What is the Substance of Education?

What is the Substance of Education?

Substance conjures up something of a high quality, solid and tangible, strong and dependable. The substance of education, according to a recent speech by Amanda Spielman of OFSTED is essentially the curriculum and how well it is designed and delivered to ensure that all learners can achieve their full potential.

Amanda Spielman in her speech last week at the Festival of Education reinforced her much longer speech in 2017 at the same event by using the phrase ‘substance of education’. She says,

“..education should be about broadening minds, enriching communities and advancing civilisation; about leaving the world a better place than we found it”.

She continues to be very clear that the curriculum is the key and creates the substance of education that ensures deep and rich opportunities to create a good education for all in orderly classrooms; developing wider interests through sports, music and other curricular activities; building friendships and delivering good pastoral care. She also acknowledged that a good school contributes much to the well-being of children but she says very clearly that well-being is not an activity, it is an outcome.

“It is so important that schools do what they do best and don’t get knocked off course by the pressure for them to solve every social ill.”

Substance in relation to curriculum design and delivery is, therefore, more than the sum of its parts. The planned curriculum must clearly show how subject knowledge is taught, define the skills learners need to access that knowledge and demonstrate how that learning is retained in the long-term memory over time.  She, like me has no truck with the phrase ‘catching up’. Good teaching and opportunities to enrich the fabric of education will make sure pupils will recover.

What is the evidence that the curriculum has substance?

Systems Redesign
When everyone is working together the structure is strong and stable

Delivering high quality outcomes for all learners within any setting or cohort is at the heart of the Education Inspection Framework (EIF) in England and defines the substance of education. The design of the curriculum must, therefore, embrace a number of key essentials:-

  • A deep understanding of how knowledge is sequenced within the National Curriculum from early years to the end of key stage 3 and beyond
  • Clarity as to how learners build on their prior knowledge and understanding
  • Opportunities for learners to make connections across all their learning so that they can make sense of the world they live in
  • An identification of the skills learners develop as they progress through the curriculum and assessment of how well they can apply skills in different contexts
  • A focus on ensuring that assessment is seen as a key component of the planned and delivered curriculum
  • A tacit awareness of how learning is taking place through the skilful use of a range of pedagogies, learner outcomes and learner voice

Join us at one of our highly acclaimed webinars that dive deeply into what we mean by the substance of education.

How Can Coaching be the Answer to those Deep Dive Questions?

Create depth and clarity for the deep dive questioning

The most important element of the substance of education is the essential need to make sure that all staff across the whole school, from the smallest primary school to a large academy or secondary school know the part they play in delivering the planned curriculum. The more staff work together to plan and build the curriculum offer so that it flows, deepens knowledge and ensures learners progress towards those carefully crafted end points the more likely that offer will have depth and breadth and demonstrate cohesion and a shared vision.

The only way to achieve this is through coaching and the creation of Professional Learning Communities (PLCs)  where coaching conversations are an opportunity to build a culture of trust, the sharing and cascading of good practice, a consistent approach to achieving the stated curriculum intent and having at their fingertips a profound understanding of how the curriculum is having an impact on learning, progression and achievement for all.

Coaching is the most profound way to sustain a culture of excellence and improvement where coaching conversations help individuals to clarify their goals, reflect on their successes and what is working well and understand the barriers that need to be overcome. The curriculum is fluid. In order to create a consistent, whole school dialogue where everyone is on message can only be achieved using a framework for change and we know here at Learning Cultures that the best way is through coaching. We have coaching courses for everyone with a pupil facing role. Start now and know the answers to those deep dive questions.

What are the Next Steps to Ensuring Successful Curriculum Impact?

Planning next steps leads you closer to your goal

There is a lot to think about at the moment in relation to planning how to recover from an unimaginable turn of events that has rocked the world. Dwelling on what has gone before will not help and will certainly prolong the misery. Better to look to the future and make very clear strategies that will deliver seamless and sequential learning and create evidence of impact where all learners achieve and exceed their potential.

Creating innovative futures that will help learners to find ways to capture the learning they have missed in ways that are exciting and inspiring is a far better way to plan the next steps in curriculum design and delivery. Amanda Spielman says,

“….for most children, most catching up will happen in their usual classroom with their usual teachers.”

“The magic of teaching  – imparting knowledge, developing skills and building confidence – will mostly happen where it always happened. We should not let the pressure to fill learning gaps bend what schools and colleges do out of shape.”

“Broadening minds, enriching communities and advancing civilisation is still exactly what’s needed from our schools.”

Creating a culture that leads to the above will happen with powerful and challenging CPD delivered using a coaching approach that will lead to sustainable, highly innovative and collaborative ways that breathe life into the substance of education or a deep and rich curriculum offer, whichever phrases you prefer.


How do you quality assure the curriculum?

How do you quality assure the curriculum?

OFSTED: inspecting the quality of education in 2021

How do you quality assure the curriculum in a school or college? Quality is defined by how well learners have deepened their understanding, are building on prior learning and have the skills to access increasingly complex informaton and who therefore are able to retain knowledge and use skills with increasing competence.

How do we capture quality in education?Quality remains high on the agenda as revisions to the OFSTED handbook (April 2021) are published.

“High quality education is built around the connectedness of curriculum, teaching, assessment and standards within the ‘quality of education’ judgement.” OFSTED EIF).”

The inspection methodology for the ‘Quality of Education’ judgement is therefore structured to ensure that inspectors are able to gather evidence of how a school’s activities to deliver a high-quality education for its pupils connect and work together to achieve the highest possible standards. The message remains the same, data as the principle means of accountability is not enough. Measuring quality must look at the excellence of teaching, the depth and breadth of curriculum, the ability of pupils to know how their learning intertwines and connects as well as a focus on the work that pupils produce.

Excellence in senior and subject leadership is pivotal the quest for high-quality education

Responsibility for ownership of the curriculum should be given to all leaders; strategic responsibility to senior leaders and ownership of innovative implementation to subject leaders. The role of both the senior and subject leader in developing systems for highly effective quality assurance remain an essential ingredient that will produce the evidence that the curriculum is delivering excellence in learning and teaching.

Putting quality pieces together for excellence in learning

In primary schools the foundation subjects must continue to have a high degree of prominence. Subjects should be taught by experts, learning should be sequenced and knowledge and skills carefully built over time. In secondary schools key stage 3 must be seen as a time where pupils build on learning from their primary school and develop the skills and knowledge that will prepare them for future learning and deeper thinking.

Building on the experiences of the last year needs to be carefully woven into the shaping of new pedagogies so that all learners feel empowered to build and make significant progress towards successful futures. We cannot capture lost learning but with high quality systems redesign that encompass the positives from the past and embrace change enthusiastically we will make a difference.

Quality Assuring the Curriculum through the Interconnection of Evidence

Interconnecting for quality and excellence

Curriculum implementation requires a balance between the systems that exist to ensure seamless learning where there is a focus on ensuring high quality pedagogy and evidence of how the work produced and the atmosphere and management of the classroom ensure deep engagement for all pupils. There are four distinct components that will help in the pursuit of ensuring there is consistency and a shared belief in the pursuit of continuous improvement that delivers a high-quality education, these are:-

  • the curriculum and how it is planned and implemented
  • high quality pedagogy
  • the depth and breadth of pupils’ work
  • how well pupils are engaged with their learning

Managing Quality Assurance in the School System

Quality Assurance is a potent phrase, well used in business and industry. In order to make the most of what is a powerful tool for successful whole school decision making and planning the processes need to be translated into a school or education context.

The pursuit of excellence across the curriculum and beyond

Reliance on external forces such as OFSTED are not enough. Quality Assurance principles are built on all encompassing factors that embrace all staff, pupils and other stakeholders in designing systems that lead to focused collaboration, the pursuit of excellence and opportunities for all those involved to own their part in creating evidence that they are having an impact on the life chances of every pupil at whatever stage in their education.

The Seven Principles that Underpin Highly Successful Quality Assurance in the School System

Here at Learning Cultures we have focused on seven principles that underpin highly successful quality assurance that are tried and tested in all sorts of organisations and should be an integral part of a Quality Assurance process in schools and colleges. These are:-

  • A clearly defined policy for quality assurance as part of the structure of strategic management
  • A mechanism for defining and communicating the vision for the organisation including how the curriculum intent is integral to the vision and ambition for the organisation
  • Following the steps that lead to high quality futures

    Processes for the design and approval of the curriculum in terms of content, sequencing over time and intended learning outcomes

  • Clearly defined standards for classroom pedagogy, behaviour and the management of and assessment of learning
  • The management of information and data to ensure that analysis and use of data informs progress, intervention and challenge
  • A strategy for assessing staff development needs linked to achieving the school vision and the needs of individuals and teams within the organisation
  • A mechanism for sharing success within and outside the organisation

Quality assurance is all about effective communication.

Quality assurance is about high-quality assessment of a series of well-designed indicators that give all those involved with a framework that they can use to identify their potential, build on their strengths and focus on change and how to manage new innovation successfully.  Professional dialogue, collaborative team-working and a shared commitment to organisational excellence will deliver sustainable educational outcomes and the related data to be proud of.

Learning from the past, positive futures through quality systems

As we move out of an unprecedented period of uncertainty, a loss of cohesion,  team collaboration and direct contact with colleagues and pupils we need to strengthen our commitment to a shared future. Quality assurance as a deliberate strategy that will support strategic change and recovery creates a highly effective framework that once embraced will undoubtedly lead to data that reflects a high level of leadership skill and harmony across the whole organisation.

CPD that delivers Outstanding Quality Assurance

Learning Cultures have worked closely with leading quality assurance experts to bring you our highly acclaimed course that will provide a framework for all those who will be accountable for the quality of education, have a look below:-

Quality Assurance Strategies for Outstanding Curriculum Implementation and Impact

Have a look at other associated Learning Cultures’ Curriculum training. Assessment is a key element in having the evidence of high quality pedagogy and learning. Have a look at out two asynchronous training packages that you can buy off the shelf, Formative Assessment in the primary school, Formative Assessment in the secondary phase. Have a look at our course that focuses on seamless transition from KS1 to 2, find out how to make sure key stage 3 creates worthwhile opportunities for deep learning.  We can support you on your primary curriculum journey and your secondary curriculum journey and we can support subject specialists to re-define their approach to curriculum planning.

Systems redesign – Innovative futures for learning


What are your priorities for creating positive futures for learning that will limit any damage caused by the events of the past year?  I am sure that there are so many it is difficult to decide where to start to ensure future planning creates the right culture for success.  Following ‘a deep dive’ into the current research and commentary from many sources I outline here some of the challenges that may require systems redesign where current systems and protocols may require significant change to deliver innovative futures for learning. The key is to choose the right focus for your situation, define the vision and ambition and know what success will look like.

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent; it is the one most adaptable to change.”

Charles Darwin

Creating a Coalition of Team Leaders

Creating a coalition of senior leaders
Where teams work together excellence happens

The role of the leader is to inspire all staff to achieve the defined vision linked to curriculum intent, to know and be able to communicate that vision and create an inspirational canvas that shines a light on what success will look like. In order to define the priorities for innovative futures for learning the leader needs to have a carefully chosen and trusted coalition, a senior team of talented individuals to take forward any decisions made. They must work together to empower others to be instrumental in making change happen. Transformation comes when individuals work together successfully to deliver mutually agreed goals that focus on positive change, exciting innovation, and who will foster powerful learning conversations.

Re-defining the Curriculum Content

We can’t capture what has been lost, if we try, we will alienate the learner and the teacher. We must move forward from here looking at what has been achieved and build on prior learning from the last year to stimulate and invigorate a belief that where learning goes next will fill any gaps and create for the learner a curiosity to build their own breadth of understanding, sharpen their skills and encourage deeper enquiry.

Creating a tapestry of learning
Weaving skills, knowledge and expertise together

The curriculum is a tapestry that weaves the core skills, the wider metacognitive skills, knowledge and concepts that transcend subject divides to provide the rich and complex threads for deep and profound learning. Finding a way to build a sequential and seamless curriculum from primary school, into secondary school and beyond should be the focus of all those who want to foster successful learning. Systems redesign here is challenging and requires a paradigm shift in current approaches to curriculum implementation which involves collaboration and a shared vision across all year groups and partner schools across the transition divide.

Pedagogy as a Key Driver for Success

Pedagogy as a key driver for success
Build a culture of outstanding teaching and learning

There is no substitute for outstanding pedagogy. The art and science of teaching is at the heart of what inspires learning. Expert subject knowledge, a deep understanding of how learners learn and an ability to create for the learner a deep desire to want to find out more, deepen their knowledge and build unconscious competence in their use of a range of skills describes the exceptional teacher.

Creating a CPD strategy as part of systems redesign should focus on the sharing and cascading of good practice. Planning professional development must create opportunities for teachers to reflect on their own successes and allow teachers to take risks, be innovative and look beyond the subject divide. Teaching in the 21st century and especially now as new approaches and new skills have changed the dynamics all of this must be close to the top of the priority list for innovative futures for learning.

Capture Learning at Points of Transition

Systems redesign for transition is likely to be a strategy that will provide evidence of impact more quickly than any other. There is a profound and well-researched dip in performance of anything up to 40% from the end of a transition period to the end of the following year, this is most profound when pupils move from primary to secondary school.

Creating partnerships that deliver seamless learning

Why? There are so many reasons all easily dealt with when there is a commitment to a shared partnership across the transition bridge whether this is key stage 1 to 2, 2 to 3 or when learners move from key stage 3 to 4 or from year 11 into a post 16 environment.  High levels of communication, a shared vision for a sequential and seamless curriculum, a focus on the needs of the learner, an understanding of what has been taught, what has been learnt and what skills are integral to the learning phase all play their part in negating any dip in learning.

Creating a Coaching Culture for Learning

Creating a Coaching Culture for Learning
Reach for excellence through coaching

Coaching creates a culture where the focus on specific systems redesign will make the most difference. Coaching empowers, defines the right channels for effective communication and allows individuals to find their own solutions. Now is the time to plan a strategy that will deliver your vision for the future of learning in your school, college MAT or Trust. Embracing coaching as the conduit for change to take place is elevating, motivating and uplifting.

We take the principles of coaching and use deeply respected research to create a pathway for all staff to work together, celebrate their strengths, learn from each other and cascade their successes widely thus building a culture of positivity and a willingness to embrace change. CPD is an essential element of professional life for all those who educate.  Using coaching as a key driver for ensuring all are working together to achieve a common goal will reap a harvest of outstanding learning and teaching. Reach for the future, don’t dwell on the past.

Building on Confidence in Technology

Building on confidence in technology
Creating a blended learning future

Who hasn’t learnt new skills over the past twelve months? Who hasn’t found out more about themselves and what they really want? We have all had to embrace technology and we have all had to learn differently as a result. This is true for all learners across the age spectrum, for teachers, leaders and maybe most of all for parents.

Leaving out the power of the learning through technology as part of your systems redesign would be a travesty. The future of learning must embrace the way technology has been an integral part of how the curriculum has been delivered and how learners have captured their understanding, revealed gaps in their learning and demonstrated competence in a range of new skills. We have updated our original Blended Learning course and it is now called Planning for a Learning Future: Better than before. Creating a blended learning future creates exciting opportunities for deeper, richer learning experiences across the age and the ability spectrum.

Capturing the Learner Voice

The learner, wherever they are along their journey in education has had a lot to deal with, not least a media intrusion that constantly suggests that they ‘will be the lost ‘generation’ and they have experienced ‘a catastrophic loss of learning’. On the contrary they have a great deal to celebrate and be proud of. Part of planning for systems redesign where leaders work out how to innovate for future learning must be to involve the learner in the process.

Capturing the Learner Voice
Creating the Expert Learner

It is by talking to learners, finding out how they feel, what they need to offset any loss of learning and highlighting the many skills they have gained that we will help them to move forward towards successful outcomes and positive futures.

Learners have had to work independently, be autonomous in how they have managed their time and planned their learning. The genie is out of the bottle, we need to build from here and not impose structures that existed before that will no longer feel right for learning. The possibilities are endless for ensuring that learners can take more control for their own learning and build new futures. Have a look at our 15 top tips for ensuring learners can make the transition from home schools learning to learning in the classroom.

Read this article written by our Director Glynis Frater about the importance of staff and learner voice in taking account of curriculum choices . Written some time ago but the themes resonate now more than ever.

Assessment and Curriculum Futures

Assessment must be a key driver when designing and implementing a curriculum that will ensure all learners achieve their full potential.  Planning backwards may be key to this. What is the curriculum designed to achieve? How will the learning be assessed? What will be assessed, skills, knowledge, flair, deeper thinking? Where departments and teams are working together to define a common purpose for how learning is to be assessed there is a synergy and a collective approach to designing curriculum strategies that will challenge, nurture talent, ensure parity and foster a culture of curiosity that leads to independence and deeper thinking.

This year assessment in both primary and secondary schools has been turned upside down. Teachers have the responsibility for making sure that they can find enough time to teach the content, create an environment where learners can feel confident that they are learning and have sufficient evidence that the knowledge they are acquiring will be enough across the specific range of subjects they are studying. Read the current guidance from OFQUAL.

Assesment and Curriculum Futures
Creating ladders that lead to progression

This is a paradigm shift for many teachers and is an interesting ideological diversion for many political thinkers. The cushion of the exam or test takes the responsibility for assessment out of the hands of the teacher and the centre they belong to. In this brave new world, it is essential that all teachers have the right evidence to submit. They must have a deep understanding of the pedagogy of assessment for learning through the use of deep and rich questioning where challenging feedback is essential in the pursuit of accuracy, transparency and fairness. They must also feel convinced that they can make their own professional judgements across a range of evidence sources.

We have added to our courses Formative Assessment in the Primary School and Formative Assessment in the Secondary School to provide those teachers who are not familiar with teacher assessment in this way to learn some of the tools and techniques that will help them to be accurate and confident in their own adjudications so that they can be assured that they are doing the best for their pupils.

Strategic and Innovative CPD Solutions

Innovative futures for learning will lie in a focus on systems redesign and the associated CPD that will be essential. All staff need to feel they are an integral part of the learning journey that will ultimately lead to successful outcomes where minimum learning is lost and teachers and learners alike feel confident and empowered to look forward and not backward.

Strategic and innovative CPD solutions
Systems redesign – Innovative futures for learning

Have a look at Learning Cultures latest online brochure for all our latest courses and programmes for school and college leaders, subject and middle leaders, teachers and support staff. Visit our website for all the latest information about our services, courses and superb asynchronous packages. Let us help you to create a coaching culture that will ensure all staff work together, share their successes and build a truly collaborative and outstanding future. Work with our curriculum experts to redraw your curriculum vision, share the rationale and ambition and build the highest quality learning journey for every learner. Know what success will look like and have evidence at your fingertips that your systems redesign will impact on the life chances of everyone in your school or college.



The Art of Positive Lesson Observation – creating a culture where lesson observation is a collaborative part of continual professional learning

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In this news post I want to focus on the outstanding opportunities that exist in ensuring lesson observation is a key part of professional learning and development for all those with a pupil facing role. Where individuals see lesson observation as an important part of their own professional development it is transformational. The key however is to make it a two-way process. It should not be an imposition where senior and middle leaders decide who should be observed and when.

Our course “The Art of Positive Lesson Observation – creating a culture where lesson observation is a collaborative part of continuing professional learning” focuses on how using coaching techniques can have a significant impact on how the observer feeds back to the observed and those being observed accept and use the feedback as part of their own learning and continued development as a good or outstanding teacher.

Where lesson observation is a part of performance management it becomes an imposition and is often an unwelcome intrusion into the teacher’s classroom. Where a coaching culture emerges, the teacher is an integral part of the observation process, welcomes the opportunity to reflect and can accept the positive and constructive feedback that is shared.

The best way forward is to make it explicit that lesson observation is part of professional learning for all those concerned. Every member of the teaching staff needs to be involved, all should have the opportunity to observe others and engage in professional learning conversations about the quality of the lesson, what worked well and what the teacher might do differently next time.

To create a less judgemental approach to lesson observation it is important that all teaching staff understand and can talk about the teaching strategies that underpins their classroom practice. In this course we give the participants an opportunity to explore pedagogy and what constitutes independent, active and participative learning that ensures all learners are fully involved in their learning. Giving teachers an opportunity to talk about teaching and learning as part of lesson observation gives them the opportunity to celebrate what they do well, share what achieves impact and take away the ideas and best practice from other practitioners.

There is an imperative to give teachers and their line managers an opportunity to share their experiences of the past few months. Observing lessons has taken place but in very different ways. Now is the time as we welcome learners back to the classroom to use CPD time to consider new ways that might emerge where teachers develop different and more blended learning strategies. Creating a coaching culture where teachers can experiment, take risks and build a repertoire of new pedagogies will enrich the learning for both the teacher and their pupils.

The message we are conveying as part of this training course is that there should be a high degree of trust between the observed and the observer. In a coaching culture the observer is not there to judge but to feedback in a positive way that creates for the teacher an opportunity to learn and grow in their role.

The course provides those who take part with opportunities throughout to practice coaching skills and deepen their understanding of how to feedback positively to encourage reflection and foster a motivation to want to make changes and to learn.

Where coaching is an integral part of the process of observing learning there is a willingness for individuals to share, grow and innovate.  Where coaching is embedded as part of the feedback process the school or college culture changes and everyone is a part of the desire for continuous improvement and the quest for high quality learning for all.

This course The Art of Lesson Observation”   is one of our asynchronous Moodle packages that those with responsibility for lesson observation, professional development and performance management can use to suit their CPD timetable or planning time. It is divided into five sections that are designed to cover a full INSET day. They can be broken down and delivered over time and revisited as often as is needed. The whole course sits on a Moodle platform where all the resources are easily accessed. There is even a multiple-choice quiz, bibliography and extra resources at the end of each section.  It also comes in a box with a memory stick that houses all the resources, sets of cards, a user manual and because we can’t offer you lunch, a box of chocolates. We can also run this course for leaders and managers from an organisation either remotely or face to face when allowed.

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Re-thinking Appraisal in Schools- creating the right culture for continuing professional development to flourish


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This newsletter profiles our training course Re-thinking Appraisal and Performance Management- Creating a coaching culture that leads to influential change through positive learning conversations  It looks at the process of appraisal and the undoubted advantages of using coaching as a means of ensuring the vision, the school improvement plan and the road map that defines the way forward from here can be all be realised.

We must not forget the implications for staff development as well as for pupils’ progress and achievement as the academic year rolls on and we begin to look to future plans for learning and development. We are certainly aware here at Learning Cultures that training and CPD has not been high on the agenda for school leaders and line managers during the last year, which is understandable in the circumstances.

There will be an imperative to include continuing professional development for all staff in any strategic planning that takes place over the coming months. There is much talk about what learners have lost but this can be just as telling for those who teach, manage learning or design the curriculum. In all of the professions CPD is a vital component of maintaining standards and high-quality outcomes and education is no exception.

Achieving carefully crafted goals and objectives may not have been possible for all those at the frontline of trying to educate and keep a school safe and running smoothly. Therefore, appraisals may need careful thought as we move towards the new academic year and begin to look at the whole school or college vision and organisation, team and individual improvement plans.

We have a coaching solution to the need to rethink appraisal. We can support all those who need to reflect on how future plans will redress the impact of the last year and refocus how an appraisal process will help to reset the compass in order to steer learning towards positive futures.

The answer is to make sure that all staff are involved in the process and all have a say as to their own goals and aspirations for the future.  It is essential that leaders in education encourage their staff to reflect on what they have learnt over the past year. It has been tough and for many exhausting and overwhelming, but we have all had to adapt and change our ways of working and we have all gained new skills in the process.

Going backwards is unlikely to be the way forward. We cannot capture what has been lost but we can build self-esteem and celebrate the achievements bound up in survival, change and positive action that has been taken to minimise disruption that has been the default for many. This is where coaching comes in.  Making sure line managers create the right culture that ensures appraisals are a two – way process with the individuals they manage is essential. This must acknowledge the individual’s strengths and skills and give them the opportunity to share their own solutions to achieving positive outcomes and measurable impact for all learners and all staff.

Coaching is about setting goals and focusing on how these can be achieved smartly. Creating an appraisal process that focuses on accountability for each individual to be responsible for achieving what they say they want to achieve is far more motivating than when goals and objectives are imposed by others. Each individual needs to know the part he or she plays in achieving the school or college vision. Their focus is then on what positive actions can be taken to achieve success, measure impact and focus on priorities for change and improvement.

Our training course Re-thinking Appraisal and Performance Management- Creating a coaching culture that leads to influential change through positive learning conversations will give those with responsibility for managing appraisal with a wealth of materials, resources and activities to re-think the process. We also contain within the course the opportunity for those attending to learn some coaching skills that will help them to support their teams to define their goals and objectives, know and articulate their strengths and learning agenda, conduct appraisal interviews and create opportunities for ongoing professional learning conversations to take place during the interval between formal appraisals.

This course is an asynchronous package that those with responsibility for planning and conducting appraisal can use to suit their CPD timetable or planning time. It is divided into five sections that are designed to cover a full INSET day. They can be broken down and delivered over time and revisited as often as is needed. The whole course sits on a Moodle platform where all the resources are easily accessed. There is even a multiple choice quiz, bibliography and extra resources at the end of each section.  It also comes in a box with a memory stick that houses all the resources, sets of cards, a user manual and because we can’t offer you lunch, a box of chocolates. We can also run this course for leaders and managers from an organisation either remotely or face to face when allowed.

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Quality Assurance: an education perspective

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Quality Assurance: an education perspective

There has never been a more important time to focus on the overused and misunderstood word ‘quality’, especially when it is coupled with the word assurance. Quality Assurance means achieving what you set out to achieve, where the outcomes are those that meet the needs of all stakeholders and where mishaps or failures along the way are not dwelt upon and have been carefully analysed and refocused so that they become successes. Quality assurance is different from quality control and it is this difference that needs to be clearly defined in education.  Let me give you an example,

In Britain in the 1970s we had a car industry

We tended to wait until the end of the production line to check whether the car met the standards required. If something was wrong, it was difficult to see where the mistake had been made and the system of remote supervisors who were not involved in the car making process didn’t help. This was quality control. At the same time in Japan, they were adopting a system called ‘Kaizan’, a system of quality assurance. Team leaders and their teams had a responsibility for checking each part as it was added along the production line, their involvement was recorded. This meant that at the end of the line if there was a problem it could be traced back to where the part was added. This meant that everyone had a responsibility for the quality of the final product.

Something similar can be applied to schools and colleges

if we rely too heavily on summative data at the end of key stage 1,2 and 4 and 5. The principles of a Kaizan or traceability system that underpin this concept in business can be applied to the building of a collaborative and positive school or college structure that ensures the curriculum vision translates into outstanding pedagogy, profound learning opportunities and has an impact on continuous improvement for all.

Quality Assurance is a process

that ensures what is to be delivered or produced achieves a clearly defined set of outcomes. The emphasis is on ‘self-review’ rather than checking by a third party or inspector.  Quality assurance is a well-used term in business and well-documented systems exist that give staff the tools and techniques to monitor their own quality output. Total Quality Management or (TQM) is a term many businesses have now adopted and implies that quality assurance is an integral part of all systems and is, therefore, an essential element of every individual’s performance.

Applying quality assurance  principles to a school or college setting

requires a deliberate focus on defining what constitutes a quality culture for any education setting. There are many benefits to adopting a process driven quality system for education, such as,

  • The imperative to define a set of incremental steps that lead to a collaborative and highly effective system that can be implemented across all teams, departments or phases within a school, a college or across a trust or alliance
  • The need to clearly set out the vision, the rationale and the ambition as to what is expected in terms of curriculum implementation and how it can be achieved so that it can be communicated and interpreted by all
  • Individual leaders and managers are empowered to work with their teams to determine the priorities that will lead to successful outcomes over time
  • All those involved can plot their progress and the progress of others, celebrate success and define where action is needed to make changes to achieve success
  • The process provides a visual picture of where there are issues and problems that need to be addressed along the way and create for those involved clear evidence that actions need to be taken or a change in strategy adopted to steer the process towards completion

Quality Assurance and Learning Cultures

Here at Learning Cultures we have investigated the concept of quality in relation to what OFSTED here in England are looking for, by looking at the international and European perspective and to how business fosters a collaborative approach to ensure the highest possible quality outcomes.

Translated into what is necessary to implement a process of quality assurance for your setting there are a number of steps that need to be in place, these include matching curriculum intent, vision and rationale to implementation and impact consistently and  coherently across the whole organisation and then focusing on how the curriculum is sequenced, how key concepts, knowledge and skills are embedded across all learning: creating a unified approach to assessment linked to formative assessment that fosters progression as well as summative assessment to gather data.  For this to happen the final step must be planned CPD to ensure all staff have the relevant skills and expertise.

Quality Assurance CPD for schools

We have designed a course for senior and middle leaders who are charged with developing a Quality Assurance strategy for their school or college.

We have used our own and others research in the quest for our own high-quality product. We look in detail at the current imperatives linked to the design of a deep and rich curriculum and how that is successfully implemented to ensure impact that leads to high quality learning outcomes for all. We have built the design around 7 quality indicators that define the quality processes that lead to outstanding educational outcomes. These include:-

  1. effective leadership
  2. identifying the needs of all learners
  3. engaging and empowering all staff
  4. a focus on pedagogy and learning
  5. consistency in assessment across all learning
  6. data handling
  7. the involvement of a range of wider stakeholders including learners, parents, Governors and the wider community

A deep focus on seven indicators of quality assurance

We have designed a detailed and in-depth focus on these 7 indicators in the form of a RAG report that allows quality teams to determine what is currently working well, what is work in progress and what needs to change.

This course ‘Quality Assuring Curriculum Implementation for Impact – how the curriculum delivers outstanding pedagogy, seamless learning and progression’, is run as a two part online synchronous training opportunity where leadership teams, Quality Managers and subject leaders can use the resources and materials to build their own system of continuous quality improvement. We include tools to support developing timelines, priority schedules and resources that foster opportunities for professional learning conversations that lead to a collaborative desire to create a culture of continuous improvement.

Listen to this article as a podcast.



CPD in a Nutshell – One hour training sessions ready to use anytime, anywhere, any place


In a nutshell maybe the only way to access CPD for many working in schools and colleges at the moment. Research abounds that says that it is the opportunity for professional development and time to share learning, good practice and possibilities with their peers that is helping all those in education to cope with current events.

The first six titles are listed below:-

We are surviving by being innovative and positive about how we can help to ensure that the profession continues to have the training and development opportunities that will sustain high quality education for all. CPD is not a luxury and it is certainly essential as everyone is managing significant change in the way they teach and manage to maintain a learning culture.

Our suite of nutshell courses will take about one hour to complete. They are ready to use packages that have all our trademark expertise, quality materials and activities.  We have included video presentations, whiteboard animations, activities, a card sort and access to a range of research and further reading. They are themed to be relevant to the current issues facing us all in education and are linked to our larger 5 section online packages that will deliver whole school or college INSET or provide training and development over a series of sessions for multiple users.

Each nutshell costs £95.00 + VAT and if as a result of taking a sip of our excellent CPD you want to buy one of the larger packages you can put £50.00 towards it and continue to take advantage of some superb training and development opportunities. Find out more about our off the shelf five section courses here, have a look at our list of live webinars that have been so successful over the past few months. There is lots more to dip into on our website such as our unrivalled suite of coaching courses, our leadership programmes, our new team coaching training and one to one coaching for all those senior and middle leaders who are feeling more than a little anxious and alone at the moment.

Learning Cultures are leading the way towards the classroom of tomorrow.  The future of learning is exciting as the possibilities, the flexibility and the endless opportunities of this new and emerging CPD world in a cloud begin to be realised.

CPD for a Deep Dive into High Quality Education Outcomes for all

CPD for a Deep Dive into High Quality Education Outcomes for all

Have a look at Glynis’s White Paper that focuses on the absolute imperative to focus on a suite of deep dive strategies that will deliver high quality educational outcomes for all.

INSET  – Coast effective and sustainable whole organisation solutions

CPD for a deep dive into leadership in education

CPD and a deep dive into our coaching and curriculum training courses

Building Tomorrow’s Classrooms Today

Solving the puzzle of how to run an online INSET and CPD

Online INSET and CPD

Normality isn’t happening any time soon in the world of education.  Change is a constant for all of us who are part of this great profession but I don’t think any of us could have predicted the kinds of changes we have all had to make.

CPD and in particular INSET does not have to be one of the casualties of this unfolding drama.  In fact, our experience over the past few months gives us hope that there is a new dawn of powerful opportunities for professional development that will be just as rewarding and certainly as interactive as before.

Coaching is at the heart of the Learning Cultures philosophy and this has given us the resilience to focus on positive solutions to making sure that schools and colleges can still access our fantastic repertoire of courses and programmes. We have developed three solutions focused approaches.

Firstly, we have developed a Moodle platform and we now have six courses available for schools to buy to use as part of an INSET day or to deliver over a series of sessions or twilights. Excellently orchestrated videos created by an ex Channel 4 producer and hosted by one of our expert trainers provide the presentations and there is a wealth of materials, resources and research to tap into for all those involved in the training. We will be developing more of these over the summer.

Secondly, we are also hosting Zoom training sessions for individuals who have specific CPD objectives or needs and these are delivered through face to face interaction with groups of delegates over two sessions of two hours with a week in between for reflection and shared learning.

Thirdly, we have now worked with several organisations to develop virtual INSET days where our input provides the impetus for interaction, team working and opportunities to share and cascade good practice.  Astounding results are emerging. This approach is flexible, personal and cost effective for schools to manage.

There has never been a greater need for CPD for all staff in a school or college. What we can offer is a way forward to ensure a seamless learning platform delivers outstanding professional development.

Preparing for subject specific ‘deep dive’ conversations and observations


The phrase ‘deep dive’ is the latest new terminology to come out of OFSTED’s focus on the curriculum and how it is planned and delivered.  I can’t help it, every time I hear the phrase it conjures up for me an image of an OFSTED inspector, in a rubber swimming hat, goggles and baggy trunks preparing to dive into the depths of murky subject knowledge or the dearth of it. Let’s unpick what this means for subject specialists or leaders.

Managing how the curriculum is implemented should fall to the subject team leader or subject expert.  It is their responsibility to create opportunities for that in-depth look at what is happening in the classroom to ensure that the content of subject learning is rich, builds on prior learning and prepares pupils for the next stage of their education. It is their role to translate the curriculum intent into clearly defined strategies for implementation.

This includes a focus on what the National Curriculum is asking for in their particular subject or wider area of study.  English, Maths and Science have a much more in-depth overview of what should be taught than the foundation subjects.  There is a degree of choice and opportunities for subject teams or departments to use their own local context, expertise and knowledge as the starting point for determining the content of their curriculum plan. The essential ingredients are,

  • the sequencing of learning over time
  • creating opportunities for pupils to make connections within and across their learning
  • ensure pupils understand the key concepts that link their learning within a subject and across subject boundaries
  • highlight the key skills that pupils will use and strengthen as part of their learning

In order for the subject or department lead to build a continuum of learning they must define the strategy that ensures schemes of work identify all of the above.  They must look closely at their own criteria for ‘deep dives’ into evaluating the quality of teaching and learning within their subject.  This will include collaborative planning meetings, opportunities to share through the use of professional learning conversations using coaching, highly interactive lesson observation and the review of pupil outputs such as in their written work, question and answer sessions and what they have produced in terms of models, presentations, art work and other media.

Some of OFSTED’s research provides a starting point for what subject leaders can use to determine how they can assess the quality of education and learning within their sphere of influence.  Specifically phase 3 of their research which includes 25 curriculum indicators that define what good curriculum design might look like. Also, the more recent publication of their research into lesson observation and workbook scrutiny. These documents give us clues as to a definition of high quality in education outcomes. Individual leaders and managers can add their own deep knowledge and understanding and create a powerful strategy for change or maintaining the status quo.

There is a lot to do and a lot to think about but now I think it is time for a deep dive into rest and recreation as we head for a well-deserved holiday for everyone with a pupil or curriculum centred role in a school or college.  We will continue to dive into the research, create our own and strengthen the Learning Cultures’ CPD offer based around our own deep expertise knowledge and understanding.