Monthly Archives: November 2015

Let’s Work Together!

“Let’s Work Together”

“Together we will stand divided we’ll fall

Come on now people let’s get on the ball

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





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

Department Improvement Plan                        Department – Mathematics

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


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


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

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

Decision to introduce prior knowledge assessments into KS3.

Completed SOW with LAT’s included.


Whole department.

Department Improvement Plan                        Department – Geography

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


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


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

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

·         Achieving A-A* grades

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

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

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

·         Tests will be fully completed within time scales.

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



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






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


Evaluation of results:

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


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

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


Class tests and assessment should incorporate more geographical knowledge.


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


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


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











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





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


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

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

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

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

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

·         Students reach their BSG target and beyond.

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




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

Professional Development session

Questions for Teaching Assistants


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

Name                                                              PDWB conversation                                      Date

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MCHS LT Newsletter 8

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

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

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

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




Bottom up CPD at its best!


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

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

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

DIY 5 a day

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


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

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

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

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


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

Question generator final  hints and tips final

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

differentiation 2

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

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