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September 2019 - A year for quality and change

Welcome to the Learning Cultures' newsletter page. In this edition we continue our focus on quality and the systems that will build a learning culture. We are constantly reviewing the research, highlighting good practice and advising on how best to make changes where they are positive. The stakes are high as the new OFSTED handbook becomes a reality. Quality of Education is one of the major changes that inspectors will be asked to focus on. They must ensure that the planning, sequencing and delivery of curriculum content and knowledge creates breadth, depth and challenge over time.

There is a move away from a focus on data obtained as a result of testing at the end of key stage 1,2,4 and 5. The picture and associated dialogue must be about HOW results that translate into data have been achieved. Amanda Spielman has republished a speech she wrote in June focusing on accountability and autonomy. She suggests that the two are inseparable in the quest for high quality learning in schools and colleges. In other words achieving results that translate into a positive data set in order to define accountability is not enough. Read my newspost, How do quality assure the curriculum that is delivered in your school?  Measuring quality must look at the excellence of teaching, the depth, breadth and challenge 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. We have the opportunity to take back ownership of the curriculum and how it is delivered and build strong collaborative strategies that will mean positive and meaningful dialogue strengthens teaching and learning and fosters a culture of innovation and challenge.

"...Government should be able to distinguish between the quality of the system in terms of data and the quality in terms of substance. We need that balance in the accountability system"

Amanda Spielman: HMCI Commentary on the Roles of Inspection and autonomy

I am excited about the contribution we have already made to the unfolding developments for schools and colleges across the country.  We have trained over a thousand leaders already over the past year, there has been overwhelming praise for what we have offered. The practical and resource based approaches that underpins all our training have been welcomed.  We will continue to develop new courses and strengthen what we already offer to provide cost effective and sustainable CPD that will help to transform the education landscape and put education back in the hands of educators. Have a look at our articles below or read this newsletter on our website. 



How to create a quality assurance system that fits within an education context

The phrase 'quality assurance' defines a structure that ensures all staff are accountable for the quality outputs they are responsible for. 'Quality' is the benchmark laid down by leaders who shape the vision, set the overarching goals and communicate their ambition and rationale. 'Assurance' that everyone is working towards the same carefully crafted intent is created when clearly defined parameters are adhered to and stated policies carried out. Where quality assurance procedures are used effectively it is much easier to trace where there are issues. Every individual in the organisation is accountable and required to act where the quality of outcome is not up to standard and is traced back to them.

Re-thinking how the curriculum is planned and delivered to create the right evidence that there is 'breadth and depth', continuity, cohesion and a sequence to learning provide an undoubted motivation for looking closely at building a quality assurance framework.  The system must include these seven overarching principles:-

  • 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 translated into whole school, team and individual implementation
  • 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

If within each of these principles there are clearly defined success factors teams and individuals can monitor their progress, assess their impact, establish risk factors and manage change. The essential ingredient here is a consistent whole organisation approach where all staff are using the same language, have clearly defined parameters and are accurately, honestly and consistently reflecting on what is working well and what needs to be changed.

If you are a leader, a curriculum or quality manager or are responsible for teaching and learning join us at our new course that will support you to develop a quality assurance framework for your school or college setting. Quality Assurance - A framework for curriculum cohesion, collaboration and impact

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Leading for change, how the principles of coaching can deliver a solutions focused culture

Leadership is challenging, there are many real issues that all need decisions made and answers given. Developing the skills of a coach is a very powerful leadership skill and does create a culture where individuals whether they are managers, teachers or other staff think carefully about how they can solve the stated problem, change their approach or feel confident to try something new or different. The current imperative to review and reflect on the curriculum and how it is planned and delivered can be overwhelming for those who are leading the process.  Subject expertise, building on prior learning, consistency of assessment, deep pedagogy that creates the reflective learner, a sequence to the learning and the weaving of skills, knowledge and conceptual thinking all need to be carefully thought through and an evidence base defined. Leaders need to empower others to be in control of their own decisions as to how these possible areas for change can be dealt with.  This requires an atmosphere of trust, clearly defined policies and highly interactive opportunities for shared planning and the highlighting and cascading of good practice. 

Start your coaching journey with Learning Cultures. We are the leading provider of coaching training for the education profession and our Leading a Coaching School - empowering a culture of positive change that cascades continuous improvement is the best place to start for those who have responsibility for determining the school vision and within that the ambition, rationale and intent for the curriculum that will deliver high quality education outcomes.

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Enhancing the role of the subject leader - 10 top tips

 Subject leadership and subject expertise are high on the agenda as OFSTED plan to put the spotlight on how the foundation subjects are taught.  Have a look at our news post 'Preparing for 'deep dive' subject conversations and observations'. It looks at the research and points to the findings that will provide subject leaders with an opportunity to look closely at their planning and pedagogy in relation to how teaching of subject specific knowledge, related skills and deeper concepts form the basis of a curriculum for learning.  The secret ingredient has to be collaboration where all staff within a department and in cross-curricular forums share what is being taught and how it is being taught.  The imperative to focus on how skills support the acquisition of knowledge and how that knowledge is sequenced so that learners build on prior learning and work diligently towards clearly defined end points needs to be at the top of the agenda. Below are 10 tips that will provide a checklist if you are already on the way or a starting point if you are beginning this rather exciting curriculum journey.

  • Focus on the aims in the subject specific programmes of study to define your own aims for what is to be taught and how
  • Carefully identify the subject concepts that are part of the subject specific learning and look at where these concepts are taught in other subjects
  • Clearly highlight the literacy and numeracy skills that will be used as part of the subject learning. Be careful to ensure that these are linked to accessing subject knowledge and deepening understanding
  • When planning the learning have copies of the English and Maths programmes of study alongside your own so that you can identify the correct terminology for the literacy and numeracy skills your pupils will be using. For instance, 'identify the audience and purpose of the writing', select the 'appropriate form' or 'solve problems involving the calculation and conversion of units of measure'
  • Dovetail schemes of work and other planning tools so that there is evidence that the planned lessons build on prior learning
  • Create well-structured opportunities to work across different year groups and key stages to ensure there is clearly defined routes of progression and mechanisms that ensure pupils can see the connections and are building their knowledge bank that will stay in their long-term memory
  • Have an eye to points of transition and appoint someone within the department to work closely with the previous key stage subject leaders to build a picture of learning and pedagogy from the previous key stage
  • Plan backwards so that there is clear evidence that the structure of subject learning is defined by the end points you are working towards and want pupils to achieve
  • Define how the learning will be assessed at the point of developing the content. Focus on the assessment of skills development as well as the acquisition of knowledge and pupils deeper understanding of how learning in one context has an impact on others
  • Create opportunities for the curriculum to be an integral part of all meetings. Create opportunities for individual teachers to share their strengths, what works well and their pedagogy in defining the learning journey for their subject

Join us at our Defining and Enhancing the Role of the Subject Leader - managing curriculum change that delivers sequential, seamless and deep knowledge and skills.  We have designed this course to provide subject leaders with a wealth of resources and practical ideas that they can use with their teams to create a seamless tapestry curriculum that delivers the school's planned intent and deepens learning over time.

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Scrutiny - the latest research that shines a light on inspection and accountability

Last July OFSTED published research into ensuring they can assess what is meant by quality in education accurately. Lesson observations and ‘workbook scrutiny’ are seen as an essential part of what will provide a spotlight into the quality of curriculum implementation. They see an essential triangulation between observation, a deep review of pupils’ book work and opportunities for face to face conversations. Their research is small scale, but it is thorough. ‘How valid and reliable is the use of lesson observation in supporting judgements on the quality of education?‘ and Workbook scrutiny – Ensuring validity and reliability in inspections’

The imperative for quality assurance in schools is to ensure that classroom pedagogy reflects how the curriculum intent is translated into practice that leads to effective and deep subject learning and skills competence.  For this there needs to be an opportunity to observe lessons across a range of learning contexts. The quality of teaching and the depth and sequencing of subject knowledge need to be reflected in the quality of work output that is included in pupils’ books, in displays and within their ability to articulate through conversations with adults and with their peers. Accountability is about knowing how your school translates the curriculum into learning.

For ‘book scrutiny’ four indicators were selected as those that would be observable in workbooks, the focus will be on how subject matter is taught and learned to allow for efficient and meaningful acquisition of new knowledge and whether and how pupils consolidate knowledge so that it remains in the long term memory. The indicators are,

  • Building on previous learning
  • Depth and breadth of coverage
  • Pupils’ progress
  • Practice

The research into the reliability and validity of lesson observation is documented in a slightly larger piece of work. In this document there are a list of 18 lesson observation indicators that inspectors will use as a guide to ascertaining how accurate their judgements are at assessing the quality of education through lesson observation. We have included the indicators in a separate PDF which you can download here.

There are opportunities to model the research criteria as part of a structure that clearly defines the intention for high quality curriculum design and delivery. From this schools can then focus on identifying the strengths within their school, recognise the gaps and subsequently fulfil the professional development needs that arise. OFSTED use the term triangulation to describe the three process that will help to create a consistent approach to assessing the quality of education.

  • lesson observation that celebrates positive pedagogy that ensures curriculum implementation linked to the school intent, rationale and ambition
  • looking at learning outcomes within books and as part of displays and other media
  • creating opportunities for a curriculum dialogue to exist for leaders, managers, teachers TAs and pupils

We are continually updating our curriculum suite of courses  to create for schools a series of solutions focused and resource rich experiences linked to well-respected research and our own considerable expertise.

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 Consistently good behaviour and positive attitudes - what is the evidence?

The separate 'behaviour and attitudes' judgement in the OFSTED Handbook for Schools highlights the fact that good behaviour is a necessary condition for learning. OFSTED have undertaken research to inform how they will look for evidence of positive attitudes to behaviour and attitudes to learning. Their Teacher Well Being at Work research highlights that behaviour is a significant problem for teachers. They have undertaken further research into the area of behaviour that they say show some positive developments. These include that where there is a whole organisation approach to behaviour management where consistent routines are rigorously put into practice change happens.

The commentary on behaviour suggests that there are some key factors to consider in defining good behaviour and positive attitudes, these include,

  • Creating effective routines that are rigorously implemented. These extend to the safe movement of pupils around buildings, the smooth running of lessons and a minimum loss of learning due to low-level disruption
  • Having clearly defined systems in place for specific cases such as those pupils who may be experiencing difficulties with health, well-being or family issues
  • Pupils can be taught good behaviour strategies through explicit teaching and effective behaviour management
  • There should be a clearly defined set of values and ethos that everyone in the school signs up to. Behaviour is catching and where there are high expectations poor behaviour is less likely to be an issue
  • Maintaining positive relationships with all pupils, where this happens all pupils feel valued and want to be part of the system
  • Behaviour has a wide spectrum and covers foundational behaviours such as punctuality, attitudes to learning such as making an effort and a positive contribution in class. There are also social behaviours which basically focus on the way pupils interact with each other and with adults

We have a superb training course that focuses on the link between behaviour and coaching. Creating a coaching approach can have a significant impact on behaviour management in a school or college. This course looks closely at what OFSTED are looking for in terms of evidence but goes much further in defining the culture that eliminates low-level and more serious behavioural issues. Have a look at the content here. Behaviour Management - Coaching and Growth Mindset strategies that deliver success

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Points of transition - we share examples of good practice

Moving from one phase to the next especially when it involves moving from one school to another definitely can cause a dip in performance for pupils.  Transition requires some serious thought in ensuring you have the evidence that pupils build on their prior learning and that there is a planned curriculum that allows for sequential development of knowledge and skills across the bridge wherever that might be. There continues to be deep criticism of the management of transition especially linked to the academic and curriculum focus for the gathering of information from partner or feeder schools.  Most schools have excellent policies linked to pastoral care and that is not what is at issue. 

We have two highly praised courses that can support schools to plan for seamless transition that will create profound evidence that pupils build on prior learning and continue to thrive. Moving on - transition from Key Stage 1 to 2 and Crossing the Bridge - transition from Key Stage 2 to 3 both look closely at how to build deeper relationships with the previous phase.  We focus on the curriculum and how to dovetail the learning, the knowledge and the skills. We look at pedagogy and how to create seamless learning across all transition bridges and we take an in-depth look at assessment and how schools need to collaborate more to ensure accurate assessment leads to accurate data both qualitative and quantitative.

We have designed an audit tool based on best practice that you can use to focus on what you are doing well. you will find it by pressing this link. Self-Assessment and Transition.

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Assessment and learning - What to assess? How to assess? When to assess?

Assessment of the curriculum is a fulcrum for ensuring pupils have 'learnt the curriculum' are being exposed to a wealth of skills that will lead to unconscious competence and can make connections with other subjects, topics and across the wider curriculum. There is a clear imperative to ensure that assessment is a collaborative process that is consistent and reliable.  Staff across the school or college need to have the opportunity for training and for shared learning experiences looking at what effective progressive learning looks like across a range of subjects. Planning the curriculum should include a clearly defined strategy for how the learning will be assessed.  Teachers need to focus within their teams on what will be assessed, the knowledge, the skills, pupils grasp of how concepts can apply elsewhere and the ability of pupils to retain the knowledge and add to it over time. They also need to focus on how pupils will be assessed. This needs careful consideration especially as it is an area that OFSTED have put together some very in-depth research themselves. Their 'workbook scrutiny paper' is a good place to start. Although 'scrutiny' is not a term we would use, it is too harsh for a coaching organisation and suggests rigidity and few opportunities to work collaboratively. I would also suggest that there is a much bigger canvas on which to work, including conversations with pupils, outputs that involve speaking and listening, presentations and team or group working, drama, models, artwork and sport.

The decision about when to assess also needs careful thought. Assessment should be an on-going process that is an integral part of the lesson or other learning contexts. Supporting pupils to become engaged with their learning, creating the pedagogy that is active, participative and independent all provide opportunities for dialogue and profound formative assessment. The best way to ensure pupil engagement is to put the learning in their hands, to create powerful opportunities for problem solving, risk taking and reflection.  The teacher's role should be supportive and challenging and pupils need to be an integral part of the assessment process.  We have two excellent courses that focus on assessment and the power of coaching as an important ingredient in how assessment can lead to deep and profound learning. Join us for an innovative look at assessing learning.

  •  Re-defining formative assessment in the primary school - assessing the acquisition of skills and knowledge for deeper and sequential learning
  • Re-defining formative assessment in the secondary school - assessing the acquisition of skills and knowledge for deeper and sequential learning

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New from Learning Cultures - A Certification course in coaching and on- line learning courses

 The Learning Cultures’ coaching and curriculum teams have worked together to develop a Certificated Coaching Programme for schools and colleges to use to embed coaching successfully and sustainably over time. We have called it A Journey in Coaching - A Certificate in Coaching Competence. There is, within our schools and colleges a wealth of talent.  Current policy and good practice create an imperative to tap this by creating the right strategies that allow for collaboration and highly focused learning conversations that will provide the best solution to ensuring cohesive outcomes for pupils, teachers and their leaders and managers.

Developing a coaching culture is the most positive way to ensure the curriculum is the fulcrum for quality learning outcomes across the whole school or college.

Ask yourself:-

  • How is curriculum intent, rationale and ambition accurately translated into positive classroom practice?
  • How is learning sequenced over time and across phases, year groups and key stages?
  • What is in place to ensure all staff engage in professional learning conversations about their practice, curriculum content, concepts, and learning outcomes?
  • How is CPD planned to deepen knowledge and understanding linked to the vision and ambition for excellence and improvement?

A Journey in Coaching – Certificate in Coaching Competence provides a framework within which a school can begin to embed coaching.  We work over three terms with six members of staff (smaller or larger groups can be an option) who want to train as coaches and who will be the catalyst to begin the coaching journey for the whole organisation.  We provide all the materials, research documentation, three days training and on-going, on-line and telephone support.  We have opted for a certification rather than an accreditation route as this requires more on-the-job outcomes defined through evidence where the theory is applied in the context of educational learning. Read more by looking at the certification page on our website. Contact us here for more information.

Coaching is the conduit that will provide the thread to linking subject specific and cross curricular learning. Coaching will help to create the dialogue that ensures skills and knowledge are woven through all learning. Coaching will ensure all staff embrace change, feel safe to innovate and can find their own solutions that deliver powerful learning outcomes. Start the journey you won't turn back.

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Books for the bookshelf and some research

  • Leadership Dialogues: Conversations and activities for Leadership Teams by John West-Burnham and Dave Harris
  • Leadership Dialogues 11: Leadership in Times of Change also by John West-Burnham and Dave Harris
  • Co-design - Practical ideas for learning across complex systems
  • Classroom Behaviour: A practical guide to effective teaching by Bill Rogers
  • Future Proof Your School: Steering culture, driving school improvement. developing excellence by David Hughes
  • Read the Education Endowment Foundation's report 'Improving Behaviour in Schools'

I am reading The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner a hard-hitting book at American culture and the penal system. Not for the faint hearted but extremely well written and inciteful

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  • Managed behaviour. Ofsted Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman reported on the initial stage of the inspectorate’s research into how schools are managing challenging behaviour, especially now that it is highlighted in the new inspection framework, pointing to a number of principles such as establishing strong routines, that many strong schools now use
  • The Prime Minister announces the latest wave of applications for Free Schools intended to target areas with low education standards and where there’s also a need for more school places and hoping to generate another 30 such schools
  • The government also confirmed the funding arrangements for schools and high needs for 2020/21 following last week’s Spending Round with allocations due to be announced in the normal way in December and steps towards ‘hardening’ the national formula included from 2020/21
  • SEND review. The Education Secretary confirmed the remit and arrangements for the cross-government special educational needs and disability review, first announced at the end of last week
  • SEND support. (PDF) The National Audit Office published its report into how well students with special educational needs and disabilities are being supported, concluding that the system is under pressure and recommending that the government looks more closely at costs, numbers and provision
  • Passport to success. The Association of School and College Leaders’ (ASCL) Commission set up to look into the issue of those students who don’t manage to achieve a grade 4 in English, recommended scrapping GCSE English Language in favour of a more practical Passport for English, along where necessary with a similar Passport for Maths

Not a lot of policy as the country continues to focus on our impeding exit from Europe.  This is a good time to focus on school improvement, building highly effective teams and encouraging conversations about learning. Have a great autumn term.


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