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.

 

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

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

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

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

know your curriculum – what are the reasons behind its design

know how the curriculum is being delivered across all year groups

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

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

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

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

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

Join us at our updated primary curriculum event,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Collaboration is the key to outstanding learning and teaching

I have recently read the NFER research paper Capacity for Collaboration? Analysis of School to School Support Capacity in England Essentially, the research suggests that there is capacity for high performing schools to support those who need some help.

However, schools working in partnership must have answers to these questions  if the potential to create a self-improving system is to be realised,

  • What is the available evidence that examines best practice of where schools collaborate successfully?
  • Who across the respective schools, both those deemed to be high performing and those in need of help, is responsible for ensuring successful collaboration happens?
  • Who determines the needs of all the schools involved including the lead school?
  • What can each school offer in relation to their relative strengths and experience?
  • How is success defined and how is this agreed across the respective schools?
  • What are the measures used to assess impact?

Collaboration, and learning from what works well through the sharing and cascading of good and outstanding practice is fundamental to any successful organisation.  Schools and colleges by their very nature find this difficult even within the environs of one organisation. Silos exist between subject specialisms, key stages and year groups. Timetable constraints create a barrier; opportunities for meetings are limited and pupils’ demands take time and energy. With this in mind a strategy for collaboration across a partnership needs to be very clearly orchestrated.

Coaching is one of the most powerful ways of ensuring successful collaboration.

Coaching is solutions focused. A coach will:-

  •  tease out how those who lead determine their goals and evaluate how realistic they are
  • help those involved to identify their own strengths and the qualities of others; not just those in the lead school but of all the schools involved
  • question individuals to identify their needs and their learning agenda in order to ensure that the process leads to a culture of excellence and improvement across all the schools
  • make everyone reflect on their priorities in relation to the part they play in the collaborative process and question how to deflect other issues that stand in the way of a successful outcome

The capacity for collaboration is there.  The opportunity to embrace what is outstanding and cascade it widely is there. Coaching is a proven tool in the box. It is without doubt, the pedagogy that delivers outstanding learning and will provide the framework for positive organisational change.

Plan a sustainable, cost-effective and cohesive CPD strategy for the new academic year

If you are planning your CPD strategy or designing the appraisal system for the new academic year you will achieve phenomenal success if you build coaching into the process.  Learning is just as important for teachers as it is for pupils.  A good teacher never stops learning and relishes any opportunity to be challenged and stretched.  Without on-going opportunities for good quality training, classroom practice becomes hackneyed and dull.

Coaching is a process, it requires individuals to learn a suite of skills in order to support others to set their own goals, be clear as to how they will achieve them; have well-defined steps along the way and evaluate their learning at the end of a given period of time.  Coaching is non-judgemental and can be the conduit for transformational change.

A coach will never project their own views, direct another or suggest they know best.  A coach will facilitate a conversation that requires the other person to soul search, learn from their mistakes, find their own solutions and ultimately make their own decisions about how to create successful outcomes from their stated goals and objectives.

Here at Learning Cultures we have created the most comprehensive coaching programme you could ever wish for.  We have not left anyone out. From leaders, managers and Governors to teachers, Cover Supervisors and support staff we have developed training courses and modules that will ultimately deliver a whole school or college coaching culture.  We have even included the pupils as potential candidates for coaching in our repertoire.

Training is of little or no value if it is delivered as a stand-alone activity where it is not linked to school improvement, learning goals and individual aspirations.  It will have no impact unless the learning is disseminated to others and cascaded successfully.  Coaching provides the mechanism for ensuring that there is on-going reflection and professional dialogue linked to learning and the celebration of good and outstanding practice. Plan your CPD using coaching at its heart and you will create outstanding individuals who are highly motivated, understand their own self-worth and who embrace change and challenge.

Or for the latest resources, activities and best practice examples join us for our fourth annual coaching conferenceThe Power of Coaching at the wonderful Woburn Abbey in Bedfordshire on 29th June.  You might also like to attend our Leading a Coaching School event at the same venue on Friday 30th June.  A veritable extravaganza of coaching training.