French title for the poem drawing from the language within. Some pairs even managed to hit on the correct title of ‘Bleu et Blanc’. Other wonderful guesses included ‘chat bleu et rat blanc’ ‘le chat et le rat’ and ‘la guerre.’

Following on from this we listened to other French short poems based on colours.

For the final part of the lesson I wanted them to be creative with the French language themselves and to come up with a poem of their own based on colours.

As they haven’t done all the verb conjugations and tenses yet, I structured the poem to be an acrostic type poem. 

I gave them the title ‘Ma Trousse’ to work around and they had to recall items they might find in a pencil case and give each one a colour.

This in itself was a challenging task because they had to recall the vocabulary, the genders of the nouns and the words for colours.  In addition they had to remember that colours go after the noun in French and also that colours agree with the noun (gender/singular and plural)

I was very pleased with the class’s response to the task.  Here is an example below produced by Esme Goodson.


A week later I surveyed the class to see if they had enjoyed the lesson as much as I had.

Feedback from Year 7 NTEN Lesson Quiz

7 set 1 French with Helen Hallmark

Please answer the following questions honestly

28 students replied anonymously to this survey.

Think about the French poetry lesson last week. How does it compare to your usual French lessons?

7.1% 1 = Less interesting
25% 2 = The same
64.3% 3 = More interesting

3.6% = void

In the French poetry lesson, do you feel you learnt more or less French words than in usual French lessons?

14.3% 1 = I learnt less words
28.6% 2 = I learnt the same amount of words
53.6% 3 = I learnt more words

3.6% = void

In the French poetry lesson, do you feel you made more or less progress than in usual French lessons?

7.1% 1 = I made less progress
50% 2 = I made the same amount of progress
39.3% 3 = I made more progress

3.6% = void

Would you like to do more lessons looking at French poetry and stories?

14.3% 1 = I wouldn’t like to do more lessons looking at French poetry and stories
86% 2 = I would like to do more lessons looking at French poetry and stories

What is the best way to learn vocabulary for you?

I allowed multiple answers to this question and additional answers.

57.1% 1 = Through the teacher, listening, repeating and writing it down
21.4% 2 = Looking it up in a dictionary
39.3% 3 = Seeing and using it in a poem or story

3.6% said through activities and games

3.6% said by writing notes and revising at home on own

3.6% said visually.


I also tested them on the vocabulary learnt the previous week to see how much they had retained.  The test showed that between 75 and 100% of the students had retained the majority of the vocab.  The only words from the text which proved a bit difficult to recall were ‘eyelash’ and ‘spots’.

I felt the results were very positive and it has encouraged me to think of doing more literary pieces and to include more skills of translating and creating their own poetry in future lessons.”

Bronagh our Spanish subject leader told me “I don’t really have a main numeracy moment aside from doing the usual tarsia, bingo and sums I haven’t found any great way to get numeracy into my lessons yet- but we’ll keep trying! Her literacy ideas are here;

“Year 9 have been completing a mock controlled assessment for the past few weeks. One of the main problems we have found with the controlled assessment tasks is that the students struggle to be independent and do not have confidence to work alone without needing reassurance that their work is correct. Although we use normal peer assessment they can be quite self-conscious about letting their peers mark such a task and do struggle to make it specific enough. So I wanted to devise a way in which we could have a full class assessment which was student led. This started the “Literacy legends!”

As a class we went through the main areas where students struggle and lose marks and then they were divided into 5 groups:

  • Word order warriors
  • Spelling superstars
  • Grammar gods
  • Memorising marvels
  • Accent army

Each group had the task to find as many mistakes as possible related to their area. With their designated coloured highlighter they had the challenge of reading every task in the class and identifying errors.

By being responsible for only one area the students were able to pinpoint and highlight a lot more errors and became more confident in their own knowledge of their literacy point. As everyone was continually moving around groups students were too busy to be aware of who was looking at their work. Using only a colour kept the feedback anonymous and by working in groups with the challenge of finding the most mistakes the students were a lot more critical. 

As this was the first time we have done it, it did take up more time than we had planned for and so students didn’t have the chance to use their feedback yet. So next lesson will begin with dirt time in which they can correct their work and act on the advice given.

This was only the first time I’ve tried this but I am keen to roll it out into more lessons as I found this a really successful method of peer assessment as it was completely student led and every student got really useful and specific feedback. Below is a few pictures of the lesson.



The spelling superstars excited to find mistakes.


To fully embrace their role each group had 5 minutes at the start of the lesson to transform into their legend, this is the accent army.


The “word order warriors” highlighting any inaccuracies in purple.


One student’s book with feedback e.g. the accent army have given them tips on how to pronounce words (hay- eye) to ensure they get the top speaking marks”.

My partner is a “grammar god” and would love Bronagh’s idea! Her ppt is attached and can be adapted for other subjects.


Eddie sent me these ideas he has been using with his French classes.

“Magic moment: One thing I have found very encouraging this year is students’ improved retention of key vocabulary. This has been helped by usage of “DIRT” techniques. For instance, if a class is introduced to 10 items of vocabulary one lesson, the students will begin the next lesson with a short test on these vocabulary items to jog their memory. The students are then tested on these vocabulary items the following week and the following month. Results as regards retention have been very encouraging.

Literacy : I have been looking to try to help students work out the meanings of words in the foreign language themselves rather than asking me or me just saying to them “look the word up in the dictionary “ (dictionaries are not allowed in the reading and listening sections of the GCSE examination). I have tried using the following structured approach to help the students:

  • Does the word in the foreign language / part of the word in the foreign language resemble an English word, Kinésithérapeute = physiotherapist
  • Does the word in the foreign language look like any other word in the foreign language that you have already come across?They had already come across cuisine = kitchen
    1. Cuisinier = chef
  • Verbalise the word , on occasions this can help  
  1. Ingénieur = engineer

Numeracy : One thing the students have particularly enjoyed is playing Reverse Bingo to support their learning of numbers!! Numbers can be substituted for items of vocabulary to consolidate.” I asked Eddie how to play RB -“It’s when all the students stand up at the start of the game. When their number is called out, they sit down. Last student standing wins the game!!

Helen F, our other Spanish teacher shared her ideas she has been using with her form and in her lesson study.

“In form time I encourage silent reading. I use the website quite a lot as they enjoy the brainteasers and jokes but I also make them do the grammar and mental maths sections then perhaps reward them with one of the videos from the BBC.

We have played Countdown recently. I have attached both of the PowerPoints to the email. I find the letters rounds much easier than the numbers. When we do the numbers rounds there are two figures for them to aim for. The number in the green box is the one that they should all try to work out. The figure in the red box is for the more able members of my form (those in 7.1, 2 & possibly 3) to try once they have worked out the green box. They enjoy coming up to the board and acting as Carol Vorderman/Rachael Riley and writing the answer on the board for all to see.


Recently for our NTEN lesson study both myself and HH worked together on the proposed curriculum changes of including more literacy and authentic texts in the target language.

We looked at the following poems about autumn and the pupils studied them in groups. They completed activities such as putting the poem in the correct order, matching it to an image, giving it a title, translation and then finally writing their own acrostic poem in Spanish.

Otra vez está mi calle… 1 Otra vez está mi calle salpicada de dorado, el otoño está de vuelta, el otoño ha llegado.

Las hojas de otoño… Las hojas de otoño que están en el suelo, cuando llega el viento, levantan el vuelo.

Otra vez está mi calle… 2 Otra vez está mi calle hecha una alfombra amarilla, otra vez llegó el otoño, otra vez mi calle brilla.

La brisa hace llover… La brisa hace llover una lluvia amarilla: ¡son las hojitas de otoño que vuelan, bailan y brillan!

Las hojas de otoño… Las hojas de otoño todas se han caído y rumbo al invierno volando se han ido.

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At the end of the lesson I tested them on the following vocabulary. It was interesting to see whether they remembered more vocabulary after this literature based lesson compared to a normal vocabulary drilled lesson.

  • Calle
  • Dorado
  • Otoño
  • Llegada
  • (de) Vuelta
  • Hoja
  • Suelo
  • Viento
  • Alfombra
  • Brilla
  • Brisa
  • Bailan
  • Caído
  • InviernoThe following lesson we asked the pupils to complete a survey of what they thought of a more literature based lesson. These are the results.Year 7 NTEN Lesson Quiz
  • Think about the Spanish poetry lesson last week. How does it compare to your usual Spanish lessons?
  • Please answer the following questions honestly
17% 1 = Less interesting
50% 2 = The same
33% 3 = More interesting

In the Spanish poetry lesson, do you feel you learnt more or less Spanish words than in usual Spanish lessons?

4% 1 = I learnt less words
38% 2 = I learnt the same amount of words
58% 3 = I learnt more words

In the Spanish poetry lesson, do you feel you made more or less progress than in usual Spanish lessons?

8% 1 = I made less progress
71% 2 = I made the same amount of progress
21% 3 = I made more progress

Would you like to do more lessons looking at Spanish poetry and stories?

46% 1 = I wouldn’t like to do more lessons looking at Spanish poetry and stories
54% 2 = I would like to do more lessons looking at Spanish poetry and stories


What is the best way to learn vocabulary for you?

46% 1 = Through the teacher, listening, repeating and writing it down
12% 2 = Looking it up in a dictionary
21% 3 = Seeing and using it in a poem or story

21% ticked more than one option with answers 1 and 3 being the most popular combination

Overall the pupils found it just as enjoyable as a ‘normal’ lesson and felt they made the same amount of progress. However they felt they had learnt more words and would like to do more lessons where they studied Spanish poetry/stories.

In Spanish it is quite easy to include something literature based as our subject lends itself to that. Numeracy is something that I find I do struggle to include other than when we do something surrounding learning the numbers/saying how much something costs in Spanish.”


Our 2nd faculty on the rota were our tweeting historians and geographers, who have been gaining numerous followers with their brilliant ideas and onslaught on pedagoo Friday-what have I unleashed!  Martin doesn’t send so many tweets out but as the elder statesman he gets to go first here albeit with a joint history effort including our NQT Greg as well.

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Not to be outdone, our geography NQTs, sent theirs, but separately due to the amount! Ladies first-from Toni.

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Andrew added his ideas.

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The 3 NQTs are making great progress and although not all the ideas here are their own, I’m delighted to see them searching, researching, adapting and sharing. [As I am with all colleagues young and old!]

Did I mention age and experience? I’ll chuck in my ideas last because I want to highlight everybody else’s contributions. Just a couple I’ve used last week to reinforce skills with lower ability year 8 students.

The year 8 historians produced an empathetic piece using the PCs on the topic of evacuation. They found photos of evacuees, chose 1 of the children in the photo and then used their knowledge and creativity to produce an autobiography of the child during the war years. A scaffold was provided to help and then to push the ‘it isn’t completed until excellent’ theme, they devised their own literacy checks to self-critique/peer critique to help to re-draft work before I get to mark it.

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I tempted them with sweets and the opportunity to deprive their peer assessor by finding all of the errors the first time of asking before their critical friend had their turn! We were also looking for accurate history and a clear understanding of what they had said-no copying and pasting.

My small class of geographers told me that had ‘done’ graphs in maths and we had a good discussion about the benefits of using different types of questions to elicit responses that made for interesting graphical data and made surveying the rest of the class easier. We decided that getting all of the answers on to 1 piece of paper would be good and that yes/no answers and open-ended questions weren’t great for graphs. This was my discussion sheet and we went through each type of question at a time chatting about the positive/negative aspects of it.

Which supermarkets do you shop at?

Do you shop at?






How many times do you shop in town?

How many times do you shop in town?





Are you allowed to go to town shopping on your own?

Which shop do you go to most?

What do you buy most from shops?







What do you spend your spending money on most?




Going out


Which is your favourite shop?

How do you get to town to shop?

Walk              Bus           Car            Bike           Other

The graphs produced were basic but we focused on getting every aspect accurate enough to receive a mark-title, labelled axis, correct number etc. Vital marks are lost every time our students complete assessments and lose their concentration on getting the basics right.


The faculty found themselves leaderless and a man down this week after Tom picked up an injury so I’m grateful to them for finding the time to share a couple of their ideas in their week on the sharing rota.

Sam sent me some things she has been working on with lower 8 rounders and her G.C.S.E. class during this shortened week.

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GCSE PE Literacy

Aaron shared his recent work too. The students peer evaluated each other’s leadership skills when they lead the lesson in the Sport’s Leaders class. COP LEADERS-wonder who came up with this great idea! The scaffold supports speaking and listening skills too.

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C clear

O organised

P praise, project + plan

L loud

E enjoyable

A analytical

D demonstrate

E enthusiastic

R relevant

S strong!!

Identify strengths

Identify things to improve

Rosie-PE and dance

Rosie emailed me some images of work she is currently trialling in both PE and G.C.S.E. dance. The word mats are used to encourage oral discussion and feedback and she began to develop these as part of her lesson study last year, which proved very popular when share on twitter! The use of scaffolds to support the students with their key words has proved to be valuable when they answer the theory aspect of dance and we are expecting some superb results this year after a very promising practical moderation.


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Teaching Assistants

Who better to talk about the impact on learning that penny dropping literacy and numeracy moments have than our TAs! In many cases they stay with the same students for the majority of the day [sometimes 5 years!] and they understand how improved literacy/numeracy can help to break down learning barriers. We have 2 special bases in school-1 for students with Asperger’s syndrome and 1 for students with dyslexia-and have built up a wealth of experience in supporting the varying but specific learning needs of an above national average number of students. These are the first ones on my rota!



Before a student begins to write, I always remind them about capital letters, full stops etc. I encourage the students that I work with to check back over their work, checking for capital letters, full stops, commas, etc., and double check their spellings. If necessary I will suggest that I read it back to them, but only if they request me to.


I tend to always take down notes and write my own examples, so if a student doesn’t understand the task that they have been given to do, I will try to explain what I have written down. If there are more than a couple unsure, then I will catch the teacher’s attention to explain again.


I work 1:1 with a student in a year 10 maths lesson and have known (since year 7) that this student needs repetition until he can retain the formula needed to work things out.  The maths homework, usually 25 similar questions each week, was a real problem at first and his results were around 9 or 10 out of 25.

When marking homework in class I found the best way to help him was correct any mistakes on the homework sheet.  By showing all the stages of working out and writing simple notes of what stages to take to get the correct answer.  I tried to do this over and over each week and asked him to refer to the sheet to help with the homework for the following week.

This student now regularly achieves marks in the high teens/early twenties. Maths used to be the subject he found most difficult, but achieving good results has given him much more confidence.

Sarah [Asperger’s base]

During social times in the base the students may choose to do independent reading and some of the students will visit the library. We also have ‘Social and communication’ board games and card games out on display so that students can pick these up and play. This can lead to discussion and encourage them to share interests with each other and with staff.

One example of this is student A who would for a while routinely pick up the General Knowledge quiz and fire questions at me almost every lunchtime. This encouraged his literacy and his speaking and listening and really boosted his confidence being quizmaster. This started as a 1:1 but he has now begun to speak up more in small groups in the base and will even challenge some of the other students during debates, giving his own opinions and he will now sometimes greet me with ‘Good morning Miss’ which is great to hear.


Literacy – using a revision board game to assist learning.

B was struggling to grasp the plot and characters of An Inspector Calls, I had tried various strategies to help such as little character cards and work sheets.

I decided to use a board game of An Inspector Calls to aid his learning and help him to focus on the characters.  B understood the board game as the group asked questions and discussed the characters together, which gave HIM a greater understanding of the characters, which gave Nathan extra confidence with the understanding of An Inspector Calls.

When we were reading Heroes, he found it hard to differentiate between what was happening ‘now’ and what a flashback was. He was getting very frustrated, as we went through the book so I made sure that every time we began on a new chapter, B was aware of what had happened and what was happening.  I constantly prompted him to reinforce the timeline of the book.  This did help B to have a greater understanding of the book.


The only thing at the moment I can think of is An Inspector Calls board game that was from one of the emails you sent. I put together the game for year 10 and 11 revision with quotes, themes, characters and content cards. On the other side of the board was a past exam question with hints and tips on how to answer it with the language devices. The students, I have been told, enjoy them very much and they are learning at the same time.  As we are doing different texts in each teaching sets I have since devised Blood Brothers and A Christmas Carol!! During the summer I will be busy devising a Trivial Pursuit poetry game for the students to try and remember the 15 poems, quotes and poetic devices used for their exam. A game for each Year 10 set.

Sara [maths intervention]

In the groups I work with I always ensure the students take turn reading the question, then highlight what they feel is important and relevant and then in their own words describe what is being asked of them to solve.

The work sheet handed to them in the session will concentrate on one particular topic. This provides me with the opportunity to observe if they are managing it.  After a period of approx. 5 weeks they are given a summary sheet comprising of several topics, already covered, and their answers are rated red, amber, and green.  This helps us to monitor their understanding and ensure that progress is being made, if their target is not met it can then be addressed by the teacher in the lesson.

A huge thank you to colleagues for sharing their ideas and good practice. Magic Moments 2 will be out after half-term as our rota spins onwards!











Coalition CPD

Over the last 10 -15 years professional development in many schools has tended to follow generic pedagogical discussions and in many cases been imposed by senior leaders, involved perhaps 1 off events with expensive external delivery and most definitely will have sang the Ofsted tune or current educational tune of the day. We made a serious bid to move towards a return to subject specific internal training a couple of years ago driven by a desire to support our no grade observation planning and feedback and have involved the whole staff in subject specific assessment discussions highlighted in our previous blog. Our Whit inset married both generic and subject specific CPD, whole school, faculty and individual and yes we did have vote too! Coalition CPD at Meols Cop-for the people, by the people!

I mentioned the blog [again!] on our bulletin and hope that some of our parents have been curious to find out how we spent the day. A warm welcome to new readers.

We try to inform our parents via our weekly bulletin and blogs about any of our current initiatives including what we are using our inset days for.  Parents have a right to know how we use the time when their child isn’t here and there has been bad press occasionally when schools have appeared to use inset days for events such as wedding parties and trips abroad. As nobody in their right mind would wish to marry me, we remained in school and worked hard! I hope that by explaining some of our methods of delivering high quality professional development, readers can see how we are focusing on using our training to constantly consider the impact of our teaching on student learning and to never settle for anything but the best!

I was reading some articles in ‘Professional Development Today over the Bank Holiday weekend which summarised recent research undertaken by Teaching Schools led by the London Institute of Education and supported by Sheffield Hallam University. The author, Carol Taylor shared the findings from the enquiry, ‘What makes great professional development that leads to consistently great pedagogy?’ and offered some key areas that the schools and researchers involved had agreed were key to the success of CPD and inset. It was interesting for me to see if our Whit inset and past and future CPD fitted into the recommendations [key messages] made by our fellow Teaching Schools.

Key message

How to … think about the pupils’ needs and the impact you want to have

1 Start professional development ‘with the end in mind’ – be specific about the relationship between pupils’ learning needs and teachers’ beliefs, behaviours and practices.

2 Motivate teachers by focusing on the difference they want to make for their pupils through engaging in professional development.

3 Provide a clear structure for professional development and its impact on teacher practices and pupil outcomes.

4 Be forensically clear about starting points to be able to evaluate impact– but be prepared for unexpected outcomes.

5 Root professional development in classrooms and start it with an issue that is relevant for both teachers and their pupils.

6 Seek and listen seriously to pupils’ feedback to genuinely understand the impact of new practices developed through professional learning [see blogs below]

The structure of the day-the morning

The morning session focused on the crucial issue of what makes great teaching in Meols Cop classrooms. It’s almost 3 years since the entire staff discussed this question collaboratively and developed, just before our last Ofsted, ‘Learning and Teaching-the Meols Cop Way’ Much has changed since then in terms of our own practice and ideas from national and international educational debate and literature as to what every day great teaching [leading to great learning] might look like. For the past year we have looked at subject specific ‘great teaching’ in our discussions and observations as we aimed to move from the old generic OIfsted style criteria. The topic directly hits no’s 5, 1, 2 and 3 and it is important here that if we are to have any whole school learning and teaching policies, they are developed by my colleagues who teach 5 lessons a day! Students are quickly involved in the process and their feedback to numerous issues can be seen in our blogs.

I divided the staff in to 8 cross-curricular groups and each was led by a colleague with no current leadership responsibility to ensure that leadership opportunities are offered to all. No senior leaders were allowed in the discussions so we couldn’t influence proceedings and I asked a colleague who is leaving teaching in summer to move around the groups to offer any advice if needed or to ask questions of their ideas. Resources were offered including ideas from other schools [Huntington, Durrington, Penyrheol] teacher standards, Ofsted, teaching schools and the Sutton Trust. The only thing I asked in my briefing was that the choices should be the ones they felt had the greatest impact on learning.

After an hour, the groups displayed their presentations and borrowed any ideas/ticked ideas they liked so that our judge [person leaving us] could work out the top favourite choices whilst bacon butties were devoured. The winners were announced and colleagues moved into faculties to discuss their initial thoughts and how the choices could be represented in their subject classrooms. Each subject was allowed to add a couple of ‘great teaching’ subject specific factors if they wished to. It is really important to me that any whole school policies/agreed principles such as this or assessment don’t strangle the life out of individual or subject needs-there has to be some flexibility and independence of thought.

The chosen list is going to provide our learning hubs [cross-curricular groups of teachers] with a topic each to develop in some of our summer and autumn term Tuesday night meetings. The resources and ideas produced will be shared and used to support classroom teaching and be the basis for any of our formal observations and lesson studies. Colleagues can choose which to prioritise to best support their own teaching and feedback can point to our developing research banks and internal expertise. Volunteers who lead the hubs gain from the experience and will be expected to gather ideas from external and internal sources to support their group.

If there was time, the faculty session was to end with a discussion based on an idea shared with faculty leaders from Stephen Tierney. This was in readiness for the afternoon session looking at individual CPD evaluation and needs via our professional portfolio.

Which of your current class room practices are informed or enhanced by research?

How certain is the research about the effectiveness of these particular practices or strategies? What are the core principles or concepts?

Do you discuss & agree with colleagues how to teach key concepts/difficult content and skills? Do you discuss & agree with colleagues how to approach the teaching of common misconceptions?

Which areas of your classroom practice are you seeking to improve over the next six to twelve months? More than one or two areas are likely to be overwhelming, keep it real.

How are you honing and refining your current practices? Who is helping you?

Key MessageHow to … ensure access to knowledge and skills from inside and outside

1 Use internal and external expertise to maintain and drive momentum, and provide support at different stages, as well as build new expertise and leadership.

2 Co-create knowledge by bringing together knowledge from practice and knowledge from research

Our hubs obviously aim to develop expertise and leadership and our professional portfolios support colleagues at different stages of their careers. Internal collaboration and expertise has proved to be vital in our recent successes but we also need to look at best practice elsewhere. I’m delighted that since Xmas colleagues have visited other schools in equal numbers to visitors coming here and we have signed up to involvement in 2 national research projects which I know will impact positively on our maths and English teaching.  As leaders we don’t get it right all of the time. I wrote in our last blog on assessment that I felt that I had asked too much of my colleagues but I hope that they would agree that we try to develop a practical learning culture-I’m driven by this idea!

Key message

How to …facilitate the practicalities to encourage a learning culture

1 Make sure that senior leaders provide the necessary conditions for effective professional development to take place e.g. time, resources, to facilitate an open classroom culture

What happened?

You can see the results of the discussions below.

Katrina was incredibly proud of her group’s contribution!


Katie and Rachael protecting their display!

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Martin adds his views to Fran’s group-work and mathematician and hockey super star Alex is ready to explain their group’s ideas.


A close up below-amazing how many colleagues ran out of the way of the camera man!


Some were small and fitted nicely into 1 space whilst others were obviously individual contributions to the group.

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Lisa gives Greg and Katie G a ‘hard sell’


No escape for my colleagues-here are some of their displays right behind where I give morning briefings!


And behind the photocopier!


Key message

How to … provide opportunities for colleagues to engage in deep collaborative learning

1 Personalise mentoring and coaching, and make sure it is developmental and ongoing.

2 Provide sufficient time for deep, high quality talk between teachers to enhance professional relationships and promote deep learning.

3 Offer collaborative development opportunities to stimulate teachers and enable them to engage in critical thinking about lessons and learning. Use collaborative enquiry to stimulate professional learning – but not as a quick fix

4 Incorporate collaborative enquiry into professional development as a long term approach. It is not a ‘quick fix’ – it requires persistence.

This was the opening move in discussions and independent micro research for colleagues which will stretch into next school year and form the basis for much of our CPD.  The choices made will be constantly referred to and returned to in both informal and formal monitoring, development opportunities and every chance we get to further a shared language of our understanding and expertise in each priority. Our judge moved impressively quickly so that come the end of break [ok I gave 10 minutes extra!] she had ran around all of the presentations and typed up the results for all to see! She tried to add in as many small descriptions as she could in her 5 minute slot at the PC so that the views of all were reflected as much as humanly possible.  This was our first shared set so colleagues could take them back to their faculties. Hubs may decide to stream-line later or adapt-I’m typing as the day unfolds so they’re scorching hot off the press!



Faculties were free to add their own ideas, as I mentioned before and at this stage I didn’t over complicate with my usual learning/teaching debate! I had naturally tried to guess what would be suggested [remember the key message about unexpected outcomes] and was pleased to see that instead of ‘differentiation’ I saw student individual needs and lots of ideas that relate to our growth mind set push. I’m always wary of any possibilities of staff trying to give me what I like but I’m sure that if my colleagues didn’t like one of my favourite strategies, they would have used this opportunity to scrap them! I did think that they really had genuinely put the needs of the students first in every presentation and one of my experienced colleagues told me privately that the positivity in her group was amazing. Our ITT students joined in too and I hope that they were able to learn from their experience. It’s one of the best moments of senior leadership to see our staff working happily and purposefully together to discuss the most important topic in school. Ironically at the same time we were discussing learning and teaching, Janet was sifting through the applications for a new assistant head teacher who will be looking after our learning and teaching in September. It would have been great for them to see our staff in action but also a quiet reminder of how good they are going to have be to inspire and lead my lovely colleagues! What a wonderful opportunity for the right person!

Faculty responses-subject specific great teaching tactics

Science added; Expertise – Risk taking, building student resilience

Developing – Student ownership, promoting independence, continue/expand/technology platforms for modelling

Subject mastery

English told me; “As a department we feel that we are successfully using the majority of the criteria. However, as a department our focuses will be: Active Learning with a focus on meaningful homework and developing independent research – analytical – evaluative skills for homework. We are considering using BlendSpace as an hwk forum. We also want to address and promote independent learning with a focus on using higher order thinking skills as lesson objectives and plenaries.”

Art and DT sent a different response—“As a department, we’ve mapped the 10 points for what makes good teaching against a previous document of what we would expect to see happening during a lesson to help us understand the points further.”

Maths wanted to include; Assessment for Learning

Knowledge that you’re having an impact

Identify skills and improve on them

Progress … over time

MFL wanted as extra to consider;

Gauging and building on previous success

Ascertaining where they are from primary school

Altering our timetable to suit

Reviewing our assessment in line with primaries

Memory retention

Techniques to recall and retain vocabulary

Engaging ways of teaching it

Best ways of assessment

Some faculties had time to discuss the extra questions-they are quite long but here is a taste of what was said.


Which of your current class room practices are informed or enhanced by research?

MD: I have taken the course on outstanding lazy teaching and employed/embedded a wide range of resources such as starter tasks into my teaching such as snappy starters and enhanced questioning. My recent SENCo course was also really useful to help my planning for SEN needs, particularly in light of the recent changes to SEN.

TM: I am using Twitter and Pinterest to gather and share ideas for Geography. We are also subscribed to the Geographical Association which has helped to give ideas and informed us on other key strategies that other teachers/schools are using.

GT: Attended the outstanding historical teaching course, which helped me to develop enquiry based activities. I have also actively used Twitter to showcase my ideas and use others, especially around Teaching and Learning, specifically a range of new marking and feedback strategies which I have then shared across the department.

HY: I attended outstanding classroom teaching and learning at Whalley Range School which gave me practical ideas such as Jenga, SOLO hexagons and lego population pyramids amongst others. I have been using Twitter to share and contribute to T/L discussions, especially on pedagoo Fridays.

How certain is the research about the effectiveness of these particular practices or strategies? What are the core principles or concepts?

To be discussed and decided!

Do you discuss & agree with colleagues how to teach key concepts/difficult content and skills? Do you discuss & agree with colleagues how to approach the teaching of common misconceptions?

As a department we strive to relate difficult concepts to modern day life as much as possible. For example, in Geography students have been shown info on the Nepal earthquake, the election, the recession and its effect on the political teacher. We have also implemented a range of activities to model good learning and to help push students to engage with difficult concepts such as visual graphs to demonstrate the effect of Nazi policies on the German economy and Speed Dating.

Which areas of your classroom practice are you seeking to improve over the next six to twelve months? More than one or two areas are likely to be overwhelming, keep it real.

GT: Active learning strategies – engaging in activities that allow pupils to apply their learning and put themselves into the position of historian/geographers. This will allow them to engage in on-task discussions with peers and to develop their SMSC.

HY: Risk Taking – New ideas to improve T&L within the department, this includes sharing best practice & pedagogy

Intervention strategies – Targeting pupils through the use of Data and marking to really inform planning for progress and also needs for specific intervention, for example exam questions and key skills (e.g map skills)

Improving skills and concepts

TM: Independence – focus on encouraging resilience and critical thinking within our pupils.

MD: Active learning and making sure students understand how to progress and the tools they require to do so

How are you honing and refining your current practices? Who is helping you?

GT: Sharing best practice with colleagues, NQT’s from other schools and Twitter. Feedback is essential from both other staff and students as well as measuring the impact of what we are doing to check what we are trying is worthwhile.

HY: Also using social media, other staff and the students to improve teaching and to learn from what went well and what didn’t. I have focussed on reflecting with students in particular to really improve engagement in lessons.

TM: Twitter, NQT’s from other schools, HY and reflecting what has gone well with classes to tweak/improve lesson material. We also share everything as a department which has helped to bring in new strategies to my teaching.

MD: I have really relied on the department to keep pushing new ideas- with 3 new teachers, we have been really lucky that they are keen to push themselves to try new ideas. This has helped to revitalise some of my lessons and to add new things such as using Twitter.

The afternoon session

Key Message

How to … help colleagues to think seriously and differently about their practice

1Challenge existing practice to help teachers make connections between how they teach and how pupils learn.

2 Ensure teachers truly look at their own practice and pre-conceptions about what they think pupils understand and what they actually do understand.

3 Embed conditions for challenge e.g. trust, honesty and time for deep conversations

The afternoon session provided time for colleagues to look at their own professional development and to begin work on their professional portfolios. These were introduced last year and are explained in this blog.

There are different portfolios for NQTs, 2-5 years’ experience, progress leaders and subject leaders. This is an example began on inset day from one of our NQTs. [caught mid-sentence!] Extra time for completion is given in directed time and then followed up in September for appraisal. I read the completed versions and share the aspirational priorities with all colleagues so that they can pair up/offer support/see where expertise is. Last summer, I read aspirations that I didn’t know colleagues had and was able to find suitable training, if it existed!

Contribution to Whole School Quality of Teaching               Name          Subject                                                       Date


Key QT driver Developing Developed Aspirational
Lesson observations X
Collaboration-learning X
Collaboration-teaching X
Leadership X
Book monitoring X
Other contributions x


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! 

A focus in my observations has been to really utilise my peer critique episodes so that pupils benefit from the whole cycle. This includes peer feedback, peer feed-forward and then redrafting with a final feedback session. The focus is on de-draft

As a result of this I have created the ‘Level Up’ activity in my D.I.R.T and peer critique lessons to provide an opportunity for this.

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. 

Lesson plan was provided and all key levels were deemed fine, with particular praise of depth of SEN information and provision. I anticipated any issues and misconceptions and accounted for differentiation accordingly.

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?


A further priority would be to improve my teaching of GCSE history to develop our most able pupils. As it has been my first year teaching GCSE history and with AQA, I feel that I could really develop pushing out most able pupils to A/A* grades with further training and development.



CPD Which learning hubs have you attended? What did you trial after the hubs? Which other internal training have you attended? What were the key learning points from this training? Which external training have you attended? What were the key learning points from this training? 

I have attended AQA GCSE Outstanding teaching courses which has helped me to focus on providing challenging lessons for my students that focus on the higher end of the blooms taxonomy. One activity was used in


I regularly use Twitter as part of my CPD on a weekly basis as I have found it very beneficial to both myself and the department. I use it to both share my own lessons and ideas, but to also get new ideas to benefit the pupils. I have also been asked to write for the Pedagoo blog for 3 of my ideas.

How have you used research to support your own development?Please give examples.

Why did you choose to research these areas?

Which CPD activities have had the biggest impact on learning in your classroom? What is your evidence?


I completed an NTEN study with BK to focus on challenging the most able within set 1 history. I chose to focus on this area as I wanted to engage and utilise these high attainers to develop their peers and consolidate their own knowledge/skills. Our focus was to use the Lead Learner role, this included giving pupils a flipped learning activity and then teaching those within the class for a portion of the lesson. Feedback and progress within the lesson highlighted that the utilisation of lead learners within both history and maths can really be used to challenge our most able, but it also showed that peers benefit from peer teaching as a supplement to my own teaching.



I try to read Teaching History whenever possible

What would you like next in terms of internal/external CPD?What would your priority be and why?



A focus would be on the new GCSE curriculum that we will be rolling out from September 2015. This would involve improving my subject knowledge and the enhanced exam questions that will be provided.


A further priority would be to improve my teaching of GCSE history to develop our most able pupils. As it has been my first year teaching GCSE history and with AQA, I feel that I could really benefit from further CPD on this.

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? 

Having observed Martin with DJ at the end of the autumn term, I was excited to observe a fellow experienced historian. One activity that Martin used was the causal web that I had introduced previously, but he had really developed the activity into a much more challenging and engaging one.


As part of my NTEN activity I had the opportunity to watch Beth teach maths which really provided me with inspired ideas.


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?


Trying out the ‘5 a day’ activity with my GCSE classes had, I believe, had a positive impact on pupils’ factual knowledge. From research and speaking to L.Walker (our AHT), they have found that regular low level testing has proved beneficial to pupils overall understanding and factual recall of key parts of the GCSE topic.

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? 

I would really like to develop my peer teaching in a future NTEN to research the strengths of peer teaching for tests and revision.

Collaboration-teaching Have you contributed to any of the FOCALS when we have discussed generic teaching issues? E.g.?Have you contributed to dept meetings when learning and teaching is discussed? E.g.?

Have you been in involved with joint planning of lessons? Have you contributed ideas to the dept SEF?

If a colleague has been having difficulties/concerns with a class-have you been able to offer advice and support? Have you sought help and advice when it was needed?

You have kept your interventions up to date and are able to tell your faculty leader which ones have been successful?


For each of the examples you chose; how did your intervention make an impact on the teaching of others or yourself? How do you know? How did this then impact on student learning? 


How would you like to develop your contribution to the discussion and support of ‘teaching’?
Leadership Have you been able to take any learning and teaching leadership roles yourself this year?Please explain.

Have you been able to develop leadership roles in others e.g. students?


With regards to the department, I have had little official leadership roles per say. However, as the HoD has been away on maternity leave, both myself and Martin have managed the department between us with each taking different responsibilities. Mine have included rewriting and creating new SOWs, development of new resources, planning and tracking assessments, sharing and developing new T&L ideas.


A focus, as mentioned earlier, has been on improving the leadership skills of pupils within my higher ability classes through the use of the ‘Lead Learner’

What did you learn most from the experience-what would you do differently next time? 

The faculty now has a wider range of resources to draw from with a greater range of new teaching ideas.



How would you like to develop your leadership skills further? How can we help? 

I would also like to focus on my progression opportunities, be this through attending middle management courses or taking on added responsibility within the next year, be this departmental or pastoral.


Book monitoring/learning walks What general advice did you receive from your book monitoring?Which were the areas that you need to develop after your feedback?

What did you learn from your Learning Walk student survey?


I have received a number of key pieces of feedback from my book monitoring, these include;

·         Providing more searching questions for pupils within D.I.R.T that go beneath the surface to test their understanding

·         Differentiation of questions between different sets in D.I.R.T

·         Increase the use of peer verification

·         Continue to try new ideas, but enhance and adopt those that work so pupils become familiar and thus benefit.


The learning walk from the spring term proved a beneficial opportunity to hear from the student voice. A key wish from students was to provide a further opportunity to ……


How far have you got with ensuring that your feedback has been met? Are you able to provide evidence that your marking/feedback is having a positive impact on student learning? How have you measured this?How have you responded to your Learning Walk feedback? How has this made a difference to your teaching/student learning?


I have made a greater effort in providing more challenging and differentiated questions for pupils within their marking.


I have now provided further opportunity for pupils to develop their peer critique and feedback on it, this had allowed many pupils to ‘level up’ their assessments.


I have also created new personalised marking stickers to aid my ……

What will be your focus on this year with your marking/feedback? Have you seen examples that you want to trial? What has your dept focused on? Apart from extra time-do you need anything more to support you? 

To reduce the time spent marking and increase my efficiency


To continue trying new marking ideas and feedback, for example I would like to try RAG123 marking at some stage.

Other contributions Any other choices-you may have supported a student who was struggling to learn well for a variety of reasons, you may have formed a good relationship with parents which supports learning and teaching, you may have organised extra-curricular support/activities which enhance learning-you choose! 




School Trips- I have attended the Year 7/8 mentor trip to Manchester IWM and the Lowry theatre, this has develop improve students’ knowledge of history and specifically the holocaust.


Intervention/revision – Offered throughout the year for KS4 students at lunchtimes and supporting revision on Wednesday PM for Y11 pupils within the spring/summer term.


Impact on learning and evidence please! You decide where next. 

I would like to continue with having a large role outside of the classroom and want to continue sports clubs as well as extracurricular trips and intervention sessions

Sadly we lose this NQT in July at the end of a maternity cover but it is important that we offer the best CPD possible to all of our teachers so that our students gain whilst they are with us and then take our training with them to benefit other children. We have a duty beyond our own walls to education in general.

Key QT driver Developing Developed
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! 

I have acted upon advice from lesson observations each half term. Initial target was ‘less is more’. Have since reduced amount of activities in each lesson to develop learning in key areas before moving on.

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. 

Have shown development in each lesson observation. Taken advice from previous feedback to help with my own development.

DJ happy with lesson plans produced, particularly where specific needs of students pointed out.

CPD Which learning hubs have you attended? What did you trial after the hubs? Which other internal training have you attended? What were the key learning points from this training? Which external training have you attended? What were the key learning points from this training? 

Attended all NQT training hubs, particularly found M.Jordan’s session on supporting students with SEN useful and have trialled a number of activities with my low ability Year 10 and KS3 classes e.g. writing frames, heads and tails, card sorts, IWB use. Also the effective use of data sessions with L.Walker were vital when identifying key cohorts for intervention and revision with Y10 and Y11.

Externally attended ‘outstanding practice’ at Whalley Range, picked up some really useful active learning strategies (Jenga revision, SOLO hexagons, LEGO population pyramids) that I have trialled.

How have you used research to support your own development?Please give examples.

Why did you choose to research these areas?

Which CPD activities have had the biggest impact on learning in your classroom? What is your evidence?


Regularly use Twitter account to find/share ideas, encouraged by DJ and MD.

Also share ideas with other NQTs, particularly GT and TM.

Biggest development has been in risk taking and trying new ideas, how would I ever improve if I didn’t try anything new?


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? 

Have informally observed JF, PJ and BD ‘borrowing’ a number of ideas. PJ Socrative for flipped learning revision has been great and the kids love it. I have borrowed BD’s ‘Chinese whispers’ activity. Also from JF I discovered an effective way of using the 5 a day in Geography and also her ‘beat the teacher’ where pupils identify mistakes made by the teacher.

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?


Used these ideas in my class and continue to do so. 5 a day in particular is a good way of reflecting and reinforcing previous knowledge. Socrative is used as a good revision tool. Share ideas with humanities department regularly, as well as on Twitter.

Collaboration-teaching Have you contributed to any of the FOCALS when we have discussed generic teaching issues? E.g.?Have you contributed to dept meetings when learning and teaching is discussed? E.g.?

Have you been in involved with joint planning of lessons? Have you contributed ideas to the dept SEF?

If a colleague has been having difficulties/concerns with a class-have you been able to offer advice and support? Have you sought help and advice when it was needed?

You have kept your interventions up to date and are able to tell your faculty leader which ones have been successful?


TM and me have joint-planned a number of different lessons for the new schemes of work together. Also collaborated to identify key cohorts in Y11 for intervention and revision. Also shared half term revision sessions as well as splitting revision throughout the year. TM – Tues lunch time, HY – Thurs lunch time, we also split Monday afterschool revision.


We have kept our marksheets up to date to track progress and intervention of each class. If students do not meet target grade in end of unit assessments they must come back for intervention until target is met.

For each of the examples you chose; how did your intervention make an impact on the teaching of others or yourself? How do you know? How did this then impact on student learning? 

NTEN study has helped develop my teaching of high ability male students, motivating and engaging them. Exam mat I created is regularly used as a guide to answer exam questions and has developed their understanding of GCSE mark scheme content.


Y11 students who attended revision sessions have shown impressive progress in classroom assessments.


Have noticed improving grades in end of unit assessments and less need for intervention with other GCSE classes in Y9 and Y10.

Leadership Have you been able to take any learning and teaching leadership roles yourself this year?Please explain.

Have you been able to develop leadership roles in others e.g. students?


Worked alongside MD and TM to arrange Y11 intervention, planned lessons for new schemes of work.

Have encouraged my Y10 form to become prefects with a large number of them taking the role up and doing well.

Regularly encourage group leaders in activities, helping students develop leadership skills from a young age, particularly in flipped learning activities where pupils have taught sections of the lessons themselves.

What did you learn most from the experience-what would you do differently next time? 

Have learnt that collaboration and sharing is essential in the leadership role. From sharing work load to sharing ideas helps the whole department pull in the same direction.


I have realised that leadership gives pupils a sense of pride and encourages better learning in a lot of them, look to introduce this in class whenever I can.

Book monitoring What general advice did you receive from your book monitoring?Which were the areas that you need to develop after your feedback?

What did you learn from your Learning Walk student survey?


Trialled ideas (numbered marking, DIRT, peer/self-assessment).


Have noticed dot marking works effectively with lower sets where SPaG errors are more common.


DIRt has been essential in reinforcing knowledge and extending learning of students. Peer/self-assessment has helped pupils learn more from each other than they otherwise would have. Low ability students help fill gaps in knowledge of HA students whilst HA also push LA to achieve more.

How far have you got with ensuring that your feedback has been met? Are you able to provide evidence that your marking/feedback is having a positive impact on student learning? How have you measured this?How have you responded to your Learning Walk feedback? How has this made a difference to your teaching/student learning?


Targets were to concentrate on SPaG development at GCSE, Exam question mat has helped this as well as introduction of dot marking to help pupils find SPaG errors.


Other contributions Any other choices-you may have supported a student who was struggling to learn well for a variety of reasons, you may have formed a good relationship with parents which supports learning and teaching, you may have organised extra-curricular support/activities which enhance learning-you choose!Morocco

Wet sponge day

May half term revision session

Worked with PE to offer orienteering help (OS maps)

Arranged extra geography intervention with A. and B in Y9 through the help of the mentors, particularly Janice W.

Impact on learning and evidence please! 

I feel all of these contributions have led to me building really good working relationships with pupils and staff alike, making classroom management a lot easier. Also has helped me develop a wide network of colleagues I can go to for advice or with any concerns.

At the end of the afternoon session colleagues returned to faculties to share their individual needs and each member of staff produced a quick response to these questions;

My 2 key priorities that I want to develop to make my teaching even better next year are;

I chose these because;

My initial ideas to support my development include;

You can help me by;

I shared responses with all staff so that people could see if there were any possibilities of cross-curricular link ups and I could have a quick picture of the CPD colleagues were asking for. I can then respond appropriately.  The final portfolio documents are not due until July and provide me with nice summer reading and a really important chance to reflect on the reflections of others. Honest self-evaluation and appraisal is crucial and I need to continue to create opportunities for it to happen AND be acted upon.

Science worked on theirs together;


My 2 key priorities that I want to develop to make my teaching even better next year are;

  • Promoting student independence RM CM HW WS HS PJ
  • Interleaving RM CM
  • Personalised target setting HW HS
  • Parental engagement with revision support WS
  • Develop the use of IRIS PJ

I chose these because;

  • We believe students need to take much more responsibility for their own learning, especially when it comes to revision. RM CM HW WS HS PJ
  • Students need to be able to remember key concepts, repetition and revision is key if they are to pass the exam. RM CM
  • Pupils see the benefit of seeing where they’ve gone wrong and developing their own strategies to address issues – these may be non-subject specific HW HS
  • Unharnessed power WS
  • I think this could be a very important aspect of teaching in the future as it will allow staff to watch their own teaching in order to make improvements. PJ

My initial ideas to support my development include;

  • Using kerboodle and other learning sites for students to carry out independent learning at home. RM CM HW WS HS PJ
  • Providing students with revision techniques that can then develop further in their own time. RM CM HW WS HS PJ
  • Allow students more time to self-assess, reflect and improve on their work in class. RM CM HW WS HS PJ
  • Present content in short, fast-paced time slots. RM CM
  • Repeat key information and activities on a weekly basis. RM CM
  • Regularly revisit key concepts in lessons and in the lead up to the exam. RM CM
  • Give students a target framework to select from. HW HS
  • Compare to subsequent assessment to assess impact HW HS
  • More contact using parent-mail and develop their awareness of resources available WS
  • Continue to trial the use of IRIS in lessons. PJ
  • Lead a hub with JF. PJ
  • Experiment with inner ear coaching. PJ

You can help me by;

  • I would like to attend a hub to share ideas and learn how other staff are approaching these topics. ALL
  • I would like to have these as my focus in my observation, and receive feedback on my ideas. RM
  • Ensure all sims contacts are up to date WS
  • Review recent research ALL
  • Giving me time to collaborate with JF to see what works and what doesn’t and what IRIS can be used for. Understanding there may be “teething problems” with the tech itself. PJ

English colleagues decided on these priorities and added their feedback from the morning;

English Feedback

Which of your current class room practices are informed or enhanced by research?

NTEN (command words, and revision techniques – shrinking, flash cards, use of ICT, mind maps). SSAT revision techniques – we regularly use ideas / resources from the school’s blog. Twitter and Pinterest are used to gather and share ideas and we are kept up to date with subject specific OFSTED reports from DJ.

How certain is the research about the effectiveness of these particular practices or strategies? What are the core principles or concepts?

We continue to trial a range of research strategies and discuss what is effective /ineffective.

Do you discuss & agree with colleagues how to teach key concepts/difficult content and skills?

Yes. In weekly department meetings and we are constantly reviewing our assessments and schemes of learning to ensure that they are suitable for our students and are rigorous and promote key skills.

Do you discuss & agree with colleagues how to approach the teaching of common misconceptions?

Yes, in meetings.

Which areas of your classroom practice are you seeking to improve over the next six to twelve months?

Our aims as a department are to create more independent learners by using higher order thinking questions as lesson objectives and plenaries. We also want to explore how homework can be meaningful by developing evaluative and analytical skills.

How are you honing and refining your current practices? Who is helping you?

It’s a team effort, we help each other and look to SLT for support and guidance.


HJ Develop resilient learning / independent learners.Securing technical accuracy (Spag writing tasks) Focus on KS4 drafting process – collaborate with dept Dept to supportDraft books
FL Promote independent learningDevelop strategies to develop transactional writing Group work – pupils to use flip learningGenerate ideas within dept. Dept to supportDraft books
MJ Develop SEN student skills to dive constructive feedbackDevelop Growth Mind set Plan more specific DIRT into MTPProvide models and tick list Work in a hub with similar targets
RH Promote independent learningStretch and challenge HA students Group workUse students as leaders no
LB Develop peer and self-assessmentStructured homework Models 

Homework booklets


Draft books

LC Proving progress and showing impact on LA pupilsDevelop strategies to enable students to become independent learners Concept mapsDIRT time needs to be more engaging no
SC Embed higher order thinking skills as learning objectives and plenariesMake homework more meaningful – evaluative – analytical – develop revision skills Incorporate stem questions into the MTP 


Research – review Blendspace- VLE

A few examples of individual requests are here.

Fran-maths, science, intervention

My 2 key priorities that I want to develop to make my teaching even better next year are:

  • Proving progress and showing impact for students receiving targeted Numeracy/Science intervention.

I chose this because from my experience this year I have identified that I need to:

      1. Narrow the focus for intervention – for example by using William Emeny’s mapping of the new maths curriculum to identify topics that have the biggest impact as they link to more mathematical concepts
      2. Interleave learning of linked ideas over a 6 week intervention programme
      3. Map 6 weekly intervention programmes – how do I show progression if the same student returns for another 6 weeks of intervention (or is it that some students need extra time/practice at the same learning and that this repetition will help students in the longer term)
      4. Research why particular students may always require intervention – why do some students repeatedly (as the year progresses) seem to be struggling (for some students this is an easy answer – they always require extra 1-1 support and processing time to get learning to ‘stick’). For others, I need to research why some students struggle with numeracy (how the brain works at processing numbers) and look at best practice from recent research to help this type of learner.
  • My initial ideas to support my development include: Research CPD time. Try out ideas from research findings.
  • You can help me by: Informing me of any relevant information that you may come across in your roles that would inform the above. Scheduling directed time/CPD time for personal development.
  1. Active Learning Hub – to contribute to Maths Faculty development.

I chose this because I will feedback different examples of progression paths and ideas for student reflection.

My initial ideas to support my development include: access to expertise/cross-curricular examples of practice at Learning Hub meetings.

Hannah English

My 2 key priorities that I want to develop to make my teaching even better next year are;

  1. Developing independent/ resilient learners (inspiring the students to take ownership)
  2. Finding new and innovative strategies to secure accuracy (writing tasks/ SPaG etc.)I chose these because; I believe: Students will produce better quality work if they continue to take pride in it. (We are already moving towards this). Use of careful drafting for KS4 (KS3 is nearly implemented). My initial ideas to support my development include; drafting books, reward systems, trial and error, collaborative teaching.

You can help me by; allowing for departmental time (directed time) to share ideas/ strategies/ look the marking of others in the dept. etc.

My 2 key priorities that I want to develop to make my teaching even better next year are;

  • Independent learning
  • Challenging the high ability A* students and differentiation

 I chose these because;

  • With our new curriculum students need to be able to write an essay during the exam and complete an unprepared speaking exam. Currently they prepare both of these in class but still struggle, therefore I think this may be the weakest area for most students when they complete the new GCSE. I want them to be able to have the confidence to complete these tasks with little support and to have a lot of practice in doing so before then.
  • High ability students are one of lowest performing cohorts and so I would like to improve on this and increase the number of A/ A* grades we get. As we have no sets in GCSE I have found it difficult at times to differentiate sufficiently for all learners needs in a class mixed with foundation grade C students to A* students. I would like some extra ideas and tips of how to do this successfully.


My initial ideas to support my development include;

  • I have joined twitter and have been using this to find new resources and ideas
  • I also found the visit to Marple really useful
  • I plan to trial a few ideas about independent learning into my lessons including adapting my literacy legends idea as well as making a peer assessment/ writing frame
  • I am also currently adapting the schemes of work/ BSG to include more GCSE content in the KS3 curriculum in a way to challenge those more high ability students

 You can help me by;

  • Directing me to any great differentiating ideas or allowing me to observe anyone good at it!
  • Continue sharing any good MFL resources you find
  • Let me visit another school, please?!

Helen F- Spanish

My 2 key priorities that I want to develop to make my teaching even better next year are;

  • Peer/Self-Assessment (especially amongst the lower ability pupils)
  • Use of target language in the classroomI chose these because;  
  • My initial ideas to support my development include;
  • Target language is always something that Ofsted look for in a language lesson. Also, the new GCSE Specification contains many changes to the way the speaking component will be carried out. Pupils will have to recall more knowledge than they have ever had to in the past so more speaking practice in the classroom may take away some of the fear and apprehension about speaking exams.
  • I feel that peer/self-assessment is a really useful tool in the classroom for pupils to reflect on how much they have learnt, any gaps in their learning and think about where they are going to move onto next. I find that it is hard for the lower ability pupils to record their thoughts and feelings on a page and I don’t want to continuously rely on verbal feedback. I would like some evidence in their books that they have reflected on their own and their classmates’ learning without it taking a huge chunk out of the small amount of lesson time that we have.
  • Trying to incorporate the NQT CPD research and feedback received from DJ into my lessons.
  • Creating a colour coded or tick-box system for lower ability pupils to use for peer assessment – something quick and easy which can be stuck into their books.
  • Visual aids for target language at the front of the room above the board.
  • Common classroom language in Spanish for their exercise books
  • You can help me by;
  • Arranging a visit other schools to see which strategies they use.
  • Courses

Making our CPD impact on future learning

A good day was had by all, I hope, but as with all CPD this is just the beginning. Bottom-up or lateral CPD rather than leadership led and dictated CPD, does engage, motivate and increase the chance of ‘buy in’ with the self-ownership involved. However the impact of what was decided and our future responses can only be measured a total success if we can prove an impact on student learning. Can we make this happen?

The hubs will begin next week, volunteers have been emerging, and since our last year’s hubs, there has been a growing discussion of the role of teachers and research. Dr Gary Jones’s summary of the weekend’s New York Ed research event is below and contains a nice summary of some of the key issues.

With our lesson study and 4 years of learning hubs, some colleagues have begun to delve far more into educational research and some rely on Leon or myself to point them in the right direction. It’s a similar position in schools who we follow e.g. Belmont-great account of their questioning hub here- and hopefully we are becoming ‘evidence informed practitioners’.  It isn’t easy though for full time teachers to access sometimes impenetrable academic research and become research literate and able to find what they need. We’ve discussed plenty of ‘research’ which simply isn’t true in our situation and it’s always best to consider specific cases, use internal expertise and try to find similar external ideas that we can practically adapt for our classrooms. As Dr Jones points out, it is some way off our teachers becoming ‘active producers of research actions’ but we do need to have as much evidence as possible to support our needs.

The first hub sessions will begin with some basic questions and discussions about their chosen priority [no particular order-hubs can choose]

  • What do we all understand the priority to mean for our teaching and our classrooms?
  • In our experience what does a good one [of our priority] look like in action?
  • What made it effective-how should we measure effectiveness?
  • Why did the groups choose this-what is it about this priority that makes it so important for student learning/
  • What do students and staff find most difficult about mastering it?
  • What good practice do we have already?
  • What do we need to find out more about?
  • How will we do that-where is there any information?
  • How will we measure our success as a hub?

Over time, they will need; to provide guidance for colleagues as to what good practice should look like and provide trialled exemplars, share as many practical ideas as possible, seek feedback from the students, measure the impact on learning of their strategies, break down research so that all can follow and share their ideas on an inset session and via our blogs.

We can use our autumn lesson studies to plan collaboratively on any of the priorities and will begin to focus immediately on them in our summer appraisal observations. Planning and feedback will begin to become much more relevant and helpful as we develop our own understanding and language for each of our priorities. Only 1 or 2 should ever be focused on at once! Both teacher and observer will be able to reflect deeply and the dialogue should be as specific and focused as possible.

Appraisal Lesson Observations

Teacher  Subject Set
Action points from the last observation Relevant appraisal learning and teaching objectives Which MCHS ‘great teaching’ criteria have you planned to model?


Context of lesson  

Is there an area of their learning/your teaching that you have found to be challenging and have decided to focus on?


Getting your skates on! Which is the biggest anticipated risk/chance of failure you have planned to take in the lesson? How can we help?



Appraisal Observation Feedback     Teacher                                       Class         Observers

MCHS Great Teaching chosen criteria Observer feedback comments to support development.How did each chosen strategy impact on learning? Anything you spotted for future devpt advice? Teacher view-did your teaching of each priority meet your predicted outcome and impact on student learning? Did you have to change tactics?

My week will end with a visit to, our Teaching School partner, Range, to discuss the way forward for our collaborative CPD venture across our alliance. I enjoyed planning our own inset day but the thought of 300 teachers in our school sharing ideas and talking about learning and teaching-WOW-can’t wait!