Open All Hours part 2

In part 1 of the post, I shared the benefits that opening our school up to many different visitors and sharing our ideas via social media and conferences has already brought us. The more colleagues from elsewhere ask questions of our practice and look beyond the quick glimpse these blogs can give by coming into our classrooms or interviewing our staff, the more we will reflect on our practice, ‘up our game’, if need be and develop our own learning and teaching for the benefit of our students. Collaboration between schools is the way forward to support improvement and create opportunities for teachers and leaders to grasp and shape the future of what matters most in education-learning and teaching!

If you missed part 1, the questions raised by 3 schools visiting over the next few weeks were;

 Culcheth 3rd June

Three key things:

  • School marking/assessment policy
  • How each department is allowed to develop effective assessment/feedback strategies?
  • Life after levels – liked the blog written by your AHT

Bloxham 5th June.  Here are a few questions that I would be interested to hear about:

  • When do you run CPD sessions on T&L/Assessment and tracking and how often?
  • Do you have any specific teachers’ lead these sessions?
  • How do SLT/MLT monitor the T&L/pupil Tracking within a whole school setting/department??
  • Do you have a whole school policy on book marking and if so does each department interpret that to make it specific to their department?
  • How often does work scrutiny take place on a whole school/departmental level?
  • What support is there for any teachers who don’t meet the standards that the school requires?
  • How do you use student feedback/reflections to help improve their work/progress?
  • How much time in a lesson is dedicated to reflecting on feedback?
  • How does the school keep updated with new developments in T&L/Pupil tracking?
  • How much responsibility do Middle Leaders have? What CPD is given to the MLT?

Marple Hall 22nd June

Thank you again for allowing me the chance to visit your school – I am really looking forward to this opportunity. We would like to mainly look at:

  • Assessment without levels (I have read your blog in detail but I would like to actually see how it works).
  • As you know we have started this year doing some work on growth mind-set. I would like some advice on how to embed it across the whole school and would like to know what work you have done on it. I am also interested in all the systems that you might have in place that underpin growth mind-set.

We hope our visitors gain too and are able to borrow any ideas that they like to take back to their schools to adapt for their staff and students and we hope that they will leave us, or respond later, with an honest professional critique of what they saw and bounce ideas back to us. We already have some great ideas from Bronagh’s visit to Ana at Marple Hall-thank you! I covered some of our marking/feedback ideas I’d been asked about in the first post and although I’ve written about how we organise CPD previously; to answer questions raised by 1 of the visiting schools [see the Bloxham questions] and to share with others our latest ideas and practice, here are our plans for the final half-term.

Our whit inset day was explained in one of our big sharing blogs-

And our latest rota of shared ideas [on literacy and numeracy] followed quickly.

After our teaching staff decided on the most important aspects of pedagogy for their own subject lessons, our learning hubs began to dissect each chosen area to gather a bank of resources and good practice that can be trialled and then shared with other colleagues. All teaching staff are involved in a hub of their choice, volunteers lead them and we use directed time and inset days/twilights to allow for collaborative planning and feedback. The hubs will run to next Xmas in the first instance.

The opening questions for each hub were;

  • What do we all understand the priority to mean for our teaching and our classrooms?
  • In our experience what does a good one [of our priority] look like in action?
  • What made it effective-how should we measure effectiveness?
  • Why did the groups choose this-what is it about this priority that makes it so important for student learning/
  • What do students and staff find most difficult about mastering it?
  • What good practice do we have already?
  • What do we need to find out more about?
  • How will we do that-where is there any information?
  • How will we measure our success as a hub?

The hubs lined up like this;

Engaging Delivery-led by Colin

Lots of argument re the word ENGAGED at the moment. Doesn’t mean ‘fun’ or necessarily enjoyable! I take engaged to mean working hard/learning hard and well, focused, concentration etc. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t attract their interest and organise activities so that they are challenging and involve all learners. Questioning obviously jumps out as a tactic to engage all but what else would you focus on? I’ve got loads of research and ideas from other schools to send you once I know who you all are!

Building Resilience and Risk Taking led by Wendy

I’ve put these two together as they both seem to come under the GM stable. So much info and ideas floating round on this and you may well have enough to share and develop just from our own school!

IRIS training led by Phil and Jen

They had already volunteered to lead a hub on IRIS. We haven’t made a big enough use of IRIS yet to unleash the huge potential it had and other leading schools have developed excellent examples of it in action. The cameras can be used in ordinary classroom situations or to develop professional skills and coaching. The cameras are coming so please use this brilliant opportunity to train someone out of your faculty up to be ready, willing and able! PS I have no intention of using them to spy-I can’t access any of the footage-they are for professional development/teaching purposes only and represent a massive leap forward.

Student Ownership of Own Learning led by Beth and Greg

This takes in a couple of suggestions from Comfortable Learning and for me, the main thrust is to keep our push going to support and enable our students to understand clearly how their own learning should [and can] progress and involve our learning dialogue with them. This covers oral and written feedback, peer and self-critique for starters! We’ve had a massive sharing of ideas already but it’s such an important area of learning and teaching that it has to be constant AND if the hub keeps one eye on staff workload too; they’ll be on to a winner!

Student Centred Planning and Delivery led by Katie

Meeting individual needs and using research and evidence/best practice to inform for Katie’s hub-fits nicely with external research from RISE but in the meantime I would imagine that the hub will discuss their approaches towards differentiation. Again controversial area of current educational debate-what does differentiation mean in practical terms and what doesn’t it mean! I’ll equip you with ideas after the first meeting but the first rule for me is knowing your students [or teachers!] really well in terms of their skills, knowledge, and potential in your subject, explicit and implicit learning barriers/needs. This doesn’t mean 25 different lesson plans, an emphasis on 1 cohort or another but does mean applying active intervention when appropriate based on what you see in your classroom.

Promote Independence led by Sarah

Combining with Preparing for Life-how can we instil ‘can do’, self-awareness and reflection as you prioritised. This links with student ownership but with the emphasis perhaps on the teaching strategies rather than the learning aspects. Big questions of how do they learn best, how do they revise best, interleaving, making learning stick, which assessment tactics help their learning most-I could write a book on this! If we get these right and they are different for different students, we will be able to promote independence-they can’t do it for themselves at first!

Active Learning led by Lisa

This doesn’t mean us shutting up quickly, less teacher talk and letting interactive learning unfold. I think you prioritised ‘active’ to mean student involvement in their own learning [as with a couple of other hubs] and DIRT ideas and the reflection involved springs to mind. With Lisa leading, I would imagine she is thinking about how improved literacy and numeracy can support ‘active’ involvement as well as the use of different learning and teaching tactics to writing and listening.

Modelling led by Anne

A tough one so I’ve used the most experienced of our current 5 lesson a day colleagues! I think that Anne wearing her pastoral hat may well touch on our responsibilities as teachers to model good behaviour, learning and commitment to model the highest expectations but am sure that in the discussions on teaching you will be covering modelling good learning habits and techniques, WAGOLLS, 6 marker prep, use of modelled answers, visualizer and so on.

Hope my bit of an intro to each helps guide some thoughts-I don’t want to dictate but want to avoid unnecessary overlap, although some is inevitable.

These are 2 slides which summarise my ideas but I’m always happy to go with your flow!



 A whole range of current ideas from a variety of blogs and research went to the different blogs and will continue to be emailed out. Many of our staff will find their own and do follow twitter but as I don’t have their teaching load, I find as much good stuff as I can!

Ideas quickly began to come back to me and then out to the rest of our staff.

Student-centred planning and delivery hub (focus on differentiation)




What do we all understand differentiation to mean for our teaching and our classrooms?

Differentiation means to us that we know the levels our students our working at and how each student needs to be challenged in order to progress.

In our experience what does good differentiation look like in action?

Differentiation is often subtle and not so much about different resources for different students but more about targeted questioning dependant on their ability, one-to-one informal chats, explaining instructions in different ways, offering bullet points or sentence starters are suggestions.  It means catering for all but also challenging all. Differentiation is also about making sure that all students are able to get to the ‘end point’- not necessarily in the same way. For example in the new English GCSE there will no longer be a foundation paper and therefore all students of every ability will have to be able to answer the same questions.

What made it effective-how should we measure effectiveness?

On a very simple level, students making progress regardless of outside factors such as EAL/SEN.

Why did the groups choose this-what is it about this priority that makes it so important for student learning?

Zoe and Katy and I all questioned how to ensure that differentiation was effective, without being time-consuming and  ensured that all students were able to succeed, perhaps at different rates.

What do students and staff find most difficult about mastering it?

Time! Ensuring that students are differentiated for and also challenged. That differentiation does not restrict.

 What good practice do we have already?

Teachers know their students’ needs and differentiate, often without thinking about it.

What do we need to find out more about?

Easy and effective ways to differentiate the same skill and then differentiation in applying that skill.

How to always challenge a student whilst differentiating for their needs- the balance between too hard and too easy.

 How will we do that-where is there any information?

Meaningful, manageable differentiation blog

Chris Moyse’s differentiation blog

 How will we measure our success as a hub?

We are hoping to trial the idea of teaching a skill by breaking the skill down into different levels. Zoe suggested colour coding abilities so students were asked to answer the coloured question that would challenge their ability. For instance, in maths, take the skill adding, low ability would have to add 28+51, whereas a middle ability would have a question such as Harry had £28 in his pocket and won £51 on a scratch card. How much money does Harry now have? Katy felt this could be easily applied to Art but wanted to ensure that responsibility was given to them for completing the task once they had been provided with the skills, something we all agreed on.  

The difficulty with this is ensuring that all students’ learning styles are catered for as student A, who is lower ability, may prefer the question in context which he/she may not have had access to and will have seen as 28+51. We decided it would be beneficial to suggest a question for each ability to answer but then perhaps given the choice –as long as it was always challenging them. The thing we kept coming back to was the idea of differentiating but then also ensuring that challenge and options were given- these two things should not be opposing but we feel like there is a fine balance in ensuring they’re not!

We also want to ensure students are given the option to take responsibility for their own differentiation. Zoe talked about maths ‘star-marking’ where they got students to review their work on a fortnightly basis. Students would write down a strength, a target and then a question that they wanted to be able to answer next based on their target. We liked this as it meant students were having to engage with their own needs.

Overall, we would want to come up with ideas that ensured that differentiation was done in a way that benefited both us and the students but also meant that all could reach the ‘end-point’

Learning Hub Meeting Minutes: Active Learning Hub

Date: 12th May 2015

Present: LC, FD, EJ, ST, JD, AO, RM, IE, MD

Discussion Point

RE – oral feedback can be better than written feedback – active idea – record oral feedback.

RE – low ability to demonstrate understanding in a more practical way.

General – low ability struggle to peer/self-assess – weak literacy

Motivation strategies required for some students to engage with peer/self-assessment.

Develop student’s capability to be responsible for themselves and their learning.

Need pupils to verify that they understand learning and can implement that learning in further work. 

Modelling & explaining of learning – JD’s ‘Letter Bodies.’

Allowing Lead learners e.g. Sports Leaders, to teach some learning/technique – student leaders to plan & deliver.

Revision techniques – partners to write revision questions for each other (works better with higher ability)

Issue raised – the need to focus on one idea at a time and embed that idea accordingly. Subject Teams to have confidence to develop and embed appropriate initiatives.

Success measured by student participation/engagement/ enjoyment/student questionnaires.

Will contribute towards student memory retention – making learning stick) e.g. interleaving, 5 A Day). Teach students how to learn for themselves. Literacy & Numeracy can be barriers to learning.

Develop ownership of learning in students. Giving students strategies of how to learn/how to revise/showing students what learning looks like. E.g. lunch intervention in Science – students take ownership to turn up and learn for 10 minutes.

Barriers to overcome: Literacy/Numeracy difficulties, time to embed strategies before commencing more – prioritise one strategy per term.  

  • Idea – opportunities to observe staff from other subject areas to share practice 
  • Idea – Subject leaders to pair up with other subject leaders to develop middle leader’s confidence at prioritising strategies/initiatives. 
  • Good practice already happening:
  • Students to actively design their own experiment.
  • Flip Learning in various subjects.
  • Lead Learners in History
  • Quick off the draw in History
  • Sports leaders in PE
  • 5 A Day in Science & Maths
  • Revision Pong (aka Beer Pong – without the beer!!) in Science
  • Pen colours in Science – easy to see improvements made by students to their work.
  • Dot marking in MFL.

What does the Hub want to look at for next meeting?

  • Martin – SEN focus
  • Lisa, Fran & Amy – Lead Learner focus
  • Rachael – Low ability focus
  • Jen – Revision Pong focus
  • Sophie & Ed – Flipped Learning focus

Senior leaders are not members of any of the hubs so that colleagues don’t feel under any persuasive pressure! Leon and I wander the groups to listen to discussions, answer questions and offer pots of money! This is the 4th or 5th year of our hubs and I believe that they have made a huge contribution to developing a collaborative ethos and helped us to deal with tough learning barriers and teaching strategies together. Its early days this time but already interesting ideas are already emerging.

From Colin to his hub.

Hi Everyone,

I have been trailing the attached with year 10 and its going well so far!

I have come up with a questioning protocol for business studies which they all like!

They also like the challenging questions and ‘Hints ‘n’ Tip’ sheets and especially the visual clues. Thanks everyone for your fantastic /ideas and tactics. They are already having an impact! Look forward to hearing about your ideas next term.   



Sometimes the hub feedback gives me the chance to use my grasp of whole school issues to creatively offer solutions!

Alex working in Wendy’s growth mind-set hub was keen to ask her students to devise an ‘effort’ criteria for their lessons and she asked me to check her letter to parents which would explain the trialling of effort grades [and their going home for parents to see] in her maths lessons. The re-introduction of effort grades/comments for reports/use in lessons has been raised by this hub and our scientists. The question gave me a welcome opportunity to very quickly think about the contentious issue [for some who worry about measuring effort] and try to match it with our GM push. The questions the students had devised to check their own effort tended to be very negative-I didn’t try hard enough, I didn’t concentrate well enough etc. whereas my GM thinking tells me another approach may be worth pursuing and trialling. My response;

I would be tempted to use more of the language of growth mind set in there because that’s what will happen if I go with it for reports-a few quick ideas would be; [no need to rush it out if you can come up with something others can use and looks good for parents-you may have to engineer the students around to what is needed-e.g. show them ideas and let them choose!]

When the work was hard I didn’t give up

When the questions were tough, I asked for a hints sheet

When I looked at a tough question, I thought “I’m not sure how to do this YET-but by the end of the lesson I will2

I tried 3b4me

When another student was stuck, I helped them

I completed my DIRT in as much detail as possible

I took the time to check my answers thoroughly to make sure that my work was excellent when Miss marks it

I made the effort to provide my peers with helpful specific comments and advice

I settled quickly in to my 5 a day and always take a pride in getting as many correct as I can

I was as focused on my learning at the end of the lesson as I was at the beginning

Even when I might not enjoy the topic or find it hard, I am always committed to trying my best

I attempted all of my home-learning and handed it in on time

I know exactly what was expected of me today from the learning objectives and tried my very best to achieve them

By behaving well, I helped today’s lesson to be a good learning experience for all of the students and the teacher.

When I had completed a question, I didn’t relax-I went straight into the next one or asked Miss for the ‘stretch’ question

I focused on achieving GOLD today and got there!

I know [or asked] how I could get to the next more challenging level of work today

I have tried my best to make the learning stick in my memory today-I’ll try and think about what I have learned later so I can recall it next lesson

Just a few ideas-note I haven’t used any negative sentences at all, so that my expectations are only positive ones. I never expect or discuss any negativity because I would make it clear that none are expected!  By ticking [or not] the sentences, you can quickly focus on the areas of difficulty next lesson and let them discuss in pairs how they might get round it OR if lots are having difficulty with the same-discuss as a class with you leading OR let the ones with the same issue go into a group and discuss with a maths leader [student who has achieved the definition] sharing their ideas. You should be able to get clear advice over a few weeks from the students as to how they suggest each of the questions is tackled and can display around the room. How does that sound? I wouldn’t send parents anything that suggest the students might possibly not work hard! Of course they don’t but I would only reinforce desirable attitudes.

Very fast response and I’ll think more

Meeting schedule

This is our meeting schedule for the summer term and although the meeting is only for 1 hour, it gives a snap-shot of our CPD current offer and a pointer to what we consider important and needs prioritising.


April 21 Faculty discussion of BSG questionnaire
28 Faculty BSG moderation
12 Learning hubs to follow up INSET
19 Professional portfolio follow up to inset
26 Half-term
June 2 Lesson obs planning
9 Learning hubs
16 Lesson study feedback share
23 Subject leaders/progress leaders
30 Year teams
July 7 Faculties-sharing of good practice from lesson obs/book monitoring
14 Faculties-final BSG moderation/plans for next term
21 Break-up for summer!

I’ve explained our BSG assessment discussions and professional portfolio work in previous blogs but you can see a couple of other key aspects of our collaborative CPD. The lesson study feedback is a very fast teachmeet come market place of involved colleagues feeding back the results of their lesson studies and the lesson observation planning/book monitoring feedback are further opportunities to talk subject specifically about our latest rounds of line-manager observations and book scrutiny and then to feedback best practice via our internal blogs.

Our subject leaders meetings are open to anyone interested in the topic of conversation-not just our faculty middle leaders and we have a couple of exciting initiatives ready. We have ran our own middle leader CPD in previous years and also offer NPQH, SL and ML via Edge Hill. At £1000 a go, I couldn’t afford to have many colleagues involved and spotted the SSAT NAML new course which Leon and Mark volunteered to become facilitators for. At the moment, I think that 14 of our own middle leaders have signed up to the voluntary sessions which will lead to nationally recognised accreditation. We will be able to probably split the group into aspiring/new and more experienced leaders and have offered the course to our friends in our TSA and beyond. This should allow us to break even with our expenditure but of more importance, offer the chance to discuss some key issues internally and with colleagues from other schools. The flyer is below.



1.Vision and values


2.Developing your leadership approach


3.Building a high performing team


4.Leading your team day-to-day


5.What makes the most effective teaching and learning?


6.Observation for improvement


7.Using data for impact


8.Fostering positive behaviour for learning


9.Leading and managing innovation and change


10.Supporting your team

oh19Yesterday our new look SLT for next year was decided upon and I want to use our subject leader’s meeting to share all of the questions and tasks that faced our new assistant head for learning and teaching and our 2 new temporary deputy heads. We are forever succession planning but I can’t recall having a session where we openly shared the process from start to finish of appointing a new SLT member. It has to be a tough and searching process and our own staff need to see exactly what is needed to be successful.

Our new AHT, Elizabeth will join us from another school to look after learning and teaching but our temporary deputies will come from within and their choice of extra duties [on top of their AHT current ones]  came from either SEND, Teaching School, Research Development or CPD. These are huge areas of current discussion, growing knowledge bases of best practice but still hold vast realms of as yet untapped potential for all of us to develop. Annette will work with our SEND provision and Leon will further develop research to provide us with evidence to inform our practice.

The SSAT ‘Building on Consensus’ booklet with their 2015 recommendations places a strong emphasis on the same key areas stressing their view [and ours] that “teachers’ and leaders’ practice should be informed by a range of evidence, including academic research, and that they should be allowed to make professional decisions about how to use this in their own context.” Leon’s role will be to facilitate this and to help to join the gap between university research and our own by extending our work with the RISE project [Durham], Nottingham and new links with Edge Hill.

As well as dealing with the vast amount of paperwork SEND provides to ensure the best quality first teaching and support for our disadvantaged and vulnerable students, Annette will combine with Leon to dig deeper into the SSAT’s notion of “more research and development is needed to explore the most effective ways of closing the gap and increasing social mobility. We need to ensure that individual students are on appropriate curriculum pathways, receive excellent advice and guidance, feel well supported and mentored and are taught in a way that meets their needs.”

It’s going to be a busy but rewarding summer term of professional development and learning!

Hope this has been useful for both our own staff and visiting readers.

Some of the posts, I’ve sent to colleagues include;

from this morning!- 10 teaching tips … …  questioning summer exam frenzy stretch and challenge independent learning modelling writing-I know Sarah like Andy Tharby’s stuff I send on as above developing independence and modelling lots of ideas in these blogs great ideas re cameras, lesson observations, GROW model-school who have developed no lesson grade obs like us for Katie to read and share if she likes it! Pie Corbett models talk for writing interesting site-few ideas off it below

Written feedback Teach First’s research bloke-bits of everything in his blogs modelling writing modelling and questioning another great set of blogs worth checking-lots of topics effort grading … whole series of David’s response to 20pp is great for discussion-2 key ones for us below … via  making learning stick -useful and important summary for busy teachers!

Just a few examples before our own whiz round the staff emails!










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