Monthly Archives: January 2016

Building Our School For The Future

Building our school for the future

A PD vision

It seems ages ago now since the promise of our new BSF build disappeared after a disproportionate amount of money was wasted on totally unnecessary professional development aimed to support the projects. We were forcibly made to go to expensive hotels to listen to speakers and ‘facilitators’ gleefully prolonging their careers whilst the money would have been far better spent on giving us a new school and sport’s hall! Inevitably BSF ran out of pennies and Sefton, due to its late bid, got nowt and we remained the only LA in the North West without lovely new schools and we watched our colleagues in Liverpool and Blackpool put up a fight and win their right to new build. It was a chastening experience and the lessons learned involving best value expenditure and PD clearly draw a parallel with the resources and PD needs of a single school such as MCHS. Plan for the future to sustain and improve what we have but listen to the needs of the individuals within the process and remember that ‘1 size fits all’ is rarely appropriate and ensure that the planning involves all colleagues and all areas of our school.

On most of the measures schools usually self-assess themselves on, we are doing quite nicely and my desire to support the ‘excellence in every area’ notion that I enthuse about, probably to myself, may prompt colleagues to occasionally think, but not say too loudly, that a little breathing space may be due! Tempting! The reality, of course, is that the constant changes that face us with the tightening budget mean that we have to keep actively developing coping strategies to ensure our students continue to learn well and are successfully prepared for life after us. My emphasis this year, as we do build for the future, is to try to develop our staff so that as individuals and groups, they have the specific professional development that they need to drive themselves and our school forward through the next few years AND to crucially not create so much pressure of accountability and workload that colleagues, including myself and other leaders, burn out and disintegrate professionally and personally. Helping each of us to become a little more effective at what we do, creating opportunities to talk honestly and openly about our own roles and the future of our school and making it ‘ok’ to seek support when the going is getting tough for us as individuals are, as important as all of the other systems that schools use to monitor and develop. David Weston shared a visual description of where schools have gone wrong in this wonderful post-it could save you a bit of reading but I trust you to read on, follow our story and see how we are trying to avoid the same pitfalls!

Making it work

What does this look like in practice so far? I shared early progress made in autumn here

and mentioned changes to appraisal, interviews with support staff and department priorities. Since then our inset day in January gave staff the opportunity to discuss how we could make our data system more effective and less onerous on our workload.

Leadership building

Building for our future needs the development of leadership skills, the spotting of potential leaders, the retention of our best and the posts for them to develop and flourish in! We have 15 middle or potential leaders on our in-house NAML training, which as well as giving MLs the chance to become involved in research of their choice, affords 3 SLT the opportunity to develop their own leadership reflections in delivering the course. I’m delighted that friends from other primaries and secondary’s have joined us to give a wider perspective for participants. The initial outlay of expenditure is well worth the PD on offer and we will offer this again next year and hope to find a senior leader course, or write our own to fulfil this PD need. Currently we have 2 more colleagues on NPQSL courses, although we have withdrawn our own leaders from running the course whilst we concentrate on our own course. One other colleague has just been accepted on our fellow TSA Weatherhead’s potential SLT course and we have 1 on the SSAT aspiring head’s course and 1 on their aspiring SLT course. Again the courses aren’t cheap but we continuously overspend on PD and so we should, provided that it is equally distributed!

Our new teaching structure has already created 5 new posts for 2-5 year experienced colleagues who will become our research leaders. They will help to drive evidence informed practice across school and will be attached to different year groups to support age specific needs, as well as developing their own research themes to share across the school. I’m hopeful that the posts will support retention, distribute leadership even more and have a big impact on learning and teaching. These posts are classroom based and I’m aware that not everyone wishes to become subject or pastoral leaders and I’m trying to consider how teachers can progress as teachers-work in progress!

We also have 3 new SLEs who will be able to receive professional development training and the chance to hone their own senior leadership skills and potential through their external support. All of the new SLE, research leads and those on SLT courses have been able to use their leadership of our learning hubs as part of the evidence supporting their applications. The hubs offer cross-curricular leadership and hopefully have a qualitative impact on our learning and teaching strategies. They also cover some of the key issues on our SEF, subject priorities and individual appraisal objectives. The new ones beginning next week are these.

Learning Hubs

IRIS – run by Jen and Phil

We are making great progress with IRIS and it seems important that we continue to develop our practice in this area. Some of you are starting to use it with NTEN lesson study and for sharing videos for peer support and developmental dialogue. It is a great reflective tool and it would be great to see each department represented this time round.

Maximising the performance of the most able pupils – run by Holly and Beth

With the performance of high attainers being a focus raise online and internal reviews it is important that we look to address strategies that will maximise the performance of our most able pupils.

Spelling and vocabulary approaches across the curriculum – run by Katie

With the increased emphasis on SPaG both within English and across the curriculum it is important that we look at strategies and share ideas that can be applied in all subject areas and see where skills can be transferred to ensure consistency in approaches to best support the students.

Developing reading and annotation skills across the curriculum – run by Sarah

Focusing on a range of strategies to develop students reading skills from skimming to reading for purpose, as well as effective annotation skills which can help to break down text to make it accessible for students.

Supporting Lower ability students and those with Special Educational Needs – run by Marie and Martin

As we talk about Quality First Teaching and address the changes to SEND it is important that we continue to challenge ourselves to develop ways to ensure that all students can access the curriculum.

Developing responses to extended questioning – run by Colin, Katrina and Sophie

This follows on from Colin’s previous hub on questioning taking from it the theme of developing consistent approaches to addressing more extended questions. You don’t need to have attended the first hub on questioning and this would be great for those subjects with longer extended questions which require explanation, analysis and evaluation.

Developing a consistent approach to the teaching of key command words – run by Emma

This hub will explore any similarities between command words used across the curriculum and similarities in expectations of outcomes, working towards developing a whole school template for delivering certain command words.

Exploring different ways to give feedback using digital technology – led by Tim and Rosie

As we continue to work on trialling new technology this will focus on developing the use of technology for feedback, looking at different ways to give feedback via digital means and evaluating which is the most effective.

Time is given to share and make new resources and this is crucially followed up by informal observations or agreed lesson studies/more formal observations of choice. Colleagues have a choice of which hubs to attend, although we try to spread out faculty attendance. Evaluations follow the end of each hub term and they have proved to be an invaluable source of inspiration and collaboration. Collaboration only works though if it is followed by a time of ‘doing’, evaluation and adaptation.

Colin has already emailed me his agenda for his first meeting and I was delighted to see the names of volunteers and the potential in each presentation and especially important to me were the names of 2 of our TAs, joining the group and having the confidence to present too.

Below is a draft plan for the introduction Hub on Challenging questioning and command words next Tuesday. From the staff Feedback in previous hubs, it was clear that they like the new interactive approach of sharing ideas and completing a lesson!

The proposed plan for the hub is a follows:


  • Colin – 10 mins intro presentation on challenging questioning and command words (linked to current research and practice)



  • Gill  and Tracey 10 mins – How challenging questioning/command words  works for SEN students



  • Helen – 10 mins to share how her questioning ideas have developed since the first hub.



  • Sophie/Katrina (Katrina is likely to be in Drama moderation meeting)   – 10 mins share how questioning ideas have developed and ideas for NTEN project



  • Colin and other staff to act as TA’s!  -20 mins mini lesson on challenging questioning and command words with VLE feedback.

Please let me know what you think. Look forward to our first new hub!!

Lizzy has supplied each leader with reading information for their groups-

“Many thanks for agreeing to run a hub. I have attached details of the participants for your group and an introductory PowerPoint to recall objectives and outcomes as well as key dates. I will, later today, be sending out an email to all of your group with some suggested reading that can form the basis of discussions within your first meeting.”

The opening ppt slides are below.

Learning Hubs Feb 2016 Intro

Learning Hubs Feb 2016 Intro 2

As the hubs progress I should have 2 more TA 3 posts to provide cover, as well as our 3 cover supervisors so that we can increase the number of informal drop-ins and collaborative planning sessions.

Sharing ideas

Hub ideas are shared via our own teachmeets, blogs and ‘breakfast jams’. The latter, organised by Lizzy, have proved to be a popular sharing of magic moments and ideas for the hard-core early risers! The ideas shared form part of the Learning and Teaching bulletins that Lizzy has also introduced as another method of finding the best current practice and sharing this with others.

MCHS Breakfast Jam!

Every other Thursday

8.10am – 8.30am


Breakfast provided

Date Session Title Brief Description Led by Room
14th January Effective use of DIRT A brief look at the way DIRT is used in History and how stickers have been adapted to aid this.


GT Library
28th January IRIS A brief look at the benefits of using IRIS for professional development and reflection. JF/PJ Library
11th February Reading Strategies A look at the use of slow reading steps to enhance the reading of students and the use of dictionaries for clarity. LC Library

Subject Reviews

We have 3 subject/year reviews a year where the middle leader concerned meets with SLT to discuss their data, intervention, priorities etc. Time was given on inset day to begin the subject conversations with colleagues, so that all are involved in self-evaluation and we already streamlined department SEFS, as explained in my November blog. These were very much paper based exercises and I have changed the format to cater for whatever style the leader wishes to use to tell me about learning progress and the schedule now includes another subject leader being present. They can obviously pre-plan/discuss before the meeting if they wish to, can observe good practice from another ML in action and can see SLT modelling questioning and can themselves ask questions of data/raise concerns and so on. I’ll ask for feedback and see how it goes over the next couple of weeks! The change does allow our ML to be in a scenario quite similar to SLT interviews, and although I don’t want to lose them, I should be preparing them for their next steps.

Challenge Partners

The half-term finishes with a peer review from 4 visiting school leaders as part of the Challenge Partner’s scheme. I was slightly worried when ‘School’s Week’ had their front page covered with a negative response to such reviews and the word ‘mocksted’ appeared. External looks at our self-evaluation and some of our teaching is helpful if it can suggest developmental strategies we can engage with to become more effective. I’m hopeful that this will be the case-it is quite expensive but I prefer external evaluation and ideas from people from far away who know nothing of us, than people we know who may feel reluctant to be as honest as they should! The process also allows 3 of our leaders to visit other schools to review them and bring back good ideas from there as well as sharing our ideas with them. Lizzy had a wonderful experience at the Compton School in London where progress and general data puts them in the very highest ranks of state schools [even better than ours!] and we have to have a mind-set of wanting to learn from the best in the land.

PD for teaching assistants

Whist Lizzy was enjoying her London trip, I was able to interview all of our teaching assistants to find out their views and needs. We currently have 26 or so, the number fluctuates with need and the questions asked were these.

As part of your professional development, I will meet you all individually for a conversation about your work at Meols Cop and listen to your ideas and aspirations. This isn’t part of any appraisal process or anything to do with pay; it’s the chance for me to support wellbeing, development and for you to tell me how we can best support you in becoming the most effective professional that you can. I’ll send out a timetable tomorrow for next week and if you wish to think about and prepare answers to discuss beforehand that’s fine or we can just chat and I’ll produce a written account of what you have to say so you can keep it for your own PD file. Thank you as always for your support and for your understanding of what I am trying to achieve.

What aspect of your role have you most enjoyed or feel has been the most rewarding over the last year? Can you explain why?

 What do you feel has been the biggest impact you have had on one of your student’s learning? What did you do specifically do you think to make this happen?

 You probably work with lots of different teachers-which methods of communication with the teachers actually helps you the most to be most effective in your role? What would you suggest could make communication better-any practical solutions?

 Are there any barriers that are preventing you being as effective with your support as you might be? Please have some suggestions and solutions ready!

 Are you happy with your role and work here. If you aren’t what can you or we do to change how you feel?

How would you like to see your career develop over the next couple of years? How can we help your professional development?

 Are there any aspects of school life/structure that you feel we might consider changing? What would be so positive about your suggestion and what impact on learning would it have do you think?

 Anything else you are desperate to tell me and ask about?

I collated the feedback from my conversations and shared the general points with all on the staff.

The latest progress measure results and continual closing of the gap in MCHS between cohorts of students shows today the impact that our TAs can show for individual students in their care as they along with the teachers and mentors much valued and appreciated emotional and learning support. Breaking down any barriers that prevent learning is crucial in avoiding the risk of potentially limiting life-long opportunities for many of our students and it is important that our teaching assistants receive the best development and resources/support available to enable them to play an effective part. I’ve had a smashing chat with all of the TAs and I’ll try to provide a summary of some of the main issues raised and how I can respond. In line with my belief in honest open discussion shared with all-if I’ve missed anything-please shout!

I have to say that I was overwhelmed with the happiness and positive attitude I encountered but although we are doing well as a school, we can always do even better and I need to hear ideas and suggestions from everyone to ensure that every single area of our school is working as effectively as it can be. Comments, responses and further suggestions are welcome!

Issues raised-in no particular order/importance by individuals or more than one TA.

  • CPD-needs-various requests from individuals and advice given but as a whole the hour meeting with each other, originally in PSD, is missed and due to expenditure, inset day attendance has been stopped over the last years thus opportunities for all of our TAs to be involved in CPD [apart from individual courses] isn’t as much as it should be if we are to be effective enough. Martin has provided some training and meeting time this year, which has been well received and I will close school early 3 times in the spring and summer terms to allow for 1 hour of training for the TAs [and 2 hours on 2 days for the teaching staff] The first 2 days will be; Thursday 24th March and Wednesday 11th May.  Training will also be provided for TAs on the whole school inset day-Friday April 1st. Time in lieu will be offered at the most appropriate time e.g. Sport’s Week, Work Experience and so on depending on who is supported to avoid normal teaching days when TA support must happen. Choices will be offered.
  • TAs do appreciate being asked for advice/opinions on the students they support-they are with them all of the time and I was delighted to hear about so many examples of great collaborative work between the teachers and TAs.  Sometimes though feedback is asked for from the TA and then they are left in the dark about what happens next. Please do keep them in the loop and do try to seek their opinions and advice-they are fellow professionals and all opinions do count. I try to model a leadership style of seeking views and treating all colleagues with respect-same rule for everyone please!
    • The TAs are all very different personalities and with a wide range of experience in different areas. Some are quite happy to intervene for example in disciplinary issues, some aren’t. Most felt that in most classrooms that they know exactly what they are expected to do, what the boundaries of their role is and they appreciated when the teachers were able to tell them beforehand or in the lesson exactly what they wanted them to do. I do wonder if a conversation for all staff might be useful at some point to reinforce best practice in the effective deployment of TAs in the classroom-what do others think?
      • This leads on to the difficult issue of finding the time to talk to teachers about the support needed and to finding time to plan differentiated work/research issues and so on. Some TAs do have time built in and some receive extra pay for additional hours and so on. I’m interested in creating an hour a week on the timetable to build planning/prep time in for TAs but as we discussed, it’s not as easy as in primaries and I’m swinging towards the idea of increasing hours for those who want it from 26-27 hours which would include an hour of PPA to be taken when the TA could fit it in. I would expect to see the evidence, of course, of the fruits of this labour but it seems to be a sensible suggestion. Janet is working out the potential cost for me so I can think about the budget/against the value of my suggestion.
        • A couple of TAs mentioned to me that they felt confident of taking their own class should the teacher be absent-I’m looking into the legalities but I’m convinced that the learning experience for our students would be better with the their TA than it would with some visiting teachers! There would be an additional payment made but Mark will check if we can actually do this first.
          • Of course a few conversations concerned pay and progression and I want to have a good look at the overall TA structure, chances of career progression and the kind of work that we currently need doing, will need doing and whether or not we have the right people in the right roles! The historic nature of roles/grades doesn’t always apply to the current situation in all aspects of our school and over a period of time, I’ll try to create a dynamic that will be better suited to our next 5 years-be patient though!
            • If we do change anything or come up with different roles and opportunities; they must be open to all and fairly advertised and paid at a rate commensurate with the role

A fair bit here for all colleagues to consider but a really worthwhile experience for me and hopefully my visitors!

Our TAs make a considerable contribution to our overall learning and teaching support and it’s important that I find out their views, value their support and provide professional development to support them becoming even more effective hence more inset on the way, additional planning time and the offer of changing roles e.g. covering lessons which will also make informal observations, planning and collaboration amongst the teachers much more easy to organise. Previous posts outlining our work with TAs and others concerning the contribution of all of our support staff are here.

Lesson Studies/observations

Ongoing and continuing through the next few weeks are our lesson studies and developmental observations which give colleagues the chance to plan and together and support the development of each other. It seems such a long time ago now that I first tried to get colleagues to observe each other and open classroom doors to all and 4 years or so since I finally banished lesson grading! Not everyone thought that it could be done or should be done but who now would ever turn back the clock? I’m not quite sure why we even call observations ‘observations’ and am always worrying about the purpose of them and how we can use them more effectively, if at all. NTEN Lesson study has proved to be popular and in terms of allowing collaboration/coaching, morale etc. it is successful but whether or not I can prove that it has actually improved learning and teaching, I’m not so certain and will look to our research leaders to find out the answer!

I’ve shared lots of blogs on lesson observations but for external readers you can see the nature of the feedback sessions for non-lesson study obs here;

Discussion between observer and observed in relation to areas trialled

 Which area of your work from the hubs/research have you trialled/showcased? Did it have the expected impact?

Do you still feel this is an area for development?

Are there any other areas you would now like to focus on developing?

How has today helped to meet your appraisal targets and the “developing” focus of your professional portfolio?

Areas for development:
For the observer:

Identify 3 piece of “great teaching” that inspired you that you are going to use in your own learning & teaching:

For the observed:

Identify your 3 favourite piece of students learning from today (what and with whom)

Lesson study examples can be found in some depth here-

A quick glimpse of where we might go with observations and hubs can be seen in one of many email exchanges on the subject-you will have to guess who is saying what!

“Ooh…following on from my hubs email got some good idea re tracking obs and am thinking next round of Hubs for 2016/17 can be based on areas of development from the lesson obs this year (7 most common themes??) then ran by those that had those areas as a particular strength. Will hopefully link into people’s hubs/trials from this year as we are encouraging them to showcase this in their obs.”

“Yes and it can fit in with your tracking of the feedback from this time’s obs so you square the circle-this can be linked to an agreed appraisal objective. I was thinking in summer of hub people watching each other on agreed focus too.”

Making the ‘main thing the main thing’ the focus of professional development based on individual requests and needs is paramount to building our school for the future.

Book looks

Lizzy has also shared our ‘book looks’ to cover English, maths, humanities and MFL so far.

Seeing the visual image of everyone in the school’s best practice has proved to be great PD and we constantly observe practice shared this way in classroom use when colleagues borrow ideas and adapt for their own use.

Bring, Show and Share

I mentioned our Bring, Show and Share idea in a September blog

The first 3, where we invited colleagues from other schools in to share subject specific ideas on English, maths and science, started slowly in numerical terms and began to grow. They have been good professional development opportunities for our staff, who as hosts did all speak and share ideas and hopefully for everyone who attended and shared back. There will be a humanities event towards Easter and a much bigger research event in summer. Most participated in the spirit of the idea by bringing and showing ideas/resources and our last one looking at lesson study, deliberately tried to encourage our local primaries to ‘lesson study’ with us.Unfortunately they were shy to appear and good links were made again with other high schools. The attendance at these events by friends from local schools encouraged me to approach two of them, Birkdale [boys] and Greenbank [girls] to suggest trialling a directed time meeting where our faculties and departments could meet and make links with each other. All 3 schools are keen to develop their staff and share best practice so in March we will all host various subject staff for an hour after school to let them have subject specific conversations. The days are gone for hidden agendas and a lack of collaboration that might have prevented such events in the past. Our 3 SLT teams will meet before this, just after half-term to introduce ourselves and hopefully make some lasting and worthwhile links. We can all learn from each other and if these events prove to be honest, open and all are willing to share and reciprocate; this will prove to be another professional development experience to build on, invite other schools in our TSA and look at joint inset days. They are early days for such developments in our locality and we lag behind other areas. Interestingly Estelle Morris made a point this week that may be pertinent to our local situation

Heads are coming together because they recognise that where their school is situated is important. It isn’t instead of chains and trusts, but in addition to them. So what is it that heads know that politicians have missed? Two things. First, most teachers have a professional commitment beyond their own school; they are ambitious for all the children in their area. This doesn’t override their desire to compete to be the best, but it means they are willing to take some responsibility for pupils other than their own. Second, education is so often a collective endeavour. It works best when teachers and learners are supported by those around them. Being a good school matters – but being a school in a successful local school system matters as well….”


There won’t be too many schools, I wouldn’t have thought that don’t talk about the use of research to provide evidence or at least have a few colleagues who either read ideas on social media or follow up ideas from courses to find out the latest bright ideas to use in our classrooms. It sounds good stuff but the reality is that finding out what is actually proven to be useful and then deciding whether or not it would work here is a different matter and the growing trend to try to use research, does need careful guidance and advice from those use to working in the research field and its application in schools. Our research conference will help our guests and our own staff but in the meantime we are engaged in national research on English and maths best practice, setting v mixed ability and spacing. The validity of some of the research that I read and the methodology involved may be open to question BUT the involvement of our staff in these projects in the early days of a growing movement isn’t open to question and they will benefit from the experience, whether it be a negative or positive one, and be able to better support colleagues in their quest to be excellent in all areas.

Their choice of inset

We have 2 more inset days this year and both are given to departments to use as they wish. I would imagine that planning together for the new curriculum/exams might feature but it is important that choice is given and that subject specific needs are prioritised by the people whom teach the subject and they are left alone to get on with it. External experts are needed to at times to deliver what we may not be able to and over the last 2 days Dianne Murphy has led our Thinking Reading volunteers, we had a wonderful transgender session before Xmas and many colleagues have either visited other schools, attended courses or selected their own PD from social media-their choices, their PD. I just have to find the cash!

Involvement of all

This is a turbulent time in education and whilst some may prefer to ignore outside jabber and just get on with their teaching/support, others do want to talk about what some of the ‘big issues’ that may be coming our way. I have opened up our normal SLT meetings to invite governors and all staff to join us in different conversations. The first meeting examined the changing Ofsted demands on governors, Wilshaw’s views and an explanation of our pupil premium spending which features heavily on the governor agenda. The second meeting looked at all the different types of academies/free schools/UTCs etc. that are springing up as we sail obliviously on in our maintained LA Ocean of Tranquillity. We await our fate in the green paper but needed to have a good discussion re possibilities and also looked at the impact raising our numbers to try to at least take in some of the students who want to join us but can’t at the moment. Quite a few of the attendees stopped me afterwards to comment on how they didn’t realise how much the SLT have to consider in the big scheme of things outside of MCHS! Teachers, mentors and TAs found time to come along and it is important that all have their say and can begin to understand the possible impact on our school possible changes will have. It’s good PD for them and should moves have to happen, then the rest of our community will be involved.

Our governors are encouraged to attend training provided for them by local agencies but we have also changed the sending of information to them by having a secure network and giving them all a schedule of the committee meetings so that they can attend other meetings, if they wish to, as well as their own committee.

Everything that we do should be open to discussion and all should be welcome to express their opinions.

Workload and wellbeing

The final big meeting of late was the most popular! I’m determined to not just talk about reducing workload and caring for wellbeing but to make some lasting principles that will be need to be adhered to. We have changed systems to consider reporting, data, marking etc. and will continue to do so but do other things need to change to? I would like an agreed charter of workload/wellbeing for us all and could have written another blog on the relationship between the 2 Ws and the issues that I raised re them both. I don’t like to talk too much these days but as I have more time to find ideas on the issues than other people, I did talk for a little while! I shared my own views before introducing ideas from the 3 main unions-NUT, NAS, Unison and lots of others. I left the room to let discussion flourish and volunteers then organised another meeting to discuss more ideas. They were going to use the NAS survey to find our opinions but the time spent on completing it would have been a workload issue in itself and they decided on a more succinct approach.

Thank you for taking the time to complete this questionnaire on well-being.

What is already working well in school that you feel we should do more of?

Is there anything you feel we should include to help us achieve our goal of a happy school where well-being and workload are important to all of us?

Is there anything that we do that is important but could be changed in order to improve?

Is there anything that we currently do that you feel we could manage without?

Is there anything you feel that could be done to reduce workload in school?

I’ll feedback on their feedback!

Up-lifting leadership at MCHS?

Over the weekend I read one of Gary Jones’s blogs [Gary will be speaking at our research day with Alex Quigley and Prof Robert Coe] about ‘Up-lifting Leadership’ where he introduced some of the ideas from a recent book of the same name by Hargreaves, Boyle and Harris.

The definition of up-lift is below.

Hargreaves et al define uplift within organisations as …. the force that raises our performance, our spirts, and our communities to attain higher purposes and reach unexpected levels of achievement (p1)As such uplift is about emotional and spiritual engagements, social and moral justice and higher levels of performance, both in work and life

The research is based on a range of private and public organisations and I’ll include it here as the 6 inter-related factors do offer a structure that I hadn’t thought of but perhaps have been talking about and crucially attempting to put into action! There must be a name for this phenomena but it escapes me at the moment! [Extract from Gary’s blog]

What does Uplifting Leadership involve?

Uplifting leadership involves six inter-related factors which come together to bring about transformations within organisations and these include:

  1. Dreaming with Determination – this involves identifying and articulating a clear, challenging destination, and which is informed by a moral imperative.  Furthermore, this dream is firmly connected with the organisation’s past and building upon what the very best of what that organisation has been in the past. 
  2. Creativity and Counter-Flow – this requires creating the new pathways necessary to reach the desired ‘dream’.  However, it also goes against the flow – in that it is not about following the predictable, it involves the counterintuitive – things that don’t seem to make sense or that others may already have rejected.
  3. Collaboration with Competition uplifting leadership is at times a counter-intuitive process and at times this will require working alongside current or future competitors.  Competition and collaborative are not mutually exclusive and it is possible for both to co-exist within the same context. 
  4. Pushing and Pulling – this necessitates using the power of the group to both push and pull things forward.  Colleagues when faced with difficulties are picked up and supported by others, whilst the higher purpose to which team members are committed pushes them onto higher levels of achievement
  5. Measuring with Meaning  – .  this  involves the extensive use of data  allows leaders to identify the direction the organisation is heading and what still needs to be done, yet is done in such a way which is both meaningful and owned by the people who work in the organisation
  6. Sustainable Success  – this involves working at a pace that is sustainable.  It’s not about leading at a pace which people cannot sustain for any substantive period of time.  It’s about recognising the ebb and flow of energy within an organisation and making sure that is managed in such a way as to bring about years and years or continuous improvement and development

I would hope that all of the leaders in our school have a dash of up-lift in them to build our school for the future. There were a lot of aspirational quotes floating around twitter from people who attended Hargreaves’s current UK speaking tour and others who joined in. I’ll include a few and ask colleagues to think about each one and ask 3 questions of it-1] Does this describe our school? 2] Does this sound like your leadership? 3] What more can we/you do to create up-lift?

Protect and support your greatest asset in any school. Your teaching staff. #teacherpower

Pay attention to teachers’ wellbeing says @HargreavesBC – uplift those we serve by uplifting those who serve them. #teacherpower

“You cannot address student wellbeing until you pay attention to teacher wellbeing” @HargreavesBC #teacherpower

Investment in teacher knowledge pays the best dividends @HargreavesBC #teacherpower @theRSAorg

This was a predominantly teacher’s conference hence the word teacher rather than ‘staff’ or ‘colleagues’ as I would constantly emphasise.

Professional development is very important to me, as I hope that you have seen. It will take some time for the newer initiatives to embed and I will use our membership of the Teacher Development Trust to externally evaluate how far we have gone and to suggest further possibilities based on knowledge of the best PD available in the TDT network. We have a lovely silver TDT CPD plaque in our foyer and whilst it would be brilliant to be considered as a GOLD CPD school, there is work still to be done, but we are on our way and hopefully we have up-lift!









Book Look Part Two

Book Look Part 2 – Humanities and MFL
As I begin my second “book look” I am yet again bowled over by the quality and depth of the marking, this time in Humanities and MFL, the departments which form the second focus of the “book look series”.

I have started by taking an example from each self assessment which focuses on something the line manager emphasised as a particular strength within the marking:

Helen told Marion that her “challenge questions” were effectively extending pupils learning and that she liked Eddie’s trialling of the “5 a day” taken from the hubs. Bronagh told Chelsea that she was really encouraged by the way her marking was developing pupil’s writing skills and she noted that Helen has really extended the variety of DIRT activities she is using.

Emma told Toni that her marking and feedback showed great development of with lots of dialogue, new ideas and questioning skills shown at various levels. Greg felt that Charlotte’s EBI questions were really extending learning and that Martin’s development of literacy stickers was something that all the department had benefitted from.

I was really impressed with the depth of marking of both Emma and Greg and their willingness to model and trial new ideas.  I loved Bronagh’s idea of the “golden phrase” for students to peer assess and pick out something they felt their peer had excelled in and Helen’s structured peer assessment framework, MONSEIUR was a great way to scaffold student’s to give constructive feedback.
The 4 D’s – Dialogue Development, DIRT and Drafting
 ED GCSe re-daraftsAcross Humanities and MFL the level of dialogue by teachers with students is being developed and effective use is being made of DIRT time. Both departments have noted that DIRT is most effective when a whole lesson is given for students to fully re-draft work and make corrections. There are a number of different strategies being trialled which is helping to promote a culture of reflection and improvement. In Humanities, extensive use is being made of stickers to develop dialogue; marking stickers show level/grade criteria and teachers and students can use these easily to mark work anED GM languaged show WWW/EBI for students to then improve on. Questions are posed in both Humanities and MFL to develop dialogue and students extend, consolidate or showcase their learning by answering these questiED basic Qs for low abilityons.





In lower ability classes the questions are often closed with specific knowledge development being focused on and more able students are extended through more open questioning.

The student’s responses to questions are also being verified, either by the teacher through further marking or by a peer. Emma uses the lesson time to verify it as students are working, circulating with a green pen and highlighter. The development of dialogue also links in to peer assessment with student’s completing each other’s questions and responding to their feedback, opening up a dialogue with their peers. GT peer marking

Martin is developing his tracking to demonstrate where students have levelled up as a result of feedback and responding to dialogue. Across Humanities and MFL there is a feeling that dialogue development is helping to tackle misconceptions and develop progress. Helen (French) noted that she is receiving written work of a much higher quality and students are able to use their work for revision for speaking and writing assessments. Helen (Spanish) said that it has improved the accuracy of work, particularly in year ten as it has made them more aware of grammar, with them using the grammar garden display to promote grammar improvements. Bronagh feels the greatest impact has been to reduce the number of silly mistakes. Marion has been developing questioning in her marking by giving students challenge questions to extend their learning. Greg has already tweeted quite extensively about his sticker development, using extension stickers for fast marking and finding that the students are taking greater pride in their work through tweet tweets and polaroid moments.

extension stickersGT extension tweet
Peer and Self Assessment
History have been using peer and self assessment to develop student understanding of mark schemes and BSG criteria. Students can highlight where they think their peer is on a grid showing the criteria for an examination question or a KS3 assessment. BD sa BD SA 2








Greg, Martin and Charlotte noted that students are becoming better at giving constructive comments to their peers. With lower ability students they are often given sentence starters or prompts to help them. Emma and Toni both talked about how students confidence is improving with peer assessment, particularly in KS4 where there is more time available to devote to it. Emma was really pleased with the way her lower ability students, particularly in year 11 have developed with peer assessment, becoming much better at assessing each other’s work.ED GCSe re-darafts She is using the STEAL idea to help them to learn from each other and to share their ideas. Martin has been developing three way dialogue following on from some work he has done previously in a hub. He is also trialling GM ideas by getting students to moderate a set of work to try and draw out misconceptions and themes.

Greg has been trialling ABC feedback, and has also encouraged Charlotte to do the same. This is not only developing peer feedback and dialogue with a clear scaffold but is also teaching the valuable historical skills of challenging and arguing effectively. Helen (Spanish) has developed a self-assessment checklist to allow students to fully check their work before a peer or the teacher and Helen (French) and Marion are using MONSEIUR peer assessment sheets for feed forward advice. HH peer assessment 2Bronagh has been using peer and self-assessment to further develop fast feedback by getting pupils to rate themselves or their peers BSG against the learning outcomes at the end of each lesson. The SENORITA checklist is used widely across Spanish by Bronagh, Chelsea and Helen to ensure students thoroughly check their work. In peer assessment students must highlight their peers work to give justification for their feedback.
 Martin 3Literacy has been a big focus across the school and the Humanities faculty have looked for a variety of ways to try and improve pupil literacy. Martin and Greg have developed stickers to promote further independence and to ensure students are checking their work for spag errors. The sticker is placed next to a particular paragraph and the student must then find their error. Martin feels that he now needs to work on developing numeracy in DIRT.

martin 2







Toni has been trialling dot marking for literacy errors, much like the dot marking used for correcting target language errors in MFL.

BD literacy

Toni has found this particularly successful with lower ability students. Emma and Toni have also been developing extensive resources to promote understanding of key GCSE command words. They have created a booklet for year 11 students to use to ensure that they know how to approach different types of command words. Emma noted that the impact of this was really evident in the year 11 mocks. Helen (Spanish) has been using a highlighter to draw student’s attention to spelling and syntax errors for correction. Helen (French) notes that all literacy errors are corrected in the target language and Eddie continues to use dot marking for literacy.
New Ideas
This is an area where both departments have been working hard, looking at ways to develop fast feedback and ultimately reduce workload without losing impact. Following in the footsteps of English, History have been trialling marking codes and Geography, following on from the January INSET have also been trialling marking codes.

GT code marking          GT codes

Both of them note that it is too early to really comment on impact but are certainly finding it quicker and engaging students in their feedback more. History have been refining and developing their use of stickers in all areas as well as ABC marking to enhance peer assessment and polaroid moments and tweets to grow confidence and pride. Emma has been literacy fast marking, circulating the room with a highlighter and a pen as students work so as feedback can be immediate and corrected there and then. martin 1Martin has been adopting the purple pen of progress for students to make corrections so it is easy for him to see where they have made changes.

Charlotte has been trialling highlighter marking and peer verification and adopting a number of strategies from Greg to help develop her marking and to find strategies that work for her and her students. BD checklist for SA

In Spanish Helen has been using feedback grids for extended work with a simple tick box system for students to check off as they have completed aspects of a piece of work.

Bronagh has been encouraging students to annotate questions to develop their approach to the exams, getting them to think of possible questions and related vocab prior to a listening exercise. In French Helen has been trialling a number of help mats that she has adapted from Katrina in the questioning hubs. She has been using these to break down questions so the students find it easier to approach them.

CC interleaving vocab

Chelsea has been trialling dashit marking with year 11 students to try and boost confidence and resilience and build a growth mindset, she has also been interleaving vocab tests to try and reinforce memory and recall. Marion has also been trialling some of her work from the hubs and the Breakfast Jams, looking at the development of questioning and modelling – she has taken the Disney film “Frozen” and developed some work around the theme “Do you want to build a snowman?”

CC dash it markingOverall the feedback that the students are receiving in Humanities and MFL is excellent and it is great to see so many new ideas and strategies being trialled and shared.

Book Look Part One

Since taking on my role at MCHS I have not failed to be surprised by some of the ways in which things that are done in schools nationwide are done here…Book “scrutiny” is no exception. I have, in the past, seen book “scrutiny” or “monitoring” as something done to me and one in which I have very little part to play. However, monitoring of pupil’s exercise books/work here at MCHS allows the teacher to showcase the best of their marking and to really show off the things that they are proud of, sharing the ideas they are trialling. Over the course of the next few weeks there will be a number of blog posts related to this, collating some of the amazing work related to marking and feedback that is taking place here at MCHS. “Book monitoring” is based upon a series of key questions, with staff being given the opportunity to explain where necessary and to photograph examples of their best practice, really demonstrating where their feedback has had a real impact on pupil progress.
The first two departments that I will start with are maths an English and one of the nicest things about reading the book monitoring is that staff have the chance to really show where they think their feedback has had the biggest impact, and the quotes below are just a few taken from the English departments:
“Students respond to feedback more independently.” – Jordan
“Students correct SPaG errors automatically or with little prompting and they help themselves to dictionaries in order to do this.” – Katie
“Spelling is improving and students are becoming better with proof reading.” – Marie
“The use of model answers to allow students to set their own targets.” – Sarah
“Students are becoming more independent learners as they are able to identify their own mistakes through self-assessment.” – Laura
“The use of DIRT sheets for self-reflection and improvement is really helping to move students forward.” – Rachael
“Students are engaging with set targets from a previous piece of work.” – Hannah
“The use of modelling is really supporting progress in year 8 – ideas taken from Katie’s Breakfast Jam.” – Lisa
The maths department, whose marking is entirely different to that of English have also shared the areas that they feel have had the greatest impact on learning and these extracts demonstrate not only their opinions but those of their colleagues:
“Prior knowledge tests are already making teachers think about their planning and the range of students. The development of schemes of learning to include LAT’s style questions will prepare students well for the final exam. I really liked the experiment with the yellow square as this could have a massive impact if the students then follow up with their own improvements.”
“Regular use of challenge questions is encouraging further resilience amongst the students and helping to develop their learning in maths.”
Clair’s comments on Beth’s books…”It is obvious from your planning and marking that your students really care about their progress. You are doing everything in your power to help your students become more resilient learners, with the Miss K’s challenge questions and GCSE reasoning questions.”
Jen commented on a number of areas she liked in Clair’s books…”chapter check-up, the marking between STAR stickers, the negative numbers LATS and the prior skills tests.”
“The use of the A and E arrows are really making the students think about their growth mindset and how they tackle their work in lessons.”
Clair commented on Zoe’s contribution to the whole department’s marking…”Your idea of the A and E arrows has helped the whole department manage their marking and the students really like having immediate feedback. This year you have also bought in DIRT worksheets that have helped the students reflect/revise what they have learnt so far. Many students mentioned in their books that they feel these have really helped. “
Jen loved Fran’s… “Effective use of the A and E arrows and the fact that the students take real pride in their books.”
All of the English department have identified within their self-assessment of their marking that students are not making as many basic errors as they had been doing, as they are spending more time drafting work and proof reading, with the aid of a dictionary and thesaurus to develop spelling and vocabulary use. With the increasing impetus on SPaG in not only GCSE English, but across all subjects, this has been a huge focus for the department since September. Hannah has devised homework which is linked to SPaG tasks and it has become a common starter in all English lessons. All members of the team noted in their self-assessment that the number of basic errors that students are making is decreasing as a result of the constant reinforcement of SPaG and the increasing onus being put onto the students to proof read as well as peer assessment to check for errors. It was lovely to read that students are becoming increasingly confident to develop their vocabulary through the use of a thesaurus and this was evident in the feedback being given. Highlighters have also been used across the department to identify certain errors so they become even more familiar to students, making them really stand out. Both Katie and Jordan noted the impact that this has had. Laura has also been developing SPaG flags to enhance pupil understanding and reduce errors.
One of the real strengths of the department is the consistently high expectations set for all students reinforced through both modelling and feedback. Students in lower band sets are being exposed to what an A* response looks like and this is important in terms of the development of aspiration and growth mindset. Across the department there are many examples of where this has had an extremely positive impact, with students achieving consistently above their expected target.
In line with the development of independent learning students are also tracking their own bronze, silver and gold levels linked to assessment feedback in order that they are clear on what they need to do to progress. Evident in all books is the intrinsic link between feedback and BSG/GCSE criteria and the extensive use of modelling to develop student responses. It was great to see Katie share all of the great modelling work taking place in English in one of our Breakfast Jams and then going on to try out an idea shared by Greg in the same session. Katie referenced the positive outcome from using rotation squares for modelling in her book monitoring.
Peer Assessment is also a real strength of the department and is being trialled in a number of different ways by the team. Katie notes that she felt her student’s use of peer assessment had really developed, with year 10 set 2 identifying a quote for their peer to analyse and then setting a task to be answered to further develop a piece of work related to a text. Growth mindset is a constant priority across school and it is great to see staff using the language of GM in their feedback to students. EBI comments in English are often posed as a question to complete so that students can push themselves even further. Jordan has been developing her “killer challenge” questions as part of this, raising the aspirations of all.
One of the biggest areas, with regards to feedback, being trialled by the English team is fast marking using marking codes. This consists of a series of codes which are used to abbreviate WWW/EBI comments. For example, ‘P’ as WWW feedback would mean that the student had written for purpose or ‘A’ would mean that they had considered the audience. Students use their DIRT time to look up the codes on a grid in their exercise books and then fill in the WWW/EBI comment in full.

BL 1


These marking codes are also being used for peer and self-assessment and the team noted that the students had found these useful in helping to focus their feedback.

BL 2 BL 3

This has also fed into the tracking process as the codes can be easily recorded and tracked within an excel spreadsheet. This allows Sarah to see where the issues are across a whole year group and to target interventions accordingly.

January Inset 10

The maths department are trialling a number of new ideas at the moment and you will have read about this in previous blogs. With regards to marking Zoe’s “A and E” arrows are now being used across the department as a method of fast feedback.
The “A&E arrows”
BL 5BL 6







Alex’s example here shows how it can also be used as a way for students to self-assess and for this to be verified by the teacher. Jen’s example shows how it has also become part of STAR marking, used across the maths department. These codes are also a valuable part of our GM drive and Jen noted in her book monitoring that this is an area that they wish to develop further. The arrows have become a valuable part of instant feedback to the students and they articulate well the meaning of the arrows.
Alongside the arrows the department are trying out a number of new ways of marking and Beth, who has shared many of her ideas over the last term, has developed the use of stickers from her work in the learning hubs. This is something that the rest of the department are also trialling and Clair commented that she feels this is a priority for the department. Beth has also been working on adapting the 5 a day to include command words and also a DIY 5 a day for students to write their own questions for each other. She shared these at a recent Breakfast Jam.

BL 8  BL 7

All of the department have been trialling the use of LATs as part of their interleaving research and there were some fabulous examples of this in the book monitoring. This is something that the department feel is really moving the students forward as they learn to deal with the greater demands of the new GCSE.

BL 10 BL 9

In addition to this the department have really been developing their use of STAR marking with questions set for students to reflect the level of challenge and hints and tips given where necessary. The questions set as part of the action are all checked after the response, which gives a real sense of dialogue between student and teacher within the book. The fortnightly use of DIRT time for reflecting on homework and completing the STAR tasks is really showing progress in books and having a big impact on learning.
Bl 12There is clear evidence of self and peer assessment across the department and Jen showed off the way they are giving students set key words to use in their peer assessment so they can target their feedback most effectively. It was great to see some more examples of Sheila’s rally coach in books, after seeing it in action during a lesson. The STAR marking is not confined to teacher feedback as students are also given the task of self assessing using STAR.
Fran showed off the way students have set themselves their own questions as part of this process. Clair shared her use of peer verification when students checked answers to questions against their peers, leading to discussion and debate around their working out and problem solving. It was great to see Beth’s book showing students setting questions for each other, answering them step by step and then the peer checking each step.
It is always great to see literacy in action in maths books and Beth, through her DIY 5 a day, based around command words, has really pushed this. All the team showed how they are exposing students to longer, more problem based questions which require them to extract information and apply method. Marking codes are being used by Zoe to highlight literacy errors and students are then reflecting upon these and making corrections.

The maths and English departments have also been using the student’s exercise books to gain feedback from parents at the end of a term. Alex shared with me the examples below from some very proud parents.

AW parent comments 5  AW parent comments 8

Overall my first taste of book monitoring here at MCHS has been a wholly lovely one, with an opportunity to see the impact that feedback is really having on learning in maths and English….other departments coming soon.

Jen’s first guest appearance – shuffling in maths.

Last year I was sent an email by my line manager about a little bit of research called ‘The shuffling of mathematics problems improves learning,’ by Rohrer and Taylor, that took place in America. The two different theories in this research really hit home with me as it challenged the idea of teaching maths in neat, topic based sequences.  I would strongly recommend this to all teachers across all curriculum areas, not just maths. Having spent today on an SSAT course I have had the chance to reflect upon how important the context of a school is and I am fortunate enough to work in a supportive school that is driven by research, making the implementation of and enquiry driven by my Rohrer & Taylor reading all the more feasible.

Sharing my vision
To undertake the research I wanted to take two classes and make completely parallel sets and was particularly keen to focus on middle attainers, this being a focus of our departmental improvement plan.

How would it all work?
One class would learn in the traditional blocks of learning that takes place in our education system, e.g. A block of learning on Pythagoras’ theorem, then straight line graphs etc.
The other class would take the first 3 topics of learning in a scheme of work and split these up lesson by lesson in a week. In this way lesson 1 of the week would be topic 1 – Number, lesson 2 in the week would be topic 2 – Fractions and decimals and so on. We’re fortunate to have 4 hours of maths with our year 9 students each week and so the final lesson of the week was dedicated to DIRT (dedicated improvement and reflection time) and homework. The department responded brilliantly; eager and keen to see what impact this might have. One concern was raised and this was how some of the ‘weaker’ students in the group would cope, something I am now reflecting upon after the first term. Luckily SLT were fully on board with my ideas and helped to facilitate the enquiry.

Ready, set …Go!
So at the start of the year two class sets had been created to run parallel. We chose year 9 as the second cohort to run through the new 1-9 curriculum. We assessed students at the end of their previous year and from one assessment ranked the students and paired them up.
The first issue we had was convincing students they were all now 9 set 3 (how we ‘name’ sets is another blog altogether!) and we changed their class code. For this blog we’ll call the shuffled class ‘Alpha’ and the other ‘Beta’ and the only way I felt I would be able to evaluate/share/promote this idea was if I took on the shuffled class.
And so it began… in their first week I was amazed how students just accepted a different topic each lesson! I briefly described what we were trying but I didn’t want them to panic or have predetermined ideas of how it would work. The biggest challenge was for me, I had to stay on top of how the class were progressing and write a weekly plan for the following week of where the students had got up to, ensuring I looked at feedback and AFL. I did also hit some speed bumps when students missed a lesson for absence, this would sometimes mean it would be 2 weeks before they looked back on a topic.
Beta lesson structure
Monday: Number,
Wednesday: Fractions and Decimals
Thursday: Angles

Pausing to reflect
As I’m writing this we have now completed our first shuffled term. The mathematician in me has bullet pointed keys aspects that we have found in carrying out the trial:
Student voice – In the early stages I asked students for verbal feedback of how they felt the shuffled teaching was going and two points stood out for me ‘it’s not boring, if you don’t like a topic you can change next lesson’ and ‘just when you start to get the hang of it the lesson finishes and you don’t get chance until the next week’. This is not a fair questionnaire as mathematicians will know. I was the one asking the questions but I’m confident students felt able to be honest. We’ll definitely conduct a student’s survey with anonymity.
Time to align – to ensure we are conducting as fair a research  as possible time to align between two staff has been vital and has sometimes taken up more time in an already time conscious job. We use the same starters, lessons and homework so as to ensure equipoise as far as possible.
Speed and time to teach – strangely and something I didn’t anticipate was how quickly I moved through the curriculum compared to the other class. The other teacher said ‘I know I’ve allowed time for the students to ‘get it” and I felt that possibly I’d rushed through a few things in order to get things done in a lesson. Of course with the traditional teaching you’re able to adapt your lesson for the following day depending on how the students responded but one thing that concerns me is whether the shuffled class have the same amount of time.
• One thought we did have was ‘we’re bringing up the middle students, but are we pushing the high flyers in the groups?’

Where’s the evidence?
At this point I know so many of you will be eager to hear the data!!! We have created our own assessments from an exam boards GCSE bank of questions and used common GCSE questions from the first 3 topics we’ve taught. This is new in itself as we move away from ‘topic test’ to interleaved assessments.
With regards to hard evidence to say which way is best, I don’t actually think we’ll get this (I hope that we do) until the end of the year. It might be that within our experiment we have no impact! And that the parallel sets stay parallel as it were. This is just a trial! I’ve bullet pointed some findings from our first assessment. We ranked out students in order of score and this is what we found:
• Top 25% – 8 students Alpha, 4 Students Beta
• Middle 50% – 11 students Alpha, 11 students Beta.
• Bottom 25% – 5 students Alpha, 6 students Beta
(Some students were absent and unable to take the assessment)

Where to now?
Well, we’re going to carry on in the same way with the same structure and hope that the next round of results reflect any further changes. I also think student voice here is key, how do they feel about this? Can they see an improvement? We’ll wait and see.

Easing the data workload.

An internal feedback post to colleagues at the end of our inset day. Shared for anyone interested to read too!

You tell us! Shedding workload for the New Year.

I outlined in our New Year blog and reminded colleagues of my vision shared in September, the way forward for our school in terms of reducing workload and supporting each department and individual staff member to focus on what will have the greatest impact on their learning, teaching and PD.

It’s easy, of course, for me to share a wonderfully collaborative vision and to sell this to the world of educational social media and for everyone to think that Meols Cop must be a great place to work in! After all they are they are just words and they are my words; I’ve read lots of articles and posts that when I’ve delved a little deeper, I’ve found that the reality of the school situation isn’t quite as the head might have described it! SLT in general take a bit of a bashing at times and especially where workload issues are concerned and I’m sure that some who have read [if anyone has!] my previous post, may be sceptical of how the philosophy may look in practice.

So what does shedding the workload begin to look like, are we asking the right questions, are we focusing on the right day to day issues and how as SLT can we support the process? Paying lip-service to workload issues is not an option!

I’m biased but when I stood up to thank the contributors to our morning inset session, I genuinely meant the excitement that I tried to convey at hearing such good ideas and the whole faculty reflections that produced the shared work we all heard about. We now, as SLT, have to find the time and opportunities to let cross-curricular conversations happen, for ideas and adaptations to be trialled, possibly fail, and to revisit in summer. Collaboration and sharing of ideas is only a start. Time must be provided to let the real work begin and impact made on student learning and teacher workload.

After our literacy audit [blog to follow later in the year] Leon explained his hopes for a shift in the process of data collection and to home in on what colleagues feel will be a far more effective use of data. At previous schools the oft seen tactic of 6 lots of data collection, followed by an evaluation of the collated evidence by MLT and then a visit to tell you which of your students was underperforming 3 weeks after you had worked that out because you had sent the original data! Etc. etc. etc. We don’t actually do this and our system is quite good but it can be much better and so Leon offered these aims and a brief notion of what internal monitoring should provide. There was no disagreement.

January Inset

January Inset 2

As with marking/feedback/book scrutiny etc. there is no ‘1 size fits all’ approach or straightjacket and 3 faculty leaders [our new SLEs!] stepped forward to explain their latest data journey, how it has reduced workload and where it needs to go next.

There are elements of the same approach within English and maths as the mathematicians adapted some English ideas after our last sharing of data ideas. Science did trial a similar approach but found that it just didn’t work for them and have devised something different.

Sarah explained that in English they have been trialling marking codes which has reduced their workload significantly.

January Inset 4

They are able to let the students complete tracking sheets which WWW/EBI answers according to the marking codes and then can pinpoint where intervention is actually needed most and can plan accordingly.

January Inset 10January Inset 6

Similarly in maths, Jen explained that, after each assessment, students completed an evaluation sheet and the WWW/EBIs were used to track where intervention was needed.

January Inset 5

They had decided that their data focus should be;

January Inset 3

Once the faculty have met to discuss what the data told them they can then plan to tackle group or individual weaknesses [they apparently have 97 G.C.S.E. codes!] and use suitable strategies;

E.g. Intervention with SH

5 a day change

Homework’s for the next term

Targeted lesson

Carmel from science shared a different focus based on interleaving and recall which aimed at the agreed weakness of a lack of revision from students which limited their factual knowledge in assessments. The scientists have also been tracking GM/attitude by looking at weekly test scores.

January Inset 8

January Inset 9The results are quite fascinating and students of very different abilities may well get 10/10 on basic recall, if they learn the facts at home. Pupil premium students have shown the most variations of all with 10 achieved 1 week, 3 the next and then followed by 10! The faculty are now using their lesson studies and research projects to try to find out what are the key external factors for these students in determining their responses to revision and recall. How can school support and develop long term memory retention for them?

The scientist’s key concern won’t surprise colleagues because they worry about how they can more effectively monitor the impact of their intervention and Carmel asked other departments for their ideas to share.

Each faculty has a way to go but it is important that they choose their own route. Not everything has to be marked, every piece of data does not need collecting and collating and the focus of impact should be on agreed areas of subject specific weakness. Workload within this is for faculties to decide not SLT. If it is too much, say so. Everyone’s voice matters.

I made the point clearly at the beginning of the day that whilst it was easy for me to hope that everyone is happy here, if anyone does find themselves to be struggling with their workload that they need to see me. I don’t see it as a ‘weakness’ but as a strength! We have to be honest with each other and self-evaluation of workload and priorities is important, especially during the winter months when absences rise and energy levels may sap.

As senior leaders we have to ask questions sometimes that we aren’t sure of the answers to and that some of which may be critical of us! If we don’t do this we can’t move forward as a united team. Leon asked these questions of the faculties/departments and waited with some trepidation for the answers!

Question 1 – How does your department use its day-to-day internal tracking & monitoring?

Question 2 – How does your department use the progress spread sheets produced after data is entered into SIMS?

Question 3a – To what extent does your current monitoring satisfy the following? How could they be adapted to meet the criteria?

  • Identify which skills students are struggling with.
  • Give an indication if the student is currently on target or below.

Question 3d – To what extent does your current monitoring satisfy the following? How could they be adapted to meet the criteria?

  • Highlight any interventions that work and those that don’t.
  • Give an indication of their attitude / GM towards your subject.

Question 4 – As a percentage how much time is spent by the members of your department on: Planning       Marking         Data entry/tracking            Other                                                            

Do you think the current balance is correct? If not how would you like it to look?

Question 5 – If you wanted to free up more time for other initiatives what would you like to change? How could you develop/trial a measure of the impact of stopping some of your current practice?

All of the answers were shared with everyone else [along with each subject’s literacy pledges!] and as an SLT we will sit down and work through the common ground themes that may have emerged and been suggested. Leon’s initial view as the answers came back was that everyone was confident and happy with the use of data when it related directly to their own teaching and classroom planning [no 1] but more sketchy when it came to the progress data that gets sent ‘upwards’ [no 2] This doesn’t help the classroom teacher, doesn’t change classroom practice and takes time out of planning. There are times when we do need to see whole data [for obvious reasons] but we need to work out how we can access staff data and process it in a different way without imposing on their time. This is an admin task and we will put our heads together and feedback a.s.a.p. Leon quite rightly tells me that staff have to see the data as something useful and not just something to fill forms in for. We already knew this but needed confirmation from everyone and to see proposals that we might not have considered. I can’t share all of the full answers in this blog, as it will last for pages but will add a few of the comments from different subjects and different questions so that external readers can get a flavour of what was said.

  • We would like more PPA time to plan using new initiatives and track their impact. One tracking system for all to use to avoid confusion and a uniformed code for students and staff.
  • To compare the impact of intervention strategies such as phone calls home by providing a specimen group and a control.
  • The student led approach to tracking using goggle docs has really helped me to reduce my tracking and intervention work load. Each of the aspect are of equal importance, and are interconnected. However if data entry/tracking can be made more efficiently this will help work load.
  • Tell the government to stop changing things so that we don’t have to keep on redesigning everything!
  • Reduce other such as: subject reports that are repetitive and often for the same student – tracking in SIMS too often. Behaviour log on SIMS is time consuming with email to on call and contacting parents.
  • Reduce workload – no marking of draft books only peer / self-assessment – independent homework – allows students choices at KS4. KS3 homework on VLE is independent learning.
  • We feel that we don’t have enough time for marking. All of us value well planned and interactive lessons above marking. Even given DIRT time we don’t believe student’s value our marking as much as well-planned lessons yet marking is so very time consuming.
  • Time together (PPAs?) so that we can develop new resources/ talk about the new curriculum and develop new assessments.
  • Cut down on whole school initiatives and spend more time working as a subject specific team on resources/ideas that would really help our department.
  • Marking is not totally beneficial for the students. I would like to develop a quicker approach due to the amount of classes that are taught in music, it takes a substantial amount of time. Additional activities take up a lot of time and I feel that this should be reduced with planning taking more time.
  • Save time on tracking things that are not necessary. Find a way to moderate speaking and writing exams more effectively as these take up a lot of time (At least 6 minutes listening per student before discussion). Form time activities, a lot of “other” time spent on this.
  • We want to spend more time writing demanding questions/model answers that make pupils think deeply whilst prompting them to think about their responses rather than just leaving us to mark them. We have had a great deal of success doing this through self-marking against mark schemes. We would like to increase the amount of work carried out this way and use the time saved on teacher marking & feedback to set the questions and track the progress and performance of pupils. If pupils classwork/effort was tracked in the same manner and the edges between work done in class and outside of lesson becomes more blurred, then we could affect mind-set over a period of time.
  • We believe we could have more impact on pupil progress by tracking whether pupils are carrying out their work effectively and completing it to a high standard and at an appropriate pace (as is happening in our independent study trial). Each lesson / piece of work could be graded RAG. Work / lessons / topic graded red, will need to be upgraded to green at some point by the pupil for them to stay on target. If pupils classwork/effort was tracked in the same manner and the edges between work done in class and outside of lesson becomes more blurred, then we could affect mind-set over a period of time.(Not sure this is clear! We know what we mean. )

You can see that I’ve focused on the last question as it shows a variety of requests and also what we need to respond to. Watch this space!

Thank you again to presenters and all colleagues for their sharing of ideas. I can’t do justice to the quality and quantity of what was said and have only been able to share parts of the presentations and questionnaires but I do value the ideas and hope that our next steps in reducing workload can make a difference to you all.







What I want to say to colleagues but might forget!

2015-last term reflections

I have to say that I have really slept well during the Xmas and New Year holiday and have had the long autumn term cobwebs blown out of me by the lashings of Storm Frank on the hills and trails surrounding Threlkeld and Keswick. Time then to turn to school matters and the remaining year ahead. I outlined my vision for the year on September’s inset day, and need to return very briefly to it again on next Monday’s inset, before the people who actually know what they are talking about, get on with their own professional development! Saying thank you only matters when you mean it and there is actually something to say thank you for. Colleagues have been kind and supportive of my leadership but I want to thank them for their support of each other. I know that when they ask for volunteers to cover their lessons when it is nativity season [if we have none available] there is no shortage of helpers and I know that when staff are absent, work is sorted, classes are often taken and student needs always come first. I also know that a host of informal observations and drop-ins have occurred and that ideas have been shared collaboratively without my nagging and chasing and I know that time has been given after school for a range of sporting, cultural, performing arts and academic support activities that many parents and students presume to be the norm and their right! I wonder how many have marked or planned throughout their holidays too. I neither ask for nor expect such dedication but hope to have helped to support a culture where it just happens and I can genuinely say thank you and provide additional time for collaborative work to be tested and trialled. I hope that our systems are flexible enough to meet the family needs of staff and the personal needs of individuals, when required of their school ‘family’

I made it clear in September that I hoped to be ‘happy’ and that hopefully that would ensure that school was a place where people wanted to come and work. Of course, whilst I might try to model desirable leadership characteristics, I’m snookered if other leaders in school don’t follow suit! There is always pressure on all of our leaders and I try to deflect much of it away that comes from national bodies as possible but the day to day management of learning, teaching, behaviour and administration will always raise issues and concerns. Dealing with people fairly and supportively is a skill that doesn’t come easily to all [perhaps not to me!] but I try to avoid certain situations e.g. emailing instead of face to face speaking over important issues, trivialising issues that the person telling me is obviously bothered about, emailing at weekends or the evening that I want something tomorrow, criticising without thought or solutions to offer and not being afraid to say let me think about it and I’ll come back to you later. I could go on and sometimes difficult conversations are tempting to avoid but they must happen. If any member of staff feels that at any time they have been treated unfairly by a colleague, they must say and be clear that in our school they will be listened to and there will be no repercussions. If I don’t know about things, I can’t act!

I really dislike divisive talk that separates teachers from teaching assistants, from support staff, from mentors etc. We all have our roles that support our students and school community and my conversations with all of our support staff, Martin with our teaching assistants and the whole of our teachers in their appraisal conversations should now have brought into the open professional needs and development requests and individual planning needs. I can’t meet them all; you have your responsibilities and accountabilities too but I hope that everybody involved has appreciated the open discussion, has received at least 1 of their requests and agreed that my own shared appraisal objectives and success criteria was the right way for the school to go!


2016-my hopes and priorities

For those of you who don’t frequent twitter, there are many discussions that get extremely heated especially the Traditional/Progressive debate. I won’t bore you with the details if you haven’t a clue about what the issue is but some have tried to argue that folks should move on, the debate isn’t valid and so on whilst others defend the right to discuss and hold views on whatever you want. I have tried to include as many of my colleagues as possible in our discussions, including inviting governors and other colleagues to SLT meetings and some have attended, others haven’t. That is their right and many colleagues are too busy planning and, marking etc. to consider attending or reading documents. However, I do believe that the opportunity should be there. It doesn’t matter to me whether people agree with me or disagree, but I want to give voices the chance to be heard and important issue like increasing our numbers and considering when it is best to academise/lead a MAT etc. need to be aired and considered with the current facts ready at hand.

The new teaching structure is nearly ready to begin to have an impact. Leadership opportunities will be redistributed, faculties will be separated back into subject specific areas to support very specific professional development and teaching expertise and by the end of next week 5 research leaders attached to year groups will be appointed and ready to rock! They will be expected to seek out evidence to inform colleagues of the very best practice needed to support learners and teachers in the year area e.g. transition in year 7, individual or group needs for intervention and to follow their own areas of research. It’s an exciting direction for the school to take and will support our own, and the TSA’s research projects.

6 colleagues received intensive training just before Xmas in ‘Thinking Reading’ and I’m hoping that the intensive support that will be put into place, supported by another whole school push on reading, will have a vital impact on breaking the sometimes impenetrable learning barrier, that poor reading skills brings.

We tried to reach out to other schools via our TSA to share ideas in the core subjects. Numbers weren’t great but grew and I hope that our next meetings-lesson study and humanities will bring more people in to collaborate with each other and us. I have colleagues ready to work with English and maths KS2/3 lesson study projects and hope that our geography and history tweeters are going to bring all of their followers into school! The final show and share brings some great research experts-Rob Coe, Alex Quigley and Gary Jones- into school and I’m grateful to Lizzy, Leon and everyone else who has come along and shared their ideas with our visitors. The TSA has already provided development opportunities for our NLE and SLE with more on its way for our new SLEs. If we can develop a reputation for quality PD and very practical subject specific/leadership support, we will feel the benefits within our own school. The success will depend, as it does with much PD, on our ability to focus on what is really needed based on a thorough evaluation of data and honest talking. Throwing money around will-nilly doesn’t work and tightly constructed, openly discussed, agreed and monitored success criteria have a chance if we open our doors and model for others what we are talking about!

Much of the inset day and professional development is now down to what the staff decide their priorities are. January reviews will be presented in a style of the subject leader’s choice and data is yours to evaluate, analyse and tell us about. You know your data and your students and classes and you know what it is telling you in terms of progress over time and intervention needs. Leon is convinced that this is the way forward and the data should be yours. I’ll do anything to support the most effective ways for you to reduce workload but know that there is no 1 size fits all approach. Teachers are always complaining about the unnecessary use of tracking and data and I would imagine that most of you will be delighted to have a choice but then might panic and think what on earth should I do! Just ask-plenty of support from others is available and having a go and failing is fine too. We’re developing leadership skills and you have to find your own methodology and practice that works for you and your department. If you feel that you have a weak area of knowledge or skills; recognising it and asking for specific PD is the way to go! This applies equally to any of our learning and teaching priorities.

I don’t know yet which areas of research our new appointments will cover but I do want to open up the opportunity for a group of colleagues to begin to gather information/suggestions re work-life balance and workload. I think that we have tried really hard in this area but you may disagree and have some wonderful suggestions to make. As I said at the last inset, I don’t teach 20 lessons a week any more. I get a bit of mither here and there but it isn’t the same and as I want a happy and healthy staff, I will be seeking your advice and words of wisdom. What was that song Ken Dodd sang about ‘Happiness’-time to go methinks and wish you all a successful and happy 2016.