to top


A new year of change and possibilities

Happy New Year to all our schools. It promises to be as lively as last year. Already as the first week unfolded Justine Green has resigned and Damian Hinds has taken over as Education Secretary.

Before Christmas Justine Greening published a paper focusing on what this government want to do to tackle disadvantage. I had wanted to use the paper to write a news post myself about its content. However, I changed my mind and decided to take something she adhered to in the report that could be used now and not in the future after tender processes and research have been completed. Greening suggests that there should be, "a central focus on identifying and spreading what works well, putting evidence at the heart of everything we do".

There is a wealth of good practice and I have written a short news post highlighting some of the evidence and where you can find it. You can read it here Closing the Gap - social mobility at the heart of education policy.  I have worked so closely to policy in education for many years now and every government seems to throw out what went before and then proceed to rewrite their own agenda without reference to previous positive change or have any kind of developing understanding of what worked well in previous administrations. We need a real debate as to what does work well, build a consensus as to how to ensure teachers have the skills and resources to support outstanding learning and teaching to ensure no one falls behind and high-quality leadership that make sure it happens.

The profession is in crisis so one commentator after another seems to echo.  Data from UCAS suggests there is a 33% lower take up of teacher training places and most headteachers I talk to are having difficulty recruiting high quality staff. In contrast to the pessimism I read about and witness in my dealings with the policy side of life, I am humbled by my experience of working with schools.  I spent a wonderful morning training a whole staff of teachers from an infant school in Worthing last week.  The focus was on teaching and learning and how the teachers could improve their own practice to offset some of the less than helpful OFSTED judgements they had recently received.  Their dedication, knowledge and professionalism was outstanding, the way they embraced the possibilities of trying new approaches to delivering the curriculum, managing their classrooms and assessing learning was admirable and their determination to work together for their pupils and the school was heartening.  It is essential that the policy makers and those who judge and inspect take care with such professionalism and recognise that it is the teachers, managers and leaders who work in schools that know what's best and what needs to change. 

I am focusing this newsletter on some of the policy and news items in education that will impact on us throughout this year and beyond. I want to take a proactive approach to some of the issues and look at how through the sharing and cascading of good practice and by creating opportunities to use professional dialogue and learning conversations developed through the use of coaching skills and practice we can rise above and overcome the challenges that the profession faces.

Here's to an outstanding new year that brings success for learners, positive outcomes for teachers and continuous improvement for schools and colleges everywhere.


Back to contents

The latest from OFSTED in relation to the debate about the curriculum

OFSTED have begun a review of curriculum design and delivery in order to inform their new framework that is planned for September 2019.  The Chief Inspector, Amanda Spielman in a recent speech to The Science Education Association conference talked in general about the curriculum as well as in more detail about the science curriculum. She raised several issues that need some thought in order that schools can focus on creating a deep and rich curriculum offer that supports the low achiever, allows those who achieve well to reach their full potential and ensures challenges for higher achievers.  She says that focus groups and other research has highlighted that there is insufficient debate about the curriculum, what it should contain and how it should be taught or how we translate standards into practice.  She says,

 "..too few schools .. think deeply enough about how the curriculum works – from the material that is introduced, to the frequency and context in which it is revisited, learned and eventually mastered, and how links are made across the entirety of the curriculum." 

She talks about a 'quality curriculum', we need to think carefully about what that means. She wants to see a curriculum that 'challenges all learners', we need to look closely at the curriculum offer especially where it is linked to EYFS, the end of KS2 and the end of KS4 and question how well it challenges and embraces all learners across the spectrum of ability, interest and motivation.  In her focus on science education she talks about the sequence of teaching from scientific knowledge and understanding to scientific enquiry and then to the uses and implications of science.  We could, in fact, apply the same sequence to any subject, the debate has to be whether the sequence is right or whether there are different pedagogical approaches that might change the emphasis. 

In another OFSTED publication which looks at recent research into the primary and secondary curriculum Ms Spielman talks about the use of the word skill, she suggests that there is no clarity as to the use of the word in the context of curriculum planning, she says,

"For example, the idea of ‘skills’ was liberally used in many contexts. Very rarely was it clear whether the meaning was subject-specific, for example reading skills. Other uses included personal skills, such as the ability to work in a team, cognitive skills, such as critical thinking, or life skills, such as how to pay a bill or apply for a job. There were many other examples of terms where the meaning was woolly, such as progression, enrichment, questioning and repetition."

There is also much debate as to the paucity of training for young teachers specifically looking at the 'theory' that underpins curriculum planning and an observation from some of the research contributors that there is a divide between older teachers who were specifically taught this and new teachers who were not.  These two papers and the messages more generally that are emerging suggest that the profession needs to review and debate the kind of curriculum that will deliver a world class education system across England.  We need to find out our own answers to the questions,

  • What does a quality curriculum look like?
  • How do we sequence learning?
  • What are the skills learners need to access knowledge and understanding and how are these taught?
  • How do we as educators make sure the curriculum has sufficient depth and breadth whilst ensuring it caters for all?
  • How do we build a continuum of learning from early years to post 16?

We are doing our own research and building a consensus on what works well. We have our own questions and some answers to the questions that can support school leaders and managers to develop a curriculum offer that addresses many of the issues raised here.  We can't wait around for a new framework in 2019. We need to start now to show that we have the answers and the expertise to deliver a world class curriculum for all. Join us at one of our curriculum training courses for a delicious opportunity to share ideas, create some clarity and focus on continuing to develop a rich and balanced curriculum for all learners.

  • Designing the Primary Curriculum - Ensuring depth and breadth and a continuum of learning
  • Weaving a 21st Century Curriculum - Building a continuum of learning from Year 7 to Year 11 and Beyond

Back to contents

Formative Assessment - Making sure teachers have the confidence and the training to use on-going assessment as a powerful learning tool

My News Post from December Formative Assessment - teacher autonomy, pupil involvement, positive collaboration focused on the findings of a piece of research undertaken by Pearsons and LKMco to look at the future of assessment. 

In a nutshell the report concludes that formative assessment should be a fundamental competency for all educators.  The involvement of pupils in the process of assessment is essential and therefore should be an integral part of classroom practice. The teacher should use classroom assessment to clarify and praise, correct mistakes and change misconceptions. Teachers should also use formative assessment to define and re-define curriculum content so that there are clear opportunities to stretch and challenge, re-inforce the learning and deepen understanding.  There is, however, an issue with teacher confidence, according to the report, the emphasis on the production of data for reporting and accountability means that teachers often feel more comfortable with summative testing that gives a clearly defined data-set.  There is also a need to consider the huge burden that marking can place on teachers. One school highlighted in the report has 'banned' marking of books away from the classroom and the pupils.  (Page 60).

There are several actions schools can take to reduce the burden and support collaboration and pupil involvement in the classroom. to increase the confidence of teachers and ensure that the value of classroom assessment is appreciated by teachers, pupils, parents and those who judge our progress and success.

  • Focus on a CPD strategy that ensures a consistent approach to formative assessment is used across the school so that teachers and support staff share their understanding of the quality of pupils work and can work together to moderate and define progress and achievement within different contexts
  • Ensure that the data that is collected can be used to define the gaps in pupils' learning or clearly show where pupils need to be stretched or supported
  • Create opportunities for those involved in the process of assessment to discuss metacognition and how supporting pupils to understand how they learn can have a profound impact on how well they can access a deep, rich and broad curriculum. Celebrate learning, effort and achievement in the classroom and build the confidence of pupils to take risks with their learning
  • Review the impact on learning of the school's marking policy and how testing is used to assess progress.  How much impact does marking have on progress and achievement and what is the cost to teacher well-being?
  • De-couple the assessment of teacher performance from the test and exam results of pupils in the school

Formative assessment requires a high level of competence. There needs to be a mechanism that allows for effective collaboration and a collective understanding of the efficacy of assessment in allowing accurate judgements to be made as to the progress and achievement of pupils in a variety of different contexts and using many different approaches. Join us at one of our two training courses, these are deeply researched, highly interactive and will provide a wealth of resources and materials to use back in school.

  • Formative Assessment across the Primary Curriculum- Planning, questioning and collaborating for learning
  • Formative Assessment across the Secondary Curriculum – Planning, questioning and collaborating for learning

Back to contents

Transition for many pupils creates a dip in performance - ensure seamless learning when pupils move from year 6 to year 7

One of our most popular training courses deals with transition from KS2 to 3. Crossing the Transition Bridge - seamless learning from Ks 2 to KS3 focuses on creating a continuum of learning that goes much further than looking at the pastoral process and ensures there is no break in the learning from year 6 to year 7.  Myself and Jayne North who deliver this course enjoy it as much as the delegates who attend. We know that we make a difference to how Heads of Year 7 and transition managers develop their plans. We have created a six-page list of examples of good practice that we have collected over time. It is astonishing how much has developed over the several years we have run this course.

Back to contents

We need to turn our minds to other points of transition, especially the transition from reception to year 1 and from KS1 to KS2

The focus on mastery and creating breadth and balance in the curriculum for pupils so that they can deepen and enrich their learning starts with the development of the basic skills in reception and year 1 and must continue through year 2 and into KS2.  There is a real need to create opportunities for those who teach these children at the beginning of their learning journey to collaborate and make sure the curriculum is seamless where planning allows for a recognition that some pupils will be ready to deepen their knowledge of simple concepts, others will need to have them reinforced and for some they will need extra support.  If we don't create a pathway for pupils that is a series of steps towards mastery over time children are likely to stall, lose their self-esteem or lose interest because they are not being challenged.  Kindling a love of learning at this stage is where true progression starts. 

Join us for our newly written training course Creating a Curriculum and Transition Strategy that Builds a Continuum of Learning from EYFS into KS1 and Beyond that is designed for those involved in planning the curriculum for EYFS and KS1 to work with those who will plan the curriculum for year 3.  We have looked closely at the content of the National Curriculum in English and Maths and have looked at some of the ways in which teachers can plan to support a seamless learning platform that will deepen knowledge and skills and build on prior learning. We have developed a curriculum plan for reception, year 1 and year 2 in Maths.  Essentially at present there is not a curriculum for early years, more a set of guidelines for what pupils should be learning.  However, these guidelines do not accurately align with the now increased expectations of the curriculum in year 1.  Continuity in the development of mathematical skills is particularly problematic according to a recent report from OFSTED Bold Beginnings: The reception curriculum in good and outstanding primary schools. 

Back to contents

Lead your school, college or partnership towards and outstanding coaching culture

The focus on collaboration, learning from others and sharing good and best practice remains high on the policy agenda.  The paper Unlocking Talent, Fulfilling Potential written in December and discussed earlier in this newsletter talks about the importance of looking at what works well in order to shape new thinking and innovative practice to ensure all learners can achieve their full potential.  The current focus on formative assessment relies heavily on a consistent approach where teachers and support staff work together to define the quality of pupils work and what progression actually means in reality.  Developing a curriculum that provides a seamless learning journey from EYFS to post 16 education requires a commitment to share, build partnerships and understand how pupils learn and progress. Ensuring pupils don't dip in their learning as they move from one key stage to the next requires a shared understanding, team working and effective dialogue.

All of this and more will be far more likely to succeed if there is a successful coaching culture within the relevant organisations and across partnerships. Learning how to coach provides individuals with a range of extraordinary skills. They listen with increased clarity and understanding, question to tease out from others their true purpose, motivations and aspirations and observe with a clarity that can have a huge influence on change management.  Achieving a coaching culture is a goal that can have huge benefits.  Leaders develop a range of skills that support their teams to communicate the shared vision and manage the changes that are inevitable. Middle leaders who are pivotal to the process develop the skills to empower others to identify their strengths, what they are good at and what they need to do to build and grow professionally.  Teachers and support staff can reflect on their teaching and the learning that comes from it with clarity through professional learning conversations and dialogue. 

We have a suite of training courses that will build a coaching culture and create outstanding communication, positive learning and empowered people.  We can help you plan a package of learning through our training programmes or you can dip into the different courses as and when you feel you need to.  Whichever way you plan your programme we offer substantial discounts where a school, college or partnership wants to use several of our courses together. A good starting point might be the three courses below that support leaders, middle managers and teachers

  • Leading a Coaching School – Empowering a culture of positive change that cascades continuous improvement
  • Coaching from the Middle - How to influence change and lead from the middle
  • Coaching Towards Outstanding Teaching and Learning

Then look more specifically at individual roles and how coaching can enhance their own professional development and create positive outcomes in school or college

  • Coaching for Pastoral Leaders and Year Heads - Enhance well-being, improve behaviour, inspire confidence
  • Coaching for Teaching Assistants and Support Staff
  • Coaching the NQT - Going Beyond Mentoring

Then perhaps develop the skills of those who you want to take the coaching process forward and develop it within school or college

  • Developing the Skills of a Coaching Ambassador - deepen and widen a knowledge of coaching skills

You could then focus on some of the other aspects of school strategy that will enhance the coaching process

  • Re-thinking Appraisal - Influencing learning, empowering people and creating a culture of positive change
  • The Art of Positive Lesson Observation - How to use powerful feedback that nurtures reflection, learning and outstanding teaching
  • Behaviour Management - Coaching Strategies for Success

Back to contents

What next for Vocational Learning?

I for one believe that vocational education is an essential element of any highly successful curriculum.  Brexit highlights the need in this country for young people to be equipped to be flexible learners who have a range of life-long learning skills.  There are many countries across the globe who have outstanding vocational learning and if we are not careful in this country we will continue to fall behind due to our lack of commitment to a positive vocational learning programme from age 14.  The EBacc and the government's commitment to ensuring 90% of pupils are taking EBacc subjects by 2022 is a massive disincentive and the qualifications that no longer count in the tally for Progress 8 mean that many pupils who would have taken and achieved these qualifications do not. However, Amanda Spielman in her speech to the Association for Science Education conference. questions the wisdom of only allowing pupils to take GCSE in certain subjects if they are capable of achieving a grade 5 (C grade).  She says "It shouldn’t just be about grades; studying a subject is important in its own right." 

In another paper, written in October 2017, she is unhappy with schools who do not offer breadth and depth for pupils who may not be able to access options included in the EBacc. She says that following research commissioned by OFSTED headteachers suggested that it was becoming very difficult to offer ‘good’ alternative qualifications, like BTEC science, to lower achieving pupils because of the lack of parity they now have with GCSE qualifications and would therefore mean that there would be an impact on their Progress 8 score. Some leaders, she says, perceive this as narrowing the curriculum for lower-attaining pupils by forcing them onto a less appropriate academic track. Although she acknowledges that these qualifications are deemed to not have parity, she goes on to say,

"......the focus here should be on what these pupils should be learning and what they need to do to progress. It should not focus solely on the qualification they are taking. This leads us back to school leaders mistaking ‘badges and stickers’ for learning and substance."

She also cites the Ofsted report for Huntington School in York, which has a broad curriculum including ASDAN's CoPE qualification, no longer counted and other vocational qualifications; and of which she says,  

"Huntington School in York has a curriculum designed to fit with pupils’ needs and aspirations regardless of performance measures. At a time of high teacher workload, it is more important than ever for schools to make informed choices about what they encourage teachers to do – and, even more importantly, what they ask them to stop doing."

I know from my own experience of teaching vocational qualifications, writing text books for vocational learners and my work developing the CoPE qualification with ASDAN that vocational qualifications have a positive impact on learning and achievement for many pupils who have struggled with a wholly academic diet.  The focus on the practical and the building of a learning journey through the development of a portfolio that demonstrates their independent learning skills, their ability to investigate, share ideas and justify their answers all lead to the development of the skills and knowledge needed for future learning and the world of work. 

Now is the time to review your curriculum offer and ask the question is it fit for purpose for all learners? Is it focused on results over individual pupils needs? Does it have breadth and balance that leads to deep and rich learning for all pupils whatever their starting point?  Join us for our highly praised training course

Delivering a Vocational Pathway that Counts which focuses on what is available and how creating vocational choice for some pupils can enhance their learning in English and Maths and across a range of other subjects. 

For those in charge of planning a secondary curriculum these events may also be important,

  • Weaving a 21st Century Curriculum - Building a continuum of learning from year 7 to 11 and beyond
  • How Important is Key Stage 3 to Your School? -Have the evidence for OFSTED, plan a tapestry curriculum and ensure breadth and depth

Back to contents

Positive change in planning a KS3 curriculum - deepening learning, building skills and focusing on Key Stage 4 and beyond

Without doubt a major focus for secondary schools must be the quality of their offer for pupils entering year 7 and the curriculum they follow for the whole of their KS3 experience. It is mentioned in several recent publications from OFSTED who are very clear that they want to see evidence of the thought processes that have gone into the planning of the KS3 curriculum so that it has breadth and balance and stands alone as a stage that prepares pupils for KS4 but does not become an extension of KS4.  Where schools choose to extend KS4 to three years rather than two they need to be very clear as to the reasons why.  I wrote a news post in December, The Spotlight Continues to Fall on Key Stage 3 that explains this in more detail outlining what OFSTED are looking for. We provide in this post a set of questions that may help senior curriculum planners to focus on what this means for their schools. 

We also have a training course that looks in depth at this important issue and provides those who attend with a wealth of powerful resources and documents to help with the planning and decisions that need to be made or reflected upon. How important is KS3 to your school? Have the evidence for OFSTED, plan a tapestry curriculum and ensure breadth and balance.

Transition from KS2 to KS3 is highlighted as an area of concern. Our article on transition earlier in this newsletter focuses on this and our very popular training course Crossing the Transition Bridge from KS2 to KS3 looks at how to ensure seamless learning across the transition bridge.

Back to contents

What is a Mastery Curriculum? Depth and breadth and a new approach to differentiation

Mastery or deep and rich learning is exciting if it is planned and delivered well.  Teachers need to have the confidence to create lessons and develop schemes of work so that all pupils learn to the same level and use the same resources at the beginning of a topic or the learning of a new concept.  Differentiated learning should come later and be directly linked to how well pupils have understood the concept.  The focus is on not moving on to new topics or concepts too quickly but to deepen and strengthen understanding and application in a variety of contexts in order to be able to assess mastery over time. Teachers' need to understand themselves what pupils' needs are in relation to supporting them to deepen their knowledge and understanding and provide the right differentiated activities that can support mastery over time for all pupils. Below are some of the development points that teachers need to be aware of and may need training in to support them with new thinking and having the confidence to try out these new approaches.

  • The curriculum needs to be planned so that it is seamless from key stage to key stage and from year to year, for example what is taught in year 2 needs to dovetail into what will be taught in year 3, 4,5 and 6 and what has been learnt in year 1. Equally the curriculum in year 6 needs to dovetail into year 7 and form the basis of the next steps in years 8 and 9.
  • There needs to be a consensus as to how to ensure pupils have mastery of the basic skills and how these are used to deepen and master more complex uses of these skills, therefore, teachers need to have a clear idea as to what constitutes deeper learning within a given concept, theory or idea
  • This approach changes many teachers understanding of how to plan for differentiation and requires them to take risks themselves with allowing pupils to make mistakes or fail to succeed the first time
  • Teachers need to have a sound repertoire of different pedagogical approaches that will encourage reflection, learning conversations and experiential learning

We have designed two training courses to support teachers deepen their own understanding and allow them to take risks and allow the learning to move in sometimes new and different directions.

We offer INSET training days for whole school or teams from across key stages or year groups to focus on developing a mastery curriculum and the kind of pedagogy that will allow the learning to deepen over time.  Alternatively, we have several training courses that will support teachers, Teaching Assistants and others to deepen their knowledge and understanding of the mastery approach.  Visit the Teaching and Learning section of our website or give us a call on 01746 765076 and we can help you decide what is most appropriate for the needs of your staff or individuals within the school.

Back to contents


Some recent publications to add to the coaching bookshelf

  • The Leaders Guide to Coaching in Schools by John Campbell and Christian van Nieuwerburgh, I have read all Christian's coaching books and rate them very highly, I have just ordered this one today
  • Making Good Progress - the future of assessment for learning is cited in the recent Pearson's report on assessment.  Daisy is a very intelligent and deep thinker so this is a helpful book to have on the shelf
  • Student Centred Coaching at a Secondary Level by Diane Sweeney - coaching in the secondary classroom, don't leave the learners out of the coaching culture
  • Igniting a Passion for Learning in the Primary School - simple, effective and creative approaches to using coaching skills in the classroom by Martin Richards, some interesting ideas for how to engage pupils in thinking for themselves
  • Coaching Emotional Intelligence in the Classroom by Steve Bowkett is another useful addition to building a coaching culture for pupils

I am reading John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath. I am so impressed with his poetic prose and characterisation especially of the mother in the story.  It makes me wonder why Of Mice and Men is so popular when there are books like this one to deepen a love of reading.

Back to contents


  • We have a new Education Secretary; Damian Hinds replaces Justine Greening.  Shortly before her departure Greening published the paper Unlocking Talent, Fulfilling Potential a plan for improving social mobility through education 
  • A new centre of excellence for literacy teaching is to be set up with 35 English Hubs across the country backed by a £26 million investment
  • 5.7 million has been earmarked through the Strategic School Improvement Fund for initiative that boost literacy and numeracy skills in early years and primary education
  • There is also a 5 million fund to trial approaches in the north of England to help parents and carers support early language development at home
  • A new 7.7 million curriculum fund has been announced to encourage high quality teaching resources to support the teaching of the current curriculum
  • A Careers Guidance paper was published last week which outlines the statutory requirements for schools, colleges and universities

Back to contents