Monthly Archives: August 2014

A New Dawn?

It’s a new dawn,

It’s a new day,

It’s a new life,

For me.

And I’m feeling good.

Inspectors should not grade the quality of teaching in individual lesson observations, learning walks or equivalent activities. In arriving at a judgement on the overall quality of teaching, inspectors must consider strengths and weaknesses of teaching observed across the broad range of lessons. These must then be placed in the context of other evidence of pupils’ learning and progress over time, including work in their books and folders, how well pupils can explain their knowledge and understanding in subjects, and outcomes in tests and examinations.

Phew! After ranting internally, in our blogs and at the North West teachmeet about the foolishness of relying solely on a 1 off graded lesson as a guide to an individual and school quality of teaching; I’m glad that during the summer holidays Ofsted decided to stop grading individual lessons. After predicting this for the last year or so to colleagues, I would have looked more stupid than normal, had it not happened! As I’m on an obvious good run, I now predict that Premier league title will be back at Old Trafford in 2015-apologies-couldn’t resist! The full documents are below with some comments from Mary Myatt, Heather Leat and David Didau who have summarised the changes in helpful and useful ways for others to reflect on.

Our changes have been taking place over the last 18 months or so and our blogs have reflected the debate some schools and educationalists have been having, although the vast majority of schools have been still using grades as a measure of evaluating teaching. Our first explanation of our move towards a more developmental approach came in a November 2013 blog- when our practical ideas were shared and other earlier than us non-graders such as Chris Moyse and Alison Peacock were mentioned before a New Year blog followed to highlight some of the key discussion points made in a Monday night debate on grading lessons involving Robert Coe, Alison Peacock, David Didau and David Weston- The spring and summer term saw other well-known bloggers John Tomsett and Tom Sherrington declare their schools as non-grade areas and Dan Brinton, Paul Banks and Shaun Allison also shared their school’s beliefs in developmental observations. It’s difficult to work out exactly what the strength and practice of the schools who have moved this way already is as only a small minority of schools share their ideas on twitter. I would think that we are the only high school in our LA who don’t have graded observations, although I would imagine that across the country, many more will now follow since Ofsted’s change of heart. All of the schools who have visited us recently have certainly wanted to talk to us about the issue and have asked for further sharing of ideas.

Grading observations did provide schools with one method of evaluating lessons and planning and the pressure of Ofsted made SLT’s nationwide reluctant to deviate, some with quite heavy handed approaches of no choice mocksted style observations whilst others will have given some choice and mixed informal with formal. Consultants will certainly have made a lot of money from offering their advice and services to ‘prepare for Ofsted’ or what ‘outstanding’ teaching looks like and how to achieve it! Already new schemes are being offered that schools can buy to help evaluate teaching and offer areas of focus and development-fine if they fit what your school needs but we will continue to use our professional portfolio to help individuals evaluate their own development across key quality of teaching areas-exam residuals, lesson study, peer observations, book monitoring, leadership, collaboration and so on. The idea is shared here- and hopefully in addition to linking our quality of teaching over time to CPD and appraisal needs will be able to satisfy Ofsted requirements as outline below.

Inspectors’ direct observation must be supplemented by a range of other evidence to enable inspectors to evaluate what teaching is like typically and the impact that teaching has had on pupils’ learning over time. Such additional evidence may include:

  • the school’s own evaluations of the quality of teaching and its impact on learning
  • discussions with pupils about the work they have undertaken, what they have learned from it and their experience of teaching and learning over longer periods
  • discussion about teaching and learning with teachers, teaching assistants and other staff
  • the views of pupils, parents and staff
  • scrutiny of pupils’ work, with particular attention to:

o    whether marking, assessment and testing are carried out in line with the school’s policy and if they are used effectively to help teachers improve pupils’ learning

o    the level of challenge provided, and whether pupils have to grapple appropriately with content, not necessarily ‘getting it right’ first time, which could be evidence that the work is too easy

Our own needs, of course come first and the freedom of choice of pedagogical and developmental/evaluative systems, that Ofsted now say is ours; have always been ours and have been shared quite vociferously!. The professional portfolios explained in the blog are now with me and collated! I gave some time on an inset day and at directed time meetings and gained time to try to allow colleagues some thinking space outside of their normal allocation of PPA-it’s never enough but I do try and I do appreciate the time and thought that went into the responses. There is always plenty of advice as to how SLT should involve all in their own ‘bottom up’ personalized CPD [should we begin to call it personal professional development-PPD-as some already do?] which in turn links to learning and teaching and research-I do wonder how many of the ‘advisers’ have tried getting in 60 completed staff portfolios by a certain date that will give me their considered responses! Of course, the argument goes that if the exercise is valued and more than form filling, then colleagues will seek ‘ownership’ of the process. The quality of the responses does tell me that it was a worthwhile idea and I do hope that over the next year, I’ll be able to assign CPD to real needs, link colleagues with similar needs and CPD interests, offer internal and external CPD, mentoring and coaching that will make a difference in the classroom and impact on learning and have an overall view of where my colleagues feel as individuals, faculties, year teams, cohorts of teachers and as a whole school we should be focusing and developing.

Before revealing some of the ideas the portfolios revealed, I just want to mention some of my own thoughts on the process as a school leader, because the difference in the responses helped me to consider some key leadership issues.

  • Even if my colleagues valued the completion of their portfolio-it is still a paper exercise and some colleagues are far better at self-evaluation than others-I still need to dig deeper for those who may be weaker on paper! I have interviewed before and the whole process is supported by line-managers/appraisal meetings and lots of talking. This is the beginning of a process and a flexible approach is always best so that all are catered for and not judged by their first attempt at learning!
  • All of the key drivers are picked up at different stages during the year-if for example individual self-evaluation of exam residuals or book monitoring wasn’t detailed enough or inaccurate, line-managers would pick it up and offer support.
  • Self –evaluation is a skill and it needs practice, patience and support-some are over generous, some lack the confidence to say how successful they have been, others who want to become leaders need to be strong at self-evaluation and using data. Even if they don’t see their own potential-leaders have to!
  • I could place a bet on colleagues who won’t fill in the developed, developing, aspirational sections! This can be negotiated with line-managers but it highlights the insecurity colleagues often feel much as when we did grade lessons, peers often wouldn’t commit to a grade unless I did it first! Perhaps some see it as SLT’s job to decide on the evidence but of course this senior leader is trying to develop his colleague’s analytical powers! Other jobs often demand that you ‘sell’ yourself at review meetings-not every teacher’s way?
  • Some colleagues don’t enjoy the written word whilst others are very reflective and enjoy the exercise. The evidence provided by some was staggering, others didn’t offer as much, a couple didn’t quite get it and a couple ticked anything that moved!
  • Whatever the evidence provided, leaders need to see through it all to support individual development and potential.
  • There can be no favourites-just because some colleagues offer support, organise CPD, give generously of their time-we still need to support the development of all and help all become the very best teacher, and potential leader, that they can be-the school and students need this to happen! Friendships with SLT can be problematic!
  • Without lesson grades, peer feedback becomes of paramount importance-the lesson studies have proved to be popular but it is all of our professional responsibilities to give honest feedback and advice to support and develop our colleagues. If we see something that we don’t feel is right-we must say so and offer guidance and expect that it is taken in the spirit of collaborative development it is meant in.
  • How can we improve the process?

I was able to draw up a data base from the individual portfolios so that on inset day [and after] I can let colleagues see internal CPD expertise to borrow from and allow individuals to link up with their peers who share similar aspirational needs. I’m obviously excited by this prospect-it’s an extension of talking in cross-curricular FOCALS but another move in allowing individual teachers to take far more responsibility for their own CPD and development rather than following a whole school approach which may not be totally relevant for individual needs. Some shared areas of CPD needs were revealed that can form hub business-DIRT, SIMS Discover, the art of delegation, 2nd in faculty needs, independence in low ability devpt, flipped learning and so on.

To offer some examples here are a couple of the September inset slides to show quick examples;

01 02

These are from 4 of our 2-5 year developing teacher cohort and the left hand side shows the areas that they have chosen as developed aspects of their teaching-these may interest others who want to tap into their expertise-the right hand side shows the area that they aspire to develop further-this will be shared with all colleagues, discussed at faculty meetings and with line-managers-links can be made with each other to support internal CPD collaboration and let me see where I need to put my CPD money and energy!

2 more examples below are from our progress manager cohort and I was pleased that the questions for each cohort seemed to raise the right areas of teaching/leadership skills-tell me if they need to change please.

Karen Marginal gains in English and application to pastoral too, Big Questions approach, intervention support across the year group, mastery/scholars Continue marginal gains devpt in marking/feedback, opportunity to engage in national debates re subject teaching, DIRT, develop Big Questions further, intervention for those with greatest disparity between Eng/ma, research on management of individuals within the class
Martin Lazy teaching techniques, exam style questions-answer balance, lunchtime tutor detentions, structure for form activities Embedding marking/feedback strategies, new G.C.S.E class-behaviour management/use of TA, lesson pace, use of dialogue, low ability at G.C.S.E, generic whole school tracking for prog managers, leading hub to share innovative history practice, SENCO training, art of delegation


After the long summer break, I will give the chance to revisit portfolio ideas again and to talk to as many different colleagues as possible to add extra CPD dimensions if necessary.

03 04 some of our previous CPD explained in yet another blog!

Will our portfolio and the individual CPD needs and link to quality of teaching/appraisal it aims to fulfil finally herald the dawn of teacher led personal development-I hope so but whatever happens-

You know how I feel-and I’m feeling good!