South-West RIG NALDIC Report


At the SW RIG in Wiltshire on Wednesday 14th March we had a rather small but very productive meeting.
Gayle Fletcher and Helloise Kerr-Wilson – Cheltenham
Katie Isaac – Bristol
Jane Townsend – Cheltenham/Gloucestershire
Steven Donahue and Roz Serle – Wiltshire
Zdravie Davis and Pitville team – Cheltenham (forgive me for not knowing two names as not on register!)

We began with introductions and then learnt a great deal about Wiltshire EMAS which was thoroughly interesting and informative. From this the discussion we moved onto what we are all doing in terms of supporting Syrian Refugees in our communities. A most useful conversation.
In terms of planning, moving forward we suggested that the two topics of Refugees and Assessment could be a focus in the next RIG. Both Gloucestershire and Wiltshire have networks and I understand that other areas have networks or clusters, so these topics could be discussed at a local level and then shared collaboratively. The RIG meeting has been planned so that we could discuss any form of input into the UWE EAL Conference in Bristol.
I suggested that a Southwest RIG website would be an excellent resource, where each network or cluster could have their own page. This would enable us to share what happens in the RIG and also locally within the southwest region, in addition to that it could be used for sharing resources, presentations and events. We could design our own logo and draw up our core values, principles and aims of the group. Each member cold also have a picture and brief bio, to negate the need for introductions each meeting. This could be another agenda item for the next RIG.
We discussed how the meeting should be arranged and we were in agreement that travelling to different sites three times a year would be beneficial. In terms of organising the RIG meetings, the host will take charge of emails, advertising, agenda and that we would use an online boking system such as Microsoft Forms. The host would then write the report for that RIG meeting.
We finished our meeting with a great presentation form Katy Isaac – Barnton Hill Academy about her ESOL classes. This was such heart-warming presentation where Katy’s passion for working with the parents was clearly evident. Our school has already invited her to come to our school and we shall go and visit her. This presentation will be forwarded in due course.

SAVE THE DATE – Next RIG will be Wednesday 27th June at Pittville Senior School, Cheltenham.
The following RIG will then go to Bristol – venue to be decided.

New Curriculum Design

Three new over-arching themes for whole school REAL Projects 2018-2020


Positively contributing to society – Global Citizens. Giving to ourselves – good mental health and well-being.

  • Oh! The Places You Will Go.

Your Choice – Your Design – Your Project…


Engineering and creation of new technology to solve real world problems using maths and Science.

Rooted in Research, Effective Practice and Great Experience.


The impact so far…

Two and a half years ago we decided that our school improvement planning would only be based on what we know will truly work, and most importantly what works well for our children and teachers. Since making this conscious decision we have explored what that would look like. Would we only used evidence based research? – No! Somethings we have chosen to do because we have trialled them on a small-scale in the school and we have seen their impact. Therefore, it is our professional opinion that this is effective practice. Trialling things means a teacher seeking out quality training, going out to see practice in different settings, if possible, and then experimenting for a whole year in class, tweaking and developing it for our school.

Professional trust is key if this is to be effective, the teacher must feel able to make mistakes as sharing these mistakes with the team in the future is so powerful. Two examples of this practice has been in the whole school teaching of reading and mastery approaches to maths. In both cases the two teachers have spent a year developing their own practice in class before training in  the school. In the case of mastery approaches to maths our Y1 Maths lead is now a Primary Mastery Maths Specialist Teacher.

In my experience I have also seen some things that I know don’t work, are a waste of time, a drain on teacher workload and well-being – and have no real impact on moving learning forward. Experience has shown me alterative approaches that do work, and these have been embraced. To be honest there has been research around these aspects of practice and it has been interesting to read about it afterwards and think – great we got that right from the start!

In July 2017, three years into my first headship, OFSTED came to visit. In short we gained OUTSTANDING in every aspect. On the second day I sat down with the three inspectors and asked to share eight different things I wanted them to see before they left. The day was planned around this (apart from a few things they added in to surprise us!) I hope people are not going to be cynical, here is a head who had a great OFSTED experience and guess what they got outstanding!  Before we received the judgment I spoke to the lead inspector about how happy the whole team was with the way it had been conducted, with sensitivity, clarity and precision, and with true professionalism. Don’t get me wrong it was intense, we were challenged on many aspects and there was no stone left unturned ,however, it was the most well conducted OFSTED I’ve been through.

That said, I would like to share what has worked well for us, in no particular order.

From Teaching Assistant to Teaching Partner.

Heavily influenced by EEF, wider reading via the NPQSL and the works of Rob Webster – Maximising the Impact of TA’s.

Caroline Parker, our SENDCO and Assistant Headteacher set about transforming the use of teaching assistants in our school. Changing the name did not improve the impact, the training and effective deployment did.

“Why do you think we now want to call you Teaching Partners?”

“Because you want us to work harder for the same money?”

It’s this sense of humour that keeps this school alive! A year’s training took place to ensure the TPs knew how to work smarter not harder. Intense training every fortnight, released from class for an afternoon, delivered by our SENDCO and external experts. The teachers scowled at first but it was the case of them understanding that their job would be easier once this training had finished. Seriously, we could write a whole piece on this alone, what the TPs have achieved in a year is phenomenal. So much so, that at the end of the year we had to start retraining the teachers because the TPs knowledge and understanding about supporting learning was great.

“Why do you think we changed the name to Teaching Partners?”

“To acknowledge that you value us as professionals, we work in partnership with the teachers. We have planning time, time to talk with the teachers. We feel empowered to make suggestions to the teachers about learning and learners…we are not here to do the work for the children, we are not here to just work with the children who have high levels of need.”

A strong feature of the school is the investment in the training of teaching assistants, known as teaching partners, and the emphasis on focused and very regular discussion about learning. As a result, teaching partners are very effective in both conducting interventions with groups of children and supporting in class. OFSTED


Over the last two years we have invested 10% each year of pupil premium money into Music. There is so much research about music and the impact it can have on raising standards, other than just in music, and this has been clear to see. Every class has regular music lessons taught by experts, from our 72 piece samba band to trumpets, violins and ukulele. Samba throughout the school has been a huge success. Do we have figures to show its impact? – No. In a school where you are developing many aspects, its hard to see which is working most effectively. What we do have is pupil voice and case studies which have shown great improvements in social and emotional aspect of learning, improved behaviour, mindset, concentration – and of course a love of music and a love of learning it.


Influenced by Dylan Williams, Gordon Stobart.

A new policy was written over two and half years ago to put an end to a practice so entrenched in teachers life, that is a complete waste of everybody’s time. In my last class before I took on headship I had convinced my previous head that I wasn’t being lazy but writing stuff in children’s book had little or no impact. I was shocked when I arrived at Gloucester Road to hear about a week they called ‘the tunnel’, in which they would use a plethora of pens and highlighters, marking to within an inch of their lives – it had to stop. Now we focus on individual, paired, group or whole class feedback. There can be comments in books but they have to be peer read, and they are quite infrequent. It works because leaders gave the teachers permission to pause over learning. And of course peer critique has been key. Staff meetings and training on questioning developed throughout the year.

“What will you do if you walk into a class, there is no real new lesson/ learning, The children are doing other stuff and we (teaching partner included) are just talking to groups of children about their work?”

” I may well give you a hug!”

How do we know this has been effective? – The children tell us, the work they produce and feedback from staff in their peer observations.

Teachers and teaching partners have very strong subject knowledge due to the well-targeted and widespread professional development that they receive. They use this deep knowledge to precisely target questions that will develop pupils understanding and to use misconceptions and make mistakes to further increase learning. Teachers use oral and written feedback to guide pupil’s learning. Pupils respond promptly to improve their work so that any gaps in understanding are addressed. OFSTED

Growth Mindset and Meta-cognition.

Influenced by Carol Dweck, Barry Hymer, Jo Boaler.

Possibly, this should have come first as it is where we started the minute I walked into school. It underpins everything we do and ensures success. Our Motto I can do It! was the tip of the iceberg but it was a good place to start. A focus on effort, persistence, commitment, hard work in the pursuit of achieving great things. The mastery approaches, the ‘can do’ attitude, the power of ‘yet’, ran alongside this.

“You can’t have growth mindset in children if you haven’t got a growth mindset team!”

In the first year we delivered a series of lessons which had been developed from a project  in Gloucestershire 2009/10 together with Oxford University and  The Institute of the Mind. But four/five years later some of the learning was a little outdated due to better understanding of more recent research. At present we are working with Osiris – a year into our own action based research. Ten members of staff teachers and teaching partners have developed their own questions to research, under the guidance of our coach – the project is written by Barry Hymer.

It’s hard to describe the impact of this other than it has transformed our thinking, our outlook, our attitudes to learning,  and our performance and achievement of everyone in the school  – children and adults alike. For the children to see their teachers as learners is so powerful. Our children are positive, they love challenge and a have a want to know. We have children who know how to think and in doing so  gain a deep understanding. Interestingly, we have high mobility in our school and take children from far and wide and at different stages of learning. When observing their attitude to learning, compared to that of children who have been immersed in three years of growth mindset and metacognition, we can see great differences.

D.E.E.P Curriculum. 

Designed for challenge


Environmental Immersion

Projects are REAL.

Our Curriculum development has been number one priority and remains so. It is a combination of evidence based research into project based learning, my experience of working with a school in Sweden many years ago, observing great practice in others schools – namely Hartsholme Academy and reading works from the Innovation Unit. I have already written a piece on our curriculum design, but a year on from that we can now start to see the impact it is having on raising standards, creating a love of learning and developing a set of core skills for future learning. I am very careful not to say 21st Century Skills, they may need them for the 21st century, but they are skills that we required before this date and will be needed long into the future.

it is true we do not know what jobs will be out there in the future and what will be created. But neither did Steve Jobs as a 10-year-old, and he grew to be creator and innovator probably using the skills we are talking about:



problem solving



learning from mistakes.

What our children may have to cope with is having more jobs in a life time than we have previously experienced. They may be expected to work and research in different ways. So flexibility and adaptability also drives are curriculum.  What has been very important to us is that children have opportunities to demonstrate their learning in different ways.  And the impact of this…

Pupils learn exceptionally well. Behaviour is exemplary. Pupils love coming to school and are excited and enthused by the lessons. Pupils benefit from a very broad curriculum that is based around providing REAL experiences and is enhanced by a wide range of trips and visits. By rooting learning in exciting and relevant experiences, pupils are able to understand better and produce higher-quality work. Pupils take responsibility for their own learning and love the challenges that they are set by the teachers. OFSTED

I walk around our school a lot, just dipping into learning. the teachers are fine with this. I’m not out to trip anyone up. Listening to the children talk about their learning has dramatically improved. I look back at the first rounds of monitoring we did and my conversations with governors about the lack of articulation about learning. it feels a million miles away.

It is important that our children develop a love of learning, however along the way we want them to achieve well. The above improvements are not exhaustive, our work on bringing the outstanding practices of EYFS approaches throughout the school, our commitment to not labelling or grouping children by ability, the changes to assessment procedures and systems, the environmental immersion and flexible learning spaces all have been rooted in research – are all equally important as the above and have all been tweaked to fit our school and our curriculum.

The progress our children make in English and Maths is well above that of similar pupils nationally, equally they make strong progress across a wide range of subjects. Disadvantaged pupils achieve very well and often have outcomes that are above those of other pupils – by the end of KS2 these pupils achieve above other pupils nationally.

This is a school which is well above national averages for pupil premium, English as an additional language, SEND and EHCP, and mobility. It is a school with the most dedicated team of people I have ever worked with.

In addition to the research and books that we have read, our school has also made great progress in its thinking because of the experts that surround us and the collaboration of practitioners in such events like Beyond Levels, EOS conventions and now the newly established Chartered College of Teaching with its awesome Journals, rich in educational based research. Invaluable!


Gayle Fletcher



Should there be one ruler over one land?




That is the Y4 question.

REAL Project outcome – live recorded debate, shared with whole school, parents and governors.

Today I was asked to go in to class so the children could ask me about leadership. I was quite overwhelmed by what I listened to.


History – the main aims of this project was to be able to teach and assess the right things at the right time. For six weeks they would learn about events in the past, the mistakes, the successes and most importantly how and why change has occurred due to people thinking and debating on such matters.



We also wanted to achieve NC curriculum content, an after thought? Not really, we just carefully weaved Ancient Egyptian Life into it. The teachers synopsis was to focus on the Pharaoh’s legacy as leaders – what did they accomplish and by what means did they do this. Then start to look at other leaders in history…



Ok – they have completed tasks we have all taught about the Egyptians, the blood thirsty stuff, the mystical enchanting, intriguing stuff. But it wasn’t the focus. A visit to Bristol museum and reading great books accomplished and satisfied every child’s want to know about brains being pulled out of noses, curses, etc, etc…


What I witnessed today was absolute, deep thinking about their understanding of the Pharaoh’s actions and how this had fed into their forming of ideas to answer the project question.


I started by asking the children about their project question , despite the fact they had asked to question me, in a busy schedule I’m not going to miss an opportunity of listening to what they think about their learning so far.

Some facts – tell me what you know. Some great answers, I played around with ask, pounce, bounce strategies. Then came the hook. “Do you know Miss, that workers in ancient Egypt would have toes cut off as punishment?” No I didn’t, what do you think about this…discussion began.

I wish I could transcribe, however, their thinking was too fast. They elaborated on human rights, touched upon slavery and embellished upon their opinions about one leader having the power to do this.

Amongst this conversation I asked them why they thought their teacher had made them go back in history to look at the ancient Egyptians, in order to answer their project question. It took some guided questioning and thinking, however, they fed back to me that it was about mistakes. We talked about the opposite – things that went right and then they arrived with the word change! We discussed the importance of learning from the past.


Finally they asked me about leadership in the school. I asked them what they thought my job was – they could have written my job description. Safe, happy, achievement, kindness, and then improvement. One child asked me if I put my money into the school, so we discussed budget – ha! We spoke about governance – they said they thought it was a good idea. “I think they help you make decisions Miss.” We drew a model of a circular nature, they were in the middle with the pupil governors, teachers and SLT around them, governors around everyone. Yesterday they had discussed hierarchy so this was a good talking point.


“Well you should see that the leadership comes from within, and you are at the centre” Open mouths looked at me. The reckoning – they are leaders.


“What have we been doing that’s new?” – challenge and choice. “So you are leaders of your own learning by doing this, right?” – oh yeah! My heart raced.


This is the best unplanned observation of learning I have done. I didn’t need to see the teacher teaching to know there has been some quality stuff going on here, the children showed me the path she has taken them on.Assessing the right things at the right time. Off the cuff listening. Deep understanding. A curriculum that doesn’t limit thinking and embraces incidental learning. I can’t wait for the end debate!



What a great day!

Written in haste to capture the moment! – credit to their teacher Myfanwy and their teaching partner Lauren.


When a Few Tweaks Lead to Transformation

Curriculum design is my passion. It’s predominantly why I wanted to become a head teacher, to lead a school and transform teaching and learning thus ensuring our children develop a love of learning. I have arrived where I am now, and where we are as a school because I never stop thinking about improving it. My previous and first blog related to the progress we have made with assessments and our new tracking system, but it is our attention to curriculum design which ensures our children continue to achieve great things, in a great way!

Graduating after a four year teaching degree in 1999, my experiences have shaped and formed what I want to achieve. Most recently (last seven years) with two years of visits to Swedish and French schools, teaching and leading in three different towns and cities, listening to amazing speakers, reading and more reading, surrounding our school with right people – many experts in their fields, we have transformed how we work and think.

As a new head teacher, 18 months in, I wanted to carry out a constructive learning review. (LR) An objective appraisal of where we were and most importantly, critical thinking about our next steps. In March 2016 I welcomed Mary Myatt to conduct a LR. I had previously seen Mary speak in 2014 and presented her with a scrappy A4 mind map which outlined what I wanted to achieve – she told me to go for it! Then in 2015 I approached her at the end of a conference and we planned a LR, followed up a week later by an INSET to discuss outcomes and next steps. Although there has been much press regarding no need for ‘mock OFSTEDS’ this was much more than that.

The experience was a resounding success, and I will get to the point about it transforming our curriculum, shortly! However, I am compelled to describe how purposeful, positive and constructive the LR was. The learning walk was like no other I have ever done. What Mary gleaned in ten minutes of observation in each class was enlightening. As we left every class her immediate feedback, in the corridor, summarised what I would have probably spent a whole week on. I learnt so much from this, least of all to ‘stop interfering’ when observing – Listen.

So much happened on that day. It was conducted in such a thoughtful and considerate manner. Mary saw what was happening, at a deep level, and reflected this back to us with precision and clarity. At 6:45pm, when Mary left, my acting deputy said, I didn’t want to shake her hand, I wanted to hug her!

The moment that made me stand still, (freeze almost) be very quiet and truly listen was during the book scrutiny… (This is paraphrased) and the words hit me hard;

“When do your teachers sleep?”

“Why are your teachers writing their own texts?”

“This could be linked more succinctly.”

Next, my governor came to take Mary to the parent interview. My acting deputy and I waited in the staff room. I felt like the wind had been knocked out of my sails. We looked at each other and read each other’s minds. Here was our improvement point!

I shouldn’t have been too worried! After the parent interview Mary reflected back on the scrutiny. My face must have been a picture of worry.

“Its fine Gayle, we just need to make a few tweaks.” Mary then explained about designing the curriculum and themes with more cohesion and how this would also impact on the standard of our newly formed learning Journeys, so that they were of the same standard of the English and Maths books. It would also reduce workload, instead of trying to fit everything into one theme. This was great as our learning journeys were very new and just months in we had received some very valuable feedback, so we could begin to act on it.

On our INSET day Mary, once again, reflected back to us key messages from the review. A chance to celebrate our successes and chance for me to watch our team smile. Next, a presentation on key pedagogical thinking which was great in inspiring the team. Collaboratively, we started to think about designing a new theme for terms five and six, focussing on fewer things in greater depth to ensure improved cohesion across the theme. If it didn’t fit box it up, do it somewhere else, but do it well!

To cut a long story short, we found a beautiful photograph that our Y1 teacher and I had previously seen on a documentary-serendipity. We named the theme, “The Tree of Life.” It all got a bit messy before we all agreed on a theme that would unite us, but it was a good mess! Within the theme we planned REAL projects, a whole school art exhibition and a series of presentations on world creation stories from all classes to the school and families.

tree plan

We can only build resilience for improvements, within the team, if we experience success. This venture of LR, followed immediately by deep thinking and collaboratively re-designing was a tremendous success. So when I spoke to staff about taking this to the next level, they said – let’s do it! From that point I was inspired to design a whole new approach. Four months later “a few tweaks” as Mary said, has totally transformed our thinking and understanding. I say “a few tweaks” what I really mean is, finally, we had decided what is most important and dumped all the stuff that was weighing us down.

We have freed the anchor, and are ready to set sail.

Since starting a Gloucester Road I have never really liked the “History” “Geography” “Science” themed approach. It niggled me. Mostly because if we block out the majority of the History concepts in Sept – Dec, then possibly at surface level in a different theme, what do they actually learn and remember at a deep level? It defies the principles we teach our children about the brain and learning – about repetition of skills and making connections stronger, the importance of coming back to learning and thinking and also making connections between learning. I don’t and can’t drive, (it’s a principle!) but I’m sure if I had lessons for 14 weeks then didn’t return to it for another year, I would not gain a deep understanding or make any significant progress, probably crash a lot. This needed to be addressed. (Not the driving!)

I have led on transforming a creative curriculum into an experiential one and have spoken frequently about REAL projects within themes, but now it was time to really re-design. Our lovely head of teaching and learning had been away on maternity for the last year, she is an expert on environmental immersion. So, our latest KIT days have been very well spent – thinking big!

June 22nd 2016 we launched our new DEEP Curriculum, with Bucks Fizz and nibbles, to the whole school including attendance officer, MDS, cleaner, admin and finance. I hope the following slides paint a picture of where we are now.




The first theme was designed out of the need to immerse our children in great literature and to highlight the joys of reading more, and more quality texts. The Y6 project is essential in highlighting the importance of reading at home. I have learnt at our school that if you want something doing well and championed, get the children to lead it. Our attendance ambassadors and Pupil Governing Body are testament to this


Example of PM projects in Term 1.


Each theme is very different in design with projects planned in a variety of formats, from whole school, to class and to who knows what in term three as teachers are given total freedom in their design. Theme one is prescriptive for a reason, to ensure that when starting something very new, the SLT have lead by example. Less scaffolding in the theme two and then total freedom in theme three. At this point in the year teachers will have “lived it”, had opportunity to make mistakes, enjoy success and collaboratively reflect.

Theme one is most different from what we have ever done. After a few initial “wobbles” from a couple of staff, lots of encouraging words from myself, collaborative planning and a fab clip from TEDX on Original Thinkers by Adam Grant, the whole team was on board. It has been exciting watching the teacher’s plans evolve as they take ownership of the projects. Teachers have welcomed the fact that, apart from PE and PSHE once a week and music once a fortnight, for the first six weeks, they are going to solely focus on the PM projects. This will allow them to focus on deep learning and understanding of key concepts in history whilst completing the project. However, they understand that through project work, something special happens – incidental learning, some of which you just can’t plan for.

Planning this has taken time and a few mistakes have been made. The original plans hung on my wall for 2 months. We presented them to staff, gaged their thinking and input. Finally, in conversation with our head of teaching and learning, after staring at it for some time, we decided it just wasn’t right. And so we started again. Such mistakes were good, and letting the team know that we had made mistakes was even more valuable.

In leading through the wobbles it was important to really unpick the key principles of the new curriculum design. Most important was to reiterate my faith in them as professionals, with such a relatively young team this was the first time a lot of them had been told – Go for it! As long as they had given thought to what they do, and no one was going to get hurt, then it is ok to make a few mistakes. Not everything will go perfectly, and you won’t lose your job over it! The people who wobble the most are sometimes the most conscientious. They laughed in my room last week because they are the ones who are now offering great support to other staff.

I can’t wait for the children to return to see the Magical World of Books Corridor, which spans the length of the school. Think old library, Harry Potter, flying books, staircases leading to nowhere, fireplaces with comfy chairs and books, books, books. Each class has a magical door which leads them into their projects. Classrooms have been designed with flair and imagination, using simple props all of which can be boxed up quickly. Teachers, parents and teaching partners have begged, borrowed or acquired some great pieces, old mannequins, pianos, fireplaces – the staffroom, at present, looks like thrift store! I can’t wait for our children to hear about their new projects.


Go For It!

Words really do have power, when you genuinely mean them.

Gayle Fletcher – Head Teacher




Assessment Tracking Systems – Keeping it Simple

Assessment Tracking System – Keeping it Simple. #Learningfirst

I have embraced Life without Levels from the start of my first headship. Listening to Tim Oates at The Key Conference, I agreed with the key principles of fewer things in greater depth and studying things at the right pace to secure deep learning. With levels there definitely was undue pace, there was no real time for consolidation and ensuring children were absolutely secure, no time to linger over learning and concepts, or work at greater depth. And as a consequence I have seen children move through schools with big gaps in their learning because we were more focussed on the level than on what needed to be secured. Sadly, even with good teaching over key stages, a lot of gaps were left for the Y6 teacher to plug.  How many times have I heard in school staffrooms?

They just don’t retain anything… or

Did you teach time in YX because they can’t remember a thing?

Maybe, just maybe, it was because we moved them on at too fast a pace. It wasn’t because of poor teaching, just poor methods of assessment, (lots of box ticking) and allowing tracking systems to have too much influence – to be the master, not the servant.

Now, my main passion is in curriculum design and this is what we spend the majority of our time on. That said, we had to invest time in developing a new assessment tracking system, bespoke to our school. It’s the same principle as hugely investing time in EYFS – you will reap the benefits.

Making a few mistakes at the start was essential in leading me on a path to creating better assessment systems: knowing where you are going wrong only strengthens how you put it right.

My first mistake was thinking that I could use my existing system in a different way, thankfully it only took me one term to realise it wasn’t going to work. I met with Jamie Pembroke and chatted about my frustrations with the existing system. Emerging, developing and secure just wasn’t working for me. Later in the year I thought…this just sounds too much like levels and APS, and this is what I so desperately wanted to move away from.

I had one defining moment when talking to a teacher in a tracking/progress meeting where I was saying; So, this is Y3E and this needs to be Y3S so that’s 2 points, blah, blah, blah. I thought, this is not what I wanted, I’ve gone back to that arbitrary labelling of children…its term 2 what are they actually emerging in? Surely they must be secure in some things and possibly working at greater depth…STOP IT!

I wanted a system which I had a greater input in designing, and that shows;

  • What has been taught
  • What has been learnt and to what depth
  • What gaps needed plugging

We are now nearing the end of this academic year, and I can confidently say we have an assessment system that is working very well. It is the servant, not the master. It sits quietly in the background doing what we have asked it to do. Teachers love it, because it is simple and it truly informs teaching and learning.

The big reveal – we use INSIGHT. This is not a sales pitch. I attended the Beyond Levels conference in Sheffield #Learningfirst where I spoke with a number of people who asked what we are doing. And as this is a community that is about supporting each other, I have written this in the hope it will help people. In addition, I would really value any constructive criticism.

So what did we do?

I’m going to keep this really simple. I did enlist the support of Jamie Pembroke at the start, we had 3 hour conversations over some decisions – with tea and cake. I told him what I wanted and he brought me back down to earth on several occasions!



  • Devise a depth of learning rating – be specific for English and Maths, exemplify it so that teachers know exactly what to look for.




Rating  Definition Evidence  – English and wider curriculum Maths
0 Objective taught –displays some/limited understanding. Guided group work or 1:1 teaching evidenced to show some understanding.

A greater degree of modelling/use of resources/play and exploration may be required before a child displays greater understanding.

Developing Fluency
1 Shows evidence of understanding but not yet secure. May still require support. Support could be with minimal teacher/TP support. Intervening at start of task or during task to aid. Support could be additional resources, a toolkit or structured success criteria. Presenting things in a different way. Starting to explain, increasing fluency.
2 Independent application of knowledge/skills – secure understanding. A secure understanding where children can apply skills independently and confidently. May still have access to less scaffolded success criteria. Can explain confidently, what is and what is not.

Children are able to make convincing explanations, and can prove it. Reasoning is well thought out.

3 Greater depth of understanding evidenced. Applies skills knowledge, understanding in different contexts, skilfully. Contexts may be multi-objective and cross curricular. Children make connections between learning. They can research independently and create own lines of enquiry. Competent in solving, reasoning and explaining. They can come back to work after long periods of time, showing the same degree of understanding.





  • Add your own objectives. We use Kangaroo maths, essential knowledge and depth objectives.
  • Define what expected progress is – We have defined expected progress for the whole school to ensure that when setting expectations, we are focused on closing the gap. We did this by looking at their unique starting points.






Our first year model. The bands are based on what has been taught and understood to date. In the first year we needed a starting point. I must stress this is not levelling in disguise! It has been used to depict a picture of where our children are.

Y2 – Y6 Subject :
Children who are working on securing objectives from previous year at the start of the academic year. Children who are secure (80%+) in previous year group.


Expected progress 40% or less from previous year secured in term 1. 60-79% secure in current year group objectives Above expected progress

80%+ secure in current year group

Well above expected progress

Working at greater depth for 0-30% of objectives

Expected progress – 80%+


Above expected progress

80-100% secure and evidencing 0-30% working at greater depth

Well above expected progress

Working at greater depth 30%+ objectives


Children who have evidence of working at greater depth from the previous year Children who are more than one year behind.
Expected progress

Secure 95 -100% of year group objectives and working at greater depth 0-30%

Above expected progress

Working at greater depth 30%+

Well above expected progress

Working at greater depth 60%+ of objectives

Personalised gap filling for individuals who are one year or more behind ARE, or have an additional need, or new to English.



This is a starting point and it will need to be evaluated and reviewed at the end of this year. The aim is to ensure that, over time, the gap in attainment closes. Some children will do this more quickly than others. If we return to the principle of studying at the right pace and deepening learning, then some children will remain in this band for some time. But, each year plugging the gaps from the previous year and securing more objectives in their current year group. For children who have very low starting points, of which the vast majority of our children do, the constant focus on plugging gaps in a thoughtful and considered approach is necessary.

We have a very similar document for expectations of reception moving into Year 1. I think it is also VERY important to note that we do understand that any child, at any stage of learning could be working at greater depth in any subject at any point. Our personalised target setting for children with additional needs are ambitious, based on EHCPs, other agencies recommendations combined with ensuring they acquire essential knowledge for their stage of learning.

  • Define bands for progress and attainment.

So for us we defined progress bands as, small steps, slow, good and rapid. Attainment bands are simply: well below, below, just below and on track. It’s up to you to define what good progress is at different times of the year, but we take into consideration coverage, objectives secured to date and our depth rating. We still have to tweak this at the end of the year!

You will see later that I had concerns with some children who were making slow progress at the start of the year, because they were not securing objectives. However, these children just needed more time, and they have secured them now. Some children make small steps at certain times of year and, often, these children have been through some sort of crisis, or have been away in a different country, and have a lot to catch up on. Such complexities are a regular occurrence at our school and it important that our systems are flexible enough to identify the issue without resorting to an aggressive red RAG rating. These things are normal, not a disaster.


What you end up with is a system that;

  • Allows you to have great discussions with teachers about learning and progress. What has been secured, what needs to be secured and how they intend to do that. Plugging gaps! Again, I think it is important to note that our discussions about children’s learning is not dominated by the system, we refer to it when we need to.
  • The main objective tracker screen shows what has been covered, what has been secured to date and what their average depth is.
  • There are no silly algorithms that sit behind a system – it is based on professional judgement.
  • It does everything a leader needs, in terms of whole school analysis.
  • There are some clever graphs which show progression and – hang onto your seats, sometimes the graph lines stay the same, sometimes it dips and then recovers. And no, I don’t use this to whip my staff with. BECAUSE WE SHOULD ALL KNOW BY NOW THAT LEARNING IS NOT LINEAR.
  • It allows the children and teachers to discuss learning with parents more precisely than before.
  • It informs teaching and learning. It is informing how we will teach, what we will teach and in what order at the start of the new academic year, and obviously throughout the year. (Especially that gap plugging from the previous year) but all of this can be modified if necessary.


We have made tweaks to things over the year – no-one gets it right from the start. We had to live with it for a while to see how it operated and how we worked with it. Being totally honest and transparent, at the start of the year I was slightly concerned as some children were just not securing a great percentage of objectives. However, I held my nerve as I know my children and some need greater time to secure things. Furthermore, I was confident in explaining this to any “external visitors”. HOLD YOUR NERVE!

Some objectives worried me as they were very long term (knowing all sounds, exceptional words and long reading targets) and they were skewing the data. So, we have decided to split some objectives and we now have to make a decision whether to take some out and add them in at the end. Do I want to weight objectives? I think not.

People have asked me if I have set the percentage of objectives and coverage that needs to be secured by specific points in the year. We have, roughly, and we need to evaluate this next term (term6) but if leaders have set percentage coverage and objectives secured for each term, then they’re kind of missing the point. We don’t need a tracking system to know which children are at risk of falling behind, nor should we solely rely on that. Books, peer observations, pupil voice, feedback, formative assessment, progress meetings tell us when children are at risk of falling behind. The assessment system used correctly just validates this and allows us to monitor, analyse and say “So what now?” with greater accuracy.

To summarise…

This system is not used as a box ticking exercise. Although the system informs future teaching and learning, it does not shape it. Our experiential curriculum, which focuses on fewer things in greater depth does that! We still need to review what we do, as any good self-improving school should. However, it is much improved on what we had before.

Our children are more than a number, more than a level.

Gayle Fletcher

Head Teacher at Gloucester Road Primary School, Cheltenham.