Curriculum matters-the story so far

I am Glynis Frater, the founder of Learning Cultures, a leading provider of coaching and other professional development services for the education profession.  I have followed the developments that have unfolded as Amanda Spielman has slammed the lack of attention many schools have given to ensuring pupils have access to a broad and balanced, deep and rich curriculum.  She is right, of course, but she isn’t a head of a school battling with the only accountability measures that currently count at the end of key stage 1, 2 and key stage 4.

Let’s take what she says at face value, change needs to take time (this is an evolution not a revolution). There is a need to focus on communication, collaboration and professional learning conversations, (OFSTED want to listen and communicate with school leaders, middle leaders and teachers), the subject specialist, subject leader, subject expert is at the heart of ensuring changes to how we deliver the curriculum can make a difference, (content, concept, knowledge and the skills that help pupils access them are the key to building this deep and rich curriculum offer) so subject teams must work together effectively to create sequential learning that ensures all pupils, whatever their ability, achieve their full potential.

The team at Learning Cultures has been working hard, deepening our own knowledge of the research, creating innovative resources and creating solutions focused training materials. The work we do here and the messages within our training echo many of the indicators that OFSTED have based their new handbook on.  We have not changed any of our programmes, courses or support packages to accommodate the new handbook and the messages from OFSTED because many of our messages and the skills and knowledge we bring already mirror the philosophies and indicators that are simply good practice and embody the characteristics of a good or outstanding school

Read the news-posts that I have written, week by week I have followed the unfolding change in emphasis for how schools should be judged. They are all on our webisite, Since Christmas, these have included,

Have a look at our curriculum courses that challenge you to re-think your curriculum strategy, delivery models and clearly stated impact. Then focus on our coaching programmes and decide to make the decision to use coaching to create the culture that will ensure high quality professional dialogue drives positive change where all staff know how the curriculum intent delivers a learning strategy for all the pupils they teach, provides them with the time and resources to create that innovative, creative and deep content that will build on learning over time and design the blueprint for all pupils to have the skills they need for the next stages of their education. Add in our teaching and learning courses that are designed to foster outstanding pedagogy, raise the bar on assessment and focus on how to ensure knowledge and skills weave a positive curriculum offer.

Coaching: creates a culture of collaboration that fosters outstanding learning and teaching

Key elements of a coaching culture

Coaching is all about positive dialogue that drives change.  A school is a place where experts in pedagogy, assessment, learning and thinking all contribute to the successful outcomes the school sets out to achieve. Coaching brings that expertise together to ensure that it is shared and disseminated to ensure outstanding continuous improvement for all staff.

The current imperative to focus on a sequenced curriculum that builds on prior learning and ensures deep understanding and readiness for the next stage requires high levels of collaboration.

  • Leaders and their senior teams need to work together to define the intent and rationale. They need to be ambitious in their vision to ensure that all pupils receive a deep and rich learning experience
  • Middle leaders need to have the skills to disseminate the vision, communicate the rationale and empower individuals in their teams to be innovative in how they plan for change
  • Subject leaders and specialists need to focus on how to weave the skills and knowledge that build a sequential tapestry of learning that will motivate and inspire pupils
  • Teachers from across the subject spectrum must have the confidence and self-belief to plan and deliver high quality pedagogy that drives a learning culture. Creating opportunities for teachers to focus on the pedagogy that creates independent, active and participative learners can be achieved through developing for them a range of coaching skills, a pedagogy for learning

Coaching has the power to change perceptions of self, to create opportunities for innovation, to build a culture that puts learning at the heart of the school’s vision and to ensure a consistency of purpose that involves everyone.

Trying to implement change without an effective model is difficult. Try a coaching approach and success is nearer than you think. The sequenced courses below will provide the perfect starting point for a journey that you won’t turn back from. Our full coaching programme provides further training opportunities that are all linked to creating an outstanding learning culture. Have a look here.

You may also like to attend one of our highly praised and well-reserached courses that focus on reflecting on and re-defining the curriculum to ensure the breadth and depth that OFSTED have placed such an emphasis on.

Leading an Evolution that Delivers High Quality Education for all

The third phase of OFSTED’s research into curriculum intent, implementation and impact is detailed, evidence based and provides a lot of information for leaders in primary and secondary schools. We discussed in our last news-post that the research highlights 25 indicators they have used to test whether it is possible to assess curriculum quality across a range of different school types.  In this post I wanted to focus on how these indicators provide a positive starting point for headteachers and their teams to assess their readiness for leading an evolution that will ensure their current and future strategies continue to deliver high quality education for all.

Putting the spotlight on the curriculum gives all leaders across the education spectrum an opportunity to reflect on their own understanding of their curriculum rationale and how that translates into a set of centrally prescribed curriculum aims that are ambitious, deliver depth and breadth of learning and ensure the acquisition of knowledge, the development of relevant skills and allow for sequential progression.

The research highlights the critical importance of how this is communicated in order to ensure high levels of accountability of subject leaders and teachers in ensuring they have evidence of informed planning, equitable delivery, progression and depth of content.

The indicators underpin a series of fundamentals that are essential to effective leadership and how the communication of a vision, a rationale and centrally prescribed aims are implemented coherently and consistently and deliver high quality education for all. Putting the curriculum at the heart of a whole school quality assurance strategy makes perfect sense and will embrace many other indicators that create an outstanding school such as strong principles of assessment, the embedding of literacy and numeracy, highly effective classroom pedagogy and differentiated learning that together create an inclusive learning platform.

Leaders must focus on their vision and rationale for the curriculum and audit the skills and gaps of their teams in order to build a coherent professional development programme that will highlight current successes, determine what needs to change and plan for new innovations.  Using coaching CPD as the catalyst for reviewing and improving quality is proven to be the most effective, sustainable and cost-effective way to manage change. Coaching encourages reflection, opportunities for learning conversations and will ensure the focus is on curriculum content, pedagogy and the desired outcomes for learners.

Join us to review and reflect on curriculum issues and how to respond to the current narrative.

Focus on leadership, middle leadership and teaching and learning with our highly praised coaching courses

What is being proposed by OFSTED is not new, it is, however, good practice linked to an approach that focuses on the learning and is not simply about data and end of stage testing.  The principles and ethos have been at the heart of our own well-researched and highly successful training programmes for several years.

 

 

Coaching and Curriculum Cohesion – Create a culture where excellence is cascaded across the whole school

To create a culture where excellence and high-quality learning is cascaded across the whole school is best achieved through coaching.  Using coaching to ensure there is curriculum cohesion across all phases and stages will ensure all staff exceed and surpass expectations. Coaching encourages the use of positive and deep questioning that will enhance professional learning and challenge pupils. Coaching inspires innovation, helps individuals to embrace change and creates opportunities for the sharing and cascading of good and outstanding practice.

Amanda Spielman’s latest communication, her letter to the public accounts committee’s request for information confirms her intention to pursue a new category for the forthcoming changes to the OFSTED Inspection Framework ‘Quality of Education’ which will include curriculum intent, depth and breadth alongside the quality of teaching, the quality of pupils’ work and the resulting outcomes. The diagram below is my interpretation of the main components that need to be in place in order that schools know how their vision is translated into powerful learning over time.

Creating a culture that ensures all of the components above are carefully planned and implemented requires highly effective communication. Leading a Coaching School. Talented teams need to work together to manage change, create new approaches and build on what they currently do well.  Coaching from the Middle – How to influence change, build outstanding teams and lead innovation.

All teachers need to have a range of pedagogies and strategies for learning and assessment that will support pupils to build on their prior learning, deepen that learning and be ready to embrace challenge through the acquisition of knowledge and the use of associated skills. Coaching Towards Outstanding Teaching and Learning.  Pupils need to be an integral part of this and learner voice can be highly effective as part of an overall strategy. Coaching in the Classroom with Pupils.  Using coaching as the CPD vehicle to achieving the above is highly effective.

CPD is an essential component in creating a culture where staff accept positive change and work together to achieve the stated vision for excellence and improvement. What emerges from this particular cycle of change is exciting and should create a curriculum that is fit for purpose for the school, its pupils and the local and wider community within which it draws its cohort. However, the CPD and associated training must be relevant, sustainable and have an impact on learning and achievement for all.  Coaching is non-judgemental and non-directive, provides individuals with the opportunity to find their own solutions and learn how professional dialogue leads to successful outcomes for the school, teams and individual staff and pupils. It is the sharing and cascading of the learning both as part of an actual coaching training programme and how that is then cascaded to others to enhance its efficacy that makes the coaching training we offer so powerful.

Have a look at our Coaching in Education section on our website that has something for all staff.  Join us at one of our curriculum courses to look in great depth at how to ensure readiness for the changes:

or ask us about our INSET packages where we can help you to plan your CPD and curriculum strategies for intent, implementation and impact.

OFSTED, the Curriculum and moving towards a change of emphasis

OFSTED have this week released a commentary on the second phase of their research into curriculum design, implementation and impact. Amanda Spielman is clear in her assertion that the real substance of education is the curriculum and how it is structured so that all pupils can access it, learn through it and make progress linked to how it is delivered and assessed.
There will be, the report states, a new approach to inspection that moves away from simply focusing on outcomes linked to end of key stage data and more towards looking at what complements that data.

This, it suggests, includes evidence of:

  • a clearly defined and fit for purpose curriculum design that is linked to the school vision and purpose
  • positive leadership that includes devolved leadership to subject specialists and teachers
  • collaborative and whole school involvement
  • pedagogy that deepens subject knowledge and challenges the pupil’s ability to make connections across different subject disciplines
  • how pupils demonstrate competence in their use of skills that help them to access curriculum knowledge
  • a carefully sequenced content that builds depth and breadth of understanding over time

The research found that the sample schools used one of three approaches to planning their curriculum.

  • Knowledge – led approach -skills come from knowledge, “skills are the bi-product of knowledge”. Through the deepening of knowledge comes the ability to use associated skills. The characteristics of this approach are fewer topics that are taught in greater depth
  • Knowledge – engaged approach – “knowledge underpins the application of skills” This approach focuses on how the skills and the knowledge are integral, the pupil learns skills alongside knowledge acquisition. This involves planning which skills the pupil will use to access knowledge. Within this approach there is a greater emphasis on cross-curricular teaching, ensuring an understanding of how knowledge applies in a context
  • Skills – led approach – Skills have the higher priority in the planning process, knowledge is seen as a series of disconnected facts unless the pupil has the skills to place them in their context

There is no suggestion that one approach is better than another and schools remain free to make their own decisions as to the best model in their specific local setting. However, it is the reasons behind the choices made that will need to be clear and focused on holistic, deeper and sequential learning and not simply on how to achieve the best outcomes for the schools at times of testing or examination outcome.

Curriculum design, the report concludes, is a reflective process involving leaders, subject specialists and teachers. It suggests that there needs to be much more evidence of progression models that show how pupils will build their subject knowledge and their ability to use associated skills adeptly and competently. It is also clearly stated that curriculum and assessment are inseparable and welcome evidence that leaders in the sample schools believe that skilful formative and summative assessment strategies are integral to deep learning and are useful in identifying gaps in learning.

In conclusion:

  • No one design fits all, the National Curriculum is the benchmark, but the choice of design is up to the school and linked to the school’s context and the expertise of those involved
  •  The curriculum should be linked to the school vision and purpose. It should be the yardstick for what leaders want their pupils to know and be able to do by the end of their school life
  • The curriculum design should be clearly defined, the content should be carefully sequenced, have thoughtfully designed assessment practice and include an appropriate model of progression
  • The curriculum should have substance, depth and breadth and be more than preparation for tests and examinations
  • There should be a rich web of knowledge where skills weave opportunities for a continuum of learning that deepens understanding and allows for progression

The Learning Cultures Expert Curriculum team have developed two outstanding training opportunities that will give school and curriculum leaders an opportunity to reflect on what currently works well and how to ensure that new strategies and innovations create a curriculum design for now and the future that enriches learning and deepens knowledge and understanding. We weave our deep knowledge of curriculum design with our expertise in coaching to explore how to create a whole school, collaborative curriculum and assessment model that inspires and nurtures learning and achievement.

Re-defining the Primary Curriculum – Content, cohesion and purpose
Re-defining the Secondary Curriculum – Defining purpose, designing content and delivering impact

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.

 

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.

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.