News

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.

Lead your School Towards an Outstanding Coaching Culture

Coaching has the power to transform your school.  If you are using coaching techniques as a leader or manager then you will know what I mean. Coaching is non-judgemental and non-directive. A coach empowers others to find their own solution. Creating a coaching culture means that senior and middle leaders believe that everyone within the organisation can continuously improve their performance.  The sharing and cascading of what works well is fundamental to the learning process.  If things go wrong individuals are encouraged to reflect; criticism is replaced with open discussion that leads to self-belief, self-improvement and peer to peer learning.

Creating a coaching culture takes time and commitment.  The benefits and impact coaching has on individuals, teams and the whole school ensure there is a positive return on the use of resources. The focus is on high quality continuing professional development that allows for innovation, collaboration and positive professional dialogue.  Learning Cultures have developed a suite of coaching training that will deliver a whole school strategy that will impact on school improvement and drive individual and team success.

Increasingly, schools, colleges or partnerships are working with us to plan a coaching programme that encompasses every member of staff from the senior leadership team to support staff.  A focused strategy that allows for a coaching culture to emerge is woven into the school improvement plan. Over time every individual member of staff within the school is able to embrace the coaching philosophy and knows the part he or she plays in achieving the vision for continuous improvement.

Each plan is different and is determined by the priorities identified at the beginning of a cycle.  However, there is a pattern and a rhythm to all successful coaching programmes and they often consist of a combination of the following programmes as a starting point.

Have a look at our wider menu of coaching courses that complement and enhance the ones above. We can also write a bespoke programme for your school, college or partnership.

Closing the Gap – Social Mobility at the heart of education policy

Social mobility at the heart of education policy – no community left behind

In December we saw the publication from the DfE of  Unlocking Talent, Fulfilling Potential – a plan for improving social mobility through education.

The Dfe have four key ambitions to close the gap on disadvantage,

  • Closing the ‘word gap’ in early years, focusing on the development of key early language and literacy skills for pupils who are disadvantaged or not achieving their full potential
  • Closing the attainment gap in schools while continuing to raise standards for all, a focus on intervention where it is now most needed
  • High quality post 16 education choices for all young people, a focus on the ‘technical education system’ being a part of the drive to raise standards
  • Everyone achieving their full potential in rewarding careers, improving the provision of careers advice through effective Information, Advice and Guidance (IAG)

This is a very early stage document with laudable intentions. It will, however, take a long time to become a reality.  There is a promise of substantial sums of money to support some of the suggestions. There is also planned research to ascertain the extent of the problems that exist and where they exist.

One of the observations included in the report is that often the best way to make a difference is to have a look at where schools and partnerships across the country have developed strategies that are creating significant change and are closing the gap.  So, in the spirit of trying to find solutions that can be put into practice now, I have had a trawl around to find examples of good practice.  The themes are fairly uniform across a wide range of research and are what one might expect.  You can download a list of the research papers I have used here.

The main points that emerge are:-

  • Early years intervention can make a significant difference to the life chances of learners especially in supporting the development of explicit literacy instruction and the setting of clearly defined, consistent teaching objectives.  One to one support is also highlighted as is the use of phonics based programmes for struggling readers
  • Making effective use of data can have a profound impact on identifying and addressing under-performance and will help schools to understand the reasons why.  This is especially true when learners are able to use information about themselves to self-evaluate. Data is also seen to be useful for tracking progress or the lack of it and as an essential part of effective formative assessment strategies
  • Raising aspiration is a recurring theme.  How do we ensure that learners believe in themselves and are prepared to have faith in their own ability? The use of ‘Growth Mindset’ theory and other similar interventions are making a significant difference in some schools and across school partnerships or MATs
  • Engaging with parents and raising parental aspirations about their offspring can have an impact on the extent to which learners will see their potential beyond that of the ambition of previous generations.  There are some interesting approaches being applied across the country
  • Developing learners’ social and emotional competences through strategies that raise self-esteem, develop communication and social skills and nurture deep and profound thinking around some of the important local, national and international issues pertinent to the 21st century are proven to have an impact
  • Ensuring there are focused strategies so that pupils do not fall behind at times of transition where there is a well-documented dip in performance for many learners especially between years two and three and years six and seven
  • Where there is strong, visionary leadership that focuses on zero tolerance and a determined and consistent whole school approach change happens
  • Poor literacy skills continue across a raft of research to be at the heart of low achievement, this is especially highlighted in science and the STEM subjects but is a problem across all learning
  • Developing the meta-cognitive (‘learning to learn’) skills of learners is an essential element for success.  Where learners understand how they learn, listen well, think with clarity, have good comprehension and recall skills and can communicate and learn through co-operation with their peers learning and improvement takes place
  • Creating a common language and a consistent strategy to issues around discipline makes a difference
  • The use of technology especially interactive whiteboards and other whole school technology interventions is also seen to improve learning for all

None of the above say anything new or different.  Successive governments have highlighted the fact that there is a persistent group of disadvantaged learners who do not achieve as well as their peers.  The reasons are also well-documented and to some extent obvious.  There are, however, some amazing examples of good and outstanding practice that are making a difference.  We do need to learn and apply these strategies to ensure every school across the country supports every learner to achieve and exceed their full potential.

Learning Cultures are working with several successful schools who have begun to make big strides in this area.  Our own programmes focus on how to cascade and share good and outstanding practice and we can support schools, MATs and alliances who want to develop highly effective strategies that will ‘close the gap’.

Some of our courses also address one or more of the themes above and will go into much greater detail than we can here.  I have put together a comprehensive list on a PDF that you can download here.

Formative Assessment – teacher autonomy, pupil involvement, positive collaboration

Formative Assessment is a pedagogy that should be an integral part of classroom practice. Pupil participation and focused teacher interaction should lead to deeper understanding, and an opportunity to correct mistakes and change misconceptions. Formative assessment should foster the confidence to take risks and work things out.  It should form the basis of forward planning, define the curriculum content and ensure pupils can articulate how they are learning as well as what they are learning. Statutory assessments do not and cannot accurately capture pupils’ achievements.

The above is echoed in a recent report launched by Pearsons and the research organisation LKMco,  Testing the Water – ‘How assessment can underpin, not undermine great teaching’. the report is the result of a national consultation on the future of assessment and it explores some of the questions that surround the issue of assessment and its place in the accountability system we currently have in England.

The report says, ‘understanding and using assessment should be a fundamental competency for all educators’, however the findings suggest that there is a lack of training, teachers lack confidence in the process and they do not know where to go for support, help or advice.  There is an implied criticism that far too much of teachers’ time is geared to summative assessment and the tendency to teach to the test.  The pressure to produce data for reporting and accountability weighs heavily on teachers and negates their confidence in using formative assessment to support learning.  The advice from the report suggests that schools should limit the number of summative assessments and make greater use of standardised tests to benchmark how their pupils compare with others nationally.

Teachers need to have the autonomy to establish what pupils have learnt, remembered and understood and plan the unfolding of the curriculum content and skills development accordingly so that all pupils can deepen their knowledge and build the skills to access that knowledge.

The report focuses on the issue of workload associated with assessment and how this can be reduced. There are some interesting case studies and references to some research based ideas that support high quality formative assessment to reduce  workload. However, teachers need to be confident enough to trust that this will be acceptable to inspectors and those who assess their performance in school.  The report also highlights how new technologies can help to reduce the burden.

The report also asks the question ‘How can unnecessary stress about assessment be reduced?’ The advice for schools is to ensure that pupil performance in tests is not linked to the assessment of ongoing teacher performance. There should be a much closer association with ongoing formative assessment in the classroom.

In summary schools need to,

  • Increase the confidence of teachers to use formative assessment as an integral part of their pedagogy and provide the relevant training to support this
  • Mine the considerable bank of support available to the profession
  • Access training that covers both the theory and practice of assessment that is relevant to those with different roles from senior leaders to Governors and parents
  • Reduce the burden of summative assessment and focus on assessing the deepening of knowledge and understanding of curriculum content in both the core and foundation subjects
  • Ensure the data that is collected as a result of assessment is diagnostic and granular and allows teachers and support staff to define the gaps in pupils’ knowledge or where they need to be challenged and stretched to fulfil their full potential
  • Create a culture that ensures there is meaningful communication about assessment, how it is undertaken, its accuracy and the results that inform planning and intervention across all learning
  • Focus on how pupils learn and how developing learning skills as part of accessing a deep, rich and broad curriculum is far more likely to see them succeed in summative statutory tests than ‘teaching to the test’.  Read Alison Peacock’s piece on page 51 of the report, she says at the end, ‘If the input is right the output looks after itself’.
  • Review the school’s marking policy and testing strategies, focus on their efficacy for pupils learning and the devastating impact too much marking has on teacher well-being
  • Celebrate learning, effort and achievement in the classroom and build the confidence of pupils to take risks with their learning, tackle the unfamiliar and challenge themselves, their teachers and their peers to seek and find out more
  • Use a variety of assessment strategies and decouple pupils’ test and exam results from the assessment of teacher performance in the classroom

Learning Cultures have a unique and highly praised reputation in providing training for teachers that will give them the materials, resources and learning to take back to school to share with others.  Formative assessment requires a high level of competence.  There needs to be a mechanism that allows for effective collaboration, moderation and a collective understanding of its efficacy and accuracy.  Join us at one of our training courses,

Primary to Secondary Transition – Create a seamless curriculum, positive partnerships and powerful progression

Research suggests that pupil performance as a result of primary to secondary transition can dip by as much as 39%.  There are many reasons why this might be so, some are unavoidable as pupils move from the relatively calm and comfortable primary classroom to the less pupil centred secondary school.  There are, however, many things a secondary school can do to turn this dip around.

OFSTED remain critical of the lack of communication they detect at times of primary to secondary transition.  The new primary curriculum is now well embedded and the content is considerably more in-depth than previously. For instance, in Maths pupils are now learning in year 4 what they used to learn in year 6.  The perception from the inspectorate and other stakeholder bodies is that secondary teachers are not aware of the standards and quality of work that is being produced particularly by pupils in years 5 and 6.  Secondary schools need a strategy through cross phase primary to secondary transition partnerships that ensure higher levels of interaction through such interventions as the sharing of schemes of work, an opportunity to dovetail programmes of study and time to observe and reflect on learning.

Secondary teachers should look closely at the SATs tests to see what the pupils they will be teaching are expected to be able to achieve in the last term of year 6.  The scores from these tests will determine the accountability measures by which secondary schools will be judged over the five years until the next testing regime of GCSE.  The data is new and the method by which the data is gathered and collated is new.  Many secondary headteachers say that there is a lack of granularity in the new data which makes it difficult to make judgements on prior achievement. Many see the new data used as part of primary to secondary transition as a barrier to successful academic transition.

Relying on the quantitative data at times of primary to secondary transition is a mistake if it is not backed up by qualitative data and information.  This can only come from clearly defined communication strategies that allow for schools across the bridge to collaborate and share what pupils have learnt, how the learning has been assessed and what the gaps are in individual pupil’s learning by the end of year 6.  This requires an investment by both phases such as, creating teacher time to share, moderate and observe, cross – phase CPD and an opportunity to build co-written schemes of work that deliver seamless learning from KS2 to 3.

Secondary schools need answers to questions such as “what does good progress look like from year 6 to year 9?” “What do the scaled scores at KS2 mean in relation to progress at KS3?” “How do we build on prior learning in a positive way so that pupils see that they are involved in deepening and extending their learning?”

We have designed as a result of in-depth sector led research a powerful training course Crossing the Bridge – Seamless Transition from KS2 to 3 that focuses on these issues and will provide solutions and resources to support highly successful evidence based strategies at times of primary to secondary transition that deliver answers, motivated pupils and a high chance of successful outcomes for pupils at the end of KS4. You may also like to have a look at a recent blog post, The Spotlight is on KS3 which highlights the issues that OFSTED see as still lacking in secondary school planning for KS3.

Weaving literacy and numeracy through a Mastery Curriculum

Effective and progressive curriculum planning to ensure mastery is high on the agenda for OFSTED.  At a recent conference, several eminent education experts suggested that the profession, especially those new to it within the last ten years or so do not have the skills to design a highly effective curriculum. We have a national curriculum which provides the building blocks of curriculum planning. It is what we do with it next that is likely to make it meaningful and accessible to all pupils in an individual school context.

The essential idea behind mastery is that all children need a deep understanding of the essential concepts and content they are learning so that future learning is built on solid foundations which do not need to be re-taught, catch up programmes should not be necessary as all pupils work towards the same outcome and pupils are confident enough to embrace challenge. A focus on mastery in mathematics for instance will help to sharpen the thought processes when developing this rich and innovative curriculum plan.

Mastery is policy because it is seen as the best way to raise standards and deepen learning for all pupils whatever their starting point. In a mastery classroom all pupils are capable of understanding and learning the concepts with time and the right teaching. The curriculum is designed as one set of concepts and ideas for all which includes the connections between them and the contexts to which they apply.  The key ideas and building blocks are important for every pupil whether they are deemed a low achiever or a high flyer.

Which pedagogical principles to use in this approach is an essential part of the planning process. Lessons need to be carefully designed to ensure all pupils grasp the concepts through the development of their thinking, reasoning and problem-solving skills.  Teachers need to know how to scaffold the learning so that pupils can see the connections, deepen their understanding and know how to put the concepts they are learning into context through topic work and practical examples. The evidence that will be there if pupils have achieved mastery will be their ability to use knowledge appropriately, flexibly and creatively and to apply it in new and unfamiliar situations.

There are a host of issues to consider even in this short explanation of mastery as to how to equip teachers both experienced and inexperienced with the skills and knowledge to deliver this approach, lets quantify this:-

  • The curriculum needs to be planned so that it is seamless from key stage to key stage and from year to year, for example what is taught in year 2 needs to dovetail into what will be taught in year 3 and what has been learnt in year 1.
  • There needs to be a consensus as to how to ensure pupils have mastery of the basic skills and how these are used to deepen and master more complex uses of these skills, therefore, teachers need to have a clear idea as to what constitutes deeper learning within a given concept, theory or idea
  • This approach changes many teachers understanding of how to plan for differentiation and requires them to take risks themselves with allowing pupils to make mistakes or fail to succeed the first time
  • Teachers need to have a sound repertoire of different pedagogical approaches that will encourage reflection, learning conversations and experiential learning

Join us for our training Mastery and deeper learning in literacy and numeracy across the primary curriculum  where we focus on the theory and practical application of embedding a mastery curriculum, planning the curriculum, looking at the pedagogy and focusing on differentiated learning in a mastery context.

Telephone 01746 765076 : Email us by using our Contact us page on our website

The Spotlight Continues to Fall on Key Stage 3

This post has some serious messages for all those involved in planning the KS3 curriculum. A senior representative from OFSTED spoke at a Westminster Forum last week. His message, more than two years after the publication of the report, Key Stage 3: the wasted years?, little has changed. His key concerns were:

  • Key Stage 3 is not seen as a priority so there is still evidence of split classes and non-specialist teachers teaching core subjects
  • Insufficient breadth and balance especially where KS3 is being reduced to two years rather than 3
  • Although there are improvements in literacy provision there is still poor provision to ensure pupils can use numeracy unconsciously as part of learning across the curriculum
  • Careers education is poorly served within KS3
  • There is still insufficient focus on the building of prior learning from primary to secondary school so that secondary teachers understand what has been taught and to what depth

It was emphasised that OFSTED have no preference on the size of KS3 ie. two years or three years.  However, if the decision is a two-year KS3 they are looking for schools to justify with some clarity the impact this will have on learning, knowledge, skills, progression and continuity.  Essentially, he stated, the KS3 curriculum is designed as a 3-year programme and GCSEs are designed to cover a two-year span. I think you can draw your own conclusions on their preference.

There are some questions that curriculum planners and those involved in school improvement need to answer in their quest for a KS3 that will deliver high levels of pupil progress and prepare pupils well for KS4 and beyond.

  • How committed are senior leaders in the school to ensuring KS3 has the priority OFSTED have given it?
  • How do we create evidence that the curriculum builds on prior learning from the primary phase?
  • If we choose a two-year KS3, how do we justify the decision in relation to impact on breadth and balance that ensures pupils have sufficient time to deepen their knowledge and understanding and develop a range of skills ready for KS4 and beyond?
  • What can be done to reduce the number of split classes and the use of non-specialist teachers used to teach in KS3?
  • How do we make sure that there is not a narrowing of the curriculum for lower attaining learners and that higher achieving learners are achieving their full potential?
  • How do we shape the curriculum at KS3 so that pupils develop a range of essential skills, especially literacy and numeracy and have a rich tapestry of learning linked to the content of the KS3 programmes of study so that KS3 is not seen as an extension of simply preparing for GCSE?

Since the publication of the wasted years report we have deeply researched this area of curriculum development and have delivered with stunning feedback our training course, How important is Key Stage 3 to your School?  We have resources, tools, research papers and ideas to support you in answering the questions above.

If your main consideration in planning for this curriculum stage is transition from KS2 to 3 join us for our extremely popular and well received training course,

Crossing the Transition Bridge – seamless learning from KS2 to 3.

Changes to the OFSTED Handbook October 2017

OFSTED have slightly revised their handbook for schools. There are not many changes but they are significant.  We have worked through the October 2017 version and compared it with the last published version in August 2016. A complete list of the changes and a web version of the headlines below can be found on our website.

The headline changes are:-

Part 1 – How schools will be inspected

  • Good schools may trigger a full inspection if provision is deemed to have  deteriorated slightly
  • Ofsted have published a short paper dispelling common myths and misconceptions about their work in schools some of which are included in the handbook and captured here
  • Clarification that judgements will not be made where groups are small and therefore not representative
  • Clarification of arrangements for who should be included in meetings including the governance structure and inclusion of chief executive officers or equivalents of academies and milti academy trusts
  • Emphasis that inspectors must gather evidence from a wide range of sources including pupils’ experiences of learning, behaviour and the prevention of bullyingNew wording for how a school is judged as requires improvement and when a school is causing concern
  • Section 8 of the handbook has also been revised

Part 2 – The evaluation schedule – how schools will be judged

  • An additional entry emphasising that inspectors should look at how leaders and governors use high quality professional development to encourage challenge and support teacher improvement
  • An additional entry that emphasises that inspectors must see that the curriculum provides adequately for the needs of all pupils
  • Further emphasis that using data for small groups of children must be treated with caution
  • New emphasis on the adequacy of core provision, inclusion and additional provision for those deemed disadvantaged
  • Emphasis on stretch and challenge for the most able
  • New emphasis on scrutinising the progress of pupils in English and maths against national figures
  • For early years there is an additional emphasis on the ‘culture of safeguarding’
  • There is a new publication for boarding provision Social Care Common Inspection Framework: Boarding schools and Residential Special schools

You can see a transcript of the changes on our website.

Why coaching is a pedagogy that delivers and cascades outstanding learning and teaching and is the most powerful catalyst for change.

Why coaching is a pedagogy that delivers and cascades outstanding learning and teaching and is the most powerful catalyst for change.

Learning Cultures are a leading provider of coaching training to the education profession.  We know through the successful interventions we have been a part of that coaching has the most significant impact on school improvement.  Where a coaching culture is an integral part of a strategy for continuing professional development (CPD) in an individual school or across a group of schools the opportunity to share and cascade the learning becomes an integral part of the process. Individual recipients of the training can disseminate and consolidate their deeper knowledge to others which strengthens their own learning and cascades it to a wider audience.  In this way the training is sustainable, cost effective and there is far more opportunity to measure impact and quantify how the learning is helping to meet the vision and goals of the individual school or those in a partnership, alliance or trust.

Coaching can help to offset the uncertainty that seems to have befallen the profession over the past few months. Although funding is often seen as one of the issues at the top of most people’s agenda, our observation is that it is the recruitment and retention of good quality teachers, managers and leaders that is the biggest obstacle to ensuring a school can continuously improve.  Where there is little in the funding pot this situation is exacerbated.

CPD is not an option. We are a profession and as such CPD is a right and is essential in ensuring we can continue to have the skills, attributes, knowledge and understanding to aspire to be or to continue to be outstanding.  Those involved in education need to be a part of the learning process, where they are continually learning themselves. If this is not the case they will become stale, disillusioned and demotivated at best or leave to pursue other avenues at worst.

Embracing the principles of coaching is the answer.  It is the only way to ensure that the small CPD budget can be used effectively.  Whether a school is working alone or as part of an alliance or partnership the leaders need to have solutions to some of the issues surrounding consistency, communication and collaboration.  Creating the right conditions for disseminating the school improvement plan so that every member of staff is able to say for themselves with clarity the part they play in moving the school towards successful outcomes requires a coaching approach.

Coaching allows for ownership of one’s own solutions. It is motivational and empowers even the most intransigent to see how they can contribute to a change agenda.  A coaching culture begins to allow individuals to focus on what they are good at, rather than what is not going well and creates a culture of positivity which is infectious and has an impact on everyone from the senior leadership team all the way to the pupils in the classroom.

Give me a call 01746 765076 or send me an email via this link or as in my signature below.  I have linked a copy of a planning tool we have recently used with a number of schools within a Multi-academy trust in the south of England.  This is one way, there are many others. Coaching is the beginning of a journey, once you start this approach is a passport to success.