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How seamless is your curriculum?

OFSTED are currently reviewing how the curriculum is designed and delivered in all phases of education.

In a recent presentation Sean Harford of OFSTED made a plea that schools should be ‘bold and courageous’ with their curriculum.  There are many clues from different commentators and especially from Amanda Spielman as to what is wanted here.  Essentially the curriculum should have depth and breadth, build on prior learning and challenge pupils to master the essential principles embodied in the learning of the core skills especially, reading, writing, communication and Mathematics as well as digital and scientific literacy.  Pupils should be able to make connections and become unconsciously competent in their use of these skills in the pursuance of deeper knowledge and understanding that expand their horizons.

There are, according to Sean Harford of OFSTED, three parts to a framework that make up the essential planning of a cohesive and successful curriculum, these are:

  • Intent – What will be included in the curriculum framework and what knowledge and understanding will be gained by pupils at each stage?
  • Implementation – How will the curriculum be translated over time into a structure and narrative within the institutional context
  • Impact and achievement – Evaluating what knowledge and understanding pupils have gained against expectations

‘Depth and breadth’ are words liberally used in much of the documentation and transcripts from speeches.  Sean Harford admits that there is some ambiguity as to how different schools interpret these words.  For me, the essence of this is to create a seamless curriculum where pupils build on prior learning from lesson to lesson, subject to subject and from year to year.  The curriculum design is a tapestry of learning and the planning of the curriculum needs to draw on all those who will deliver it to understand how their input is an integral part of a whole school drive for deep and meaningful progression for all pupils.

There will be a new OFSTED handbook and framework from September 2019 and if the current literature is correct there will be a greater emphasis on how schools plan, implement and evaluate their curriculum.  If this is so, now is the time to start to focus on ensuring there is a dialogue that involves everyone at school involved in teaching and learning to focus on how the curriculum is woven together to ensure pupils are continually developing their knowledge and skills and deepening their understanding over time.

To create the right culture for cohesion and collaboration the curriculum needs to be at the heart of the planning process.  The vision for school success must be linked to the design, delivery and impact of a curriculum that develops pupils to know more and remember more over time.  An assessment policy needs to be seen to support the pupils’ journeys through the curriculum and be pupil centred.  Pedagogy needs to be explored and defined in terms of how it allows pupils to deepen their understanding, refine metacognition and create the unconsciously competent learner who deftly uses skills in a wide variety of contexts within school and beyond.

Following in-depth research our curriculum experts have some ‘bold and brave’ solutions and a wealth of resources to support schools in both the primary and secondary phases of education to focus on their curriculum, what to keep, what to change and how to create the evidence that your curriculum delivers high quality learning over time.

Create a CPD strategy that will sustain outstanding learning for the next academic year and beyond

Create a CPD strategy and a coaching culture that will sustain outstanding learning and teaching for the next academic year and beyond.

If you read a few OFSTED reports for those schools that have been judged outstanding you will see that they have something in common.  Learning is at the heart of their vision.  Every strategy and decision is made on the basis that it will ensure learning is a continuous process not just for the pupils but for the staff as well.

Leaders, managers, teachers and support staff all play their part in developing a common thread that focuses on their own potential and how each member of staff can learn from their practice and the practice of others.  The wealth of talent that is within the school is shared in the pursuance of a culture of positive continuous professional development and learning.

Creating this culture requires forethought, commitment and detailed planning so that everyone is involved and has a part to play in the pursuance of a learning community. This is the perfect time to plan your CPD strategy for the next academic year to ensure that it will be sustainable, relevant and totally in line with achieving the outcomes stated in the school improvement plan.

The senior leadership team need to have the inherent belief that every member of the school can and will continuously improve their performance.  There is no such thing as failure, a mistake is a jewel that leads to learning and creates an atmosphere of trust that fosters innovation, creativity and challenge.

Middle leaders are the pivotal force in creating a platform for learning that empowers their teams to work together in the pursuit of excellence and improvement across the whole school, in departments, for phases and within key stages.

Teachers and support teams share and cascade their practice through the development of learning communities and the use of professional conversations that will empower them to be reflective in their quest for progression, achievement and attainment for all their pupils.  Pupils are resilient and motivated, they embrace challenge, they are aware of how they are learning through listening, deeper thinking and the development of their memory skills and they know they are part of an organisation that puts their learning needs first.

The Learning Cultures’ suite of coaching training has been designed to create the right CPD to allow this culture to unfold.  Where individuals develop the skills that will influence positive change including allowing them to articulate and pursue their own learning goals, deepen their knowledge and skills, acknowledge their own strengths and share their successes with others the positive results are profound.  The evidence of impact is obvious both qualitatively and in the data sets that confirm the change and the improvements.

 

Create a CPD strategy that is individualised, sustained, intensive, focused and cost-effective

The right professional development will ensure that all teachers continuously develop so that they feel able to challenge, innovate and always deliver good and outstanding lessons.  This is the basic premise of an article about coaching in the TES of Friday 20th April.  Written by a Rhode Island US Professor, Matthew Kraft, he says,

“if you want better teachers, schools need to embrace the power of coaching”.

CPD is an essential part of school life.

The phrase professional development has replaced performance management in the current incarnation of the OFSTED handbook. This suggests that OFSTED want to see that there is a clear link between ongoing teacher improvement and the professional development that teachers have access to.   Measuring teacher performance is an output, professional development is an input. Without highly effective training, collaboration and the sharing and disseminating of good practice improvements in performance are unlikely to be sustained.

The article goes on to say that, “teacher coaching models are one of the most promising alternatives to traditional CPD. ”

Why introduce coaching CPD in a school or college context?

Coaching is challenging and focuses on continuous learning.  The reason why coaching is proven to be a highly successful medium for delivering CPD in a school is that coaching starts with what is working well. The school recognises the talent and expertise that already exists and uses whole school CPD to cascade good and outstanding practice widely.  There is an inherent belief that all teachers are able to improve and grow in their role.  There is a culture where there is no such thing as failure, only the opportunity to learn from mistakes through the use of highly effective professional coaching conversations.

What are the first steps towards developing a coaching CPD model in your organisation?

The first step is to be clear about what coaching actually means.  How is it different from mentoring, teaching, instruction or counselling?  Learning how to coach is a powerful leadership skill.  A leader can take control whilst focusing on how others can be the drivers for the vision, where one can delegate and be confident that successful and well-trained and well-informed teams can deliver.

What happens next is critical.  Leaders and managers need to have a profound understanding of where excellent practice exists and how it can be shared and cascaded as part of a sustainable CPD strategy.  Staff across the school, in whatever phase of education, need to be aware of their own strengths, gaps in their learning and how they can fill them through collaboration with their peers and through focused CPD that is carefully planned and linked to the individual, team and organisational goals.

Creating a coaching culture in a school or college

Creating a coaching culture in a school or college takes time to embed.  However, from the very beginning there are benefits and high quality learning opportunities where staff, whether they are leaders, managers, teachers or their support teams begin to develop a range of coaching skills that are without doubt those that link closely to the pedagogy that delivers outstanding learning and teaching.

As part of the journey towards creating a coaching culture all staff will learn and develop a range of skills associated with coaching.  The most important of these are how to use deep and rich questioning techniques and how to listen actively in order to be able to influence change and support others to self-reflect and find their own solutions.   These skills are inhererent in good classroom practice, essential as part of highly effective meetings and in the development of strategies that need to be communicated in order that they become successful outcomes.

Learning Cultures are leading providers of coaching CPD for schools and colleges

The coaching training that Learning Cultures deliver is built on many years of research and practical examples of what works in schools and college across the UK and beyond.  We can offer a suite of courses for individuals or groups of staff to attend on one or more of our off-site courses.  Alternatively, we offer a variety of in-school training, INSET and consultancy.  We are, without doubt, the leading provider of coaching training for the education profession.  Delegates learn new skills, are stretched and challenged and leave full of enthusiasm and real practical ideas of how to take their learning forward. Below is a list of the courses we recommend to start your coaching journey.

 

Curriculum Breadth and Balance at Key Stage 3 – Planning for impact and successful outcomes

Schools need to look carefully at their curriculum plan for Key Stage 3. The report from OFSTED Key Stage 3: the wasted years? was written some time ago now but it has been mentioned recently by OFSTED and the message is clear, since its publication there is not enough evidence of significant change or improvement in how this important key stage is planned and delivered.

The questions below address some of the criticisms that are evident in recent reports and speeches about how schools are planning their Key Stage 3 offer.

  • What is the evidence that there is sufficient breadth and balance across three years?
  • How effectively does the teaching prepare pupils for Key Stage 4 study?
  • How much emphasis is placed on the teaching of literacy and numeracy in subjects other than Maths and English?
  • How well do pupils build on their prior learning from Key Stage 2?
  • How is Year 9 planned to continue to offer a wide range of subjects but prepare pupils well for Year 10 and beyond?

OFSTED’s annual report published in December comments that some of the above are not in evidence and the criticism echoes the theme that Amanda Spielman has talked about in several of her recent speeches.

“I cannot reiterate it enough: exam performance and league tables should be a reflection of what children have learned. Tests exist in service of the curriculum. Curriculum should be designed to give children the best pathway to the future, not to make the school look good.”

Amanda Spielman speaking to the Church of England Foundation for Education Leadership.

Choosing to have a two-year Key Stage 3 is not in itself considered unacceptable. However, if this is the status quo in your school it is important to ensure that the reasons for this decision are clearly defined and are not simply to give pupils an extra year to study for GCSEs.

Below are some examples of what is considered to be good practice:

Here at Learning Cultures we have a great deal of expertise and experience of working with schools to develop highly effective strategies for both transition and Key Stage 3 planning.  Join us at one of our highly praised training courses to reflect and learn with an expert.

We have a new course for the summer term focusing on Careers Education and Information, Advice and Guidance which reflects changes to the statutory requirements schools now must work with,

Coordinating Careers Education and meeting the new Statutory requirements for CEIAG

Creating a Coaching Classroom delivers positive, successful and outstanding learning

Coaching as a powerful pedagogy in the Classroom – Innovative training that impacts on learning and pupil motivation

Coaching is the most successful pedagogy we can use in the classroom. For many coaching remains something else or something different that does not immediately equate to learning with pupils.  On the contrary, the principles embodied as part of a coaching culture and put into practice in a coaching classroom align so completely to those that an observer would look for in an outstanding lesson.  The impact on learning and achievement is visible and tangible.

The ultimate lesson is one where the teacher has high expectations of all pupils, where pupils are encouraged to focus on how they learn, are able to share their strengths and happily embrace challenge. Also, the teacher celebrates effort and the success that flows from it.  Pupils are expected to find their own solutions and learn from their mistakes.  There is an atmosphere of positivity from which flows self-belief, resilience and reflection. All of which embody the principles of coaching completely.

The Learning Cultures’ coaching team have recently designed a new coaching course specifically aimed at coaching with pupils in the classroom.  There is a consensus from those who have attended one or other of our coaching courses that the opportunities to use coaching as a powerful learning strategy in the classroom are profound.

The day will include:-

  • Establishing a coaching pedagogy in the classroom – the positive coaching ethos that motivates and inspires pupils to reflect, solve problems and be able to articulate how they learn as well as what they learn
  • Coaching and resilience – fostering for pupils a sense of their own self-worth and how developing a deeper understanding of how they learn can have positive benefits that deepen understanding and raise aspiration
  • Focusing on the coaching skills specifically listening and questioning and how developing these skills for both the teacher and the pupil unleash a positive learning culture in the classroom
  • Reflecting on specific classroom situations and weaving coaching solutions that will ensure positive actions are taken, learning takes place and the self-esteem of pupils is raised
  • Time to practice coaching in triads using a coaching model to decide on next steps in developing a coaching culture with learners in the classroom

Where teachers learn some coaching skills and model them for their pupils outstanding change happens and a culture of positivity means that pupils put in more effort, teachers believe all their pupils can achieve and there is a measurable impact on teacher and pupil well-being as well as pupil behaviour, progress and achievement.

Have a look at the course details on our website and book your place for the summer term.  It will be the tonic you have been looking for after another action-packed year.

Coaching as a Powerful Pedagogy in the Classroom – effective pedagogy and skills that foster mastery, progression, resilience and self-belief.

A primary focus – How well does your curriculum stand up to what inspectors are looking for?

Create an outstanding primary curriculum and have the evidence for OFSTED.

OFSTED are questioning the quality of curriculum content in their latest announcements and speeches, especially those of Amanda Spielman, the Chief Inspector.  This is whilst the Government still insist on inflicting upon us yet more testing.  The EYFS baseline test may be in place by next year unless heed is taken of those who are fiercely contesting it.  Times-table tests for year 4 and SATs at KS1 and KS2 remain. The balance between accountability on the one hand and ensuring the curriculum has breadth and is challenging is sometimes difficult to achieve as many primary headteachers are quick to point out.

Curriculum is high on the OFSTED agenda. They are planning a new framework and handbook for September 2019, not very far away in school calendar terms and this, they say, will include a review of the curriculum and how it is delivered. OFSTED are saying that the way in which we can “unlock the potential for all” is not wholly dependent on testing.  They are focusing on how the nature of assessment and actual achievement are linked through a supportive curriculum.  Whilst there is no official guidance from OFSTED they are carefully saying,

know your curriculum – what are the reasons behind its design

know how the curriculum is being delivered across all year groups

know what impact your curriculum is having on pupils’ knowledge and understanding

have evidence that pupils build on prior learning as they progress at points of transition and across year groups

Amanda Spielman (2017) wants leaders to take a “whole school strategic approach to the spiritual, cultural and moral development of pupils to make the world a better place”. School leaders, she says, should be thinking less about preparing pupils for exams and more about the “body of knowledge” young people will gain during their time at school.

Here at Learning Cultures we are following these developments, attending forums that will keep us completely up to date and reviewing the research that is cited as relevant to current policy and quality assertions.

The nature of our training supports leaders, managers, teachers and support staff to take ownership of how the curriculum is planned and delivered.  We focus on what is meant by outstanding pedagogy and how to cascade good practice. We believe that the curriculum should be a tapestry of knowledge and skills that weaves engaging learning opportunities from early years to year 6 and beyond.  This is the time to think deeply about designing a powerful knowledge rich curriculum that is truly relevant to the needs of your particular context specifically in relation to how pupils learn and what engages them in becoming truly competent in mastering the concepts and using them in innumerable contexts.

Join us at our updated primary curriculum event,

Designing the Primary Curriculum – Ensuring depth and breadth and a continuum of learning

You may also be interested in our event that looks specifically how to embed literacy and numeracy as part of learning across all subjects and the wider curriculum,

Mastery and Deeper Learning in Literacy and Numeracy across the Primary Curriculum

Delegate, Disseminate, Deliver – develop a coaching culture that cascades outstanding learning and teaching

Focus on the three Ds, and create a coaching culture in your school

Leaders delegate – The role of the leader is to create the vision and communicate and empower others to action change.

Managers disseminate – The role of the manager is to interpret the vision, build highly effective teams and create the steps and time frames that will ensure successful outcomes achieve the desired impact and bring about positive change.

Teams deliver – The team is made up of the people who can work towards achieving the vision. Individual members make up a team and these could be leaders, managers and other members of staff all co-opted for their skills, strengths and commitment to see the vision turn into a reality.

The catalyst that will allow the leader to articulate and successfully communicate the vision is best realised when he or she is able to use powerful coaching skills effectively; such as learning a range of influencing skills that raise the self-esteem and self-belief of those empowered to disseminate how the vision will be delivered. Coaching is ultimately about creating the culture where leaders trust their managers to find the right solutions, understand the barriers that might get in the way and carefully use the resources and manpower they have available to successfully build highly effective teams.  Learn more at our Leading a Coaching School training day.

Where the skills integral to coaching are used well, managers focus on the positive, have clearly defined pathways to successful implementation and are able to manage their time and be confident of the quality of input from each member of their team.

Coaching allows for focused professional conversations where the use of open, deep and rich questioning techniques create the right opportunities to hold individuals to account and empower them to find their own impetus that will deliver the right answers and ultimate success.  Learn more by attending our Coaching from the Middle – How to influence others and aspire to leadership.

Where individuals work together as part of a team the principles employed in developing a coaching culture will help them to work together more effectively.  Positive coaching conversations help to raise awareness of where there may be issues of concern, create time for the fostering of new ideas and the sharing and understanding of potential risk. Coaching allows for the articulation of what works well and how best practice can be shared and cascaded to strengthen the process towards a successful outcome. Your teams will deepen and widen their knowledge of coaching skills by attending our training course, Developing the Skills of a Coaching Ambassador.

Coaching is about learning how to be the best you can be by realising your potential, and facing up to the issues that stop the achievement of goals. Coaching is about the effective realisation of the positive use of time, deepening self – efficacy and realising that effort and positive risk-taking will be rewarded as long as learning is an ultimate part of the outcome.  Have a look at our suite of coaching courses and create a culture that delivers outstanding and sustainable learning communities.

What do we do with a problem called Year 9? – A focus on the role of Key Stage 3

OFSTED and curriculum breadth and balance in Key Stage 3 that includes Year 9.

OFSTED see Key Stage 3 as a vital and stand-alone stage that should allow pupils access to a wide and varied curriculum that deepens their knowledge and sharpens their skills so that they are fully prepared for the rigour of GCSE.  The message is clear GCSEs are designed as two-year programmes of study and Key Stage 3 should not be truncated without very good reason.

Amanda Spielman in her recent speech to the Church of England Foundation for Educational Leadership was unequivocal in her condemnation of what she sees as poor practice, she said,

Particular poor practice includes,

“the widespread shortening of key stage 3 to 2 years, when this means that many pupils lose a whole year of study of the humanities, of languages and of the arts.”

She goes on to clarify her point by saying,

“I cannot reiterate it enough: exam performance and league tables should be a reflection of what children have learned. Tests exist in service of the curriculum. Curriculum should be designed to give children the best pathway to the future, not to make the school look good.”

So, the questions are,

  • how should Key Stage 3 be planned in order that pupils build on prior learning, access learning in a variety of subjects and become unconsciously competent in their use of the skills they need for future learning, life and work?
  • how can the Key Stage 3 curriculum embrace some of the content of GCSE subjects so that pupils have a foundation that they can take with them into Key Stage 4 and beyond and that motivates them to want to continue to learn?

OFSTED’s message, clearly articulated by Amanda Spielman in several of her recent speeches and publications is that they are not telling schools how to plan their curriculum of the size of their key stages they are saying that there must be good reasons for the decisions made that can be justified in the interest of the pupil and not just in terms of achieving better Progress 8 scores that reflect how successful the school is in relation to other schools across the country.

The conclusion one can draw is that year 9 does need to be planned as part of Key Stage 3. If this is done well pupils will build on their prior learning from Key Stage 2 in year 7 and 8, have access to a wide curriculum offer and develop the knowledge and skills that will be a springboard for high achievement at Key Stage 4 and beyond.

Year 9 could be seen as a bridging year, the transition year from Key Stage 3 to 4.  A year when pupils begin to develop an understanding of how their learning will be assessed at GCSE and what skills they need to develop in order to achieve their full potential.  It could also be the year when there are planned cross curricular themes that are linked to GCSE content but allow pupils to develop skills in enquiry, creativity, problem solving and analysis as well as debating, presentation and report writing.

This approach could tick all the boxes; GCSE content is seen as difficult to cover in the time so a carefully crafted year 9 scheme of work could take some of the strain.  OFSTED want to see year 9 as part of Key Stage 3 and not an extension of GCSE study. This approach allows pupils to access GCSE themes but learn about them in a different way and develop a range of cross curricular skills that will stand them in good stead across all of their GCSEs both core and options.

Join us for our extremely popular and well received training course

How Important is Key Stage 3 in Your School?

We explore how to plan an effective Key Stage 3 curriculum offer that is rich in knowledge, builds the vital skills pupils need for Key Stage 4 and beyond and ensures that some of the content within GCSE subjects has been taught and absorbed by the end of Key Stage 3 ensure a positive springboard for future study.

How do you capture, share and cascade outstanding practice across a MAT or TSA?

Where schools work together to capture, share and cascade good and outstanding practice there should be a positive impact on learning for all the schools involved. Building a framework within which to provide individual schools with the time, resources and skills to use this powerful opportunity to work together is the key to successful outcomes that will deliver the desired excellence and improvement.

Learning Cultures are working with several MATs and TSAs to develop positive models where leaders, managers, teachers and support staff can work together to realise the collective vision of their trust or alliance and see measurable and sustainable outcomes for their own school.

Our programmes provide a wealth of evidence that schools within a MAT or TSA benefit from positive collaboration and powerful communication through coaching

  • We support executive teams to weave coaching through their development plans so that there is clear evidence of how the vision impacts on school improvement across all their schools
  • We work with the senior leaders from each school across the partnership to focus on how to use coaching to build successful teams who can achieve the trust vision
  • We develop teams of coaching ambassadors within the schools who will drive the coaching model across their own school and who receive continuous training in order to deepen their skills and learn how to self-reflect, encourage creativity, self and team analysis and high-level influencing skills that will create consistency and continuous improvement in learning and teaching across the partnership
  • We can plan and deliver networks for the individuals involved to showcase how coaching is having an impact on learning and teaching and on whole school improvement linked to the trust vision
  • We have the facility to set up on-line forums for coaching ambassadors to share ideas, cascade good practice and find a coach to support them with an issue
  • We can deliver a range of training courses linked to the vision of the trust, the needs of individual schools and that will be highly relevant in relation to policy, OFSTED and current research

The catalyst for our work is the use of coaching as a medium for allowing the development of learning communities that recognise how important it is that all staff have a deep understanding of the vision set out by the trust or alliance and how this aligns to the individual school improvement plan.

Coaching allows for individuals within a school hierarchy to develop skills that allow for effective professional dialogue, reflection and a programme of continuing professional development.  This in turn allows staff from individual schools to work with their partner schools to identify and share what works well and how they can build together successful, collaborative learning platforms.

Be Outstanding this New Year – Six resolutions for your school and staff

In December I wrote five news items linked to policy, the latest research and what is in the spotlight for OFSTED and a sixth that focuses on coaching and what we know helps to create and sustain outstanding learning and teaching.

Curriculum is in the spotlight and the focus on mastery or deep and rich learning continues to occupy the minds of policy makers and OFSTED.  Closing the achievement gap especially for ‘disadvantaged’ learners is the subject of a new Government paper. Formative assessment is fundamental to positive outcomes for pupils across all sectors and creating a consistent whole school strategy that delivers positive learning is paramount. Transition is a key issue and remains a concern for many as pupils continue to dip in performance especially as they move from primary to secondary school.  Key Stage 3 is still seen by OFSTED as ‘wasted’ and needs to be a focus for review.

Make your New Year’s resolution to use coaching to create a culture that celebrates, shares and cascades good and outstanding practice and where learning is at the heart of everything.  The philosophy and practices involved in the development of coaching skills for all staff is proven to be the best way to manage change successfully.  Read the blog posts that are linked directly to the issues that have been aired over December and then focus on how creating a coaching culture in your school or group of schools will be a positive catalyst for continuous excellence and improvement.

Read the news posts on our website or dip into them altogether here,

Wishing you a very happy New Year from all of us at Learning Cultures.