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Don't forget to book for our 4th annual conference The Art of Coaching - Creating a culture that cascades outstanding teaching and learning on 29th June 2017 at Woburn Abbey in Bedfordshire

How do we ensure successful accountability, sustainability and a world class education profession


Reading around the subject of education over the past month leads me to several similar themes. We have the latest OFSTED annual report, Michael Wilshaw's last, which highlights the 'comparably low status of teaching' and the chronic issues linked to recruitment and retention of staff as well as opportunities for succession planning to ensure high quality leadership exists within the profession. Wilshaw also comments on the north south divide that exists in the performance of many schools where those in the south are making greater progress than those in the north. Then there is the recently published report on the number of 'coasting schools' that exist across the country.

A coasting school is one that over time does not support its pupils to fulfil their potential. The data suggests that there are a significant number of schools where the results for pupils do not improve over time. For those schools who fall into that category there is an imperative to reflect on the reasons for this and empower those with responsibility for learning and progression to find solutions as to how to create the right learning platform for higher levels of achievement. How closely this relates to the capacity and quality of teachers and the skills and attributes of the leadership team is something that the data we are given does not explain but may contribute to.

We also have the PISA results to grapple with that suggest the profession has a lot to do to ensure we can truly say we are world class players in the global education family. For all of this there are likely to be many underlying reasons and it is incumbent on the Government, OFSTED and leaders and Governors in schools to concentrate on how collectively the profession can focus on moving forward towards a vision where we are seen as world class, where pupils are not disadvantaged because of where they live, where teachers are given the high status and rewards they deserve and where leaders and managers have the skills and autonomy to build high quality learning environments.

My reading also gives me hope and gives me something to think about over the coming Christmas break so that we can come back in the new year and continue to be a significant part of the drive to create an education profession that has a high status in society, has the skills and knowledge to support increased levels of learning and achievement and ensures the same consistent results can be achieved in all parts of the country. We have the brand new Chartered College of Teaching which will start to take members from January 2017. Membership is voluntary and gives those working in education the opportunity to join an organisation that has the same professional standing as other membership organisations such as the Chartered Institute of Accountants, Surveyors or Physicians. This is a significant move forward for the teaching profession and will give all those who join recognition for their qualifications and achievements as educators. There is also the announcement of 14th December by Secretary of Education, Justine Greening that there is to be some changes made to funding.

Her announcement reveals that, "We need a system that funds schools according to the needs of their pupils rather than their postcode, levelling the playing field and giving parents the confidence that every child will have an equal opportunity to reach their full potential". There is also extra funding announced for six areas across the across the country that will receive additional funding to identify ways of driving social mobility where there is currently depravation. The announcement states that "All areas will benefit from additional funding - a share of £60 million - and from tailored plans to form local partnerships with early years providers, schools, colleges, universities, businesses, charities and local authorities in order to help all children have the opportunity to reach their full potential, no matter what their background."

Our team here at Learning Cultures are acutely aware of the demands being placed on schools and their staff at present. Curriculum and assessment changes still dominate the very crowded agenda and are driving strategic planning. The annual report from OFSTED and other pertinent reports and announcements particularly about funding shows that there is room for improvement in some areas. However, they also show that there are significant improvements in other areas. There are also opportunities for the profession to drive its own agenda for change and work together towards a vision where all learners achieve their full potential. It is essential that all those who deliver that learning are recognised and rewarded for their dedication and hard work that ultimately makes a huge difference to individuals, business and the country as a whole. We love being a part of this agenda for change. We are looking forward to a rest that will re-charge our batteries and give us the energy to be a part of building the world class profession we are all a part of.



Join us at our 4th annual coaching conference The Art of Coaching - Successful Strategies for Outstanding Learning and Achievement at Woburn Abbey in the Sculpture Gallery on 29th June 2017.

Why it is so important to join the new Chartered College of Teaching?


The Chartered College of Teaching is a new independent, evidence-led professional membership organisation for the teaching profession. It has been established to give teachers an opportunity to be part of a body that has a similar status to other professional institutes that are chartered such as accountants, surgeons and surveyors and to ensure that the teaching profession is given the level of professionalisation of other similar constitutions. Membership is voluntary and members will enjoy many benefits including being a part of an organisation that informs the professional standards and code of ethics necessary for teaching. The college will also work in partnership with others to build on best practice in pedagogy and leadership and provide opportunities for access to existing and emerging research evidence that informs policy and practice in education. It is independent of government and will have the autonomy to use evidence from research and practice to ensure teachers are well informed about professional issues relating to inclusive teaching, curriculum and assessment. There is a commitment to ensure that teachers have a clearly defined pathway for professional development that ensures they can grow and progress in their chosen career. It embraces all phases of education and subject specialisms bringing together a diverse community of teachers who will have a forum to share ideas and knowledge and bring an authoritative voice to the teaching profession.

This is the first time that the profession of teaching has had the same status as other professions in the country. Membership will give access to a wealth of opportunities for professional development, the sharing of findings from relevant and important research and the security of being a part of a college that exists to support the furtherance of excellence and improvement in the teaching profession.

How does introducing a coaching culture impact on teacher motivation, the fostering of professional learning conversations and ultimately whole school improvement?

We are proud of our growing and enviable reputation for delivering powerful and innovative coaching programmes for schools, colleges and Multi-academy Trusts across the UK and increasingly internationally. We have a wealth of best practice that we have gathered over time and we are working with many organisations who are at different stages of growth and development in their quest to put coaching at the heart of their vision for ongoing school or college improvement. Coaching is a highly skilled activity that ensures the individuals who are involved in the process of developing others whether it is a leader, a colleague, a line manager or a learner have the ability and the resilience to allow for self reflection, the fostering of independence and deep thinking and will give time to others to find their own solutions and solve their own problems. Mostly, coaching is about two people working together using a structured professional dialogue that is more than a conversation and leads the coachee to move forward in their quest to achieve their stated goal.

It is the job of the Board of Governors to define the strategy and it is the job of the senior leadership to shape it and implement it. How the vision is communicated and turned it into measurable and achievable objectives that will have an impact on learning and deliver the evidence and the data that underpins a school's future is critical to its success. Each individual needs to feel a part of the process and understand how they can contribute to it. Learning how to coach can help to ensure that the line manager (coach) can clearly articulate the goal and the recipient (coachee) can articulate their plans (objectives) for how they will achieve their own success. The coaching process can add clarity and define more clearly what is required, what is already working well, what resources are needed and what the barriers might be to success. In this way both parties have developed a level of trust and understanding and can continue to challenge each other in a positive and non-judgemental way to ensure that the required goal and objectives are met on time and match the success criteria.

Coaching has an impact at all levels of an organisation and in a school it can provide a palpable way to breaking down subject or year group divides, work successfully as a tool for transition, build opportunities for cross curricular dialgoue about teaching and learning, the embedding of literacy and numeracy and building robust curriculum maps. Once a school realises the power coaching can have on bringing tangible change to the school, to leaders and managers, to a teacher or to a member of the support team and to the individual learner in the classroom there is no turning back and slowly there is a willingness to change, to focus on the positive and to collaborate and communicate good and best practice rather than dwell on what is not working well.

We have developed a range of well-researched and extremely well - received coaching courses that provide a learning platform for every member of the staff within a school from the Senior leadership team to the support teams and even for the Governing body. Some schools start with developing a group of willing teachers who join our Coaching Towards Outstanding Teaching and Learning day, others start with developing the senior leadership and middle leader teams by attending both on one or other of our Leading a Coaching School course or our Spring to Leadership - a coaching event for middle leaders. Some schools start looking at the pastoral process and join us for our Coaching for Pastoral Leaders event where we look at using coaching for behaviour and coaching conversations with parents as well as the role of the pastoral leader. We also offer coaching programmes for subject Leaders, Teaching Assistants and Support staff and for Cover supervisors. See below for our full list of coaching courses.

  • Leading a Coaching School or College
  • Aspiring to Leadership - a coaching programme for middle leaders
  • Coaching Towards Outstanding Teaching and Learning
  • Coaching the NQT - Going Beyond Mentoring
  • Advance your Coaching - The next steps towards excellence and improvement in teaching and learning
  • Coaching for Cover Supervisors
  • Coaching for Teaching Assistants and Support Staff
  • Behaviour Management - A coaching solution
  • Psychological well-being - Promoting emotional health, mindfulness and wellbeing to optimise learning and achievement
  • Coaching for Subject and Faculty Leaders
  • Coaching for Pastoral Leaders and Year Heads
  • Lesson Study - Improving teaching and enhancing learning through professional collaboration and enquiry
  • Mindset Matters - unlocking learning using Growth Mindset techniques
  • Creating the Expert Learner - Developing the learner voice
  • The Art of Lesson Observation

Join us at our 4th annual coaching conference The Art of Coaching - Successful Strategies for Outstanding Learning and Achievement at Woburn Abbey in the Sculpture Gallery on 29th June 2017.

How do we achieve a primary school curriculum that helps pupils develop unconscious competence in their use of literacy and numeracy skills?

'Mastery' I was told recently by a primary Headteacher has gone! I was a little surprised to hear this and tried my best not to contradict such a broad and sweeping statement. I do, however, detect a change in the terminology as I read around the latest documentation relating to accountability and the teaching and learning strategies that will ensure pupils learn and achieve what they are expected to from one key stage to the next. The phrase 'working at greater depth' seems to be replacing the word mastery but essentially means the same thing. The overarching aim, whatever we want to call it is to ensure that where pupils learn a concept, say the use of connectives, they can apply that skills in a variety of different subjects and contexts and not just as an exercise in an English or literacy lesson. Mastery surely means that learners are able to move out of their comfort zone and think for themselves about the skills they are learning and how they can apply them.

In primary schools teachers often have the luxury of teaching both the English and Maths programmes of study and the foundation subjects to their year group. It is often cited in OFSTED reports or in feedback from lesson observation that teachers miss opportunities to deepen pupils skills and knowledge in literacy and numeracy in the context of their subject learning elsewhere. Critical planning of how the teacher will deliver the subject matter is essential in ensuring that the pupil can firstly use the skills they need to access the subject knowledge and then make sense of it. Identifying the skills the pupil will use to access the knowledge is a critical first step and provides the pupil with the opportunity to see how the skills they are using in a literacy or numeracy lessons are being applied n the context of learning elsewhere. Developing a scheme of work should start with identifying the skills a pupil will use to learn such as listening, reading for meaning, writing for a purpose, research and enquiry or group work that involves discussion are all skills a pupil will use to access their learning in a subject specific context. Pupils can then begin to develop these skills and start to understand that they are using the same literacy skills across all their learning. In the same way where number skills naturally occur, for instance where a graph will support the interpretation of a survey or experiment or where a formula is needed to work out the area of a field the pupil can see that this is something they have learnt in Maths or their numeracy learning. In this way the teacher is guiding the pupil towards unconscious competence in their use of literacy and numeracy skills and they are 'mastering' that skill or 'deepening their understanding' whichever you prefer.

How does planning or rethinking a vocational learning pathway have the potential to ensure schools achieve the highest possible outcomes for all pupils at the end of Year 11?

Brexit has put vocational education back at the top of the agenda for secondary schools and colleges. Skills and the woeful inadequacy of the provision for preparation for work is highlighted in the recent OFSTED report 'Getting Ready for Work' There is a particular focus on Enterprise Education and the lack of Careers and Information, Advice and Guidance this coupled with Michael Wilshaw's recommendations that we must focus on the vocational offer in our schools means it is time to think again about the quality and quantity of vocational education, enterprise learning and provision for Careers and Information Advice and Guidance (CEIAG) that is available as part of the curriculum. Getting Ready for Work examines how secondary schools are preparing young people for the world of work. We have put together a short precis of the report which you can download by clicking here.

Michael Wilshaw has also made a public statement saying that schools should concentrate much more on vocational education as a way of ensuring social cohesion suggesting that it would be useful for Multi-academy trusts to have a technical school as part of their school mix. The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development have also commented on the need for greater provision for vocational learning in schools. For some schools the pressure of the EBacc and the fact that many vocational qualifications no longer count as alternatives to GCSEs has meant they have left them out of their curriculum offer. It is however, now a good time to reconsider this. It is now possible to include three vocational qualifications as part of the third basket of options that pupils can choose from that will count towards their total tally included as part of Progress 8. For many schools this will provide an opportunity for a broader educational offer for those learners who will struggle to achieve though the purely academic route. There is a comprehensive list of allowable vocational qualifications which you can download by clicking here. The emphasis on skills development and the need for learners to demonstrate how they have worked independently to find the evidence for their growing portfolio provides learners with different way of learning. The introduction of a tested element is still problematic for some but for many a change to learn in this way can mean opportunities for a successful outcome that they would be unlikely to achieve through a traditional academic curriculum. Join us at our Delivering a Vocational Pathway that Counts event and build a vocational curriculum to ensure that all pupils achieve their full potential.

Why is transition still a hot potato? - what are the school strategies for ensuring pupils at points of transition build on prior learning and can progress to achieve their expected potential by the end of the next key stage?

Transition is a vulnerable time for many pupils and the well researched dip in performance of anything up to 39% when pupils move from one key stage to the next means that it should be at the top of every school leader's agenda. High levels of performance linked to a flight path from a distinct starting point will define the success of a school at the end of Key Stage 1, 2 and 3. Accountability is based on the level of progress pupils make as they move through the years within a key stage. If there is such a dip or even if that dip were only 10% it is still likely to impact on the end results for pupils who did not achieve in their first year within that key stage. If we can turn that dip into a increase in performance and therefore tangible progression from the beginning of their journey along the flight path then we should see some pretty significant improvement. So,it is critical that there is a policy and a strategy that ensures those that move from one key stage to the next build on prior learning, are able to use and develop the skills they have already mastered and are given sufficient stretch and challenge to ensure they are motivated and keen to learn.

We have two events that focus on creating a highly effective and seamless transition strategy that builds on prior learning, ensures pupils thrive and make the significant progress expected of them.

  • Moving on - Seamless Transition from Key Stage 1 to 2 - Creating a continuum of learning
  • Crossing the Transition Bridge - Seamless learning from primary to secondary school

Another important event that will be of great interest to those involved in the process of learning for Key Stage 3

  • The Importance of Key Stage 3 - a springboard for deep learning at Key Stage 4 and beyond

What's new for SMSC, Careers and Enterprise education?

OFSTED have recently published a report based on an investigation of 40 secondary schools into the provision of enterprise education and other curriculum strategies that prepare learners for the world of work. The conclusions from the Getting Ready for Work report are that on the whole there is a woeful lack of curriculum time given to careers , enterprise and vocational education. The report concludes that there is little coherence and a lack of strategy by government, business organisations or individual schools to create a co-ordinated approach to addressing some of the issues around poor provision. The rational behind the report is clearly linked to the decision to leave the European Union. One of the implication of Brexit is that we will have to harness home-grown talent and encourage the creativity and innovation of young people entering the job market at age 16, 18 or after an apprenticeship or university. There is, the report concludes, a real need for there to be a platform that is clearly established as part of the wider curriculum in schools to ensure all learners are ready for work and life. 

We have three training courses linked to this agenda and we continue to undertake our own research and build new content in response to the changing policy linked to this important element of the choices schools make in planning a wider enrichment curriculum for learners as they move towards preparation for work or the next stage of their education post 16.

  • Designing an Enterprise Curriculum - Creating a coherent programme that builds resilience, creativity and the skills for work and life
  • Delivering Careers Education and Information Advice and Guidance (CEIAG)
  • Delivering SMSC within a 21st Century Curriculum

We also offer a training course that looks specifically at planning and delivering a vocational education curriculum which has been updated to focus specifically on the role of vocational education as part of ensuring pupils have a range of choices that provide breadth and balance and ensure individual learners can access a curriculum that will allow them to achieve their full potential.

  • Delivering a Vocational Pathway that Counts


  • Teach like a Champion by Doug Lemov offers concrete, engaging, easy to implement techniques teachers can use to keep their pupils engaged, focused and learning. A very practical and useful book for all teachers.
  • Lesson Study for Learning Community - A guide to sustainable school reform by Eisuke Saito, Masatsugu Murase, Atsushi Tsukui and John Yeo. This recent publication explores the idea of Lesson Study for
  • Learning Community and suggests that the reform of the culture of a school is needed in order to change learning levels among children, teaches and even parents. It is practical and written by experts close to where the concept of lesson study began.
  • How to Create a Culture of Achievement in Your School by Douglas Fisher, Nancy Frey and Ian Pumpian This book focuses on some of the unseen factors that affect school success such as relationships, identity and connections that make up it's culture and how these can be shaped to ensure they positively influence the daily lives of students and staff?
  • Brain Matters: Translating research into classroom practice - Patricia Wolfe - The author clarifies how we can effectively match teaching practice with brain functioning. The content is based on recent and relevant research and knowledge,and examines brain development from birth through adolescence and identifies the impact of exercise, sleep, nutrition, and technology on the brain
  • The Growth Mindset Coach: A teacher's month by month handbook for empowering students to achieve - Annie Brock and Heather Hundley - The Growth Mindset Coach provides ideas for how to foster a growth mindset classroom, including, A Month-by-Month Programme, Research-Based Activities, Hands-On Lesson Plans, Real-Life Educator Stories, Constructive Feedback

Over Christmas I am going to read Iris Murdoch's A Fairly Honourble Defeat; She is in my opinion deliciously cynical and powerful in her insight into human relationships. I look forward to having time to read another of her novels.


  • A consultation has been launched this month to seek views on a new national funding formula for schools. The stated aim is to ensure a fairer balance of funding across the country. The Government have announced an uplift on hourly funding rates for early years to deliver it's commitment to provide 30 hours of free child care for working parents

  • The consultation following the publication of the Green Paper 'Schools that Work for Everyone' has now closed. The Green Paper asks for opinions on the debate about selection and raising achievement. An interesting response is the lyrically named 'The Tide that Lifts All Boats' sets out the history, the facts and some of the research succinctly and well.

  • The Education Policy Institute has also published further analysis of policy options related to selection called 'Grammar Schools and Social Mobility' which questions some of the Governments reasons for considering expanding selective school places.

  • A recent report from OFSTED called 'Getting Ready for Work' looks at how 40 schools provide for Careers, IAG and Enterprise Education and how ultimately they prepare learners for life and work after the age of 16. We have produced a two page summary which outlines the main points and recommendations. Click here to read it or download it.

  • Regulator responses on exams and league tables

  • The recent publication of the PISA results suggest we have slipped down the league table and have been overtaken by some countries mainly in East Asia.

  • The Government has now published finalised data on Primary School Performance.