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Professional Development as a shared commitment towards excellence across the whole school

We focus on new standards for CPD, leadership and one to one coaching, funding for Maths mastery, the latest on assessment  and just a little bit on the changes to the political landscape


So far this summer (11 August) there is not a lot to report on any changes that might result from the extensive reshuffle in the Education Department at the DfE. There have been some generic platitudes that Justine Greening is committed to education and reducing equality but no detail. The only concrete announcement so far is that department will have a bigger remit and will take on responsibility for Further and Higher Education. There are some changes to the Further Education OFSTED handbook, click here to view these. I expect that there will be revisions to the Handbook for Schools before September but there is nothing to report as yet. Click here to subscribe to our website to receive the latest information on any changes that are published.

Brexit is unlikely to have a direct effect on education policy but I do wonder what might have happened if as in the Scottish referendum we had given a vote to 16 to 18 year olds. A number of opportunities to spend time with sixth formers and college students have arisen over the past six months and I have seen first hand their knowledge and passion in relation to wanting to be part of Europe. There may be opportunities to review carefully the SMSC curriculum to give all our young people an opportunity to understand more fully the ramifications of the leave vote and how it will affect the youngest in our society from both perspectives.

I always spend my summer writing and researching and take a holiday in September, there is always so much happening and there does seem to be an inclination to introduce new policy during this quiet time for educators. It remains to be seen how active Justine Greening will be over the next couple of months in either reinforcing what is currently in place and avoiding further change or making some sweeping u-turns on many of the policies that have caused such great concern to all of us in the name of education reform.

The Department of Education slipped through one news item prior to the political changes in early July. A new Standard for teachers' professional development has been published which sets out some common goals that schools should adhere to as part of developing a cohesive whole school programme of continuing professional development (CPD).

We will still be here planning and developing new courses, updating our existing ones and building our body of research to ensure that in September and over the next year we can help to ensure that the CPD you have planned either for your teams, for the school or for yourself will have an impact, will make a difference and have the capacity to create a learning culture across the whole school.

I hope you are enjoying the summer break and the team at Learning Cultures look forward to working with you in the new academic year.


Our training offer dovetails seamlessly into the recently published guidance on an effective standard for the provision of teachers' professional development

The recently published Standard for teachers' professional development guidance should be read in conjunction with the Teachers' Standards and sets out five principles,

  • Professional development should have a focus on improving and evaluating pupil outcomes
  • Professional development should be underpinned by robust evidence and expertise
  • Professional development should include collaboration and expert challenge
  • Professional development programmes should be sustained over time
  • Professional development must be prioritised by school leadership

It is our belief that the last bullet point should be first. Continuing professional development is at the heart of a successful school and where it works well it is always down to the commitment of the senior leadership team to unstintingly ensure that the development of staff is at the heart of planning for improvement. There is a sentence before the last bullet point that does suggest that the fifth point is meant to embrace all the other points, nevertheless, highly effective continuing professional development is built on the strong foundation of a committed senior leadership team.

We are delighted to say that everything that is included in the standard closely relates to the underpinning philosophy within the content of all our training courses and development opportunities. We have always advocated that training must be closely aligned with the school vision and to positive learning outcomes for both pupils and staff alike. The imperative to ensure that individual training events are never stand alone but are the beginning of a journey that involves the sharing and cascading of the learning to others is integral to every event or INSET that we run. We also provide resources and activities that can form the basis of further training, professional conversations and learning opportunities for others back in school. All our content is underpinned by in-depth sector led research and post-graduate enquiry into several theories and ideas that are part of the new education landscape. The research of Joyce and Showers and the work of John Kotter as well as the focus of GROW from John Whitmore all have a similar message. Staff need to be a part of the vision, understand the part they play in achieving it and feel valued and trusted to learn and build their expertise throughout their career. They also need to be able to articulate their own goals, their strengths and gaps in learning and have a clear pathway towards their own continuing professional development that will help them to contribute to the school or college vision.

Coaching provides a profound opportunity to develop a CPD offer that will ripple across the school; building a learning community that thrives on the opportunity to share and cascade good practice, learn from others and feel confident to take risks and innovate in the classroom. The Standard for Professional Development document states that:-

"Effective teaching cannot exist in isolation, it requires a pervasive culture of scholarship with a shared commitment for teachers to support one another to develop so that pupils benefit from the highest quality teaching."

Developing a culture that promotes this collaborative approach and having the evidence that there are ongoing opportunities for professional conversations, informal lesson observations and time for reflection are much more easily accomplished when those involved learn how to coach. Click here to view all our coaching training opportunities or scroll down to read how we have developed our suite of coaching programmes to provide something for all staff from the senior leadership team to those who are in a support role within the school.

Leading a Coaching School - A coaching programme for senior leaders

Developing a coaching culture in any organisation does have a significant impact on performance, motivation and the retention of staff. Coaching as a management principle and framework for continuing professional development is quite new to the education profession but the potential to create a culture where the sharing of good practice and the fostering of opportunities for reflection through professional conversations is compelling. The publication of the new Standard for professional development puts continuing professional development in the spotlight and suggests that it is high on the agenda for both the Government, OFSTED and ISI. Senior leaders are to be held responsible for prioritising professional development to ensure their staff are adequately trained in order to ensure they can evaluate and focus on improving outcomes for all pupils. Creating training and development opportunities for all staff within a school is costly in both resource and financial terms. However, a coaching programme can provide a sustainable and cost effective cascade model that will provide the evidence and in-school expertise to ensure that all staff share and disseminate good and outstanding learning and achievement across the whole organisation. There are several principles at work here that form the basis for a senior leadership team to focus on,

  • What is the vision for the school over a clearly defined timescale?
  • What are the key priorities that you will focus on?
  • What will success look like and how will this be communicated to all staff across the school?
  • How does the vision explicitly link to improving and evaluating pupil outcomes?
  • Who will be responsible for developing a whole school strategy for CPD that will ensure all staff are part of a learning community?
  • How will you identify who has the expertise to create a culture of peer to peer self improvement and the sharing of good and best practice?
  • What measures are there in place that will provide evidence that professional development has a positive impact on staff expertise, school improvement, motivation and moral?

We have several case study examples of where coaching is embedded as an integral part of a planned CPD strategy. Click here to have a look.

We have developed a training event for senior leaders that will set the scene for planning how to create a whole school coaching culture. It is essential that those who attend can identify how the content of the training will impact on their own role in implementing a coaching CPD strategy back in school. This event will provide a wealth of practical opportunities to practice or reinforce their own coaching skills, plan how to weave a coaching strategy within the school improvement plan and focus on how to disseminate and share the learning back in school.

Leading a Coaching School- A coaching programme for senior leaders is the first step in a learning journey that will give the senior leadership team an opportunity to plan how to create a coaching culture, reflect on current practice that works well and decide who can support the development of a cascade coaching model back in school. The content of this event will also give those who attend materials and resources that will support them in their quest for qualification outcomes or Masters level units.

Aspiring to Leadership - Coaching and leadership for middle leaders

Succession planning is an essential aspect of good school leadership and the development of the middle leadership strand is fundamental to this. Aspiring to Leadership is an important addition to our suite of coaching events and is for assistant, team or departmental heads or those who are working towards becoming a middle leader. The focus on coaching gives those who attend an opportunity to review their own role in the context of the schools vision and improvement plan and how they can use coaching to develop their leadership skills, build highly effective teams and influence and empower others to change and grow in their role so that they are an integral part of what the school, the team or the department is trying to achieve. We look closely at the difference between leadership and management and coaching and mentoring and focus on the skills and attributes of a coach which are the same as those that will build successful teams and motivated individuals. This event will also provide those who attend with the materials and resources to use in their quest for a qualification outcome or part of a unit towards a Masters degree.

One to one coaching and team coaching

We have a new service for senior and middle leaders in schools and colleges who would like to work with an expert coach to support individuals or teams who wish to explore the decisions they want to make, develop their creativity, build self-awareness, help when there is a problem to solve or simply share ideas on how to move forward. Coaching is widely used in the commercial world and has a significant impact on business, team and individual performance. The role of leader or manager in a school can be isolating and working closely with colleagues or teams can sometimes result in a lack of progress. A coach is there to be a critical friend, someone impartial who will listen and ask questions that expertly move the coachee(s) towards finding their own solution, realising their own strengths and articulating the barriers there are to success along the way. The role of a coach is non-judgemental and non-directive and can be highly influential in supporting individuals and teams to make difficult decisions or implement change that is unwelcome or problematic. A coach will listen, ask incisive questions and allow time for reflection, he or she will help the individual or team to focus on the positive and what is working well in order to build and grow from a position of strength.

We have teamed up with an organisation that focuses solely on offering coaching to individuals and teams from business and education. Expert coaches from Learning Cultures or Assisted Thinking will design a package that is bespoke to the needs of individuals or teams within a school or college and will work closely with those involved to plan a series of one to one or team coaching sessions.

A Whole School Coaching Culture

We have been working with schools and colleges across the education spectrum for over 10 years now and have developed a range of coaching programmes for all staff across the school.

  • Coaching the NQT - Going beyond Mentoring focuses on how to build the confidence of those beginning their teaching career. We look at the difference between coaching and mentoring and how developing the skills of a coach will help the mentor to support the NQT to find their own solutions and develop pedagogical approaches that are positive and achieve results whilst allowing them to reflect on how they are progressing and what they can build on to further improve.
  • Our Coaching Towards Outstanding Teaching and Learning event is one of our most popular titles. This event provides teachers, leaders and managers with an opportunity to look closely at the qualities of an outstanding teacher and focus on the kinds of pedagogy they use that has a deep impact on learning and achievement. We provide a wealth of opportunities for those who attend to learn and practice coaching skills that they can take back into school to use with colleagues and with pupils in the classroom.
  • Coaching for Teaching Assistants and support staff focuses on how the support team and the teacher can collaborate effectively using coaching to observe and share teaching and learning strategies that have an impact on progression and learner achievement. This event gives the support team an opportunity to reflect on how they can use formative assessment techniques to help pupils find their own solutions and become resilient, independent and creative learners.
  • Coaching for Cover Supervisors is another very popular event, we look at how coaching can help the Cover Supervisor to develop the skills that will help them to be more assertive, manage difficult behaviour and build learning opportunities using the work that has been set. We also look at the role of the Cover Supervisor, their needs and obligations and how they can be a more inclusive part of the learning process.
  • Coaching for Pastoral Leaders focuses on how coaching can have a significant impact on how pastoral leaders deal with pupils who have problems, behaviour and attitude at school issues and where they are dealing with parents. Coaching in the context of the pastoral role can have a significant impact on how tutors work together to share their concerns and observations about how well pupils are performing and socialising and work closely with the head of year or house in developing highly effective strategies for pupil behaviour and performance.
  • The Art of Lesson Observation asks those who observe to reflect on the purpose and efficacy of lesson observation in relation to individual, team and school performance. We look at how to create a culture where lesson observation is used as a tool for in-house CPD where teachers observe informally in a non-judgemental context and then share their learning with each other. We look at the use of video in the classroom and how this can be a fabulous tool for self and peer review.
  • Formative Assessment is an important part of planning and implementing the new curriculum and developing a range of coaching skills is an integral part of ensuring that assessing in the classroom with the pupil present really does create the right climate for learning and progression. Coaching is fundamentally about using the right questioning techniques to draw out of the individual how they can find there own solutions and ways to improve their work. A coach has empathy and is able to influence others to change. Building a range of coaching skills will create powerful evidence of highly effective formative assessment strategies linked to learner success, confidence and motivation.
  • Behaviour Management - a coaching solution helps those who attend to develop and use a range of coaching skills that will create opportunities for a different approach to classroom management and allow one to focus on the reasons why pupils misbehave. We look at both low level disruption and more serious misdemeanors and how coaching can help to alleviate both.

All of our coaching programmes are highly interactive and provide those who attend with a wealth of resources and activities to take back to school to share with others. Building a coaching culture takes time and does require the commitment from senior leadership and the resources such as time and space as well as some funding. However, the pay back and the benefits far outweigh the investment and the evidence is tangible and will be relevant to what OFSTED or ISI are looking to see in relation to effective professional dialogue and and a shared commitment to learning for all.

Lesson Study - A collaborative approach to lesson observation as an integral part of informal continuing professional development

Join us for our new Lesson Study Course which we will be running for the first time this autumn. Lesson Study is one approach that can provide evidence that your school is creating meaningful forums for collaborative professional development that is linked closely to ensuring there is an impact on learning in the classroom. It is an approach that began in Japan and is rapidly gaining momentum in this country. Two or three teachers work together to plan a lesson that one of them will teach. Before the lesson is delivered those involved in the planning will decide on a target group of pupils to follow and monitor in terms of their learning and the progress they make. The other teachers who have been involved in the planning observe the lesson together in order to focus on the pedagogy, the progress and the impact the strategies employed have on the specific group of pupils chosen. This is a collaborative process that does require a time commitment and it works best when it is planned as an integral part of the school's improvement strategy. Lesson study aligns so closely with the development of a coaching model and can really support the school's vision to embed a coaching culture where the sharing and cascading of good and best practice is a visible part of the performance management system. It also provides excellent opportunities for teachers to engage in professional conversations that focus on how pupils learn and how teachers develop and grow in their role. This event looks in detail at the principles of lesson study and focuses on the practicalities of how to build it into a whole school CPD strategy. We look at how to ensure that the approach is seen as a priority where the time and the resources are allocated, where there is a commitment from the senior leadership team to develop teams in this way and where teachers can learn the coaching skills they need to collaborate effectively through reflection and the development of positive professional dialogue. There is significant evidence emerging of the impact this approach has in supporting both improving the quality of teaching and outcomes for pupils. Professor Peter Dudley has written an informative book Lesson Study: Professional learning for our time on this approach and is an advocate of its efficacy as a powerful CPD tool for schools to use in developing highly effective learning communities. If you would like to read more about the research click here.

Managing the Pupil Premium - Creating successful outcomes and having the evidence of impact for stakeholders

We are working with an expert in the development of strategies to ensure that the Pupil Premium fund that will continue to be available for the life of this parliament and maybe longer is being used fairly and has the impact that will close the gap for those pupils for which it is intended. Nigel Bishop is a former head teacher and is now a trainer and consultant for Learning Cultures as well as other high profile providers of education training and support. He brings his wide experience of school-based learning and leadership to bear on finding innovative ways to use the Pupil Premium and learning support to ensure that all pupils have the same life chances and the best possible opportunities to progress and succeed alongside their peers.

The event is interactive and practical in nature and will allow those who attend to review current DfE requirements and unpick the kinds of evidence that OFSTED are looking to see. It will also focus on recent research that has been undertaken into effective intervention strategies and the impact these are having on learning, achievement and progress of specific groups of learners.

The day will give those who attend an opportunity to look at tools and techniques that will support strategic improvement in the most effective use of Pupil Premium to develop individual and groups of staff, work closely with parents and other stakeholders and build a body of evidence that the intervention strategies in place are having an impact over time. We give delegates time to reflect on what is working well, what could be improved and any innovations from the day that might be completely new and innovative. We also provide resources to use to support the production of an action plan and an opportunity to look at the most useful ways to analyse relevant data and tracking documentation. Click on the title below to find out more about this event.

Managing the Pupil Premium - creating successful outcomes and having the evidence of impact for stakeholders

Singapore Maths and the Mastery Model

Singapore Maths which is being developed here in England as Mastery Mathematics creates opportunities for pupils to solve problems and deeply understand the mathematical concepts in order that they can apply them successfully in a context. This approach, in theory, will allow pupils to understand why they are learning certain mathematical concepts and be able to make connections elsewhere in the curriculum. One of the features of this approach is to allow pupils to carefully scaffold their learning so that they are able to build on one aspect of learning a Maths concept and add to their knowledge over time as a platform for comprehension of a series of steps that will support them becoming fluent in their learning. The approach also uses many mental strategies that help to keep the brain agile and develop decision making abilities so that pupils learn how to justify and analyse an answer or a series of steps. There is also an element of pattern recognition included so that pupils can make connections and see similarities across a range of concepts. The emphasis on pupils being able to see where mathematical principles will support independent learning in other contexts allow them to develop their ability to think mathematically and hold unconsciously the formulas and procedures as opposed to having to learn them by rote for one specific purpose only.

Mastery of Maths means a deep, long-term, secure and adaptable understanding of the subject. There are it is suggested by NCETM a number of elements to consider along the way:

  • fluency (rapid and accurate recall and application of facts and concepts)
  • a growing confidence to reason mathematically
  • the ability to apply Maths to solve problems, to conjecture and to test hypotheses.

Those in favour of this approach believe that the process of mastering Maths is a gradual, accumulative process experienced as a child goes through school which will create a tool for life. It is they state, immeasurably more valuable than the short term ability to answer questions in tests or exams.

OFSTED, the National Centre for Teaching Mathematics (NCETM), the Department for Education, and the National Curriculum Review Committee have all emphasised the pedagogy and heuristics used by Singapore. This method is now being used successfully in the UK by the Ark Academies, the Harris Federation, Primary Advantage as well as numerous state, free, and independent schools. Funding has now been announced to support primary schools introduce this approach into their teaching of Mathematics. Click here to read the announcement from DfE. Adopting this model will require teachers to develop some different approaches and find ways to work collaboratively in cross curricular contexts. Teachers will need to support pupils to develop and deepen their skills in problem solving and create an unconscious understanding of where a Maths concept will generate answers or solutions. This requires a specialist type of training that will build the right culture for cross curricular dialogue to deepen understanding and build confidence that will allow Maths specialist and non specialists to use number to deepen understanding and have a wealth of knowledge they can build over time.

Join us for our primary course Mastering and Embedding Numeracy Specifics in the Primary Phase which we have shaped to focus on the skills and knowledge that those involved in developing a mastery model will need to hone or learn.

Assessment and learning - Skills and knowledge - What happens next?

The SATs test results are out and do not make happy reading. Click here for an overview of the main results which show a sharp decline in the success rate across the country and which have left many highly competent professionals feeling very uneasy. The Government have said that we are not to compare this result with previous years as this would be like comparing apples with pears. I have spent many days over the past year working in primary schools with teachers and support staff helping them to find the best way forward in supporting pupils make headway in order to ensure that the school and the pupils achieve the level of success they deserve. Unwisely, in my opinion some schools have more or less abandoned teaching any other subject other than Maths and English because "there is just too much content." This was surely not what was intended when the Government embarked on the introduction of a new curriculum, a reform of assessment of that curriculum and a rethink on the importance of pupils having a sound and deep understanding of the core Maths and English skills? Most of the literature that is linked to deepening our understanding of why we needed to have a new curriculum is that it is focusing on knowledge rather than skills and that it is the deepening of understanding through mastery that will ensure that pupils can access knowledge and build on their learning as they move through school.

I have asked several of our experts to explain to me how we can separate out skills from knowledge and what it means in relation to how we teach the content of the new curriculum. OFSTED want to see evidence that the teaching and embedding of literacy and numeracy skills are integral to learning across all subjects and themes in all aspects of the new curriculum and this surely requires that pupils develop a number of fundamental skills that will allow them to access the knowledge within a given subject. For instance a pupil who is learning about the reformation needs to have several skills such as comprehension of the source material he or she is reading, pupils may be asked to share ideas in a group thus demonstrating the skill of discussion and group interaction. There may be opportunities to look at some data that might be put into the form of a graph in order that the pupil can use the skill of interpretation to explain the results. It is the use of these skills that will help the pupil to develop a deeper understanding of the subject at hand and demonstrate possibly through the skill of writing their new knowledge.

There seems to be some consensus that the approach is to support pupils to develop the knowledge that will explain what is meant by certain grammar terms or use competently certain mathematical concepts. However, unless these are placed in a context and pupils are given opportunities to practice using them outside the confines of a grammar or Maths lesson they are never going to acquire the ability to 'use and apply' these skills as is required in the questions posed for the new GCSEs and to some extent the SATs tests.

We focus on some of these difficult questions in several of our events and we have developed some useful and thought provoking resources to support schools to plan and implement teaching strategies to support the implementation of the new curriculum and assessment models that will provide the evidence that OFSTED want to see.

  • The Importance of Key Stage 3 - Planning a continuum of learning
  • Mastery of the New Primary Curriculum - Weaving knowledge skills and understanding
  • Planning and Delivering the Secondary Curriculum - Creating a continuum of learning from Year 7 to Year 11 and beyond
  • The Role of the Literacy Coordinator
  • The Role of the Numeracy Coordinator
  • Mastering and Embedding Literacy Specifics - Putting literacy at the heart of the primary curriculum
  • Mastering and Embedding Numeracy Specifics - Creating opportunities to deepen pupils' numeracy skills across the Primary Curriculum
  • The Language of Assessment at Key Stage 1 and 2
  • The Language of Assessment at Key Stage 3 and 4

Transitions and transfers - Building on prior learning - creating positive opportunities for progression

A new school year is around the corner and pupils arriving in year 3 and year 7 will most likely be attending a new school or a new environment for the first time. There is an increasing focus on ensuring that schools look closely at their policies for transition to ensure that as well as a robust focus on the pastoral process there should be a collective and deep understanding of how pupils are building on their prior learning and achievement. All too often there is a dip in the performance on pupils both in year 3 and year 7, this is much more pronounced in year 7 but is also an issue in year 3. Accountability measures that require pupils to achieve high levels of progress year on year apply in both primary and secondary schools are much more likely to be achieved if pupils build on their learning year on year and especially at times of transition. Two of our most popular training events are:-

  • Seamless Transition from Key Stage 1 to 2 - An in-depth look at highly effective transition strategies that build on the learning in key stage 1
  • Crossing the Bridge - Transition from Key Stage 2 to 3 - Turn a well researched average 39% dip in performance into a celebration of success for pupils as they move from primary to secondary school

They provide a wealth of best practice examples, positive strategies and resources for transition managers, heads of year and academic and subject teachers to use to build highly effective strategies to support seamless transition.

Below is a list of some of the approaches we suggest following on from extensive research and a growing body of evidence:-

  • Share schemes of work across key stages to ensure there is a continuum of learning
  • Create opportunities to observe learning and teaching in different key stage settings
  • Give time to teachers across key stages to moderate together to build a consensus of what work that is emerging, achieving or exceeding a given standard should look like
  • Work together across the key stages to understand in depth the level of skills pupils have and the knowledge they have about topics or subjects they will be studying
  • Spend some time reviewing the content of the curriculum of the previous phase and dovetail planning to take account of what has been taught previously
  • Ensure that pupils, parents and other stakeholders are involved in the process of transition in relation to learning and not just pastoral issues


  • Oxford Owl has a wide range of resources linked to the new curriculum, assessment, mastery of Mathematics etc...
  • CUREE is the Centre for Research and Evidence in Education and has a wealth of useful evidence based information and resources linked to coaching and CPD
  • Coaching in Education: Getting better results for students, educators and parents by Christian Nieuwerburgh
  • The Art of Coaching - Effective strategies for school transformation by Elena Aguilar
  • Differentiated Coaching - A framework for helping teachers change
  • Click here to read Ros Ferrara's blog about mastery of the English curriculum
  • Box of Ideas is an interesting website with a comprehensive piece on transition from primary to secondary school.

I am still reading the Elena Ferranti series about two friends from Naples I am now on book 4 called The Lost Child which is the last one. I am not sure what I will read next, I have found these four books very compelling.


  • The Prime Minister, Theresa May highlights the importance of education and skills in her first cabinet meeting and Justine Greening echoes her but has not made any concrete changes herself as yet (11August).
  • Justine Greening has confirmed that there will be no reduction in Local Authority allocations for next year. The new funding formula has been put back by at least a year to 2018
  • The DfE have published a new Standard for Teachers' professional development in July 2016. There are five parts to the standard
  • The Sutton Trust have published some research conducted by Education Datalab that looks at schools who were early adopters of the EBacc, they conclude that while the EBacc helped raise performance levels particularly among disadvantaged students, it it felt that the target the government set of 90% of students was unrealistic and that although maybe still a little high 70% would be more realistic. Click here to read the full report
  • The Education Policy Institute looked at the issue of the performance gap for disadvantaged pupils showing how its impact was evident in many cases at age 5 but that some schools, notably in poorer areas, managed to help close the gap by the end of the primary years. Click here to read the full transcript.
  • 53% of pupils are meeting the expected standards following the publication of the recent SATs results which is much lower than in previous years
  • Resits of SATS test for Year seven pupils have been put on hold
  • The Shanghai/ Mastery Maths model is to be introduced into over half of primary schools in England
  • The DfE has updated its guidance on Progress 8 and this may change again in 2017 and 2018. Click here to download a copy of this document.