Monthly Archives: March 2014

Magic Moments


Magic moments When two hearts are carin’

Magic moments Memories we’ve been sharin’

I wasn’t going to start our Magic Moments sharing until after Easter but found some good memories to share last week which fitted nicely with other whole school initiatives.  This is the opening act then for great things to come! I’ve put the information onto our blog so parents and friends can see what we are doing but the report, on this occasion is written for our teaching staff to feedback on our lesson study initiative.

The lesson study initiative, where 2 colleague plan lessons together and observe each other, is coming to the end of the first group of 12 volunteers. They will share their research with the rest of the staff after the holidays and I have simply been drip-feeding snippets of information along the journey. Rachel Young and Josie Morgan share a year 10 art class on different days so they have enjoyed the benefits of pooling ideas and supporting each other to tackle their key concern; How effectively can we improve the quality of sketchbook work in underachieving boys?

The teachers plan together and for each teaching tactic they have planned for, has to predict how they feel that the students will react and how it will impact on their learning. During the lesson and afterwards they consider what really happened and a much deeper conversation about learning begins-this is why we wanted to be involved! The developmental rather than judgemental form of lesson observation, we feel, will really move our teaching on. ‘Trail-blazing’, as Ofsted might describe it rather than ‘beyond outstanding’! Am I really using these terms-on with the story!

Rachel’s success criterion was that;

  1. 1.       All students should begin to work with less support, taking responsibility for their own path to ‘mastery’.
  2. 2.       Students will take more creative risks, learning from their mistakes.
  3. 3.       Students will have more confidence in their own ability.

Her research included some of our own share ideas but she tapped into the world of blogs and tweets [still massively under-used by teachers] and borrowed and adapted ideas from @huntingenglish and @pekebo. The original source is here


with Rachel’s ppt inserted by the author, Pete Jones-huge thank- you to him. The students have been responding well to the ’marginal gains approach’ and Rachel’s wheel gave them the opportunity to identify weaknesses that need to be immediately worked on to boost art mastery.


Rachel encouraged the students to learn from their mistakes and you can see her strategies below in the slides and on her planning sheet. Lesson study asks that we use 3 students to consider for the predictions and actual responses, although the whole class is involved in the learning and teaching and often the feedback when the students are asked for their views on the lesson.


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Predicted Response

Actual Response

1 Starter- Students have own portraits printed, from photos taken yesterday.  Students are given 5 minutes to draw a quick line drawing of their portrait. (5mins) Students may become frustrated and think “I can’t do it”. They may give up, or work slowly. Student A Entirely gave up after a few lines- no engagement, very frustrated. Did not hand in this work. Student B Gave it a really good go- made all expected errors.  Student C Gave it a really good go- made all expected errors. 
2 Look at students drawings as a group- what common ‘mistakes’ have been made. Powerpoint- refers to children’s drawings- how we learnt to draw people. Common portrait misconceptions. (10 mins) I hope to see ‘light-bulb’ moments- an understanding of where they were going wrong. Students should feel more confident to proceed. Took part in discussion- identified own errors. Quiet throughout discussion. Quiet throughout discussion
3 Students retry drawing, this time spending 20 minutes. Students are given small pieces of coloured paper and each time they notice a mistake, they write it down, take a photo and correct what they’ve done. Link to Marginal Gains. (20 mins) A and B will give the task a really good go. C may be more reluctant and ask for more help. All three boys will likely fill their ‘mistake papers’ quickly. Did not enjoy task. Focussing on mistakes was uncomfortable for him and made him feel self-conscious. He did not really try to improve his work. Work was marginally more skilful, so he did take on board some ideas. He was unable to identify minor mistakes, simply stating that he had done ‘everything’ wrong. B worked as expected. He had a good go at the task, and his work was of average quality. He identified his errors well and fixed them himself with little guidance. C was a real surprise- his drawing improved massively and he was able to verbally identify all small errors (though he did not write these down) and fix them independently and confidently. His work shows a real journey- he was able to engage with the process and found it helpful.

Rachel then added a different dimension into the learning by adding a Roy Lichtentstein comic book aspect into the art and afterwards was able to consider what had actually happened and what could be learnt from the lesson.

What were they able to do?What progress they made and how do you know? A was able to identify his weaknesses but was not able to move on from them and fix them independently. He did make some progress in terms of his portraiture skills, but still has a way to go on this journey. He demonstrated that he was keen to improve, and that he responds better to more open-ended creative tasks. B was comfortable with the technical task and was able to identify errors and fix them with some independence. His starter drawing and developed drawing showed real progress. He struggled with the creative element and working with a shorter time scale. C has excellent technical drawing skills and demonstrated progress with these during the lesson from his starter drawing to the more developed.

Initial Thoughts

A prefers more creative tasks. I will continue to work with him to improve his technical skills. I will continue to work with B to push him outside of his comfort zone, developing his creativity. C needs further support with developing his creativity and managing his time. I will continue to work on this with him.

Being an art lesson, it is easy to keep a pictorial record of development to share with colleagues when explaining lesson study!

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Josie had the same success criterion and same class and again worked on a step by step developmental approach;

2.Composition Design


Students will develop their understanding of composition by creating 3 designs.

The first design will have 2 pre-drawn images to provide guidance.

The second design will have 1 pre-drawn shape.

The final design will be plain paper.

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This was to avoid the blank piece of paper ‘panic’ that spooks her students! She was hoping that this structured approach would create a better final piece. Josie began with a laminated overlay that the students placed on an A4 2 painting sheet-this was an idea that came from @pedagoo and several teachers had been producing for different subjects in our learning hubs. The production is quite time consuming and fiddly but once produced; there is a really useful self-critique activity that can be used more than once.

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Josie’s predictions and actual responses for the first 2 activities are here for you to read.


Predicted Response

Actual Response

1.Starter(10mins)Analyse 2 different artworks identifying compositional techniques. Students will work together and use the overlay to answer the questions and support learning.What is the first thing you noticed in the artwork?

What do you notice next in the artwork?

What guides your eyes around the artwork?

All three boys will complete the questions on the overlay. A should work confidently with others to discuss opinions and he may also contribute vocally. B and C are unlikely to voice their opinions without prompting at first, but should gain confidence. A was able to verbally discuss the noticeable points of composition and discuss his opinions with confidence and ease.When it came to writing down his opinion and thoughts, he struggled to write without asking for support and gave up; relying on the other members of his group to complete the task. B understood the task and when prompted he was able to confidently suggest why the composition directed his eyes. B did require some prompting to develop his ideas further, but not as much as expected.He also was confident enough to voice his understanding to the members of his group with ease. C worked well with his group and confidently discussed the compositional techniques.When spoken to, he was able to talk with assurance about his ideas and opinions.He was able to easily point out the composition conventions and led his group in the answering of questions.

2.Composition Design


Students will develop their understanding of composition by creating 3 designs.

The first design will have 2 pre-drawn images to provide guidance.

The second design will have 1 pre-drawn shape.

The final design will be plain paper.


All three boys will work on their 3 composition designs.

B will work diligently and try to complete all three tasks. He may need to ask for support regarding improvements.

B will attempt the designs, however he will ask for support and guidance to reaffirm his understanding.

C will work slowly and precisely, but will be reluctant to ask for help due to lacking confidence.

A understood the task, but was slow to work and seemed reluctant to start drawing without significant guidance.

He did complete all three designs; however the standard of the work is low, due to his slow working and repetition of previously used shapes, rather than exploring new ideas in his artwork.

B made great progress on this task and produce a high standard of composition focussed designs.

It was clear that he enjoyed the structured nature of the task and as the task progressed; his confidence in his ability also grew.

The work he produced shows a confident theme and high standard.

C probably made the most progress in terms of my expectations.

His three designs were completely quickly with confidence and show excellent understanding of compositional theory.

He clearly works well with timed exercises, which set him limits to work to.

Josie’s research for her planning took her to a source close to her heart-her fiancée! He works with apprentices in industry and uses the STAR approach to self-critique. This was the first time she had used this approach and it was interesting to find that the students didn’t all play as safe as she expected by giving themselves middling scores-as students often do. Perhaps the strategies had helped confidence and risk taking.

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3.Success Star

(10min demo)

Students will be given a Success Star with 10 statements relating to the task and their confidence.

They are to then rank their lesson outcomes and join the numbers to create a shape of success.

10 – Very Successful

1 – Not Successful

All boys will complete their Success Star.All boys will most likely link numbers in the middle of the scale, rather than showing clear confidence in their work and progress. A completed the star and rated himself 7 on most statements, apart from statement 2, where he gave himself 8 for incorporating the shapes and statement 3, where he gave himself 5 for showing rhythm. B was surprisingly confident in his Success Star and rated himself 10 for liking his compositions and 9 for making progress in the lesson. He was less confident regarding his use of Kandinsky shapes and variety of proportion, awarding himself 6. C was also surprisingly confident, with the majority of the ratings getting a 9 or 8.He awarded himself a 10 for not requiring support or guidance, which is excellent for C

The pictorial record again showed interesting development and progress, below, but for both teachers, the learning progress will be measured over time and repetition of the strategies will be needed to clarify a summer evaluation of whether or not the approaches do help to answer the original enquiry question;

Enquiry Question: How effectively can we improve the quality of sketchbook work in underachieving boys?

Drawing One – Two shapes drawn on for support


Drawing Two – One shape drawn on for support


Drawing Three – No shapes drawn for support



I don’t need to be convinced about the power and validity of lesson study as one of the best CPD methods of helping our teachers develop and reflect on their skills in the classroom but I may be guilty of over-simplifying what isn’t always an easy idea for schools to organise and one that needs time for all aspects of the study to be built in. The mention of the T word tells you that organisation is key for the senior leaders and teachers involved.

  • ·         There does need to be a real need for the enquiry question at the beginning-what evidence is there that the students are not progressing/understanding the chosen concept. Is there statistical evidence to support the need for the enquiry before we begin it? And bearing that in mind, how will we use statistical evidence to prove the success of our strategies in our evaluations? Not always our areas of strength-we are aware of other schools using universities [York ] to help them-can Edge Hill support us with giving our research a measureable impact that is both simple enough for us to use but meaningful enough to persuade teachers to engage with it? Huntington School have an interesting approach on their blogs that may be useful and NTEN can also help.
  • ·         Research to support the enquiry and find best practice is again time consuming and although teachers are encouraged to read information and to search the web; much of the information comes via my searches for interesting ideas-that’s fine, it’s one of my roles but independent research and searching for very specific needs is much better done by the individual concerned and I’m still trying to get more involved in going onto the internet –the time involved is gained back a hundred fold when resources/ideas that are just perfect to adapt and use tomorrow, are found. Best CPD around!
  • ·         We do try to build in time to support the practical bit of turning an idea into resources and classroom use-our learning hubs give some time but most has to be produced as part of normal planning. I can’t, of course, ask anyone to work outside of school hours but realistically this probably happens and I’m eternally grateful for the commitment shown!
  • ·         The time needed to plan together and discuss afterwards also relies heavily on our volunteers finding time-I do waive the normal formal appraisal observation and planning involved for the lessons study written up and given as evidence for the quality of teaching portfolio we are developing [we don’t have graded observations or a list of them here] to be placed with the other measure of QT that we feel are important. Hopefully half of the observations next year will be based on lesson study with 1 formal appraisal observation with line managers-we have to remember that part of our development of great teaching is to support quality observer feedback so opportunities for line-managers to observe and offer developmental feedback/advice are important too. I will build in more directed meeting time in during the autumn schedule to give more time for planning together, feedback and writing up the evaluations.
  • ·         Lessons are covered to allow lesson study to happen unless it happens to fall in PPA time. Whilst it is a great use of that time, the time is bought back by covering another lesson or I can sit with the class. The whole time issue may become more difficult as our lesson study numbers grow but I’m sure we can, as always, work around any barriers if we believe that LS is as important as I think it might be!
  • ·         Five of our partnerships are in the same subject [or area e.g. performing arts], often with the same class of students and one group is across English and maths. All have worked well although performing arts have fewer lessons per week and this makes it more difficult for them to choose the most appropriate lessons in their schemes of learning to choose from.
  • ·         Each partnership has tried different ways of involving the students and getting feedback from them. A couple with the older students haven’t specifically told the students they are observing to avoid the students being embarrassed-they tend to fill the feedback sheets in with all of the class sometimes at the need of the lesson or sometimes at the beginning of the next to aid recall. Those where the students have been told have either just asked those students or still sought feedback from everybody. Not sure any of the ways are better than another-perhaps freedom of choice and professional judgement is best.
  • ·         I did worry about just looking at 3 students-what is the point of that! However to look at more in such depth, I think we all realised would have been impossible! The numbers of students is irrelevant to be honest when the main conversation is about teacher reflection. We do look at the whole class in our formal observations and ask the same questions about predictions and actual responses so have tried 3’s and whole classes. We just don’t dig as deeply in our formal observation and cover other areas such as book marking/dialogue and CPD needs.
  • ·         The growing numbers of schools involved are a diverse bunch and that makes the NTEN aspect of lesson study perhaps more interesting. It would be unusual for such different schools to mix on the same teaching project but recently the independent school Wellington College blogged about their learning study experience here;

Selective grammar school KEGS added their A level experience of lesson study

Our partner NTEN CPD audit school St Mary’s from Blackpool explained how they will; use lesson study as part of their research group, activities here

And explaining why research matters more than ever is a blog from Huntington School

  • ·         Very different schools but all aiming to provide the best learning and teaching possible for their students-interesting times! We will also shortly have a system of Iris classroom filming available to support our coaching, lesson study, informal observations, self-reflection-you name it we will use the camera for it! Jen Filson saw the system in action at KEGS and they demonstrated it in school. Happy days!

This is an interim report and hopefully a positive one for us all to consider. The examples of lessons study so far on our other blogs have engaged and interested other colleagues and we should have plenty of volunteers for the next cohort. There is a growing interest from other schools and it is an initiative that is deserving of whole staff involvement. It is early days and there are plenty of tweaks to be made especially in the research and statistical aspects but the first requirement was commitment and a will to become better teachers-the fact that I couldn’t fit all the volunteers into the first cohort tells me what I already knew about you all!




Chucklevision 5


Thank you to our MFL and Performing Arts faculties for sharing their ideas with the rest of the staff.

Helen our MFL subject leader begins this collection.

“I wanted my year 10 French class to produce a leaflet about Southport to bring together vocab and structures we have been learning about home and the environment.

The leaflet aimed to improve their ability to:-

Write for an audience (it needed to promote the town so had to be positive) and the formal nature of a leaflet required them to practise the 2nd person plural form of the verb  … visitez/vous pouvez… etc.)

We have also been focusing on using a range of connectives and more exciting adjectives in our work – so this was an ideal situation in which to put them into practice.

By including some reviews of the town on the back page, more able students had the opportunity to include some perfect and imperfect tenses thus increasing the complexity of their work.

Finally I assessed the work they produced and have given them a detailed feedback form with subject specific advice for next time.

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From Marian

7 set 5 Target (levels 3+/4-)  –  (2 lessons)

I have been aiming to encourage the students to use connectives so that they can produce longer texts which help them reach a higher level. The group is quite mixed in character and ability so I thought a group activity may give them the confidence to then go on and achieve a good level independently. Each student in the group was given a sentence in French to match up to the English equivalent (more able students were asked to translate it). Then, they had to as a group, put the French sentences into an appropriate sequence. They had to collaborate and cooperate for this as there was more than one way of doing it. Following this they discussed which connectives could be used to link the sentences and then they had to place them correctly between those sentences. The end result was a substantial paragraph in French with a variety of connectives (Level 4+). The students then reflected on the activity, discussed it in class and completed the feedback sheets. I will let you know how the follow up lesson went.

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From Eddie

infinitives Wipeout Game

An example of an IWB game he plays with the students.

I spotted Rebecca’s comic strips whilst showing a year 6 young lady round-here they are from Rebecca plus a few Spanish challenges.

Comic Strips

Year 9 created their own comic strips in Spanish. Students used the comic strip creator on The topic we have been studying in lessons is free time, so I asked students to create a comic based on this theme. This gave students a chance to be creative and consolidate their learning during the lesson. I asked a few students to print their work, which is now proudly displayed on the wall in my class room.

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Marking and dialogue

I am trying to help students improve their writing, by setting mini challenges in their books.

E.g. I asked Ryan to use more adjectives in his writing when describing his town. I set him a challenge to unscramble the adjectives and then use them in his own writing.


I asked Nathan to use more variety when writing his opinion in Spanish, so set a simple translation exercise.


Lovely Spanish learning moments from Bronagh

Extended writing carousel

Pupils often struggle to extend their answers and forget to include some of the main details needed including connectives, descriptions, opinions and high level phrases. Therefore I broke them down into separate groups in which pupils had to move around in a carousel and brainstorm as many ideas as possible. Each group had a different coloured pen and had the challenge to find as many phrases. When all the table were completed the pupils had time to move around and steal as many ideas as possible before sitting down to complete their own answer. This not only proved to them that they clearly do know how to use these phrases but also challenged them to find new vocabulary and extend their knowledge further than the basic phrases they always use.

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Year 11 Revision activities

To keep year 11 motivated and help revise key phrases and vocabulary I have been using Tarsia charts and fortune tellers. 

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Reading activity

A lot of pupils find reading tasks with new vocabulary really daunting and immediately give up when faced with a longer paragraph. I have been using an idea for MY to break down the reading into different categories such as tenses, connectives, details etc. The pupils have to skim and scan for all of these firstly they then need to match the pictures they have to the new vocabulary. When they have completed this they have read the entire paragraph thoroughly without realising!


Progress and revision checker

I have adapted this Spanish flag idea from a resource on the TES which is used to help the students monitor their own progress. At the end of the lesson they can colour in the square they have completed. By the end of the topic they can clearly see what progress they have made and if they have any gaps this is what they need to revise again.



Peer Assessment


Below is an example of our peer assessment method of SENORITA. Pupils follow the senorita method to check the work they then give the pupil the 3 strengths of their work, give them 2 pieces of advice and set them one target to be completed immediately. When this target is completed they reassess the work and give it a final grade.

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Local people used to be convinced that we are a Specialist Performing Art’s College rather than a Sport’s College-[in old money!] perhaps because of the primary school work that we do? We do actually teach music and drama of course and you can see from some of the current Progress Stars recipients that students are showing some great learning characteristics and G.C.S.E music continues to grow and flourish. [Drama has always had more students at exam level] Both departments have made great developments over the last couple of years and have grown in confidence and are now sharing and innovating with the best of the rest!

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From Adele

Here are some photos of year 9 students using peer assessment prompts and examples of the work produced in music.

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The class enjoying videos of their performances to verify and reflect on prior critique.


From Sophie and Katrina,

The year 8 students are following a scheme on China across music and drama. They are making shadow puppets in drama and writing a script and composing pentatonic music to go with each character in music. The assessments will be done together at the same time.

There are also photos of the windows and floors from my observation which show encouraging use of vocab and key words for exam practice (the sticky notes), collating knowledge and putting it into context, seeing the gaps in the knowledge and adding to it (the writing on the windows).  I’ve also included a picture of a display I did in music based on a picture you sent out, for KS4 to help themselves to any resources they need.35 36 37 38 39




2014 Winter Learning Walk-what our students told us

Over a period of 10 days, I was able to interview students from every teacher, every year group and of all abilities to ask them a few questions about their learning. I’ve explained the process in some detail on our blogs and why it is so important to both our teachers and our students. The student answers go back to individual teachers and faculty leaders and I use the bulletin to share some of their ideas so that everyone in our community can see them. The basic questions were these;


There were additional questions asking how marking and feedback was supporting their learning, what was effective about the specific subject they were in at that moment and wider questions about the most effective marking/feedback in school for them as individual learners.

The answers on learning tend to merge together and support the key areas of marginal gains [which was really well received and students gave concrete examples of the efficacy of the approach] and developing a very positive mind-set emanating from the teachers encouraging risk taking and a degree of independence but needing the support of our students as keen learners-as one of the students wrote, “How much we reach goals depends on how much we want to reach them”.

Whilst they mentioned very positively interactive ways of learning that were also fun and engaging such as games, songs, acronyms-they kept stressing that these only worked if they supported the memorising of key concepts and many told me that the repetition of key ideas was great teaching for them. We worry that we might not be engaging them at times but they aren’t’ daft-they realise as a year 7 student wrote, that “you never get perfect without practise”  Another year 7 student added that, “The teacher helps us by going over things again and again-practising skills individually makes the match better.”

They praised the 5 a day approach in maths where the lesson begins by going over key maths concepts to recall prior learning, “5 a day concentrates on little things we need to know”. The year 9 students liked tackling the same question/different answer approach in which they wrote down 1 thing they couldn’t do last week and 1 thing they could do. Miss then asked a question on the thing they couldn’t do and this was peer assessed before Miss verified the answer.

They were keen to receive constructive criticism and enjoyed the step by step approach and individual explanations and modelling of answers-no spoon-feeding-they wanted the satisfaction of solving challenges themselves! “I like to be reassured that I’m on the right track” Tactics like the Consequence Wheel in Geography and Marginal Gains Wheels in art and PE helped them to pick out areas to improve on along with any RAG [red, amber, green] approaches to post assessment self-evaluation in maths and science. They liked focus groups and practice workshops in history which homed in on particular weakness that needed addressing and liked going through mark schemes and being talked through how to structure answers.

Individual praise of good effort and application was appreciated by many students-“Sir praised me and it made me feel good about myself. It made me up my game and this helped my team when they needed help.”  [David Moyes are you listening!] Most mentioned the challenge and constant risk taking they were encouraged to do and 1 student told me that they liked the teacher to answer YET when any student said that they couldn’t do something!

Group work always goes down well as a teaching tactic-how much it helps learning depends on the organisation of it but a couple of year 11 students made really valid points about working with others; “Working with others who think differently is a positive experience as it expands your knowledge and the way you think”, “It is important to consider things that people who are in perhaps a different mind-set from me think about. For me it works best to ask my peers their opinions and share mine. It is good to see what we agree or disagree on and why”.

I’ve shared our ‘bottom line’ marking/feedback requirements on quite a few of the blogs and the value of, and guidelines for self and peer assessment/critique plus lots of examples of feedback in action. Very briefly I would expect to see marking that was regular, provided subject specific advice and targets, and gives the students the opportunity to read the advice and to respond with dialogue, to have their work checked to see that the advice had been successfully met and to include some of the important whole school initiatives such as DIRT [dedicated improvement and reflection time] and re-drafting. I would also expect to see peer and self-assessment that included friendly success criteria, verification and discussion and FISH-[friendly, specific, supportive and honest advice given]. I wouldn’t expect all subjects to mark in exactly the same way-they are very different but the basic principles are good ’uns!

The older students were all agreed that marking has moved on over their time with us and supports their learning far better than it did 5 years ago. All of the students kept saying that they wanted to know what they had done well and what they have to do to do better. They really appreciated the DIRT time given in science to reflect on their feedback but gave lots of very different approaches that they liked and more important could tell me the impact it had had on improving an aspect of their learning. The use of questions written for the students to answer was particularly well received and when used these re-capped weakness, went over areas that “we need to improve on”, “things we struggle with”, highlight mistakes and so on. One student wrote that the questions, “help me to expand my mind and to think outside of the box” and another that,” the teachers leave questions which extend our learning and give us time to answer them which also refreshes my memory of things learned in the past”. Brilliant! Learning doesn’t take place after 20 minutes or 1 lesson-knowledge and skills need revisiting, repeating and driven into memories until they stick!

They are wary of peer and self-assessment/critique-it has to be done really well to ensure accuracy and utility-“I like the teacher to mark with specific feedback so I know how to improve truthfully-she knows what she is on about!” “She is a professional” someone else said. When peers critique works well, the students find it really useful.  In business studies they use Google docs to assess each other’s learning-Sir adds a comment and each of the business buddies add a comment and they can access each other’s task. “I can see other work-this doesn’t mean that I am copying but can take it into consideration when-If I am on a B, I can look at someone on an A” Celebrating and enjoying the success of others is a key growth mind set factor and openly sharing [as our school does with our blogs externally and internal collaboration] can only develop a truly supportive environment in which to learn in.

The younger students like to use technology too to self and peer asses-Edmodo in ICT allows them to post comments and advice re each other’s learning. You might think this would end up with silly comments but it doesn’t; they take it very seriously and feel that the support of their classmates as well as the teacher encourages strong learning.

Of the paper based marking the students mentioned almost every subject and pleasingly some which hadn’t always marked as well as others. STAR marking in maths was very popular [lots of tweets with this on have whizzed around the country]-it gave good clear advice and tended to have S [strength]  completed by the students reflecting on their learning, T [target] set by the student or peer, A [action], teacher advice and R[response] by the student. Sometimes a ‘real life’ extra question was tagged on. Older students enjoyed the challenge of the history marking and its verification whilst the year 7 students like the history questions that reinforced their learning. Some liked their science using peer critique followed by self-critique followed by teacher verification and others liked the MFL challenges and RE progress sheets which offered peer, self and teacher comments and feedback.  Drama students liked having the success criteria shared and being given enough time to self/peer assess and English students found the helpful setting out of the feedback made it clear what needed to be done next to improve. Oral feedback was praised in the practical subjects and the walks were followed up by reinforcing methods of recording and verifying feedback has been met following from teacher advice. Some oral feedback was given following group exercises to the whole group and individuals within it and some subjects e.g. music used the popular 2 stars and a wish approach to providing a framework for feedback. SPaG marking [spelling punctuation and grammar] was praised in science and PAR [praise, action, response] worked well in art where the students liked answering the action question and setting their own target as a response. Miss or a peer can then verify that the target has been met in a future piece of learning.

 I hate having to mention Ofsted but book scrutiny is providing inspectors with evidence of learning/progress over time and has proved recently to have been a crucial element of the final inspection grade. For us it is part of our holistic approach in evaluating individual contributions to the quality of teaching at Meols Cop and it is vital that we seek out the best practice that there is within school and externally to provide the best feedback and dialogue that there is. Any great marking on blogs, tweets, courses and books is relayed back to our staff. Our student voice and Learning Walk supports our monitoring and CPD and provides evidence for individual teachers to reflect on their own practice. It was a great learning experience for me too!

Thank you to all the students who took part and to my colleagues for allowing the students out of their classes to help me. If any parent or carer would like to ask me more-I’d be delighted to respond! Thank you for reading.

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I hope you have enjoyed some of the ideas we have shared amongst our own staff and then with a further audience via our blogs and twitter. Some lessons and learning can be enhanced by great visitors and this was certainly the case when Luther Blisset and Anwar Uddin came into school to support “Show Racism the Red Card”- two perfect gentlemen and a really important initiative for us to be involved in.



I missed meeting them, being at a conference to pick up ideas at Failsworth School in my home area. Shamefully I recalled that playing against their old boys in the Lancashire Amateur League, being booked for the last time in my amateur career. I was in my late 30s and still playing first team soccer and arrived slightly late [although as quickly as I could!] for a tackle. As I played on through my forties, I became too slow too even be considered for a foul although my speed of tongue merited the attention of the referee! Failsworth have a magnificent new school with sporting facilities that our PE faculty would die for! It was a crying shame that we weren’t able to even get a Sport’s Hall from the BSF fiasco. Never mind we soldier on and another great learning experience this week outside of the classroom was our year 8 soccer team managing to win a game [I know Hyde have only won 1 game as John Nichol our technician whom manages the team reminded me!] It’s great to win, and John’s brother who played for both United and Rangers experienced some great moments in soccer, but for John and his team, the win against Litherland was a moment of magic.

Lesson observations and learning hubs have revealed some brilliant ideas which have been shared with our staff, as has SPaG week-spelling punctuation and grammar. We will be holding a SSAT literacy across the curriculum conference on April 1 [not a good choice for me to not torment visitors on!] and have been thinking very hard about our own literacy in different subjects but won’t reveal too much on this yet. It’s absolutely one of the best bits of my job when great ideas drop into my email inbox and Katie Fleetwood’s marking frame which she has been developing really excited me.


We will be moving away from levels next year and Joanne McDevitt has devised this frame to help the humanities faculty focus their students on some of their key concepts. Love it!


Jo also sent me her 3B4 ME [from Jim Smith, I think] poster that she was developing in her learning hub to encourage the students to consider independent options of research, before asking their teacher.


I observed Lisa, one of our NQTs this week and as well as enjoying the lesson, I was delighted to see each slide reminding the students of their SPaG targets and the chance to support each other by checking learning for them.

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Collaboration has become a huge part of learning and teaching at Meols Cop and supports everyone’s CPD too. The blogs have shared our teacher, TA and mentor ideas with ‘to you’ and Chucklevision has shared teacher ideas. After Easter I will be looking for ‘Magic Moments’ to share everybody who works here’s ideas. We are often guilty of searching for negative things that are going wrong-we need to catch colleagues and students doing things right and brilliantly well! Subject leaders will drop into lessons to look for ‘Magic Moments’ and feed them back, TAs and mentors will talk to each other and feedback 2 other colleague’s Magic Moments and office staff, technicians and premise’s staff will share their colleague’s Magic Moments too. Magic will abound and I’ll be the new Paul Daniels with Alison as Debbie McGee!

Please find attached some super science sharing from our very talented science faculty. Thank you to them.



Science Chucklevision

Year 7

The year 7s have been working on their science literacy this week.  They have been labelling equipment, which they set up themselves, with the correctly spelt keywords.

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Examples of correctly labelled apparatus. 


With the end of unit assessments approaching, 7 set 3 made ‘fortune tellers’ and ‘revision cubes’ based on the chemistry unit. 


Example of a simple fortune teller.

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Example of a revision cube.

The year 7s also worked on revision mind peer assessing using post-it notes.  Pink for ideas they would pinch and yellow for bits that needed to added. 


Example of a mind map with post-it notes.

Year 8 As part of the key stage 3 biology unit on genetics, the year 8s were challenged to make a model of DNA using a variety of sweets. They were only shown a simple diagram and no instructions.


Individual bags with the sweets & cocktail sticks ready to be used.

There was lots of dialogue between the groups and they collaborated together to produce excellent representations of DNA.  Students were quick to realise that they needed ‘pairs of gummy bears’ and to ‘twist’ their model to achieve the correct shape.  This activity got the students excited and eager to learn more about the structure and what each part represented. 

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Work in progress and a finished strand of DNA shortly before it was eaten. 

Another year 8 class investigated how to extract the DNA from a banana.  They showed excellent determination and completed the difficult experiment successfully obtaining the DNA sample. 


Banana DNA!


The year 8s then did the DIRT on their experiment. 


Example of DIRT.


Year 9

The year 9s have been working hard studying the space section.  They produced detailed posters showing the life cycle of a star.

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Year 9 hard at work!

Year 10

The second part of the science NTEN started this, building on the previous terms work on developing extended answers.  This time around the focus was on interpreting the specification and writing the questions.  Groups were given a pack with a command word, a section of the specification and an example of a question.  The students discussed what made a good and bad exam question then set about the task of writing a question. 

When they had completed writing a question, they peer assessed using an overlay.  


Example of a peer assessed question.

The overlay prompted the students to dissect the question and suggest ways to improve it.  The students then went on to improve their question and develop a structured mark scheme.  There will be more to follow after the next NTEN lesson. 

 As part of their preparation for exam week, the year 10 triple scientists wrote short exam style questions and mark schemes on all the topics covered since September.  This proved to be an excellent revision activity with some students taking them home to test themselves again!


Examples of some questions that have been answered and marked.

Year 11

To aid the year 11s in their quest for exam success, Rachael and Hannah have been designing intervention sheets complete with a marginal gains wheel.  Following a successful trial run with one class, they are now going to be rolled out across the year group. 


Example of an intervention sheet.

DIRT and Marking

Across the department, science is implementing DIRT as part of each lesson.  The students complete their work in black, self/peer assess in red and reflect in blue. The images below show some early examples.

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What keeps this senior leader awake at night?

When I sent out questions that teachers might ask of the students to provide themselves with important evidence that would help to constantly re-evaluate their own teaching performance, I mentioned on internal emails that I am very self-critical and am always thinking about how I can improve my own performance as a leader. You might have thought that after all of these years I might have cracked what being a great teacher or leader should entail-not so! I still make mistakes, not everything that I do comes up smelling of roses and I’m still a ‘work in progress’, albeit an ageing antiquity!

There are so many words of wisdom and advice written about leadership in books, in blogs and on twitter, in the TES and Guardian and spoken about it every staffroom across the world. It’s a contentious issue, to say the least! What do great leaders look like and behave like? What skills do they possess and require? If teaching takes 10,000 hours to achieve some form of mastery; how long does leadership take to master? Can you ever ‘master’ leadership? Are teachers ready for middle leadership, are middle leaders ready for senior leadership, and are senior leaders ready for headship? Bizarrely, many of the people who add their views to the discussions have never been in the position of school leadership-advice given from the side-lines or behind the trenches may have merit, may be based on very sound research and evidence but being in the position day in and day out does provide a very different perspective. Although we should be open to any ideas, some of the ‘style of leadership’ and ‘Ofsted doesn’t matter’ rhetoric goes out of the window sometimes in the heat of the reality of running a school. We deal with people and situations that are often unpredictable and have to respond as quickly and as appropriately as possible-yes we get paid more and this isn’t a request for sympathy just an honest old pro trying to say it as it is!

I can’t even speak for every leader in our school never mind school leaders in general BUT these are my personal reflections and they represent what I worry about every day. This isn’t to say that I don’t enjoy my job-I’m still as enthusiastic and messianic as ever-my emails of ideas that excite me never cease and the great teaching and sharing of ideas I constantly see still moves me immensely, especially when I see its impact on our students. However, as I ask my colleagues to never stop being reflective practitioners and to be the best that they can-I should do the same. These are the questions that I ask of ME when I look in the mirror of honest self-appraisal. [no particular order of priority]

Am I asking too much-am I bombarding with too many ideas and initiatives?

Am I overloading with things that don’t matter?

Am I drip-feeding what is needed-it might be unpopular but I know that it needs doing for the benefit of our school and students?

Am I making sure that when I begin something worth doing-I finish it? I might have to chase relentlessly and spend hours on it.

Am I really making a difference to the school community-Is my leadership having a positive impact-can I prove it?

Am I developing others and not forgetting to develop myself? Am I constantly thinking about how I can improve my own practice and creating opportunities for staff and learners to do the same?

Am I ‘making the weather’ as positively as I can do? Am I a ray of permanent sunshine!

Am I always looking for the best in everything-am I looking for success around school [doesn’t mean being blind to or ignoring anything that isn’t good!]

Am I FISHy, working on my own marginal gains and exhibiting a growth mind-set? Do I give specific informative advice when needed [never hide from an awkward truth], do I work on my weaknesses and not avoid them, do I celebrate the success of others, do I accept honest criticism of myself, do I praise effort and encourage risk-taking-I can’t tell the students and colleagues to do this and not do it myself.

Am I always a physical presence around school, am I there to call upon when needed by anybody-when I appear do I keep calm, keep my temper, consider the safety of others before myself [I wouldn’t expect this of colleagues and would try to do what was right]

Am I listening to those who have a different opinion? Am I encouraging discussion even though I may not agree or like what is said!

Am I hearing, listening or both. Am I not being dismissive to ideas I don’t agree with?

Am I only doing some things for Ofsted! Am I using the word Ofsted to get what I want or am I always thinking do what is best for us-I’m not stupid enough to say that Ofsted doesn’t matter, that would be grossly insulting to those who find themselves on the wrong side of an inspection as a whole school or individual-it does matter but our school and the needs of our students matter most.

Am I true to what I believe is best for our school and education in general even though others may not agree-no grade observations, Super Teachers, sharing our ideas openly, welcoming other schools in?

Am I not pushing my own political and personal beliefs-I try very hard and must think what is best for our school-this is very hard for me!

Am I as humble as I can be-I must never use rank or be condescending with colleagues or other schools or anyone! This school and the support from everyone here made me not the other way round

Am I basing much of what I say and do on hard research and evidence? Am I as open to ideas as I ask everyone else to be? Am I not beginning too many sentences with “research shows that…”

Am I using my time to keep up to date with national and international best practice and bringing it to colleagues in digestible forms?

Am I tackling under-performance and providing necessary support-I must never avoid tough decisions-the students deserve the best BUT I must create a developmental not judgemental way of developing colleagues and students here as much as is humanly possible. Relentless rigour with heart!

Am I role model in everything that I do for young teachers, experienced teachers, students, parents, visitors, anyone at all who comes into contact with me in a professional or personal capacity-I represent Meols Cop to anyone who knows that I am a senior leader here!

Am I always able to practise what I preach? Do I take every opportunity in lesson visits/feedback to model and coach-never observing passively-always trying out ideas or demonstrating and sometimes failing in front of colleagues.

Am I preparing colleagues for their future even though I know we might lose a great teacher and potential leader-any CPD benefits our students whilst a teacher/support colleague is here?

Am I always trying to think what it was like when I was a classroom teacher/middle leader with all the pressures they face-have I got it right with the demands I’m making-fine line between what is necessary and pushing someone over an edge-am I aware of colleagues who need extra support or are finding things difficult for some reason-one of the hardest bits of my role is to challenge appropriately for the individual. Differentiation applies to staff as well as the students.

Am I poker faced and tight-lipped when I really am seething and ready to explode with something that has been said or done!

Am I living by our no excuses code-If mistakes are made by teachers, if books aren’t marked, if teaching isn’t good enough, if exam results slip, of anything to do with learning and teaching has slipped-it’s ultimately my fault and my responsibility to have monitored better-when we do well –it is the result of great learning and teaching-the students and teachers should take the credit.

Am I always the adult when dealing with students and am I the leader when dealing with adults!

Am I ever guilty of not promoting equality of opportunities in everything that I ask-no pushing of favourites-do I try to engage those who lack the self-esteem to put themselves forward? It’s easy to use the same people who volunteer and I’m eternally grateful for their support but I must develop everyone even if they resist!

Am I as respectful, nice and polite to everyone as a miserable Manc can be-do I hold the doors open for the students! Manners maketh the man!

Am I measuring the impact of everything that I do-everyone else has to -am I open to the same scrutiny as everyone else?

Am I trying to develop both students and staff as life-long learners? Am I encouraging them all to discover their own meaning of learning and develop their own methods, tactics and style?

Am I always able to see the person behind any data-am I aware of the difficulties and time it takes to gather data about intervention-do I use data well? Am I encouraging others to use the data to serve the students and not the other way round?

Am I able to do the things that I don’t like doing with good grace?

Am I always sure that I haven’t avoided a tough decision-the easy option is NO option.

Am I patient and tolerant enough-I’m passionate, excitable and pushy when I get the bit between my teeth over some initiatives/ideas –am I giving time for thorough reflection, have I forgotten that you have a stack of exams to mark or it’s the end of term and you are knackered!

Am I supportive of all activities not just the ones that interest me-am I there at all events and welcoming to parents even though I’m actually quite shy!

Am I justifying and explaining the reasons behind decisions and selling the vision-colleagues may not agree but they need consulting-have I forgotten that bit in my haste?

Am I using appropriate language with different people so that they can clearly understand and be part of the decisions or discussions-this isn’t being condescending or patronising. All opinions are valued but some of our jargon inhibits. This is true for teachers too-they don’t always have time to read some of the quite wordy tomes which arrives our way-have I told them important ideas in a way they can see to using practically. BUT do I encourage those who want to extend their knowledge outside of their subject teaching-follow blogs, twitter, and check out current practical and theoretical books.

Am I adding value-they pay me handsomely-am I worth it?

Am I using the word ‘outstanding’ as little as possible! Ofsted went well but it is history now and not to be dwelled upon-we have to move forward and look to the future. Be nice to people on the way up-you meet them again on the way down. Be the humble school that we were –we aint achieved nothing yet! We need to change the web-page a.s.a.p.!

Am I modelling respect even when it isn’t always reciprocated?

Am I trying to give the teachers every opportunity to teach-am I supporting them with resources, ideas, time, planning and reflection time, organising collaboration and so on?

Am I remembering never to talk about my own work in terms of time or difficulty-totally irrelevant-no expectation of how others should use their time out of school/should encourage them to have a life out of school

Am I sure that I haven’t missed an opportunity to say thanks or well done?

Am I certain that in my haste I haven’t made any mistakes in messages, any contradictions-sadly some people do look for mistakes and unclear messages-I can’t be open to it [but still make ‘em!]

Am I always aware that whatever I do or say is open to the eyes of the school-I have to uphold policy everywhere-“Mr Jones didn’t tell him to put his blazer on!”

Am I always on time and do I meet deadlines-can’t expect others to do this if I don’t [I try not to be too obsessed with time!]

Am I able to recognise when I am struggling and need help or other opinions? I’m not infallible, I make mistakes.

Am I always aware of the power my position gives and use it responsibly, kindly, supportively, generously and positively? Do I find time for everybody when they are talking to me? My words hopefully mean something-do I always use them wisely?

Am I gracious when praise is given to me?

Am I always giving of my best-is it good enough?

Am I able to apologise of I’m wrong?

Am I not using too many sporting analogies!

Am I coping with change well enough-not just technology and Gove-everything!

Am I able to delegate and develop others even if they might make a mistake and make even more work! Got to trust and develop and usually they do it better than me anyway!

Am I able to achieve anything else-is it time to step aside or move on-is there a time limit for all leaders of how long they need to make a positive impact and how long they can keep having an impact?

Am I still able to get up in the morning and come into school thinking; “I’m the luckiest man on the world to have this job at this school?”

I’ll try to sleep well tonight!

Walking Back to Happiness


Our year 9 students who interview prospective teachers and take them on tours of the school have just come to the end of their tenure to be replaced by a year 8 team. Schools listen to students and use their ‘voice’ in different ways. Parents may think that children are listened to far more than they use to be and perhaps they have too many ‘rights’ and too much to say-some teachers may agree! But the students can provide us with really useful support and vital evidence and if the methods of asking for their opinions help them to develop skills and knowledge too-brilliant-read on to see if you think that we are listening in a productive way for all concerned.

Walking Back to Happiness

The Learning Walks always make me happy! Any opportunity to talk to our students about their learning is an enjoyable and worthwhile experience and hopefully there is a feeling of mutual pleasure back albeit aided by chocolate! ‘Learning’ is a much debated, often misunderstood concept but it is our core business and both staff and students need to have a clear understanding of what ‘visible learning’ looks like to themselves as individual teachers and learners and how best they can either access it or open doors to it. The ‘penny dropping’ moment when learning occurs and sticks is different for individuals and has different triggers but our student voice needs to be consulted to provide valuable information to all concerned in the learning process.  This isn’t to say that the students have suddenly become pedagogical experts and can observe teachers and comment on their effectiveness, as some schools may ask them to do. Teaching is almost as complicated and argued over business as learning is-it is a science and even after my many years of teaching and observing, I never say that one style is better or more effective than another or that I want to see a favoured uniform approach from every teacher in our school.

The students can help us to help them by explaining the methods of teaching and marking that they feel helps their learning and they can provide evidence to support their claims. They can also tell us which areas of the subject they are finding difficult and why. This helps our planning-it would be crazy of us not to ask their opinion-what if a tactic that we felt was great and the most innovative teaching since the National Strategy [not!] wasn’t actually working for them.  We need to know and our students know that when I ask for examples of pedagogy that help them best; I don’t want to hear the word fun repeated 20 times-I want evidence of real learning gains over time. These are tough questions but they need to be asked and the survey as it moves through the classes that I don’t visit to gather evidence for self-evaluation, forces the students to consider their own learning habits and strengthens their own thought process. Nowt like a good think for both reflective learners and teachers!

We don’t buy expensive surveys in-we know our students and we know what we need to ask. The opening questions below,


cover some of the key issues that we have been discussing across the school, as I mentioned in the previous blog. There are differentiated versions of the questions and the students and teachers know the questions a fair time in advance. The Learning Walk isn’t to catch people doing something wrong-it is to catch them doing something great and then to celebrate it! The buzz words of ‘marginal gains’ and ‘growth mind-set’ are there because many of us think they are good ideas and feel that they may have a positive impact on learning here. BUT we don’t, apart from perhaps literacy across the curriculum and a couple of whole school feedback/dialogue or differentiation issues, introduce initiatives and demand that everybody jumps to their tune. It is easy to have an initiative overload and insist that everybody teaches, and is observed teaching ideas that are new, get lots of coverage and then disappear again! Of course we keep everybody up-dated and have learning hubs ran by interested colleagues and should a colleague feel that SOLO taxonomy, Kagan or an aspect of technological wizardry is for them-brilliant-try it out, tell the rest of us how it went and the impact that it had on learning and we may have some more converts.

The other questions that were asked were centred on marking and feedback-explain how Miss or Sir marks your books, tell me how effective this is in supporting your learning and give me evidence of how you used advice/feedback given to improve your learning.  I then asked which subject or teacher, in their opinion provided them with the marking that supported their needs best. Year 10 and year 11 students were also asked for their perception of how marking had changed across the whole school in their time with us. The big difference between the surveys  we use now and the, “tell us what you like and what you don’t like” ones we use to use when it became popular to use the fashionable phrase, ‘student voice’ is that we actively seek their evidence of the impact on learning and expect them to provide the evidence. My suggested further surveys and purpose for them covers key areas that different faculties need to focus on [messages sent by internal email to all teachers]

“Obviously the depth of info I can gather from 4 students isn’t the same as you can gather from all classes, or selected ones. You wouldn’t expect to ask all of the questions [some are cross-curricular] and would target key areas for your subject or for you as a teacher. These answers may satisfy your FAQs!

Which questions would you focus on if asking lots of classes/students?

I would focus on a couple for the teacher and a couple for their learning e.g. for teaching;

1] Which types of my teaching have really helped your learning this year [give me evidence to prove this] and

2] Which bits of my marking feedback has helped you to improve your learning-please give me an example

For the learning;

1] Which aspect of learning in this subject have you found the most challenging this year and how did you overcome the challenge? 

2] How have you been able to support someone else’s learning this year-explain and give me evidence of how your support made an impact on their learning?

I always mix questions between ones I know that I want to gather positive information on and I have to be fair and gather evidence that might tell me things I might not like but need to know so that I can improve my performance!

The questions take up valuable learning time if we ask further ones

Thank you for your help with the learning walk-the students were very positive and you should be able to use their views as evidence for appraisal/CPD purposes. It would be beneficial if all classes completed a short form of the survey to provide you with far more evidence-this isn’t a waste of learning time but a valuable one in that 1] you will find out the impact your strategies [especially new marking] is having on their learning-madness to use stuff that they tell you doesn’t work 2] You absolutely need to find out any negativity or areas they are struggling with/where your tactics aren’t working so you can adapt and change-quick 20 min survey saves hours of wasted learning time if you weren’t aware of issues.

To delve further into new initiatives/areas that may have been weak before

1] How has our marking changed? Is it better or worse? How effective is it in supporting your learning-please provide evidence of when our feedback has helped you improve your subject learning.

2] Is there anything else that we could do to improve our feedback [you see marking across the school-what could we borrow?]

3] Which of our teaching tactics really help you the most-can you prove it to us?

4] Is there anything that you are worried about regarding any aspect of the course or feel that you need help with-please be honest and let us know?”

In depth research

Some of our teachers are prepared to be brave and ask searching questions of the students that may result in answers that suggest a weakness in aspects of their teaching. Great teachers [and leaders] actively seek out weaknesses so they can remedy them.  If we really are interested in promoting a ‘growth mind set’ and’ purposeful practice’ with our students, encouraging them to be resilient, accept honest criticism and learn from mistakes-surely as professionals we have to have the same mind-set and be prepared to use evidence gleaned from students and our whole monitoring process to make our own ‘marginal gains’ The information is a valid for use in our new portfolio of evidence to self-evaluate each teacher’s contribution to whole school quality of teaching including lesson study, peer observations, exam residuals, book monitoring and collaborative support.

Really focused questions like these can provide us with the evidence we need to shift our practice to be the best it can e.g.

Am I giving you enough time to check your feedback and respond to it/plan how you will use it and show me that you have successfully achieved my feedback?

Am I giving you the opportunity to check that you have successfully met my feedback-am I verifying it and celebrating your learning success?

Do I give you the chance to give me your best learning to assess? Do I let you re-draft/highlight key areas of learning [best bits/bits you need checking]?

Do you get the chance to record my verbal feedback-respond to it, check that I have successfully achieved it, have it verified and celebrated?

Are you confident that the self/peer critique we are using is accurate enough to give you confidence in it? Is the criteria friendly enough, is there chance to discuss, compromise and verify?

We can do clever sums to work out which of our tactics have the most effect and talk about ‘effect sizes’ but that is for another blog; this one is just sharing how without a great layout of expense for an external survey full of tick boxes, we can use our student voice productively to support our teaching and their learning. Informal  ‘walks’ occur all of the time but after Easter, subject leaders will look for ‘Magic Moments’ and drop in on classes after invites from their teachers or students to share even more practice or to support the teacher try out a new idea. It is really important that our classroom doors are genuinely open to visitors looking for positives and cover can be provided for long stays or Jonesy can be called upon to class-sit!

I forgot to tell you what the students said; that will come next!

A couple of example of past ‘student voice’ surveys can be found at;

The others go out to all students and parents on our bulletin and are displayed in our dining room or on display boards with my feedback comments and action responses so that the students know their views are valued and acted upon. This is their school and what they think matters, is valued and helps us to move learning and teaching constantly forward.