Monthly Archives: January 2015

On your marks, get set-feedback!

The first directed time meetings of 2015 have given faculties the opportunity to discuss our new BSG assessment system and to moderate/share reflections and to return to the ineradicable theme of feedback and marking. All colleagues have been involved in the individual book monitoring process and good practice has already been shared in internal and external blogs. Our Tuesday night meetings provided the chance for subject leaders to highlight the best practice that they had observed in the book scrutiny and for faculty members to bring the ideas that they have been most pleased with to show their colleagues. They were asked to bring to their respective tables, examples which matched the following criteria;

  • Best marking innovation/idea trialled
  • Best/numeracy SPaG marking
  • Best fast feedback/time saving but effective marking
  • Best dialogue back from students/impact of students successfully achieving feedback given [this doesn’t have to be marked by you]
  • Best self/peer critique
  • Best use of DIRT
  • Most challenging feedback/marking
  • Best differentiated marking
  • Best exam prep
  • Owt else you really like and others should know about

All faculty colleagues should have examples submitted for sharing.

These are areas we have been working on as a school and examples are constantly shared to avoid any hints of inconsistency within subjects or across the whole school. Students are entitled to high quality feedback that best supports their learning in every classroom in this school. I don‘t like the words ‘non-negotiable’ but this is as near as it gets! What is negotiable and open to professional choice is how our school policy is adapted to suit individual and subjects. I’ve explained this and shared so many examples previously of what our ‘bottom line’ is and how colleagues have been trialling different strategies to find the best ones that match whole school and individual/subject/class learning needs. It is relatively easy, in any school, to find wonderful examples of amazing feedback from some teachers-what it isn’t easy to do is to find wonderful examples from EVERY teacher including SLT-this is just one of the ways that we are trying to create a collaborative environment to allow great marking and feedback to be humanly possible.

Every teacher in MCHS has contributed to this compilation/recent marking blogs.  Some of our feedback/marking ideas are here but most blogs have feedback examples in them-it’s that important!

Provided that the feedback is delivered appropriately and quickly, orally or written, as the students are learning, in the ‘old’ written way after the lesson, that it makes them think and gives them more work to do than the teacher giving it, that they have time to check, understand, respond successfully, be verified, get DIRTy, only receive the same feedback once  AND their learning improves as a result and both teacher and student can provide the evidence of this and convince me that the learning has ‘stuck’-I’m a happy man.


Consequently there are a whole range of shared tactics that may suit one MCHS teacher but not another; however it is crucial for our professional development that we provide as many different internal and external examples as possible and increasingly consult the research which may suggest the comparative validity of the examples. Student voice should also be consulted and this will appear in our next long blog.

Our SCIENCE faculty regularly scrutinise books in their timetable planning meetings and I fed-back on their 30 second marking trial in an earlier blog.

These are some of their latest examples.

Best marking innovation/idea trialled

Coloured pens to speed up marking, highlight reflection and improvements – CM but used as standard across dept


FD use of coloured pens


Best/numeracy SPaG marking

Numeracy self-marking to emphasise distribution of marks and keyword focus. CM

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Best fast feedback/time saving but effective marking

Students complete work / peer or self-assess / redraft / verify before final teacher check. HS

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Best dialogue back from students/impact of students successfully achieving feedback given [this doesn’t have to be marked by you]

WS Self critique after GCSE module exam, reflection about what when well and areas for improvement. Followed up by teacher advice.


Best self/peer critique

First red section is self-assessment using a mark scheme, then a redraft to show improvement. Second page is peer assessment critique.

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Peer assessment, then a redraft based on suggested improvement, then teacher question to further extend.

Best use of DIRT


Example of DIRT shown below. Student answered an open ended question and after initial marking was pushed further to describe the function of each part of the cell. They responded and teacher asked them a further question to be answered.


Best exam prep

RM’s students identified the topics they found most difficult leading up to the exam. Their partner then wrote three challenging questions on this topic, which was then peer assessed, improved, and peer verified.



You can see that the scientists have been trying their best to encourage re-drafting and encouraging signs across the school have been seen in our monitoring-not popular with the students but important to keep pushing ‘excellence’ as par for the course when the books are handed in for their final mark. Some teachers have trialled using notebooks-this is from Katie Fleetwood’s book scrutiny’

How have you tried to get them to give you ‘nearly perfect’ work in for marking/used re-drafting?

Draft work books for example with year 9 story they had to redraft work to ensure it was the best it could be. Quality of work finally produced was much higher than initially.

DIRT provides the ideal time for this as Sarah Cunliffe explained in her book scrutiny;

How have you tried to get them to give you ‘nearly perfect’ work in for marking/used re-drafting?

Pupils when completing DIRT tend to improve their work to a higher standard which either probes the sub-text at a deeper level or addresses another specific assessment criteria

Other methods of improving answers-re-drafting shorter exam style questions were explained by Martin Davis in his book scrutiny.

How have you tried to get them to give you ‘nearly perfect’ work in for marking/used re-drafting?

We use mark schemes to help students see what “perfect” looks like. Students then peer assess and provide ways to help reach full marks. We also discuss common misconceptions/mistakes as a class to help during DIRT.

Students are encouraged in DIRT to reach full marks using the feedback.

The use of self and peer critique to re-draft is beginning to work well and I saw a glorious example in Sophie McQueenie’s very able year 11 drama class when the students peer critiqued using dot marking. They left dots on the page where they felt one of the key criteria for achieving top drama marks had been missed-no clues were given and the students then had to re-read their work and find their error. They were then given a timed period to re-draft incorporating their response to the feedback before re-submitting to their peer and then Miss.

I did spot WWW and EBI in the science examples and was talking this week to a colleague [I can’t recall who-there’s a surprise!!] and asking that they make sure the students add an example and impact to Even Better If [Example, Impact of my suggestion will be…] and What Went Well [Impact this had on your learning] Just suggestions!

Our MFL faculty sent me their examples.

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For a more detailed account of peer critique in MFL, last January the second half of this blog tells more and shares examples.

Our PERFORMING ARTS trio explained their ideas in some detail and added lots of photos to display their feedback in action.

Best Marking innovation/idea trialled:

  • New ‘sticker’ sheets in drama are effective during peer/self/teacher assessment. Everything is structured and shapes feedback well pushing students to include key vocabulary. Everything is contained on one sheet and can be referred back to during class activities.
  • Use of ‘hi five’ for plenaries acts as a clear summary of learning which supports self and teacher assessment and saves both time when marking/doing check backs. Progress star for evaluation at end of topic is also a clear and concise and saves time.

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Best Feedback/time saving but effective marking:

  • Cover sheets have been redesigned in music to make explicit use of ‘DIRT’ through the acronym ‘SPADE’ and is clearly structured featuring tick boxes making check backs and marking much faster. Also progress star/hi five as mentioned above make feedback clear, concise and structured but are so clearly laid out that it is saving students and teachers time.

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Best dialogue back from students:

  • Year 11 drama books making good use of ‘dot’ marking and redrafting, making comments about the specific gaps in exam questions which have been identified through use of assessment criteria. Comments are addressed immediately by students who write the missing information out again underneath it. Feedback received is written again at the top of next piece of work to remind them to include it next time.

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  • Feedback sheets done with year 10 music during one to ones filled in collaboratively to agree specific targets following self-assessment.

Best self/peer critique:

  • Most feedback is done verbally in KS3, but use of assessment mats in music and drama has resulted in excellent use of vocabulary that is structured into sentences.
  • KS3 music books feature ‘2 stars and a wish’ peer assessment which is supported by the mats and demonstrates excellent clear, music specific feedback regarding performances and composition. Year 9 have identified specific features such as strong leader, clear structure and creation of polyrhythm through syncopated ostinatos.

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Best Use of DIRT:

  • DIRT is used after assessment and in review lessons in both drama and music. In music responses are recorded in books on the cover sheets using ‘SPADE’ and respond directly to feedback given by teacher. All require supporting evidence and must be signed, dated and verified.
  • Use of dot marking with year 11 drama has required ‘DIRT’ in order to decode the dots which do not use a key. They need time to revisit the set structures and decide what is missing.

Most challenging Feedback/marking:

  • Year 11 drama must now always check they have included the ‘top five’ and cannot achieve band one without these key words. They are being pushed to include higher level details from the A Level specification which detail how the performance shows time/place as well as explaining the intentions of the character. Year 10 are doing this but also making reference to A Level practitioners.
  • Year 10 music are being pushed to include modulations and key changes in compositions which is a higher level expectation of compositions. Marking and feedback is very specific and detailed when asking for features to be included/developed. ‘DIRT’ is essential for students to understand and implement these ideas.

Best Differentiated Marking:

  • Targets set in music are differentiated between upper and lower sets in accordance with the new assessment criteria (B/S/G) to make them achievable. Challenge is increased higher up the sets.
  • Year 11 drama marking shows evidence of more specific detailed support given to weaker students for exam prep, with structures, sentence starters and scaffolding used.

Best Exam Prep:

  • AB’s feedback from performance assessments to year 10 is specific and detailed, addressing all 3 areas of the criteria with points for improvements and suggestions for next time. Student’s feedback to this is clear and demonstrates understanding. Furthermore, the more harsh feedback still preserves their feelings!
  • Drama feedback at KS4 for the written exam uses specific terminology acronyms such as ‘top 5’ to prompt students to include key words and ‘SPATCA/SFASWA/SCAMPER’ to supporting structuring of exam questions.

Adele’s lesson study

Katrina and I observed Adele’s lesson study where she introduced her Modulation Toolkit and we saw the power of peer critique providing feedback as the students worked so that they could use each other’s advice to produce a quite difficult composition task. The faculty are trying to introduce A level concepts into their G.C.S.E. lessons to add additional challenge and aspiration-modulation, so they tell me, is a tough challenge! The students worked on their own task on the tables, before the peers critiqued the work, leaving advice, which was then used to help them produce the composition on the manuscript. [think I’ve got that right-I’m just a drummer!]

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Not to be outdone in Katrina’s return leg she used the drama studio floor as a giant Pinterest Board and again the students could add their own peer critique in a very physical and engaging way-fast intervention as they were working and then acted upon. The peer critique critiqued peer critique of the latest show-if you see what I mean!

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Our leading exponents of using technology to support all aspects of feedback are ICT and business studies. Tim and Claudio shared these current in initiatives with us.

Best marking innovation/idea trialled

Extensive use of Edmodo.

Best fast feedback/time saving but effective marking


Use of badges in edmodo to deliver feedback for each topic. Highlighting labels so as it is easy to pick up on what they need to do to progress further.


This is an example of a class. It shows clearly which students have completed which sections and that they have been awarded a badge.

Best dialogue back from students/impact of students successfully achieving feedback given [this doesn’t have to be marked by you]

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We have used Edmodo so as the students can upload their work, I can look at it and review it and then comment on it. This gives the students the oportunity to update their work and upload the latest version with amendments. The grading shows what they can achieve and what they have achieved.


This edmodo conversation is about feedback to the marking that teachers have done for their work.

Best self/peer critique


Students are able to post to the wall there work electronically. From there all students in the class are able to comment on the work. Therefore 30 students could post work at the same time and entire group giving mass feedback on all of the work at the same time.


We have also been using the AB Tutor software to exhibit students work to their peers in lesson time this has proved very popular when students critique their peers work. It is also a great way of getting instantaneous feedback.

Best use of DIRT


This is a screenshot of a student’s peer assessment of another students work, I have given them the criteria to think about when evaluating their peers work but asked the students to write down anything that they though was a reasonable review point.

Best exam prep

51This is a revision booklet we are trialling for Year 11 revision. The students are cutting images from past paper questions and using these to make notes on the specific subject matter.

And from Colin in BUSINESS STUDIES.

Year 11 mocks GCSE Business Studies unit 3 – class intervention and book monitoring


Students underperformed in the following areas in unit 3:

Topic knowledge: Sources of finance

Exam skills: 10 Markers, not focusing on 4 factors or completing a sufficient conclusion.



I planned an interactive 10 marker Business problem on sources of finance that students had to tackle in groups.

Stage 1

Students cut up the case study and put into correct categories:

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Stage 2

They complete a suitable 10 mark question on google docs using suitable command words.  


Stage 3

Students had to come to a Judgement in group’s using the ‘flexible thinking 10 maker scheme’ and use the Business Frisbee to go through the 10 maker scheme.


Stage 4

Students complete their own responses to the question in google docs


Stage 5

Students receive peer feedback on the comment option in google docs and then teacher feedback in 10 marker flexible sheets. The Focus is on considering the upsides and downsides of 4 factors (4 sources of finance) and improving conclusions.

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Stage 6

Students reflect on their progress on the interactive tracking sheet on Moodle

Stage 7

Student make improvements using my feedback and show improvements on progress sheets

All Students now have the grade boundaries for each unit at the front of their folders so they know what to aim for. It also demonstrates how gaining 10 marks would help them make marginal gains towards their overall unit 3 final mark!


Year 11 mocks GCSE Business Studies unit 2 – Controlled assessment marking

All students controlled assessment have been marked. A new Assessment sheet has been used that also includes Junes 2014 grade boundaries (see below)


Unit 1 multiple choice self and peer feedback

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Unit 3 Extended answer 6 markers [all class can see each other’s Q/A and ‘buddy’ up for peer support


End of unit student tracking sheet [shared with students]

Deleted for external blog

Student tracking sheet [self-critique]


Peer assess Business Buddy Moodle [peer critique]


PIC guide to support reading and selecting relevant information, re-drafting FAIL

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The Achilles heel of our marking and written feedback some years ago was the PE department-it was new to them, as was classroom teaching and the theory aspect of their G.C.S.E. examinations was also proving to be much weaker than their practical work. Their written feedback and advice needed to support their theory lessons as well, if not better, than their oral feedback supported the excellent achievements in the practical elements. Tom and I have spoken at length about how we can use DIRT in theory lessons to reinforce feedback received in practical lessons and we discussed much more!

You make the point that much of the feedback that needs checking by the students to see that it has been met is often placed in the context of practical sport so my suggestion would be to;

  • Remind the students at the beginning of their practical session to recall their SPADE feedback [if applicable] and to work on it in the lesson.
  • The next time that you have theory-begin with DIRT that asks them to recap on their successful [or not] achievement of their feedback in their last practical lesson-you kill two birds with 1 stone then. If you wanted to use DIRT to go over the verbal feedback given in the practical lesson only in the next theory lesson-that also would be a great chance to recall and consider and mix practical with theory. OR you could set a task at the end of your theory lesson in your spade that they have to consider on the next practical and feedback in the next theory!
  • Get the students to respond to your questions in a different coloured pen-not just so I can work out if they are answering your question but a] it makes it important and their brain might just recall their answer better [dodgy science but possible] b] it makes it easier for them to pick out key bits to revise c] If you use a different coloured pen again for peer assessment-you can really identify quickly the different aspects of marking when you are monitoring your faculty books and the students like the different pens and respond well!
  • You said you set different questions BUT are they differentiated deliberately? Could I tell by your questioning who were your most able? Or could I work out which aspects of the course the individual was struggling with?
  • You mentioned peer assessing of exam papers-are they then adding on peer suggestions/advice for making the marks up to the full quota [in their different coloured pens!] Look at the hist/geog examples of how, for instance, if a student got 4 marks-the peer suggests how to get the missing 2 to get full marks-the student responds with their answer and the peer and teacher can check. You may do this.
  • If you get the students to associate re-drafting with the marginal gains needed in practical lessons to achieve their best performance that may help with the psychology of it. Nothing should be given to you that isn’t almost excellent-they don’t like re-drafting-it’s hard work-but once their marks begin to improve and you add in peer support, they should respond better.
  • SPaG doesn’t amount to many marks but they might cost a grade and just be aware that spelling key words correctly will count for nothing if basic SPaG is incorrect-it is their/there that marks are usually lost!

PE are determined to provide the very best that they can in the classrooms and in practical sessions and they have been involved in lesson study development of peer critique [oral feedback] and have deliberately chosen their theory lessons to be observed in both appraisal, lesson study and peer observations and have always sought advice and feedback re their marking-Teacher Growth Mind-Set in action. They display their CPD foci and targets clearly so others can support and celebrate the success and development of each other.

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Peer critique with specific feedback.

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Are you PROUD?

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Rosie’s dance exam question advice-used as self/peer critique.

Below, Sam’s Xmas with starters, mains and Xmas pud to support exam question structure.

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Rosie PEER assessing with feedback and highlighted key areas of dance before verifying and commenting briefly.



Rosie and Aaron’s lesson study peer critique mat.


PE’s new SPADE and BUCKET marking showing dialogue, DIRT and successful completion of feedback.


I’ve shared quite a lot of the HUMANITIES faculty feedback and marking of late-the latest one being in a blog on NQTs and peer critique-examples of maths , history and geography and just before Xmas; Peaky Humanities Blinders with more history and geography.

I’m not biased of course but they do give me the chance to share my own marking and feedback tactics in context, for all to see-as I should do! I didn’t go to their meetings so they had a bit of peace and didn’t feel under pressure and have to thank Martin, in the absence of the 2 new mums, in organising the 3 NQTs and their sharing of their M and F. These are their examples.

Humanities Marking Examples


Peer Critique – Developing pupil skills to argue against a defended position.



Dot Marking – Focus on improving SPAG in lower ability levels.


Dialogue – Peer Assess, Teacher Assess and DIRT feedback and replies. [purple for peer, green teacher, red DIRT self-response

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Use of DIRT and Targeted questioning to improve and test pupils understanding. [BSG criteria being used-teacher –green pen, student-purple]


Target Setting – Peer and self-target setting


Purple Pen of Progress – Dialogue with pupils/teacher and purple pen to make improvements.


Redrafting – Recompleting work to improve their work and regarded.


Peer Verification – Across KS4-KS4 and low to high ability


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Peer Assessment for Assessments using Success Criteria

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Pupil Response to DIRT questioning


Dialogue with pupils to extend answers and develop knowledge.


Peer assessment on exam question – even after getting 6/6 always further developing answers. Peers must give specific advice/examples


More peer assessment after numerous GCSE questions.


Poor peer feedback – response to my marking shows how much more answer could be developed by pupils.



KS3 books – Before starting their written assessments pupils reflected on their last piece of written work and have given themselves a target of how they could achieve gold. They were encouraged to look back at this with the success criteria throughout their assessment to have a clear idea of how to succeed. This worked well and encouraged pupils to focus on their weaknesses from the previous assessment.

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A variety of dialogues completed during DIRT. The use of questioning allows pupils to develop their answers.

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Peer and self-assessment



Self-Assessment of strengths- chance to argue over their grade and “sell” work to me


Continuation of per verification at KS4- Adding in literacy marking and debate over grades for each exam style Q


Specific feedback which links to questioning- DIRT time verified by teacher/peer



Sarah collated a variety of different examples from her other English colleagues. Very artistic Sarah!

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Laura has used a nice DIRT idea borrowed from twitter.


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My MATHEMATICS colleagues are always trying to find the most appropriate written and oral feedback strategies for their different classes, and individuals within them. They have focused their lesson studies on their most and least able and are now considering their level 4 on entry students, especially disadvantaged ones, to ensure that they make comparable progress with their other students. Of equal importance will be their response in their planning, teaching and feedback to the changes in the maths curriculum and G.C.S.E.-a blog on its own!

  • Best marking innovation/idea trialled

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Setting peer designed questions

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  • Best/numeracy SPaG marking

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  • Best fast feedback/time saving but effective marking

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  • Best dialogue back from students/impact of students successfully achieving feedback given [this doesn’t have to be marked by you]

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  • Best self/peer critique

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  • Best use of DIRT
  • Tackling issues from homework

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  • Most challenging feedback/marking

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  • Best differentiated marking

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  • Best exam prep


  • Owt else you really like and others should know about

New challenge questions


New problem solving question with year 9 to help develop fluency

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New Peer marking WWW and EBI


Unfortunately RE Jen is poorly at the moment-get well soon-so I’ll share RE’’s marking later on. Some colourful examples from our ART/DESIGN TECHNOLOGY faculty next.

Examples from Josie;

Year 7 – Those Little Things

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Year 8 – Train Tickets

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Year 8 – Peer Assessment

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Year 9 Those Little Things focussed feedback and DIRT

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Some G.C.S.E examples of sharing the exam criteria, teacher feedback and dialogue from Katie.

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One of the big issues with the more practical subjects is that much of the feedback given is verbal-as the students are working, the teacher will move around intervening when appropriate and giving feedback to help with any misconceptions, raising questions about how improvements could be made, my favourite questions of challenging them as to why ‘have you done it this way, can you think of a different way, where can you take your learning next’ and so on and so on. This hopefully happens in every lesson-the best kind of feedback is quick intervention that directly impacts on the learning NOW-with time to reflect for the students on their intervention in DIRT. It isn’t possible to keep a record of all of this valuable teacher or peer feedback by writing everything down-the moment may be lost then anyway and the flow of the lesson interrupted and if the recording of verbal feedback is just to keep Jonesy or Ofsted happy when books are monitored-it probably isn’t being done for the right reason and won’t be effective!

Some colleagues do use verbal feedback stampers-I will buy them and recommend they are used to help the students recall key feedback points at the end of the lesson so that next lesson they can check them and action them. They can evidence their successful response to their feedback to self, peer or teacher at an appropriate time-there is another stamper for this to save time. This type of fast feedback positive intervention seems a sensible approach to support both the teacher workload and student learning and fits in with our overall feedback policy.

Tony gave me a couple of examples of a year 7 student demonstrating this in action and commented that;

Ongoing verbal feedback is instigated by teacher backed up with ‘teacher verified’ and ‘verbal feedback given’ stampers. This is used every lesson and guides students towards areas that they can further improve – marginal gains. Students have the opportunity to address the feedback requests and guidance through teacher verbal feedback.  They spend this time working with peers making improvements to the quality of their work and asking questions of each other to help solve problems. Students self and peer assess their work in practical projects and in project work.

Students often write on the back of their peers work, setting targets for improvement which are then acted on.

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Aimee in food technology sent some of her recent self and peer BSG critique examples to share.

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There are so many examples but, of course, the selection only scrapes the surface of the written and oral feedback from teachers, peers and self that happens on a daily basis. Some of the other blogs have far more detailed examples from individuals or faculties and the idea is if you spot something that interests you-you need to go and ask to find out more! I am interested in the fastest most effective strategies to ease workload but I’m also aware of the potential, power of specific focused feedback and marking in areas of learning that both internal and external data has shown to be under-performing. If Hattie and others are right about the effect sizes of effective feedback, then we have to bear this in mind when we are considering our intervention tactics to ensure that progress of all cohorts and all subjects is constantly above the expected/more than expected measures for national progress. If we have thoughts about being a great school [and why shouldn’t we!] we have to beat such targets in every aspect of RAISE [we almost did] and have to aim in all areas to help ‘disadvantaged’ students equal or beat the other student grades.

Leon, in the governors’ curriculum meeting, talked about building a staff +1 mind-set, in terms of adding the magical 1 grade above expected progress-the staff were delighted when he showed the fruits of their work in the lovely green of RAISE but we know that in English, our level 5 students need attention, in maths, our L4 students were comparatively weak and other subject such as PE will have spotted anything at all that resembles a slight dip [PE A*/A] Beginning in year 7, we need to plan to use our marking and feedback to immediately support our areas for improvement-I’m not sure that we’ve thought as strategically as this before-perhaps we should?

Colleagues are certainly sharing their progress matrices with students and a valid suggestions to get from green to purple, as the students say, is to act on great teacher feedback-let’s give it them whilst at the same time digging deeper with some of our research into the impact of our marking and its contribution to the learning progress that at the moment is pleasing, but still needs to climb above +1! Imagine the celebrations we could have if we pull that off for our students!

They also have to play their part in adopting the GM that welcomes critique and seeks out and acts on the excellent advice they are being given. All our hard work will count for nowt, if they don’t engage in the dialogue, self and peer critique, DIRT etc. that they are being asked to. More of how we can continue to develop their role and what exactly their opinions are on effective marking and feedback will be in the next big blog. I’ve already began ‘walking’ and this morning began to gather student evidence and I offer a quick preview from the delightful Arwen in year 7 who in response to my question,

“Show me/tell me about an example of when you have received feedback from your teacher and you have responded with your own target and successfully achieved the advice given.”

Arwen chose this example from Rachael H in English and was able to tell me how she successfully met Rachael’s wish and Arwen’s own action points [sentence starters] in a later piece of work. Not sure of “well-spelt” but I got the gist and enjoyed a very informative morning with students representing all of our English teachers. Lots more to come and vital that the students are constantly involved in the feedback discussions.








British Values

We have a variety of surveys throughout the year to ask our students about different aspects of their learning and teaching-some are whole school and some are subject specific. Once or twice a year I do like to involve the whole school via tutor group time, in a more philosophical speaking and listening exercise. It’s important that as they become young adults, our students have the opportunity to discuss and be made aware of, some of the big issues that school doesn’t always offer curriculum time to. Their opinions will matter very much to our nation in a few years’ time-they are our future electorate and future of the UK-most schools would accept that they should prepare their students academically, socially and culturally for the responsibility that will be theirs-we do!

In the last week before Xmas and first 2 weeks of 2015, every tutor group has been given a set of questions about British Values [and school values] to discuss and feedback to our school community via our bulletin, posters and this blog. The topic was chosen because it has become a much discussed topic in education [and beyond] along with ‘resilience’ and ‘grit’ [check out our growth mind-set blogs] and I wanted to gather the views of the most important people in our school-our students! I don’t want to see British Values being ‘done’ to our students because Ofsted or politicians want evidence of it-no tick boxes-I want to see if they have an opinion and what it is. That should provide current evidence should we [and they] wish to action some of their suggestion re school and consider curriculum gaps where they suggest we might discuss British Values and Meols Cop values further.

It goes without saying that in this type of discussion the political views of teachers are not aired with the students; great care is asked to be taken with how the discussions are shaping so that no students feel uncomfortable and as a secular school, our values should reflect no political, religious or any other ‘group’ value other than MCHS and our community. During the chosen weeks, however, the terrorist incident in Paris occurred and this was added to conversations about the freedom of speech, if appropriate and this could include other issues around the world e.g. Nigeria, Syria, Pakistan, to talk further about our own democratic values and freedoms. I shared a set of great resources compiled by another blogger Emma Kell @thosethatcan to help discuss the French situation which, although the current debate involves some very difficult and confusing concepts, [for adults!] may have raised questions that our students wanted to pursue. Again caution was requested in choosing the suitability of any resources. Greg Thornton shared another resource he had found to make British Values easier to understand for his year 7 form, which was shared with all staff.

The questions asked of each form were these.

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The curriculum areas where British Values was covered already, according to the students was in PSD and RE with smidgeons in history, English and RE. The actual descriptors covered least were;

An understanding of how citizens can influence decision-making through the democratic process;

An understanding that there is a separation of power between the executive and the judiciary, and that while some public bodies such as the police and the army can be held to account through Parliament, others such as the courts maintain independence.

I used the DFE descriptors rather than giving student friendly sentences and the separation of power was difficult for them to understand even with guidance. 8HW commented, ‘Don’t do anything about that – what does it even mean?’

The values that they thought were more important than the others covered a range, apart from 1 and 3 but probably more went for 2 and 4.

An appreciation that living under the rule of law protects individual citizens and is essential for their wellbeing and safety;


An understanding that the freedom to choose and hold other faiths and beliefs is protected in law;


8AM said- “We feel that number 4 is more important than the others for people in our country because we have to accept that we have people who live here from other countries.

If it wasn’t protected in law then people would not feel safe expressing their feelings” whilst a couple of forms thought that no 5 was becoming more and more important as we became increasingly more multi-cultural.

An acceptance that other people having different faiths or beliefs to oneself (or having none) should be accepted and tolerated, and should not be the cause of prejudicial or discriminatory behaviour;


Some students felt that the current list of values covered similar values to what they would have chosen If you were to draw up a list of ‘British Values’ would you choose anything different? Why?-whilst interesting additional ‘values’ suggestions included a greater focus on combatting racism, no family in the UK should go hungry and all should have access to food [food banks] 7GT considered the attacks in France and then sir told me that “this came up during out talks about the French attacks. Pupils in my form are torn on the issue of free speech. Many feel that you should be allowed an opinion on anything, this includes religion but many of the form believe there should be a line drawn when people feel discriminated or targeted. They all do however believe that we should be allowed to have a say and opinion over this, as we do naturally and we should be allowed to say it without a risk of violence.”

The discussion focus for the questionDoes your group think that ‘British Values’ are any different to the values other countries may have?-tended to talk about countries who lack many of the rights and freedoms that we take for granted. China and its 1 baby policy was mentioned as was the secret state of North Korea, religious intolerance in Israel and lack of freedom of speech in Russia but more general comments were made about the fact that they felt that we had freedom of choice over religion, we have a separate judiciary and we have a voice. Some other countries they felt were sexist and racist and that in the Middle East some countries lacked respect for women, gave them no clothing rights and discriminated openly against different religions.

As an adult I thought that they might have suggested that many countries had very similar values to us and may question the idea of ‘Britishness’ as unique. They didn’t!

I certainly had no preconceptions on how they would answer my question– Why do you think the government has drawn up a list of BVs? Should schools have to follow this list? I suppose that I believe that they should, as active citizens in a democracy, question what they have been asked to do [apart from when I tell them to put their blazer on-could lead to a serious big question about freedom/rights in school!] so I was interested to see if they had picked up on current political rhetoric. Some felt that the list of values was to keep everyone in order, show what you are supposed to do, to know good/bad or to help us to feel safe and secure. –‘to help us grow up in a happy world and a country without war’. One form said that it was important to know British Values from an early age so that you would be less likely to be racist and another said that schools should follow the guidance to help prepare children for their life ahead.

11AO added that ‘Yes they think these values should be followed in school in order to have a respectful and peaceful learning environment. Whereby everyone feels safe to learn.’ 8HW getting their teeth into the debate suggested that they, ‘didn’t know, what’s the point? Shouldn’t we be learning Maths and English instead? Isn’t it what we learn from our families?’

This wasn’t the first time that I’ve asked the question, what are the most important values Meols Cop should have for our students and staff? , and it won’t be the last. I make no apologies for this-is there a more important question for a school to consider and constantly raise with its own students and wider community? There were a range of answers on a similar theme;

  • Treat everyone as equals.
  • Don’t judge others by their appearance.
  • Students and staff should respect and tolerate the differences in each other, so everyone feels safe and happy at school.
  • Make sure people are fair.
  • Freedom of speech.
  • To feel safe and have access to a good education.
  • Respect the promotion of individuality.
  • Freedom to express ourselves and our values and beliefs-free from discrimination and prejudice.
  • Respect and appreciation of others in the school.
  • Working hard to improve yourselves.
  • Everyone has a say but also having someone in charge.
  • Mutual respect for all – treat others as you would like to be treated.


7ZE took the discussion another way;

7ZE consider the following things to be British:

Proud of WW1 and WW2

Respectful of other faiths/religions


The Queen

Victorian and Tudors – still see the buildings

Fish and Chips, All day breakfasts


Rights to Education, housing

Equal rights for everybody

And Miss E’s favourite…

Top hats, canes and monocles.

It wouldn’t be a student survey if some didn’t mention their own lack of freedom in school! The earring rule probably isn’t about to change but the students have the right to raise their grievances and we need to explain why some of our rules exist.

Interestingly none of the students  mentioned that schools should have the freedom not to teach what they were told e.g. British Values if they didn’t wish to for whatever reason and nor was it easy for them to consider where the lines of freedom should be drawn. Some were uneasy with the cartoons ridiculing religion or any hint of unpleasant words or deeds towards others who were different in race, gender, religion and so on and as 7TE said, ‘it’s a free country, we have many religions and beliefs in Britain and we all need to live happily together’

I did mention on our bulletin that I would share this blog for parents to see today and will add other comments as they are emailed to me. Thank you to all for sharing both personal and group ideas; I’ve enjoyed reading them and hope that the freedom in which each student was allowed to express themselves openly, honestly and without prejudice is something our young adults of the future will always defend and cherish.




CPD-The one where our NQTs did peer assessment

Our NQTs finished their first term at Xmas with Lisa successfully completing her year in October and Toni beginning hers then. They received their additional CPD on Wednesday evenings from a range of colleagues and then were asked to suggest other topics which they wanted to learn more about. Peer assessment [or critique as some call it] and especially peer assessment with our lower ability students came up as a concern. Perhaps that’s my fault for including it and not explaining again for new staff in our recent marking/feedback criteria, book monitoring, DIRT and GM inset and internal blogs-this probably makes it seem for NQTs as though peer assessment has to happen all of the time, with every class and with every learner-it may be the right time to consider its use as an effective learning and teaching strategy.

Sometimes when I’ve had plenty to say or ideas to share on a topic, I don’t necessarily review its effect on learning as quickly as I should or encourage others to do the same. It’s also easy to forget that NQTs may not have ever had a ‘learning conversation’ about different aspects of teaching that more experienced teachers see as the ‘norm’. Examples of peer assessment and research on it appear in our big marking blogs, noticeably these two;

Our original and more recently NQT examples in;

I can’t even remember when we started to ‘do’ peer assessment-perhaps it came with group-work and national strategies, AFL and eventually Ofsted. Like any other teaching strategy it shouldn’t just appear here because Jonesy says so! If done well it’s a difficult teaching strategy to employ-done badly and in haste, because you are worried that MCHS expects you to do it-don’t go there! I do worry about the formulaic approach to teaching that many NQTs come with for whatever reason-experienced teachers here [and leaders] need to model flexibility, adaptability and be able to react to the learning needs presented. There are so many individual and class needs to consider that it’s worth re-considering the big questions below before trialling your ideas in class, measuring the impact and adapting-if you think that peer assessment will be a worthwhile learning activity.

Our session began with quickly completing an A3 sheet to prompt discussion and help me gauge experience and concerns. The research bits were left blank to begin with. Without any prompting from me they jotted down some initial thoughts based on their short experience firstly in their ITT and then in their first term here. Their own experiences are the best place to begin with the most important question to ask of any pedagogy-

  • Does it help learning in your classroom? Followed by;
  • If it doesn’t at the minute but you can see the value of it and want it to work-that’s fine-we can help.
  • If you have tried it, it doesn’t work and you can’t see any value in supporting learning-abandon it or listen to others who have an opposite view-are they right, do you want to see them in action?
  • Has it worked with some and not others-why not-we can help.
  • Have you tried it, adapted it-show and tell us more.
  • Have you observed someone else teaching PA-what did you learn?

PAWe discussed peer assessment in general to begin with and the main positive aspects that they thought of amongst many others were;

  • The students can learn from each other.
  • They can question each other.
  • Encourages team work/confidence.
  • Allows private reflection.
  • Gives insight into other methods of doing something.
  • View common misconceptions.
  • Views from peers might mean more.
  • May take help from peers better than from the teacher.
  • Using the mark schemes reinforced essential learning/knowledge/skills.
  • Extends knowledge/answers

I was interested to see that they didn’t mention PA as a time-saver for marking/fast feedback or its role in growth mind-set/preparing for life but their negative aspects of PA held few surprises.

  • Silly/not useful comments.
  • Time consuming [FS subjects only have 1 lesson a week in KS3]
  • Inaccurate answers-can bring misconceptions rather than stop them.
  • Can cause a lack of confidence when better work is critiqued.
  • They struggle to think of their own questions to raise-some too easy-some too hard
  • Long-winded explanations.

Their specific concerns with low ability students attempting PA [their initial CPD request] focused on;

  • Their difficulty in processing instructions.
  • So much support was needed that learning time was wasted.
  • Does the time spent really help progress?
  • Basic issue of not being able to read each other’s writing.
  • Sometimes it went on for too long and was incomplete anyway.
  • If it worked out to be too complicated that had a knock on effect on behaviour.
  • The quality of the answers and feedback wasn’t always worth it.
  • They found it harder to pick pout the key pints for marks.

We briefly chatted about the use of more able students being linked with students of less ability in both our mixed and set groups-the old stuff about learning by teaching others and that is fine for some occasions but if it is always the case, the learning gain is one-way-the more able need to work with each other to challenge their learning sometimes too whilst students of similar abilities can ‘struggle’ with a problem and have the learning satisfaction of conquering it!

The group decided that teaching peer assessment was different for more reasons than low or high ability-some salient points based on their experience.

  • Different with different ages-more difficult with younger students whilst they learned PA skills. Their first attempts at learning often don’t give feedback that will help learning progress.
  • Low ability sets have less students-smaller numbers make it easier.
  • Higher sets have larger numbers-can make it more difficult but they access the vocabulary more easily.
  • Really makes a big difference at G.C.S.E. level [more later]
  • The amount of lessons per week influences planning.
  • Different in different subjects-PA in MFL is hard to create dialogue, maths use to be marking right or wrong.
  • Some sets and some students are far more amenable to peer interaction of any nature than others! [I wouldn’t attempt PA until I knew the class really well.]

For those who had already attempted a fair bit of peer assessment they had realised quickly that their planning needed to include the following;

  • Specific vocab and structure.
  • Very clear criteria and mark scheme [as student friendly as possible]
  • Clear instructions-what exactly should the students include when assessing or giving feedback.
  • Broken down in stages for the low ability sets.
  • The use of purple pens, EBI, WWW often helps.

We did discuss the semantics involved-they thought that ‘assessment’ sounded more like a tick box approach whereas ‘critique’ suggested a more thoughtful approach with evidence and advice given. It does sound like ‘critic’ to the students but it fits nicely with our GM and perhaps we should use the C word and explain to our classes why we have decided to use it and the more mature approach it expects from learners.

Some of their initial thoughts may have been shaped by what they have read on our shared blogs or at their ITT schools or courses-that’s fine but there are other views and we looked at extracts from 4 different educational books, just skimming and scanning to highlight ideas that might provide solutions or guidance. In the busy school day and after school planning and marking, it isn’t always possible to check out more theoretical ideas as the need to find ready-made resources tends to take precedent. Mixing a bit of both, we moved onwards! Extracts of differing lengths were from; ‘Feedback and Marking’ by Robert Powell, ‘Evidence Based Teaching’ by Geoff Petty, ‘Putting AFL into Practice’ by David Spendlove and ‘Perfect AFL’ by Claire Gadsby.


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We had already considered solutions but were able to add a couple more that they liked.

  • Structures as mentioned previously.
  • Oral rather than written feedback is fine-the learning anticipated may be more to do with communicating ideas rather than imparting knowledge/specific feedback.
  • Simplified criteria tick boxes will support feedback and provide discussion points.
  • Stems need to be in some cases to get the questions/feedback flowing.
  • Colour coordinated is nice!
  • What Petty calls ‘spoof’ feedback-examples to peer critique from other classes/teacher models before using the actual class work-builds confidence. Seen in lots of my observations along with the use of WAGOLLS!
  • Get the students to write their own questions and mark-schemes to use on each other-again observed in more experienced teacher’s lessons and a good ‘un-so much useful learning in this activity.
  • If you like ‘effect size research’-claimed that peer feedback done well has a good impact but done well and done quickly after the initial learning-even better.

The humanities faculty are very keen on their development of peer critique and both Greg and Andy felt that in their G.C.S.E. classes, they could evidence the positive impact of PC especially when the students were giving extra advice to build up answers for the 6 mark questions. The process had helped their students to understand the key marking processes and to see the need to include reasoning to attain top marks. This was becoming embedded as an important teaching tool in KS4 but was more problematic in KS3. Greg had used peer critique to provide feedback to move up the BSG leader and had developed a ‘staged’ approach towards supporting his less able students access PC. Helen had also used very brief PC when her younger classes were working on their BSG but the linguistic barrier to offering target language feedback is a tough one and she will look to the ideas developed by Helen H and Bronagh with their MONSIEUR and SENORITA-explained in the marking blogs and in this blog from exactly 1 year ago.

The difference between ‘assessment’ and ‘critique’ was highlighted by Beth when she explained that she has tried to move beyond right or wrong peer ticking to getting her students to peer critique the processes involved in answering her maths problems and when she plays the maths favourite-‘beat the teacher’ when the sum and working out are given to the class to dissect to find Miss’s mistakes. She will then ask WWW and EBI.

Toni has the unenviable task of taking over, on a maternity cover to begin with, from two more experienced teachers and although we brought her in early to work with Emma before she had her baby, her priority is with year 10 and 11 [hence the very handsome teaching assistant she has in those lessons!] and she has to make the decision of whether or not peer critique is for her at this moment in her fledgling career. If she fancies having a go with KS3, it would make a good joint lesson planning venture and observation or I can model with KS4. The other NQTs because they started earlier are all paired up for lesson study and can work on tricky pedagogy with their partner-Toni might have to end up with me-sorry!

These are some of Greg’s early attempts at PC shared in October as he experimented and trialled ideas. The red comments suggest possible stems the students can use but they would have to explain their chosen sentence and provide an example.

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Red peer critique and feedback given to which the students respond to in purple to increase their score.

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Yesterday’s peer critique with the lowest set in year 7-my advice is to add a section where the student respond to the peer critique by agreeing/disagreeing/pinching ideas.

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Beth shared her examples below and explained her thinking for us-this is a really important process for her to develop, important for me to see it happening and important for any teacher to respond to the learning as it unfolds. Our lesson study encourages anticipation of the learning that may happen and planning for it/or for anticipated misconceptions. Learning isn’t an exact science like this and there is an excitement [ok despair sometimes!] when the students throw spanners into our planned works and we use our skill to react and adapt-NQTs have to learn this quickly!

The explanations are Beth’s words.

I first trialled peer-assessment with my year 9 class in the autumn term, during the previous lessons we has been working on finding prime factors and then using them to find LCM and HCF. They had had quite a bit of practice on this so we started the lesson with them answering a question in their own books.


They then swapped books and we discussed the key processes of answering a question on HCF and LCM as there were several stages to go through. (See below)


We then practised peer-assessing my attempt at answering the question. I deliberately left some of the steps out in order for us to discuss improvements. We came up with What Went Well (WWW) and what could have been done better. (EBI)

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The pupils were then asked to do the same with their peer’s work. They had to identify which of the key steps their peer had done well, and then had to suggest an improvement for their work.

I feel the lesson helped us to really “home in” on the key steps to answering a question on LCM and HCF.

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After our discussion at the meeting last night I also tried a similar technique with year 7 this afternoon.

They had been working on the topic of angles in parallel lines for a lesson or two and were comfortable with answering standard questions on this topic. To stretch them I gave them a problem solving question which required them to give a proof (shown in book below)

I then allowed the class to attempt to answer the question, they then swapped books and we discussed the key processes of answering the question.

I then asked them to give their peer one WWW and one EBI. They had to state which of the processes their peer had managed to do. And then give one way to improve their work. (A lot of the class needed to add in a final sentence to complete the proof).

Again I think our discussion as a class and the peer assessment helped them to recognise the key steps in answering a longer “proof” question like this and showed them the importance of giving reasons for their answers.

I’m hoping to give them the second proof to answer next lesson, and see if they are able to give an improved answer to this second question as a result of the peer assessment.

Pictures below, pupils answer the problem in their coloured pens, peer-assessment is done in purple.

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Me again!

I had already invited those who could to see me modelling peer critique with my very low ability year 8 class and low-middle ability year 8 class. I discussed in our humanities blog [above] that ability shouldn’t be a barrier to any teaching tactics that I think will support and move learning on. Peer interaction of any kind offers vital communication opportunities which some of our students find difficult so I’m always keen for them to maturely talk to each other about their learning and to compromise and learn from others. The criteria for the critique/discussion, I thought offered access to all of my students and I’m quite happy to see lots of talk and not much writing. I’m lucky enough to have 2 TAs with one class to help with any writing or other worries the students may have. Some are fearful of sharing their work, some have learning needs-Asperger’s, dyslexia, hearing, EAL etc. which make written or oral responses difficult and stressful BUT as their mind-set develops they will have a go for me! [As they suck their lollies!]

I was keen to model peer verification-our idea of trying to make peer critique more accurate by adding in a 2nd assessor [and make the feedback and discussion have more body to it] and wanted to also show the key element, often missed, of going back to the original self-assessor and asking if they agreed with the advice given and had they changed their original views as a result of the critique. Both classes critiqued posters they had made so it will be sometime before I come back to the advice given and check that it has been acted upon in the next piece of similar learning.

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The volcano one allows ticks for 3 sections, if need be and the TAs and myself ran round to see if those who ticked could justify their choice. Others were happy to write short sentences and in our class discussion they agreed that it had been a pleasant experience that they could access and understand, although a couple refused point blank to consider that the peer assessor’s views were worthy of their consideration! It was a start.

I was almost ready to send the blog out to everyone when I paused to visit Sophie’s drama lesson to informally peer observe with Katrina the second in a series of ideas Sophie is using for her NPQML project. The girls involved are high flying year 11 students who find self-evaluation and peer critique stimulating and worthwhile-they can see how it is helping their examination grades approach their targeted A/A*. I will have the pictorial evidence newt week but Sophie was allowing her peer student critique to follow our own guidelines for feedback-make the students think, more work for them than us, re-draft to excellent before Miss sees it-in that when they peer critiqued an exam answer, they used dot marking to indicate where they thought there was a gap in the answer and they also had to highlight key words [the top 5 drama exam response words] and mark out of 10 according to the mark scheme. Homework was for the students to look at the peer critique they had received, look at the placement of the dots and figure out what they had missed. They then had to re-draft for next lesson and for the peer to check again to see that their feedback had been met and then the books would be ready for Miss to mark. I’m looking forward to seeing the various stages in action!

The series of New Year blogs are all about taking a brief pause and reflecting on practice and development as teachers and leaders;

  • Where are we at with our CPD and appraisal targets-what has our experience in the autumn term taught us that we need PPD with.
  • As I’m collating this blog of shared ideas, I’m simultaneously compiling a post on where we are up to with growth-mind-set and our methods of embedding it further and asking the students how it has helped them [plus questions on marking and other initiatives] Not sure which one will be finished first!
  • By the end of January I will have shared an uber blog of all of your latest best marking practice gleaned from book monitoring and the next couple of directed time faculty meetings.
  • Probably by next week I will have shared our whole school survey on British values/our own school values to help us to take stock of what our students think about a national discussion.
  • Internally, not for external eyes, I shared our support staff ‘Magic Moments’ of last term-important for them to reflect too and for all of us to share and value their contributions.
  • By half-term, I will have probably shared your latest lesson study research and have built in directed time to allow some of this to happen-but never enough time!

It’s important not just for our NQTs but for all of us that we try to honestly self-evaluate our teaching and leadership. Seeking feedback and advice on how to teach or lead better should be a non-negotiable aspect of working at our school as should always thinking if my students aren’t getting this-how can I change and approach it differently. If our new colleagues want to take on peer critique-bring it on and we can all help at the time chosen by them as the most appropriate in their NQT learning curve.





Meols Cop Mind Set Stars

Meols Cop Mind Set Stars-is growth mind set making a difference to learning and teaching?

On our Xmas bulletin,

students and parents were given the following message:


Our Progress Stars have become a huge success since we introduced those 3 years ago. Over 800 have been sent home and appeared on the bulletin since this term began in September! They have become part of the fabric of our building and it’s wonderful to see so many names on the posters around school and to receive so many positive comments from home in praise of our initiative-thank you to everybody who has contributed to their success.

In January, the focus will change slightly with teachers and support staff being asked to look out for the attributes we associate with being a really good Meols Cop learner. Students need to be aware of these and remind their teachers if they think they have fulfilled one of the criteria and deserve recognition.

These are the MCMS Star attributes we will be rewarding;

  • Students who have achieved above their targets.
  • Students who have deliberately taken on a demanding challenge.
  • Students who have accepted honest, critical feedback and improved their learning.
  • Students who have re-drafted work to make it ‘excellent’.
  • Student who have responded to feedback with a specific plan and successfully achieved what was suggested.
  • Students who have given really effective peer critique with clear explanations about how to improve.
  • When the going gets tough; students who get going!
  • Students who always try to persevere with a difficult question or concept without, asking for help after 10 seconds! [0B4ME!]
  • Students who have gone out of their way to help others and who enjoy others achieving success.
  • Students who may have been feeling low and who have gradually, with patient support, begun to feel more positive.
  • Students who have tried their best when faced with a significant learning barrier and want to overcome it by chipping away with marginal gains.
  • Students who have self-analysed their own performance, decided it wasn’t good enough and improved through their own hard work.
  • Students who turn up to classes and are always positive and respond to ‘yet!’-there are lots of them.
  • Students who have asked for extra work and advice or attended extra lessons.
  • Students who always produce home-learning to the best of their ability because they know that practice at home helps them improve.
  • Students who always turn up for practices and rehearsals because they want to improve and seek excellence in everything they do.

Any more you can think of!

Developing a growth mind-set to help our students acquire attributes which we believe will support their learning at MCHS and beyond, has been a key aspect of our blogs this school year. The initiative has been drip-fed since September, although many aspects are as old as our school, and I’ve shared our ‘propaganda’ posters, early classroom examples and philosophy of staff GM in these posts.

The problem with initiatives, apart from having too many at once, is that often some of the wonderful ideas I spot on blogs and in educational literature are only followed by the person themselves or just a few colleagues. For whatever reason their great idea hasn’t been successfully ‘sold’ to others and hasn’t become part of the whole school ethos/accepted good practice. Without relentless pushing and monitoring, many ideas fizzle out and colleagues always gleefully recall failed initiatives-even within faculties or year teams! To be successful, an initiative has usually to be something that all at school value and can see the worth in, [they may have devised it themselves e.g. learning and teaching policy] it is clearly understood by students, parents and staff and is accessible to all. There are times when initiatives have to happen that may not be universally popular but school leaders feel are for the benefit of the school/students-a test of leadership skills but if leaders have built up the trust of colleagues, hopefully they will go with you in the belief that you haven’t messed up with too many other ill-conceived initiatives and ideas! Sometimes I dip my toes in and see how the tide is flowing e.g. Solo taxonomy, which I quite like and introduced 3 years ago on September inset-a couple of colleagues loved it, for others it was an initiative too far and at that point I prioritised marking and feedback as being a more appropriate focus-doesn’t mean I won’t return to it! For others such as Behaviour for Learning, the 6Cs, non-grading of lessons, lesson study and marking/feedback-I genuinely believed that they had to happen to move learning and teaching here upwards and onwards. I will try to persuade, explain, justify and will actively seek out areas of potential opposition, concern whilst also seeking out areas of great practice to share how, whatever initiative it is, looks when it is working well! I will model the idea for others to see as much as I can do-if we share marking-mine must be there-if we peer observe ideas-I must offer to be observed teaching and so on.

If the initiative is to have an impact on learning and teaching [no point introducing it if it doesn’t!] I will monitor the impact, ask questions of all and change the thrust if students/teachers tell me that there is minimal impact on their learning/teaching or some aspects are working better than others. I might have to swallow my pride and change completely [I didn’t say give up!!] and it is important that I’m seen to listen and react to professional consensus. For any new CPD/initiatives it’s crucial that as a staff we get used to trialling, assessing the impact, adapting, trialling again, sharing the successes and adaptations [and reasons] with colleagues, assess again etc.-If I stand up and talk about this type of professional development [see our last blog] I have to model it myself. My ideas have failed many times in the classroom or as a leader-[Flight Path didn’t take off as I wanted!] but for younger teachers, failure can be a bitter pill at first and we need to prepare them to use their mistakes, and even encourage them-concurrent theme through many of the blogs-teacher growth


My other SLT colleagues are positive Rottweiler’s with their initiatives and once they go for an idea, they chase and support relentlessly and gain respect as they go. If I mentioned the BSG assessment system and the school reporting system as they are recently in our minds-you’ll get the gist! It’s tough as a middle leader to get everyone to agree and follow an agreed format-for an SLT initiative to work you have to consider 100 adults, 750 students, their parents and sometimes the wider community. I hope that I can wind hearts and minds with our GM push and after a term of introductory ideas/great examples and watching for initial reactions, I’m moving up a gear of trying to make the concept an integral part of our learning and teaching psyche. I knew when our 6C [whole school competencies] had made an impact when in student surveys asking about great learning characteristics, they began to tell me the names of our Cs as desirable elements and similarly when the staff devised their ‘Meols Cop Way’  of learning and teaching-the Cs were there again. The Cs had been shared via assemblies, form-time activities, parental information, appeared on lesson planning sheets, used in activity weeks, surveyed and so on until everybody used them and they assumed value and credibility. I would hope that similar tactics will work equally well with GM and that students will see the value of it and tell me and that teachers will include it in their desirable lesson characteristics to be discussed in summer.

The bulletin article begins the next step of embedding GM. Our Progress Stars have proved to be incredibly successful and popular-the school is covered in posters sharing the names of students who have worked well in their lessons with specific learning reasons and 1000s of postcards have gone home to celebrate the learning progress made. The message is loud and clear-learning and progress are good, achievable by all and are celebrated here! I want the same to happen with the GM message. I do rely on teachers sending me the names of students and giving very specific reasons for their qualification to be a MCMS Star-hence the detailed list to choose from-and then then our office staff write up the bulletin names and send postcards home whilst I produce and stick the posters up. The new postcard is this and will have details of the student and their GM achievement on the back.


The same information will appear on the bulletins for all to see and they go home electronically each week [or on paper] Further posters have been placed in the dining room of the criteria so that the students can see what is happening whilst year 7 will have MCMS explained in Monday’s assembly. They are our target group for more intensive GM!

On today’s bulletin, the first mind-set names appeared to get 2015 learning off to a great start. They included;

Kieran Bradshaw, Micha Williams and Jessica Dewhurst for coming along to maths clinic on a number of occasions to seek help with maths homework in order to complete it to the best of their ability.

Malika Guenini has asked for advice on her science homework and for revision for her test. Sat in my room during several lunch times to work, without me asking her to.

Shakil Zaman and Craig Black for showing great perseverance during textiles lessons to over-come the challenges of hand sewing.

Natalia Reczulska or accepting challenges in textiles and developing her hand and machine sewing to a high level of accuracy

Natasha Polansky for always turning up to maths with a positive attitude and always trying her best with a number of difficult topics. Natasha never gives up!

Jack Dahl – 8.3 Science – When the going gets tough, students who get going! On the last day before Christmas, when he’d been off all week because he was ill and still wasn’t fully better, he sat at the back of the class and completed his end of term test even whilst the whole class were doing a fun game.

Eve Lancaster – Art – Eve always comes to Art with a positive attitude and willingness to learn new techniques. Her enthusiasm is infectious.

Lewis Taylor – 8.3 Science – Students who have tried their best when faced with a large learning barrier and want to beat it by chipping away with marginal gains. Didn’t achieve a Bronze first time around in his test, but by slowly working through the questions he eventually achieved it.

Samantha Halloran Smith, Lalibela Bolton, Bella Kenyon, India Clark, Hollie Power, Amy Redman and Molly Crawford will often stay behind at break or lunchtimes to discuss additional questions beyond the syllabus just because they are interested and really want to do well in science.

Tom Mitchell, Daniel Powell and Luke Ashton are really keen and have a super enthusiastic attitude. They go over past papers and mark schemes so they can see how to answer GCSE questions.

Caris Dixon finds the mathematical side of science challenging, but she is coming to intervention sessions and won’t give up – she is determined to achieve.

Erin Thornton, although she missed a lot of work from the Physics unit, she still chose to sit the end of unit test and did really well. Attempted all questions, even when they were difficult.

Charlotte Tye always attempts the questions first before she asks me. When I check it for her, she’s normally right!

Kayleigh Hayes will readily ask support and attend extra lessons and shows pleasing progress in her artwork.

Katie Macdonald came to extra science revision lessons and it proved successful – she met her target in her most recent assessment.

Louise Humphries completes all work to a beautiful standard and never gives up, even when she finds it difficult.

Nathan Beard arrives at art and is always positive. Completes all work to a high quality standard and never gives up, even when he finds it difficult.

Kyle Bell has identified the topics he makes silly errors on and has attended revision after school to improve his knowledge on these areas.

Students who always try themselves to stick at a difficult question/concept:

Yr 11 Megan Harrison

Yr 10 Ellie McKinnon, Emma Gratton, Kimberley Hickey and Fraser Anderson

Yr 9 Lee Brothers, James Ray and Rachael Connell

Yr 8 Jimmy Rimmer, Erin Sharrock-Ingleby, Amelia Cummins, Michael Hignett, Emily Allen and Xloe Johnson

Yr 7 Ellis Baker, Charlotte Maher, Millie Buckley

Students who have gone out of their way to help others and who enjoy others being


Yr 11 Liam Evans and Daniel Wilcox

Yr 10 Katie Howard

Yr 9 Dylan Burrows and Owen Taylor

Yr 8 Antonia Hirons, Ellie Homewood, Macy Mordey and Alex Mackey

Yr 7 Bekki Hayes, Jasmine Hitchcock and David Keenan

Students who may have been down and who have gradually, with patient support, began to feel more positive:

Yr 11 Maisie Kewin, Laura Redman and Romana Lloyd-Drummond

Yr 10 Alex Matthews

Yr 9 Megan Flint

Yr 8 Callum Hughes and Natasha Polansky

Students who have asked for extra work/advice/attend extra lessons:

Yr 11 Abigail Knapton, Caitlin Richards and Natalie Birch

Yr 10 Alex Matthews, Emily Telford and Elle Massam

Yr 9 Carli Jackson and Megan Flint

Yr 8 Natasha Polansky

I do want the students to be able to talk about the initiative to me-I don’t have actual proof [I’ve just failed no 1 on the educational research criteria!] just an old professional gut feeling that the more we expect our students to talk about their learning-the better learners they become-and will use our Learning Walks to interview students from across all ages and abilities and from every teacher. These have become an important source of student voice for me and I’m able to use what our ‘punters’ tell me to inform their teachers [and the whole school community] about the impact of their strategies and to monitor whatever I am asking about. I’m aware that Learning Walks are not universally popular in many schools and are often seen as management hit squad visits-unannounced drop ins followed by feedback. I’m sure many aren’t like this and are used in a developmental way-I prefer either informal drop-ins to look for ‘Magic Moments’ or organised up-front professional dialogue! Ours interview 4 students [not the teacher] who the teacher chooses to talk to me and the questions are known at least a month in advance. I tell the teachers in advance which lesson I’m going to ask for students from and the student responses are returned to the teacher [for their professional portfolio] and to the faculty leader. I write both faculty and whole school reports and feedback so that we can then discuss the research and use it to inform our next moves. I think that this is perhaps the 4th or 5th year of my ‘walking’ and although staff were suspicious at first [I think because they don’t always tell me!] and wondered what I was up to; I hope now that they can see the value of Learning Walks, the MCHS way, and their place with surveys and other student voice activities.

My questions this year were on the Xmas bulletin for students and parents to see and I’ll visit every classroom before half-term. The presentation went to all staff to show in form or class as appropriate.

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The questions cover more than GM, although adults in school need a positive mind-set of their own to listen to and act upon student views. This can be controversial if mishandled-I have every faith that my colleagues are dedicated and excellent classroom practitioners-we appointed them and we have developed them-blame Alison and myself if they aren’t; however student views of their teaching, like peer critique, can be based on false premises and concepts of what great teaching should look like. As much as we try to develop student knowledge of desirable learning characteristics, they sometimes struggle to articulate their views on teaching beyond ‘fun’ and ‘kind’-they have probably had ‘learning should be fun’ shoved at them for some time and can’t be blamed for repeating it or perhaps suggesting the teacher doesn’t appeal to their particular learning style! Having issued a cautionary note, I still do believe that we should ask their opinions on very specific learning and teaching issues to develop their own ‘learnish’ [language of learning] and to inform us if our ideas are effective for the individuals interviewed. It would be nonsensical to carry on with a strategy that they tell us doesn’t help their learning or not to listen when they recommend a strategy that another teacher uses. The majority of questions are about their own learning strengths and weaknesses and ask for areas of difficulty so their teacher can respond if necessary. I hope that we have created a learning environment for both students and adults where we can openly question and talk about our learning, teaching and leadership without any fear and with a honest ambition to do so simply because we all want to learn from each other and be the best students, teachers, support staff and school that we can be-Meols Cop Mind-Set in action!