Monthly Archives: December 2014

2015 New Year’s Resolution-find time to look after YOUR Personal Professional Development-NOW!

YOUR Personal Professional Development 2015

If I’m still in one piece in September 2015 and haven’t been appointed as manager of Hyde FC, I will begin my 35th year in teaching [coral anniversary!] and 33rd year in some form of a leadership role. I began as an ordinary history teacher, chucked in a bit of PE and began a whole range of middle to senior leadership roles pretty soon into my chosen career. I have always been keen to be able to perform to the best of my ability at whatever I choose to do-I can’t help it-I’ve always been competitive and self-analytical/critical and haven’t always understood those who are more laid back or are happy to do a reasonable job without over exertion. Sometimes I’ve probably been wrong, I’ve mellowed with age and experience and don’t tend to do school work on Xmas day anymore! The problem for the vast majority of us employed in education is probably because we care so much about our students we often seek to push our own physical and mental boundaries to ensure that we always perform to our very best because we believe that our students come first. They receive first class teaching and care whilst we get knackered! This isn’t a complaint or whinge-being shattered after a term of fulfilled teaching or school leadership is similar to the feeling of exhaustion but elation after successfully climbing an imposing mountain, running a tough race you thought you’d never finish or winning your own personal cup-final in whatever your chosen activity-the only problem is that when things don’t go to plan and you are tired as well, the future doesn’t seem as rosy and honest self-evaluation and self-motivation isn’t easy.  You need the support and intervention of others-school leaders in this instance-to revitalise your self-belief and lean on the focused support of colleagues internally and externally.

I do believe that we should all consider the questions below every day we are in school-my role is to try to create an environment and culture where this becomes second nature to all involved.

  • How well am I teaching/leading?
  • How do I know?
  • How can I teach/lead better?
  • What support from others will I need?
  • How will I know that I have been successful?
  • [for the students] How well am I learning?
  • How do I know?
  • How can I learn better?
  • What support from others will I need?
  • How will I know that I have been successful?

This self-questioning would obviously extend to all involved in our school and the criteria for what we feel constitutes ‘great’ or ‘success’ in each area depends on our own discussions, external research and sharing of ideas and an extensive awareness of available CPD. For example; how would any one teacher be able to decide for themselves how well they are teaching without an agreed criteria or advice from observers/coaches or how would a school leader lead better without any awareness of how others lead in schools, far more successful than our own? From what sounds a relatively easy premise of being the best that we can be; the more we begin to consider the data that best measures our impact, the ‘effect sizes’ of teaching strategies which may have the biggest impact, the cohorts that require the most intervention across the school and so on and so on-we begin to feel that the light at the end of the success tunnel is rapidly disappearing into a void of confused professional development [CPD!] Strong schools have always emphasised that the teaching and professional development in their school is focused on the needs of their students and teachers and not Ofsted. Perhaps in 2015 we should delve deeper than this whole school claim and focus as much as possible on the needs of individual teachers and students. Based on prior knowledge, skills and experience, individual learners of any age develop differently and have different training requirements. Even within the same faculty teaching or group of students, learning is marked by the differences rather than the similarities [just my gut feeling!] We have tried desperately to change our offer and experience of CPD [PPD] but has it been enough?

We have dipped our toes into educational research in the last 2 years and will move further in 2015 with our own in-house work and in collaboration with other schools and external organisations and universities. Hopefully the benefits of this form of CPD will be rewarding but we do need to be aware of trumpeting the herald of a new dawn of research led MCHS learning and teaching. From Dylan Wiliam at a recent conference;


dw2 When we completed the NTEN CPD audit, I borrowed their notion of;

Every teacher is a leader and ‘change agent’-i.e. they feel able to make a difference to the quality of learning in the organisation.’  We were ‘silver’ at the time-have we moved closer to ‘gold’ in providing you with the individual wherewithal to link your teaching needs to your PPD and to help you develop professional self-accountability-your shout!

The longest half-term completed and the first round of appraisal/lesson study observations and book monitoring drawing to a close provides a great chance for you to pause and consider your own professional development needs-they may have changed since our summer professional portfolio was shared and you may have decided that some of the following factors have impacted on your PPD needs and a change to your original plans [to coincide with your termly appraisal review]  is needed to maximise your teaching effectiveness;

  • Your new classes/ groups of students/individual students responding differently than expected
  • Observations/monitoring advice needs attention
  • New school assessment needs you to re-adjust
  • Changing curriculum demands
  • Your appraisal targets need tweaking
  • You fancy a change of direction/want to try a new initiative
  • Mock exams show need to re-think quickly!
  • Time has been an issue-you’re knackered and need to prioritise and seek support/change tactics

I could have come up with many more but please don’t plough on regardless through winter when internal or external training/support might be needed right now to help you manage your workload and teach effectively and as well as you want to.  If you don’t tell me or your line-manager; I won’t necessarily realise that I need to act quickly.

Internal CPD involving everyone will continue to focus this term on the continued development and moderation of the new BSG assessment system, fast feedback collaborative development and the second round of lesson study. I’ve deliberately given as much directed time to this as possible and avoided new learning hubs until summer. By that time, and in readiness for autumn, we will have looked again at the ‘Meols Cop Way’ of teaching-it’s 2 years since we discussed generic desirable teaching skills-and the hubs will reflect your choices of great teaching to marry with your subject specific choices. Your PPD choices for next year may well reflect whatever you decide we should focus on BUT in the meantime, please find time to have a look at what is on offer internally and externally.

For internal readers; I’ve attached again the professional portfolio aspirational developmental section for each of you and the developed section so you can look again for a colleague who may be working on the exact aspect of teaching that you need to discuss/observe-seek them out and book cover time with me! I have also added below the list of areas of strength and need that faculties shared in their November FOCALS-perhaps now is the time to skim through these and see if, as with the professional portfolio information, you can match your needs to an area of developing strength. Conversely you may spot someone asking for help in an area that you feel confident with and are developing exciting ideas-don’t be shy-go and talk to them-it is our professional duty to support each other. Colleagues will appreciate your help.

The NQTs continue with their training programme-their requests this term-and anyone can go to these too or observe me or any other colleagues when NQTs roll up! We haven’t made enough use of the IRIS cameras yet and they represent enormous potential for PD-a few teething problems but please use them. Although the lesson study observations are only at half-time and won’t be shared with you all until Easter, if you spot something in their enquiry questions that you want to talk about and use now-ask now. I’ll keep as up to date as possible sharing what they are trialling on our blogs but they are always on step ahead of me. These are the areas they are planning and trialling.

Which methodology is most successful in retention and recalling verb conjugations? [Bronagh and Marion]

To assess strategies to further engage higher ability learners in the classroom through the use of the ‘Lead Learner’ role [Beth and Greg]

Can suitable revision techniques support lower ability white boys with significant learning needs to retain and apply Scientific Knowledge to answer GCSE questions with greater accuracy of response? [Fran and Wendy]

Can I motivate high ability boys to reach their full potential on a daily basis? [Hannah and Andy]

Can lower ability G.C.S.E. students independently employ higher order thinking skills? [Karen and Sarah]

Which revision technique will most aid the progress of Ever6 students in recalling content for their GCSE assessment? [Science faculty]

How can we incorporate A level music and drama skills into our G.C.S.E. lessons to enable the most able G.C.S.E students to move beyond the confines of the syllabus and meet their needs? [Adele and Katrina}

Katie and Laura-KS3 SPaG-which teaching methods will best support low ability English students develop their SPaG?

Helen and Helen-The new KS3 curriculum – delivering literature and using skills of transcribing and translating. Will the students respond [high ability year 7] better to teacher-led or student led activities?

Sheila and Zoe will continue with their functional skills research with year 8 low ability students and the other mathematicians will look at resilience and problem solving at G.C.S.E. in spring.

Externally, I’ll continue to send out courses but I would really like at least one person from each faculty to visit another school this term. I’ve sent out the Leading Edge directory but will attach again. There are plenty of NW schools involved and you may find a school visit of more use than an expensive course by a non-teacher! I will continue to share your ideas on twitter and in our blog and I know that many of you now find resources and share your own via social media for free! I know that the NTEN audit made the point that many of the external ideas floating around school come from me finding them rather than you finding time to do so-I still don’t have an issue with that-I’ve got more time and it’s become a key part of my role. That doesn’t mean that I won’t stop trying to get you involved more BUT it’s your career and you will know when the time is right to become involved in either externally accredited courses such as the NPQ ones, MA or other research or social media type discussion and educational debates.

These are some of the areas of ‘great teaching’ and ideas that faculties shared-skim through-is there anything you would like to find out more about? This expertise is a classroom away-no away days to London-find it and use it! The full written answers will be attached again.

Great teaching practice-general area Perf Arts Just a sentence to justify your choice
Evaluation lessonsAll 3 staff can show this in both subject areas Detailed feedback using subject specific vocabulary supports new assessment criteria
Use of music analysis to teach GCSE areas of study (Adele Sophie) Links to A level areas of study as mentioned in lesson study, DIP and NPQML
Extended written answers (Katrina Sophie) Range of strategies to improve the written exam
Lesson structure (All staff) Use of starters plenaries and progress checks


Great marking/feedback-type of example What’s effective about it?
KS3 Verbal feedback with resources Detailed analysis of students performances without the requirement of written feedback
Use of SPADE and DIRT in KS3 Students are clear on areas of strength, improvement and set targets.
Use of ‘pen free’ written evaluation Accessible to all abilities, written recorded evidence with literacy links without the need to write.


Help needed! Specific areas, teachers, cohorts etc. Evidence? Faculty solutions-tell me what can I do NOW!
P.E, Art and Technology practical assessments. Developing ideas for assessment in practical sessions.


Great teaching practice-general area MFL Just a sentence to justify your choice
Mali cross-curricular project See Marion  -A new way to engage the students and extend their skills in French by arousing their interests in another culture.
Well-structured powerpoints and engaging classroom activities. See Bronagh – nominated by her Spanish team.
Delivering grammar points and producing interactive Smartboard activities. See Helen H. – nominated by her MFL team.
Organisational and admin aspects See Eddie – nominated by the MFL team.
Dot system feedback in students’ books. See Helen F. – nominated by Bronagh and Marion.


Great marking/feedback-type of example What’s effective about it?
Dot system – as above Reduces teachers’ workloads and engages students more in DIRT time.
Senorita and Monsieur peer assessment sheets. Quirky – individual to MFL dept and  students are getting used to working with them.


Help needed! Specific areas, teachers, cohorts etc. Evidence? Faculty solutions-tell me what can I do NOW!
Speaking tests – onerous we need support/tolerance and cover.
Helen H. needs to sit down with Mark B and get the proposed Paris trip under way.


Great teaching practice-general area Humanities Just a sentence to justify your choice
Speaking and Listening tasks- Collaboration with MD and GT with Y9 classes- students becoming more articulate at justifying points
Clear progress evident Evidence in books through judgements and assessments, use of Blooms thinking skills and AFL
Dialogue 3 way marking process now embedded in department


Great marking/feedback-type of example What’s effective about it?
MD- Y11 Books Showing dialogue with exam style q’s that is positive and exemplifies clear progress and feedback to the students
GT- Y9 GCSE Good focus on dialogue, a variety of different teaching styles evident, different methods of assessment and feedback
HY- Y10  Lower ability class Evidence of visual learning and differentiation, dialogue evident and progress shown in exam style questions


Help needed! Specific areas, teachers, cohorts etc. Evidence? Faculty solutions-tell me what can I do NOW!
GT- Pushing higher ability More strategies to help differentiate tasks- “quick win” activities
HY- Peer assessment Going to observe GT doing peer verification at KS4 and apply to his class after
TM- Using Bronze/Silver/Gold Going to mark next KS3 assessment and moderate with ED to check marking.
GT- Literacy More strategies for literacy at KS4- struggling with low attainers when extended writing is required. Will liaise with MJ and LC and ask for any advice.
MD- Revision Any help with further revision techniques would be great- I have huge amounts of year 11’s I’d like to support more with revision ideas, especially as we approach the mocks- my contact time available is limited so tasks that they can do independently would be great.



Great teaching practice-general area Science Just a sentence to justify your choice
Across all year group pupils are more engaged Majority of pupils want to do well, get excited about their mock exam results and have asked to do more tests (all groups down to set 6).
PJ use of IT assessment using SOCRATIVE
WS classroom management
WS less able group DIRT


Great marking/feedback-type of example What’s effective about it?
DIRT Helping pupils improve their work
Book presentation (Majority of classes) Pupils are taking more pride in their learning
Book monitoring – sharing ideas Best practise shared across dept.
All up to date


Help needed! Specific areas, teachers, cohorts etc. Evidence? Faculty solutions-tell me what can I do NOW!
Time to address the issues arisen from the Bronze Silver Gold KS3


Great teaching practice-general area English Just a sentence to justify your choice
KR – higher order thinking questions Ask the students [why did I include this option! Hope you have asked.]
SC – group work Ask the students
MJ – nurturing and building confidence Ask the students
LC – developing confidence and attainment in reading Ask the students
LB – 3 before me – peer learning support Ask the students
KF – independent learning Ask the students
RH – interactive learning, check out the Dojo Ask the students


Great marking/feedback-type of example What’s effective about it?
SG – MMM and further progress motivators Students know where they are and where they need to go
HJ – embedding the Mission Students know what to do next
KF – peer assessment Superb resources to guide process now used across department
LB – using model answers Students understand how they can achieve higher grades


Help needed! Specific areas, teachers, cohorts etc. Evidence? Faculty solutions-tell me what can I do NOW!
Moderation time More departmental time to devote to moderation, recognise that this is important
Share good practice Visits to other schools by members of the department


Great teaching practice-general area Maths Just a sentence to justify your choice
Clair – 5 a day, turning point, activity learning, creating resources  


Because they’re all awesome J



Alex – Tracking intervention
Janette- Building resilience for students and GCSE revision
Beth – Lead learners
Zoe – Pushing low attainers, STAR marking
Sheila – NTEN and adapting for high attainers
Fran – Numeracy Across the curriculum, tracking intervention
Lisa C – Effective support for students below level 4
Sara Hale – Teaching assistant support and intervention


Great marking/feedback-type of example What’s effective about it?
 All staff  We are now in our second year of using the STAR marking and looking to consolidate and develop this further.


Help needed! Specific areas, teachers, cohorts etc. Evidence? Faculty solutions-tell me what can I do NOW!
Ever 6 cohort – how do you make impact?


Great teaching practice-general area Just a sentence to justify your choice
Programming at KS3 ICT We have had SOL in place since 2008 for programming.
E safety CV and TR have both had extensive CEOP training. The quality of the E safety Sol was commented upon in the last OFSTED report.
GCSE ICT the teachers’ delivery and resources used, VLE. The results that are being achieved at KS3 are remarkable. [Tim’s words!!]


Great marking/feedback-type of example What’s effective about it?
Edmodo It does everything that you can imagine feedback wise.


Help needed! Specific areas, teachers, cohorts etc. Evidence? Faculty solutions-tell me what can I do NOW!
The best possible we could get would be external training on subject specific issues.


Great teaching practice-general area PE Just a sentence to justify your choice
Tom- exercise Teaching specialism/ pedagogy
Rosie- Dance Teaching specialism/ pedagogy
Sam- Gymnastics Teaching specialism/ pedagogy
Aaron- OAA/ football Teaching specialism/ pedagogy
Sophie- Hockey/ Netball Teaching specialism/ pedagogy
All- Overcoming opponents/ whole school projects
  • Sports week
  • Sports relief
  • Interform
  • Skipathon/ zumbathon
  • Staff competitions
  • OSHL
  • Fixtures


Great marking/feedback-type of example What’s effective about it?
  • Coloured marking
  • Consistent across department


Help needed! Specific areas, teachers, cohorts etc. Evidence? Faculty solutions-tell me what can I do NOW!
ICT- video analysis/ tracking progression IPADS
  • Climbing wall



Current Teaching Art/DTWhat are we teaching well at the moment? Consider knowledge, skills cohorts, evidence in the form of data, professional judgement, personal opinion, pupil feedback and monitoring.

  • All subjects incorporate elements of KS4 teaching and assessment into KS3 work to help ‘bridge the gap’ and create early learning habits.
  • Peer assessment and pupil evaluation are effective.


  • Verbal feedback strategies (TC’s stampers)


  • Use of DIRT and FISH, WWW

  • In art specifically this is to improve analytical opinion in sketchbooks and in DT exam questioning is more prevalent.
  • Evidence in book monitoring and pupil feedback that students use this and respond well.
  • These provide a reminder to students of progress when working on a long term project and is evidence of intervention.



SupportInternal support (lesson study), observing faculty colleague (or other subject), observe area of concern and support, research, external training/visits.

  • Intervention strategies for catering in the light of the aforementioned


  • Move KG nearer/more management time for first and second in department.


  • JM Textiles course AQA


  • KG AQA standardisation for Art


  • AO standardisation for WJEC
Why?No classroom support 









Considering changes to curriculum

For external visitors to our blog the tables are a brief representation of the discussion each of our faculties had based on the questions in the MFL example;

Why did this happen and what is the point?

  • We often only try to find out what isn’t going well in schools and react to it. If we behave like this as leaders, we run the risk of missing out the ‘Magic Moments’ that are happening every day when we aren’t observing lessons! This is one of many ideas to not only find great teaching but to share it across the faculties and whole school. It’s really important that all teachers, young and older, get the opportunity to talk about their own great practice or their concerns within a small supportive meeting and for our middle-leaders to play their part in the process. The example from the MFL faculty is from our longest serving subject leader whilst the English example is from a new subject leader using the opportunity to find out so much about her new faculty. Within the MFL faculty is a new subject leader for Spanish and an NQT and in English are 2 other new teachers-the FOCAL-focused conversation about learning-hopefully showed how we value their contribution and views.
  • PPP/CPD isn’t always a priority for busy teachers once term has begun and appraisal targets agreed-it should be and as the senior leader responsible for it, and learning and teaching, I should be pro-active in ensuring that very current needs are considered by my colleagues and raised. Waiting for support and action isn’t an option when student needs are paramount. Next summer is too late to discuss training needs and in any case appraisal now needs interim feedback and reflection.
  • As senior leaders we need to know when our colleagues aren’t happy with their lot! Sometimes we can’t help immediately [e.g. timetable and financial!] but we need to listen and create an environment where complaints can be made-request might be politer! After these meetings the directed time schedule tried to support calls made for moderation and other topics have been discussed by SLT and others.


What are individuals [and the faculty] really teaching well at the moment? Could be aspects of knowledge, certain skills, different cohorts-you choose!  What is your evidence-impact data is always gratefully received but so are professional judgements and feelings! Asking the kids is always nice too!! Please include marking/feedback.

  • Dot system feedback trialled by Helen F. has been trialled by Bronagh who also liked the system.  Helen F explained the system to the French dept at this meeting and we all liked it and have agreed to make it a departmental policy to feedback in this way.
  • Cross –curricular project on Mali forms part of Marion’s year 7 French lessons.  Students are enjoying finding out about Mali and it’s way of life whilst also improving their French.  Her year 7 students were able to undertake an extended gap fill exercise on Mali’s towns and bridges because they have engaged with the project.  There are nice film clips to go with the project which also covers geographical skills and some PSD.
  • French students have been enjoying the plethora of YouTube clips which Helen has been gradually adding to the lessons to increase engagement.  Students are so fond of some of the clips that they ask for them lesson after lesson.  The clips are usually about 5 minutes long and are used to teach or re-enforce numbers, the alphabet, verb paradigms.
  • Students in both Spanish and French lessons have been preparing at a much earlier stage for future speaking tests.  We have started to introduce this skill formally lower down the school so that we can gradually build up their skills in this area.  E.g.  Helen has recently asked her year 10 French class to convert a piece of writing homework into a learning homework.  They have then had to remember it and present it to the class as a mini speaking assessment.  As it is about a quarter of the length of the real exam, she allowed them only 10 prompt words instead of 40.  She also devised and shared a mark scheme with the class so that all students would engage in the listening process and would benefit from other people’s turns. Here is a copy of the speaking criteria shared with Helen’s 10C French class.
  • How have the faculty been working together well over the first half-term? Any great examples of collaboration, support for each other, and barriers to great learning/teaching removed already happened or planned for?
  • Yes, we collaborated well and produced worthwhile activities for both Open Evening and the European Day of Languages.  In addition we also constantly share good practice, ideas and resources in our meetings and via the shared drive.  After a shaky start we are also all committed to the new arrangements for conducting the controlled assessments and are supporting each other in this area.  There were some very nice comments from students saying how much they had enjoyed their day.
  • What are individuals [and the faculty] finding a difficult aspect of learning and teaching at the moment? Could be aspects of knowledge, certain skills, different cohorts-you choose!  What is your evidence-impact data is always gratefully received but so are professional judgements and feelings! Asking the kids is always nice too!! Please include marking/feedback.
  • We find the lack of time dedicated to each language a hindrance in years 7 and 8.  We are aware that the exam is changing and that students are going to need to be better prepared and more knowledgeable about grammar in forthcoming years.  We do not feel comfortable with the amount of work we can cover in lower school on one lesson per week.  We mooted the idea this evening that perhaps we should direct certain classes as they join in year 7 to either Spanish or French so that we can have 2 lessons per week in year 7 and 8 with our students.  This way we feel we could prepare them more thoroughly for the skills they will need at GCSE.
  • How can help be best offered and given? Quickly is best-you might consider internal support-lesson study, observing faculty colleague [or other subject], coach/colleague to observe area of concern and support, research, external training/visits.
  • We need a discussion with SLT about timetabling for languages in years 7 and 8.


Refresh your minds re the subject specific knowledge and skills that you agreed last year should be the criteria for great teaching in your faculty-is there anything you need to change before the round of observations begins? Bear in mind any subject specific information coming from exam boards, your own summer exam evaluation, whole school foci, your lesson study foci etc.

Refreshed and updated – we didn’t feel that the regular progress checks were beneficial.

What are individuals [and the faculty] really teaching well at the moment? Could be aspects of knowledge, certain skills, different cohorts-you choose!  What is your evidence-impact data is always gratefully received but so are professional judgements and feelings! Asking the kids is always nice too!! Please include marking/feedback.

SPaG starters and homework are beginning to impact on the quality of writing.

Increased opportunities for peer and self-assessment – aided by resources that were provided at the start of the year.

KF – secret student with year 9 – about to be adopted by other members of the team.

RH – class Dojo – improving relationships with parents and encouraging students to succeed in lessons.

LC – weekly stars in spelling and literacy plus half termly raffle tickets encouraging students to make progress.

SC – year 9 intervention A*/A – use of drafting and editing

MJ – competitive element in starters raising levels of engagement.

KR – interactive, self-generating, super spelling tests.

LB – postcards as a motivational tool.

HJ – using A* assessment criteria with year 10.

SG – MMM marking

How have the faculty been working together well over the first half-term? Any great examples of collaboration, support for each other, and barriers to great learning/teaching removed already happened or planned for?

Shared planning, shared resources, NTEN involvement, extra moderation after school. Worked together to agree set arrangements for year 11 to maximise learning. Sharing of behavioural management strategies. Liaison with Progress Managers and SLT regarding individual students and classes.

What are individuals [and the faculty] finding a difficult aspect of learning and teaching at the moment? Could be aspects of knowledge, certain skills, different cohorts-you choose!  What is your evidence-impact data is always gratefully received but so are professional judgements and feelings! Asking the kids is always nice too!! Please include marking/feedback.

Meaningful peer assessment with lower ability classes – time consuming and less productive than with higher ability.

KS4 poetry comparison examination techniques – skills take time to learn and adapt but students struggle to reproduce these skills under pressure of time; tendency towards device spotting.

Conflicting messages about changes to mark scheme regarding Shakespeare and Poetry controlled assessment, some mixed messages about texts to be used in new curriculum.

How can help be best offered and given? Quickly is best-you might consider internal support-lesson study, observing faculty colleague [or other subject], coach/colleague to observe area of concern and support, research, external training/visits.

LB observed HJ to familiarise herself with department. SC and KR regularly collaborate regarding year 11. KR would like to attend beyond assessment course in Manchester. MJ to travel the country via SSAT course experiencing outstanding SENCO provision. KF applying for a course on challenging top sets. SC will be attending WJEC new GCSE events in November.

No paperwork-you tell me-is there anything you need in terms of internal or external professional development that will make a measureable difference to your teaching and student learning right now? Line-managers and middle leaders ask personal professional development questions of your colleagues over the next couple of weeks-quick reminder of the professional portfolio developing, developed, aspirational criteria below for subject leaders-where are you and your faculty at the start of 2015?

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?How have you encouraged and directed your faculty to both internal and external CPD-why was this needed? 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?

How have you encouraged and directed your faculty to consider both internal and external research-why was this needed?

Have you been able to prove the impact the research has had on both learning and teaching?

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



What do individuals and the whole faculty need for their next CPD-why? Initial plans?

Success criteria?


Have a wonderful and successful learning and teaching 2015.





Growth mind set-not just for Xmas! Beyond the posters and assemblies.


Helen’s MFL mind-set brain reminded me to consider how far we have begun to embed growth mind set into our lessons and whole school thinking. Alex Quigley, from Huntington School at York warned in his blog of the dangers of a superficial approach towards GM as the latest fad. A few quick assemblies and creative posters dotted around and we are now a growth mind set school-I don’t think so!

Alex does describe his school as a GM school and you can see that they have worked hard to inculcate GM into as many areas of school as possible. This isn’t really our aim at present-we certainly can see the benefits of GM but I’m not sure that it is of more importance than some other aspects of our philosophy-perhaps our community, over the next couple of years will conclude that it should be the key component of our vision-it’s early days yet!

I do believe that it is important for us to support the development of GM [early term blogs shared our beginnings] by sharing how some colleagues and faculties have moved quickly since September to stress the importance of GM with their students, to actively promote GM in lessons and of equal importance, to seek examples of how individual teachers and SLT have adopted a GM of their own towards their [and the school’s] professional development. Stephen Tierney, in his post below, makes the crucial point that a school cannot just talk about GM with its students-the staff have to develop GM too and SLT have to create a GM culture which encourages our teachers [and all staff] to want to become the best teacher that they can.

“I need to believe that I can improve and accept resilience, grit and hard work, over time, is required to become a better and in time a great teacher.

When teachers are working within a whole school Growth Mindset culture, which is multi-faceted, they are far more likely to be successful in making marginal gains in teaching practice.  These gains contribute to the overall professional capital of the organisation.

“The literature provides a challenge to the much quoted claim that teachers typically improve over their first 3-5 years and then plateau. Teachers working in schools with more supportive professional environments continued to improve significantly after three years, while teachers in the least supportive schools actually declined in their effectiveness.“

Coe et al (2014) p.5

Stephen also writes that; “part of a Growth Mindset is believing that students can reach even higher levels of attainment.  Our job is then to work out how.  Redefining our expectations of students and ourselves is a part of this process.”

Are we showing signs of delivering and modelling GM for both our staff and students? A few examples from the last 2 weeks illustrate, what I hope are indicators of a growing trend.

Clair and I observed Jen with her year 10 maths lower ability set and in a brief discussion as we waited for the class, Jen  explained that when she began with us, 5 years ago, she wouldn’t have attempted a lesson that involved risks for an observation but now without the pressure of grades and our developmental approach plus her positive experience with lesson study, she felt confident of trying something different to see if it would work in front of us [we could help too both in the lesson and with constructive feedback] Thus we were seeing a teacher actively growing her mind-set in a quest to become better at her craft-taking on something that might fail and the students being encouraged to improve their resilience and mind set towards difficult maths questions. Jen has deliberately chosen as one of her appraisal targets practical research into the difficulties KS2 L4 students seem to have in making good progression to support her own professional development, student learning and her faculty colleagues, as subject leader-leadership mind-set-leaders should be seen to take on ‘big’ issues and not shy away from them!

Context of lesson

Students have completed 3 lessons on reading and constructing pie charts. The SOW covers a variety of data topics that I feel the students may already be able to tackle without full instructions. This lesson is a discovery into what students can handle whilst tackling confidence levels. I need students to build resilience in student mind-set to continue to the very end of the test paper and believe they can answer the trickier questions.

Is there an area of their learning/your teaching that you have found to be challenging!? [

Not giving up – students follow instructions, answer questions well in lesson, and complete tasks less complex. When they’re faced with harder questions I hear ‘I don’t know what to do’.

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?

TASK 1 – I anticipate that Question 5 and 6 students will circle as a 5(would usually skip), if a student is able to answer the question already I will change to lead learners.

TASK 2 – Students may struggle to come up with their own methods to collect data. I can show a demonstration to help hint. This task is to ensure students understand a frequency table and so that they can apply their previous knowledge and understanding of the mean.

TASK 3 – Lead learners may struggle themselves! They may need to discuss the answers with the group.

The maths faculty have been pushing a ‘can do’ mind-set in maths with parents and students at our year 7 and 8 parental information evenings and I was keen to see this in classroom action.


Jen handed the students a set of questions and they had to number [1-5] the degree of difficulty they thought each would be to answer. They are often put off by big words and lots of numbers-aren’t we all! By working together, using maths leaders, thinking positively and equipping them with the necessary skills and belief; the class began to answer questions that previously seemed too hard.



The students don’t just acquire a mind –set of being resilient, mistake using, critique seeking, appreciators of other’s success, I can do anything, challenge busting all round good guys-nor do we as teachers and leaders. In the 3 appraisal observation I’ve just had the pleasure of watching, it became apparent that the teachers really knew their learners needs, strengths and weaknesses and explicitly were pushing the growth mind set buttons that they know from their professional assessment, individual students need. Nudging them along with appropriate marginal gains so that some of the aspirational targets we want them to achieve are attainable with; support, confidence building, knowledge acquiring and appropriate intervention-with this in place, we can begin to lay real foundations for successful growth mind-set. These examples are from Jen, Martin and Colin and show their thought process in working out [and believing] that their students CAN achieve higher and better in their class.

A – A struggles with questions with multiple steps involved. Paired with X to follow a structure for his answers

B – Does struggle with ‘I just can’t do it’ but when he understand he’s fine. He can make mistakes on his X tables so we ensure we practice this in all topics.

C– confident mathematician when he can do it. C can make mathematical links quicker but will give up if he struggles and produce minimal work. Will lead group well. Strength in NUMBER.

D – Has good algebra skills and logical thinking. He can miss steps out in calculations and doesn’t present finding clearly.

E – good grasp with number skills and structured answers. E has strong skills in showing all steps required in mathematical answers.

F – Is able to follow mathematical processes well however I will ensure that he is on the correct path when he is lead learner and this will help with his confidence.

A is sat at the front of lessons. He is almost always fully engaged in History and currently I am using strategies to get him to consider an answer before giving it such as consulting with a peer. In longer writing work he has the opportunity to use IT facilities. In today’s work he will be given a sentence structure to help in his paragraph

B is sat on his own table to aid concentration by limiting distraction from others. With his dyslexia I have used key terms as well as key word spelling tests focussing on basics such as capital letters and key words including America, Prohibition and Flappers. Today he will be given the writing structure to help guide him as well as key terms

C is given a range of support especially in exam style Q’s. I give him structures and frames to help scaffold an appropriate response and also provide written instructions in case he hasn’t processed the task requirements. Spelling tests and key words are emphasised and I encourage students to ask if unsure. Today he will be given a writing structure and key terms for his exam style question

X– lacks confidence and sometimes finds it difficult articulating what she want to say in classroom discussions. The Business Frisbee has helped develop her confidence as she can’t shy away and is more involved in classroom discussions and has supported other in questioning sessions.

Y– I have completed lots of intervention with Y to improve his literacy skills. He has responded very well to the PIC ruler as this has helped him to pick the relevant points form the case study and use these to expand his answers. I have also helped support Y with dealing with difficult situations through a lunch time programme called ‘New Horizons’. This has helped him deal with difficult situations in the classroom more positively

Martin also took on a challenge in his observation lesson for Greg and myself, in 1] trying to teach the Causes of the Wall St Crash [I would have avoided this!!] and 2] focusing on the links between the causal factors that the students [especially the lower ability] usually miss in their exam answers.

Is there an area of their learning/your teaching that you have found to be challenging!? [

With lower ability students, I am looking to not rely on writing as a form of expressing an opinion- These students can write and frequently produce good written work but are also very good at expressing opinions verbally. My challenge this year is striking a balance between the two within the time frame of a 2 year course rather than 3 year course.

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?

The biggest anticipated risk is that students will not be able to link the causes together- This requires students to take their thinking to a higher level than previous 6 markers.

To build student confidence into a ‘can do’ mentality when faced with ‘linking’ Martin provided differentiated resources so that the students were equipped with the necessary knowledge to enable them to discuss the topic confidently-without this, speaking and listening for anyone is difficult and they would give up or be inaccurate.

04 05 06

What I really liked was seeing Martin, in his effort to develop his own practice even further, adapt what had already proved a successful strategy so that it became an even better one-this was a risk but with the aid of chocolate rewards worked well!


The physical links [causal web] made with tape and then explained works really well as shown in a previous lesson, however Martin improved this by providing RAG cards to allow the students to use the green card to write links that they felt were really strong and would meet with Sir’s approval, amber for quite strong and red for slightly ‘iffy’ ones. Martin rewarded them with gold chocolate coins-the winning group took all! Great to see the teacher reflecting and wanting to produce an even better learning experience.


In our feedback session Martin told me that this was the most comfortable and relaxed he had felt in an observation [he has been teaching 3 years and has performed twice for Ofsted-subject/whole school] and enjoyed taking the risks. His confidence grew with a super court scene/silent debate he taught for Helen and myself last year and without the nonsense of grades that encourage playing it safe, he wanted to teach how he wants to teach! So all colleagues should and we have to continue to create a culture of teacher mind-set that allows you all to want to improve AND try out ideas-when better to do that than in an observation with extra hands there to help and peer critique honestly and professionally on your agreed criteria.

I was delighted that Martin asked if I could cover Greg, our NQT historian, to allow him to observe too [did he really need to show an ID card to get in our Reward’s Evening!] and all of our NQTs have quickly realised that they are encouraged to try, fail, observe others, reflect and build their own mind-set-not just teach it to year 7 tutor groups with my ppts! I was equally delighted, after observing Rachael [NQT+1] with Sarah [subject leader] teach poetry to year 9 to hear Sarah immediately invite Rachael to observe her teaching poetry the next day. A supportive environment, is crucial to our continuing growth mind-set as teachers.

Since I taught Colin everything he knows about Hitler’s Rise to Power many years ago, he always wanted to be a teacher here and here he is! He really does have a growth mind set and is currently studying at Edge Hill for his MA and we have some great feedback sessions when I have to try really hard to set him a little marginal gain to satisfy his desire to deliver an even better lesson next time. We have worked on student self-questioning, peer verification using google docs [I have the ideas-he has the technological know-how!] and his latest idea was to move away ever so slightly from the business studies computers [this was difficult!] and he has introduced his Business Frisbee. The students write their own exam assessment questions-1 each-offer one to the class and then the Frisbee is passed or skimmed round to students who have to offer the next part of the answer/mark scheme. This is to engage everyone in a key activity that Colin wanted to improve as part of his own development and also to develop the confidence levels of the quieter students. His explanation of the activity is here;

The aim of the Business Frisbee is to firstly develop students own questioning skills. So, the first rule of being in charge of the Frisbee is that their role is to not catch a Business Buddy out, but instead to challenge them and use hints and tips if necessary to try and help them to answer the question the best they can!  This Frisbee is used alongside a student’s google docs question and the flexible 6 and 8 marker schemes. The Frisbee holder asks a questions about the first mark from the mark scheme.  The person answers this and then they become the Frisbee holder and then asks the peer a question about the second mark, and so on. This is carried on until they reach the end of the mark scheme. Because students don’t know if they’re going to be asked next, they tend to engage better than one person doing a 6 marker for a long period themselves (which was an action point from last lesson obs) This has really helped this group as they can be very quiet during Q&A sessions and this has helped ensure all students can contribute as opposed to one person dominating or other being too passive in discussions.

The massive emphasis in business studies is of support for each other and the celebration of each other’s success-an important but perhaps the least easy aspect of GM for both students and adults to grasp. The success of Business Buddies relies on the honesty of student feedback and the desire to really help another student succeed.

I have been running back and to between lessons to drop in on the science lesson studies running concurrently with my other observations. I’ve explained in other blogs how well our lesson study has taken off and the professional development involved, as Stephen Tierney alludes to in his blog, really does show GM in action with the teachers being prepared to look deeply at a weaker aspect of their own practice so that they can improve together and with the right enquiry question, they can equip the students with the skills to grow in confidence to develop their own mind-set around key learning barriers. The scientists have targeted Ever 6 revision and rather than expecting revision to happen at home, are working out which revision methods can work best with the biggest impact on learning [and test scores!] for our year 10 students. Whilst the focus student trios are Ever 6 the rest of the classes will obviously benefit from the classroom research. The students often don’t revise or give up when the questions get tough-we have to help them develop a stronger GM by equipping them with the tools to taste success and want more of it!

Adele and Katrina in performing arts decided that their lesson study would focus on moving beyond the G.C.S.E. requirements to offer some higher level A/S or A level type learning for their students in addition to their G.C.S.E skills and knowledge. I was keen to embrace this cracking GM idea to reach for the aspirational stars for both students and the dynamic duo! This does involve all concerned asking some searching questions of their own teaching and learning-both ladies visited 3 other schools/colleges to search for ideas and to reflect on their own practice and the students were challenged too as they were pushed to tackle some quite difficult concepts. Katrina and I observed Adele teaching year 10 about modulations and we loved this very personal plenary that Adele used!


My final lesson study of the week [just 5 minutes ago!] saw Andrew and Hannah pose the enquiry question-‘Can I motivate high ability boys to want to succeed on a daily basis?’ They are concerned that some of our highest ability lads [and 10 set 1] seem to go through the motions of learning, prefer to be left to get on with it, don’t like any interaction/communication and look like they’re miserable and not enjoying their English and geography! We had a really interesting feedback session and came to the conclusion that sometimes as teachers we have to have the mind-set to change our tactics. Hannah, especially is a high octane, 100 mph teacher who I love to watch-I would have engaged with her style immediately as a student but she is worried that she gives them her usual stuff and although they work hard and do what is required, they don’t smile much! Sometimes we have to accept that our classes are very different and change ourselves-we have to deliver what is best for our students and not always what we think is great teaching. Hannah said, “I won’t deliver great teaching if they won’t interact'” “Are they learning though?” I replied. “What are  their books and assessments showing you?” They will change the focus of the lesson study to looking at their own teaching after Xmas to develop a different style that is more suitable for these particular students-great teachers learn to do this [even though they find it uncomfortable with their personal philosophy] with experience and a strong mind-set. Learning is hard work and not always fun for both students and teachers.

During a discussion with maths Jen, I mentioned marking in maths-“what’s wrong with it!” she asked. It’s a natural riposte but the point I was making is that we need to be constantly re-evaluating our practice in every aspect of what we are doing. Is STAR marking working best in maths, is everybody using it the same and is it having an impact-can you prove it, what has the book monitoring shown-you know the questions! As a whole school mind-set we have to believe that we are never good enough and constantly want to be that little bit better-it is hard on a deep and dark December to keep this resilience and grit up but we simply have to! By sharing ideas and supporting each other it becomes easier for ourselves and for our students-GM begins in the staff-room! My maths colleagues were listening and thus a simple piece of mind-set was born. In maths lessons the students are always being asked to take on challenging problem solving sums. I explained my thoughts to colleagues when I emailed round some of Beth’s year 7 and 9 challenge sums. After Clair’s observation, Jen, Clair and I were talking about the challenge questions that happen in maths lessons-above and beyond the other normal maths! I suggested using different colours to make them stand out [they already use purple for student response] so treated them to some nice new pens! You can see early answers from Beth and the year 7 quote. With regards to GM the use of the bright colour is encouraging the students to say-bring on challenging questions and we’ll answer in a highly visible colour-no hiding from them-challenge us! That’s the theory anyway!


Some teachers mock the use of coloured pens but we are dealing with children! Beth sent this comment with her photos; Year 7’s love them: “Can we answer a problem so we can use the nice pens” Of course you can!


One of the attributes I look for in our GM teachers is the ability to share but also that difficult skill of having people take your idea and adapt or change it! Mmm- for the common good! Helen F shared her NQT magic moments with her account of how she had been using dot marking as a form of fast feedback. The MFL faculty have been taken with her idea and have now all worked together to extend it. Marion sent me the new versions which can be used in MFL and PSD and demonstrate the desire to be constantly searching for something that can make us professionally more effective [in this case at marking] and share our ideas internally [and externally on our blog] I really like this and hope that it helps the students too to self and peer critique in DIRT more effectively. Again this equips them with the self-evaluative tools that makes the development of GM that little bit easier.

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As a whole school and as a leadership team how far should we take growth mind–set and do we have a future vision for further whole school discussion and implementation? Some argue that mixed-ability teaching is more appropriate to GM, other have an issue with gifted and talented and GM and so on. Plenty more to think about and Leon speaking at a London conference last week, received some great reviews and lots of interest in our BSG approach. Moving beyond NC levels and supporting every student to achieve their GOLD target in a subject mastery appropriate to their ability, is perhaps the greatest commitment we can show in terms of GM from us as teachers and from them to us a GM students! We have to believe that we can make this happen and we have to convince the students that they can achieve our aspirational targets. To achieve +1 residuals is a huge ask-all of those lovely green bits on FTT and RAISE are great to see when achieved but the work that goes into getting there needs every GM quality known to Carol Dweck!


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Moving students who have been identified as falling behind, up Leon’s matrix is tough, but we can clearly focus on our intervention students and teach to the very best that we can.



I shared this comment from a recent outstanding Ofsted this week;

Teachers’ performance is managed very well. Expectations are high, and procedures are rigorous. Teachers are set targets which are based on students making very challenging rates of progress.

Students’ progress towards their ambitious targets is checked carefully. School leaders have made sure that teachers’ assessment of students’ attainment are frequent and accurate. Teachers are held to account for the progress of the students they teach. Extra help is readily available for students who need it, with a wealth of opportunities for students to receive additional support from their teachers.

Our targets are challenging too, help is available as I’ve seen in numerous observations and discussions and the emphasis on developing GM for both staff and students MUST have a positive effect on these final outcomes. In 2012 Ofsted commented on Meols Cop that;

This school crackles with ambition. Leadership at all levels demonstrates a unified determination to drive further improvements in outcomes for students. In addition, a vibrant culture of continuous improvement has been established, which is shared by all members of the school community.

It sounds great but that was 2 years ago! Our GM has to take us far beyond that to sustain the best learning and teaching for our students that is possible and to open the best possible life opportunities for them. We are committed to learning from the best and improving-none of us can be ‘precious’! We have successfully joined a potentially fantastic research opportunity-RISE- Research-leads Improving Students’ Education – project which will help our English and maths teachers to become involved in classroom based research looking critically at the impact of their own practice [and others] to help their development. For non-teachers reading this you may think that all teachers naturally want to dissect their performance so that they become even better-I’m not quite sure if this is always true or indeed true of any profession-the truth isn’t always welcome! It has to happen here though and this has to be the case for leaders too-I agreed this morning to accept an invitation to join Edge Hill’s research into leadership-we have to show our GM too-we have to believe that we aren’t the best leaders we can be-yet!

The Faculty of Education at Edge Hill University through its Schools and Colleges Teacher Education Research Centre (SCaTE) would like to create a partnership with local schools to pilot a programme to develop research leadership at school level.  Central to the collaboration is the notion that research for schools and colleges should be conceived from practice by practitioners rather than by academic researchers.   This in turn suggests that research and evidence-informed practice have to establish processes and systems that recognise the needs of teachers in classrooms and by working with schools to develop research leadership. SCaTE intends to strengthen the ability of participating schools to utilise current practice knowledge and extend understanding of research knowledge.

Growth mind-set isn’t just for Xmas or for assemblies and posters-it’s basically damn good learning and teaching and school leadership. Embrace the aspects of it that are best for our school-nice little challenge for 2015!




Peaky Humanities Blinders

Past the square, past the bridge,

past the mills, past the stacks

On a gathering storm comes

a tall handsome man

in a dusty black coat with

a red right hand

The new humanities staff have strode in to town with the style and panache of the Peaky Blinders, without the violence of course! I’m a big fan of the cult series and Nick Cave’s atmospheric ‘Red Right Hand’ [sang by PJ Harvey in the 2nd series] used as the theme tune and I’m always a fan of teachers we acquire who are immediately prepared to fit into our collaborative culture, trialling and sharing as they develop into the best teachers that they can be. Losing our subject leader just before the summer deadline was always going to be difficult and everybody has stepped up to the mark to help our 3 NQTs and to prepare for Helen and Emma’s maternity cover. We try to avoid giving tricky classes/year 11 classes to NQTs so they can develop their craft and prepare fully but this hasn’t been possible at times and good team-work supports them in their first year of our profession. Martin has taken on Helen’s year 11 classes and last year the English faculty took on extra exam classes when they found themselves a subject leader and teacher short due to very last minute resignations to join another school. Other faculties, such as science, have all responded similarly recently when facing the same situation of long term absence or teacher unavailability. Students and parents may not realise the extra commitment being shown to ensure the students are getting the best possible deal and the archaic resignation dead-line system plagues all schools and means that students often lack a specialist teacher for a full term, particularly in a shortage subject area. Our staff take on an extra work-load to obviate these problems and the senior team are eternally grateful and appreciative of all involved-thank you.

I observed Emma, supported by her TA Kim with her year 9 class and she very kindly invited Toni and Andrew, our 2 geography NQTs along as well! There were many highlights of the lesson but my favourite and the one that I feel other teachers could make really good use of was her peer critique idea to allocate roles in the groups to look at different exam answers. They marked each of 3 different answers Miss had written in their  roles which they were given according to their abilities/needs.



This was a great modelled activity for the NQTs to observe. We often use to let the students launch straight into answering 6, 8 or 10 markers without enough prior preparation and then go backwards, using mark schemes to go over what should have happened. Most share criteria now before but this activity plus a WAGOLL is a great way to introduce them to what is needed to answer well.

Emma and I had discussed with Toni, after her observation different methods of building up knowledge without copying and Emma showed how they could re-cap on prior learning, check with each other and then reference to the definitions needed for G.C.S.E. success. The students, in their groups, tried to recall knowledge and then visited other presentations and added on, in red pen, extra information or changed misconceptions. Emma’s penny dropping moment was seeing the focused red pen comments and realising the extent to which she had drilled knowledge into them in year 8!



The students could see the power of learning over time-it’s a nice feeling for any learner when prior knowledge wheels begin to whir in your brain and this makes you more eager to gather the additional information. The old idea of measuring ‘new knowledge’ gained in 1 lesson is being laid to rest-not many topics are brand new-recall can go back to KS2 and learning can look forward to the next lesson, the next month and the summer exams! Progress might just be spotted and made!

Andrew then tried to use what he had seen in his own NQT lesson for Emma and myself, beginning his year 9 students with an individual memory re-cap before inviting them to support each other with red-pen comments around the room.



He then used his ‘talk tokens’ to build up their knowledge and this is a great activity that can be used by any subject. I’ve observed both Andrew and Greg using this tactic-it’s a good ‘un on so many fronts-speaking and listening, retaining knowledge and the students enjoy it and engage seriously!

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The exercise does bring out some of the entrepreneurial talents of some students as they vie for the most tokens. I did spot some dubious tactics but liked overhearing, “I’ll give you my backwash for your hard rock!”

I was also chatting to colleagues about how they are helping the students with their SPaG requirements and spotted a simple but effective grid Greg had used [made by Helen] whilst I was monitoring his books that could be easily adapted for most 6/8/10 mark assessments in any subjects. If you have something similar-please send it to me. I want really specific examples for SPaG rather than the students being told that they get a certain amount of marks and concentrating on spelling their key words correctly-most SPaG marks are lots for basic generic mistakes-their, there, where, were etc. If you knock out the history, I’m sure you can use it elsewhere!

  • Simple descriptive comment and/or gives one reason.
1 – 2
  • Develops one side of the argument
  • Bottom level, description of the what Wilson or Clemenceau wanted and what they got
  • Middle level, explanation of what Wilson/Clemenceau wanted and what they got. Some discussion of how satisfied
  • Top level, assesses how satisfied and has clear focus on the question.
3 – 6
  • Covers both sides of the argument
  • Bottom level, description of the what both Wilson and Clemenceau wanted and what they got
  • Mid-High level, explanation of what Wilson and Clemenceau wanted and what they got. Some discussion of how satisfied
  • No analysis of how satisfied
3 – 6
  • Covers both side of the argument
  • Explanation of what Wilson and Clemenceau wanted and what they got.
  • Assess how satisfied each would have been
  • Develops an argument on who would be more satisfied and
  • One side is in greater depth than the other
  • A clear structure in the answer
  • Always links back answer to the question
  • – 9
  • Covers both side of the argument
  • Balanced answer that explains what Wilson and Clemenceau wanted and what they got.
  • A well-argued answer on who was most satisfied by the Treaty of Versailles, this should be backed up and linked to a number of reasons
  • Focus on the question
  • Conclusion
SPAG You have written in paragraphs. + 1
SPAG You have written in full sentences, using capital letters, full stops and punctuation where needed. + 1
SPAG You have spelt key historical words correctly. + 1

Emma’s books covered many of the areas we have discussed as a staff and that are part of our book marking initiatives and requirements. I’ve explained our policy many times before and after Xmas will share all of our faculty’s best marking and feedback. Geography and history like their peer verification and have been using DIRT for that and dialogue between teacher and student. I’ve included Emma, Greg and Andrew’s comments and their self-evaluation targets before sharing some of the marking.

Biggest impact on learning your marking has had this year? Emma

So far I believe my marking has given pupils an early insight into what they are capable of and should be achieving the first time they complete a task so that  in future tasks they should be reaching a higher level of thinking and work. Especially at year 11 when students need the belief they are capable of completing longer style questions – within the first term this should be a recap and basis again to get them set up to achieve highly in their mock and real exams. I believe I have helped them set this basis in preparation for their exams and with the help of mark schemes they have designed in their books they should be able to identify trends in answering certain types of questions.

Biggest impact on learning your marking has had this year? Greg

I feel that marking has been beneficial for both teacher and student alike. Firstly, regular marking and the use of DIRT has allowed me to highlight any misconceptions, inform my planning and any interventions this year. With regards to the impact on students, I feel that the marking has impacted in a number of ways:

  • It has given pupils clear expectations of both what they are expected to achieve in the classroom, it has highlighted to pupils themselves their own ability and has given them chances to improve their work
  • Secondly, different methods of marking such as Dot Marking has allowed me to focus on SPaG with lower ability pupils and allows them to practice their SPaG when the exam board have an increased focus on this.
  • With regards to the use of DIRT, I have found that at KS3 level, its introduction has allowed pupils to consolidate their learning and has put the emphasis on producing excellent work the first time around.
  • Lastly, I have found my first uses of peer assessment (PV and PP) have proved successful in highlight to pupils to demands of GCSE level exam questions, the mark schemes and their understanding of how to achieve higher marks. Furthermore, it has given pupils to opportunity to physically learn how achieve the marks they are aiming for
Dialogue Self/peer crit Literacy/numeracy Initiatives DIRT/re-draft

  • To enforce BSG in marking more regularly at KS3.
  • To ensure all DIRT questions are completed in allotted time, focus on pupils efficiency

  • To attempt this across all key stages.
  • Get 10B to engage further in Peer Verification at GCSE
  • Introduce KS3 Level Peer verification
Target: to reinforce SPaG at GCSE and link to mark scheme

  • Strategies needed to improve use of capital letters

Enforce use of literacy mat for target pupil

Target: trial dot marking, particularly with KS3 to target SPaG errors. Dot to show error in paragraph that pupils must find themselves (Dot on problem line maybe for low ability) Target: I need to spend time to target common errors in DIRT. This should allow for class collaboration to share ideas, improvements and confusions

Biggest impact on learning your marking has had this year? Andrew

I feel DIRT has had a massive impact on student’s learning. It is clear to see through the improvements they make that this time benefits both student and teacher as they can work together to discuss any issues.

Peer assessment has also improved in the short time since September and I hope to engrain this across all key stages. It benefits both peers as they are encouraged to develop their own personal thinking skills. I feel there is a good basis of peer feedback now placed across all key stages but more work needed with some, particularly Year 7 and low ability Year 8.

GCSE marking is fairly consistent, hopefully peer assessment will further develop as the year progresses and outcomes of GCSE style questions should improve.

I feel my biggest aim is to incorporate BSG into key stage 3 lesson marking and DIRT time e.g. you achieved silver, to get gold you must……

Dialogue Self/peer crit Literacy/numeracy Initiatives
Target: to enforce BSG in marking more regularly at KS3 Target: to attempt this across all key stages. Get 10E more familiar with peer assessment. Target: to reinforce SPaG at GCSE and link to mark scheme Target:  trial dot marking, particularly with KS3 to target SPaG errors. Dot to show error in paragraph that pupils must find themselves (Dot on problem line maybe for low ability).

Martin choose these targets;


Self/peer crit Literacy Initiatives General
T Self-assessment to be developed at KS4 through the year especially in exam style q’sT:Will now continue to develop the 3 way marking process across all sets and especially assessed pieces.  T Need to introduce DOT marking for literacy in both KS3 and 4 T Introducing purple pens into books over the next term from GT’s idea T I would like to collaborate with other department to share more strategies/what’s worked for them

The feedback helps me to monitor the whole school situation but the reflection involved helps our NQTs especially to tell me where they feel they need to develop next with their marking so I can point them in the direction of experienced markers. The bottom line is that we have to mark our books, however I want colleagues to find out for themselves which types of marking have the biggest impact on learning-this is often very different with different classes-and I want them to mark smartly by choosing from circulated ideas to suit their professional needs. Martin, for example has kindly taken on Helen’s year 11 classes whilst still fulfilling his main role in school as year 8 progress manager. His increased work-load may mean a necessary change in his marking habits-how can I help and how can we all support each other’s marking?

Some of Emma’s marking can be seen below with my commentary. The first one shows some peer/self-critique comments and simple advice from a low/mid ability class and the improved piece after feedback [as directed 13 pages on by the student!] Absolutely crucial that we don’t miss this opportunity.


07 08

With the same class Miss encouraged them to write their own G.C.S.E style mark-schemes in preparation for year 9 and to get them thinking hard about the answers and knowledge needed to achieve mastery [Gold!] in their assessments. I teach the same class for history and this was a good challenge for them.



All teachers will recognise the first feedback comment below! Miss doesn’t stand for it and insists on a higher quality of response.



Our students often miss vital examination marks in geography and other subjects when they forget to include data to support their answers. Emma targets this below with a specific question aimed to increase the assessment score from 5-6. Dropping 1 mark for every question could prove costly for this year 11 student.



The geographers have taken on the peer verification aspect of peer marking began by the historians to allow the students to discuss each other’s work and to compromise with 2 other students. Some students love the conversations-others don’t!



The year 11 students create their own mark schemes and you can see that 1 student has peer marked another’s work according to their criteria [not sure where 5/6 went!] and added improvement points which the initial student has then responded to. Miss has verified the process and added to it.



Martin has also shared some of his marking and please remember what I have said about his increased work-load-how has he managed to mark effectively and still manage to watch a little bit of rugby on a Saturday?

The red pen [he is going to get some more colours!] indicates peer critique with green for Sir’s advice before the final red shows the student’s improved piece as a response to the feedback given.


14 15

The year 11 learning on Vietnam sees Martin raise pertinent questions aimed at knowledge needed for the exam-answered in red during DIRT and then verified by Sir that his feedback has been successfully met.


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When the skills of peer/self-critique are taught and practised, then they have their place in our marking policy-if they aren’t taught well, then the inaccuracy of them hinders learning and gives the teacher even more to mark as they rectify the damage caused. When I came up with the peer verification idea I wanted it to help peer critique a far more worthwhile activity than it usually was so that both students and teachers could benefit. Martin has embraced the idea but it isn’t for everyone and that’s absolutely fine-as long as they have something equally as good to show!



Biggest impact on learning your marking has had this year? Martin

I feel that the marking has helped the students to understand the exam framework more clearly- even at KS3. The time it has saved me by using tools such as verification and peer marking has not hampered the quality of feedback because students understand the 3 way marking process and how it benefits them. It has gone beyond just seeing what grade you get and scribbling a quick response in red pen to actually improving work to reach the next level of progress and get that verified. This process has shown me that DIRT and peer verification are now fully embedded into the department.

DIRTy geography

I had an interesting bit of a twitter discussion re DIRT last week with someone who had been criticised in a lesson observation for allowing DIRT to take away from the main focus of the lesson. That isn’t an issue here-the time to experiment is when you are being observed so we can help and be an extra pair of hands and eyes HOWEVER making the most of giving the students’ time to improve and reflect is a matter of trial and error for us all as we work out what works best. I gave lots of different ideas out before Easter and changed the D to F for FEEDBACK on your learning-didn’t stick though! Few of the slides here for new colleagues to give you some ideas. The quality of the feedback back to the teacher from the students is the key to using DIRT or any other form of ‘dialogue’ marking.

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One of my concerns when I monitor the books and look at DIRT activities has always been the quality of the questions set-that’s why one of our key areas on our book monitoring self-analysis forms is QUESTIONING! This is especially so with our lowest ability students when the questions spotted can be closed and basic-there is nothing wrong with basic knowledge and SPaG prompts-the students do need these to help their recall/retention, fill gaps in their knowledge and patient build-up of their marginal gains is absolutely fine and necessary. Closed questions help and should be used but more challenging deeper questions should be part of the mix too. Although my year 8 class struggle with writing their thoughts down accurately and some get very frustrated with ‘all the writing’ stuff they do need to be challenged with some big thinking questions. I tried these made up scenarios on Monday with them.


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We have been studying earthquakes and in the current geography affairs section of the lesson looked at the heavy snow fall in the USA. A few points about my thinking.

  • The ability to consider 2 things at the same time and draw a conclusion is the basis of most G.C.S.E. questions-it shouldn’t be avoided with our low sets. How we get them to be able to answer these tough questions is down to our growth mind-set!
  • Don’t forget that most of these students [all probably] will have a scribe in their exams-speaking and listening is crucial and must be developed. Having to write answers down does hinder some of their thought processes-they are capable of some great thinking but can’t always commit it to paper. This shouldn’t be a barrier to us trying to extend their thinking capacity. They did find this activity tricky and told me it was hard BUT two of the students who find writing the most frustrating due to dyslexia told me that they really enjoyed the discussion. Their oral answers were far stronger than the written DIRT. I did then wonder when I was reading their answers-why the hell have I asked them to write this down! Probably because that’s the way it’s always been done, we value the written word more than the spoken and so on. I suppose that I justify it by thinking that they do need help with their written work to gain more success and this may help-realistically it probably just frustrated!
  • Writing down feedback questions/advice is time consuming-stickers don’t work for me-and most of us tend to have 4 or 5 differentiated comments that we use to cover 20 plus students. Some do use named question on the IWB to save time and I did this with the small class and after their initial thoughts on their own, I despatched them to pair up with blue or red partners to add to their original answer/thoughts.

When I came towards the end of a very long sporting career playing something every Saturday from 14 to 47, I probably became far more thoughtful a player and possibly better and more skilful. As some physical faculties began to fail-speed, energy, hand-eye co-ordination-others skills-spatial awareness, conserving energy until needed most, not relying on pace but slight of foot or hand-came to the fore. Perhaps that’s the same in teaching and school leadership-the initial rush of 20 something enthusiasm and exuberance is gradually replaced by experience [no place for cynicism at MCHS!] and a willingness to listen more and admit when I’ve got it wrong in the class or outside of it! Much of what we‘ve taken for granted in terms of ‘good’ pedagogy or ‘great’ leadership may just be simply wrong. Sometimes it needs Peaky Blinders coming to town to see different ways of doing things to help us to re-assess our own contributions and to up our own games. Long may it continue!