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.
FEEDBACK AND EFFECTIVE QUESTIONING – Put that pen down!
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.
Designed for challenge
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:
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!