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Celebrating teaching, the profession of professions - creating a culture where positive change is in the hands of educators

Let's make next year different. We have a collective and intelligent voice that needs to be heard.  We are the profession that educates every other profession, without education there are no doctors, lawyers or architects, no engineers, inventors or builders. We shape the lives of millions of people who ensure the infrastructure of society runs smoothly.  We are now a chartered profession, with the same status as many other professions.  We must begin to shape the policy, determine the strategy and define what we mean by good or outstanding in terms of learning, teaching and school effectiveness. Sometimes it seems that our profession is reactive and not proactive. We appear to allow those who are not directly involved in the day to day running of our schools and colleges to set the agenda and tell us what we should be doing linked to their understanding and views and not to the collective and well-informed clarity that is deeply held within the profession. 

I am one of those passionate educators who is watching from my stance outside of the day to day tightly structured school framework.  However, my position as Director of Learning Cultures allows me to see just how much the current situation is grinding teachers and their colleagues at all levels of the hierarchy down to the point where many are leaving the profession altogether. I do also see those who are starting to say, enough is enough, who are questioning the work-load, the long hours, the lack of care for their well-being and re-assessing their priorities; those who do not want to leave but are determined to see change happen.

My theme for this newsletter is to look at the essentials of learning and teaching that is the mortar that holds school effectiveness together and how through clear and effective planning, sustainable CPD and a collective dialogue across schools and their partners as to what we as a profession mean by an outstanding school we can begin to win back our rightful status as the profession of professions.

I want myself and my outstanding team at Learning Cultures to be an integral part of using research, the celebration and cascading of good and best practice and the proven benefits of coaching to make sure we are the profession of professions,




What evidence is there that what you plan is communicated effectively, delivered consistently and is measured to ensure impact and positive change?

This is the time when all of us are preparing for a brand new academic year, reviewing what has been achieved and defining the priorities for the next year and beyond.  All too often planning is seen as an activity in itself; a job to do that can be developed and completed. It is the implementation of that plan that requires deep thought, highly effective delegation, clear and unambiguous communication and individuals working in teams who have the skills and resources to deliver.  However, especially in schools, the day to day can get in the way and achieving the goals and the objectives linked to each priority can slip and other seemingly more important issues take over as priorities.  The Education Endowment Foundation have undertaken some research into the whole issue of implementation in schools and earlier this year they produced a guidance report,  Putting Evidence to Work: A schools guide to implementation.

The report has six recommendations:

Recommendation 1 (R1) Treat implementation as a process, not an event; plan and execute it in stages.
Recommendation 2 (R2) Create a leadership environment and school climate that is conducive to good implementation.
Recommendation 3 (R3) Define the problem you want to solve and identify appropriate programmes or practices to implement.
Recommendation 4 (R4) Create a clear implementation plan, judge the readiness of the school to deliver that plan, then prepare staff and resources.
Recommendation 5 (R5) Support staff, monitor progress, solve problems, and adapt strategies as the approach is used for the first time.
Recommendation 6 (R6) Plan for sustaining and scaling an intervention from the outset and continually acknowledge and nurture its use

We have taken a long look at the detail behind each of the recommendations which are a narrative of what needs to be in place. We have used our own knowledge and expertise to develop a series of implementation strategies that lead to a clear focus on how to ensure the vision contained within the planning documentation is in fact realised and has a measurable impact on school improvement. The guide is a good starting-point; however, it does not focus on how leaders and managers in schools can effectively put these recommendations in place.  This is not a criticism and is not what the report sets out to do. It is, however, exactly what we do.

There are several strands within the recommendations that echo with the coaching programmes and courses that we offer. Coaching is a culture that makes implementation and the acceptance of change manageable.  (R1) The Leadership styles that create the environment for effective change management are those that are closely aligned to the skills a leader can adopt through the development of the influencing skills that come from learning how to coach.  (R2) Developing a coaching culture focuses on how middle leaders drive change through their understanding of the vision and the part they play in achieving it. (R3) Clearly articulating the sense of urgency or area for improvement and working through a collective strategy for implementation is an integral part of an effective coaching culture. (R4) Where staff in teams and as individuals know their own strengths and areas for development linked to defined milestones for school, team and individual improvement there emerges a clear pathway for delivering the plan using available resources and assessing those that need to be developed or bought in. (R5) The opportunities for professional dialogue and open communication that are essential characteristics of a coaching culture provide the impetus for ensuring high quality risk assessment, the measurement of impact and clearly articulated success criteria. (R6) Every coaching framework or model focuses on the definition of a goal as a starting point, however, more importantly is defining what success will look like once that goal has been achieved and how that will manifest itself in qualitative and quantitative data analysis. in effect planning backwards.

We are in the process of developing a coaching toolkit for leaders who recognise the need to focus on how to successfully implement their plans in order to ensure successful outcomes that show evidence of positive impact and are sustainable over time.  We would welcome schools who would like to pilot this approach which is closely linked to the coaching model that we have successfully embedded across schools here in the UK and internationally.  To express an interest please complete the form on our Contact us page.

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OFSTED are shining a spotlight on the curriculum: intent, dissemination, delivery and evidence of impact 

In a recent presentation Sean Harford of OFSTED made a plea that schools should be ‘bold and courageous’ with their curriculum. There are many clues from different commentators and especially from Amanda Spielman as to what is wanted here. Essentially the curriculum should have depth and breadth, build on prior learning and challenge pupils to master the essential principles embodied in the learning of the core skills especially, reading, writing, communication and Mathematics as well as digital and scientific literacy. Pupils should be able to make connections and become unconsciously competent in their use of these skills in the pursuance of deeper knowledge and understanding that expand their horizons.

There are, according to Sean Harford of OFSTED, three parts to a framework that make up the essential planning of a cohesive and successful curriculum, these are:

Intent – What will be included in the curriculum framework and what knowledge and understanding will be gained by pupils at each stage?
Implementation – How will the curriculum be translated over time into a structure and narrative within the institutional context
Impact and achievement – Evaluating what knowledge and understanding pupils have gained against expectations
‘Depth and breadth’ are words liberally used in much of the documentation and transcripts from speeches. Sean Harford admits that there is some ambiguity as to how different schools interpret these words. For me, the essence of this is to create a seamless curriculum where pupils build on prior learning from lesson to lesson, subject to subject and from year to year. The curriculum design is a tapestry of learning and the planning of the curriculum needs to draw on all those who will deliver it to understand how their input is an integral part of a whole school drive for deep and meaningful progression for all pupils.

There will be a new OFSTED handbook and framework from September 2019 and if the current literature is correct there will be a greater emphasis on how schools plan, implement and evaluate their curriculum. If this is so, now is the time to start to focus on ensuring there is a dialogue that involves everyone at school involved in teaching and learning to focus on how the curriculum is woven together to ensure pupils are continually developing their knowledge and skills and deepening their understanding over time.

To create the right culture for cohesion and collaboration the curriculum needs to be at the heart of the planning process. The vision for school success must be linked to the design, delivery and impact of a curriculum that develops pupils to know more and remember more over time. An assessment policy needs to be seen to support the pupils’ journeys through the curriculum and be pupil centred. Pedagogy needs to be explored and defined in terms of how it allows pupils to deepen their understanding, refine metacognition and create the unconsciously competent learner who deftly uses skills in a wide variety of contexts within school and beyond.

Following in-depth research our curriculum experts have some ‘bold and brave’ solutions and a wealth of resources to support schools in both the primary and secondary phases of education to focus on their curriculum, what to keep, what to change and how to create the evidence that your curriculum delivers high quality learning over time.

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Avoiding the dip that affects pupils progress at times of transition

One highly effective way to manage workload, strengthen pupils' learning and ensure the content and knowledge is secure is to make sure that at each key stage and point of transfer pupils continue to learn, build on that learning and are able to make connections that knit their learning together seamlessly.  OFSTED continue to criticise schools who do not communicate effectively with their partner schools at times of transition. The spotlight is on the move from year 6 to year 7 where the dip in performance is seen as the most pronounced.  However, that dip is evident when pupils move from key stage 1 to 2 and is, of course, critical to allowing pupils to build on their basic skills and consolidate their learning in order that they can prepare for the challenges of curriculum content and skills development in key stage 2.  Offsetting the well-researched dip in performance at times of transition will ultimately impact on how well pupils perform and will have an advantageous impact on their performance in tests and examinations.  

We have been working with schools over several years, focusing on transition, building for them a staged process of effective communication, a shared dialogue about curriculum and pedagogy and creating innovative solutions for how best to create  and implement a strategy that delivers seamless learning.  It is not enough to simply focus on the pastoral process and an analysis of data.  Join us at one of our transition training courses, the resources, materials and ideas that you will take away will improve how you plan and execute a dynamic and highly successful programme of transition.

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An OFSTED perspective on teaching British values - how we can respond within the curriculum as it is currently designed

In a recent speech to The Policy Exchange Think Tank where she was asked to talk about British Values 'The Ties that Bind'.  She, once again, talked about her vision for how schools should deliver the curriculum.  She also used the speech to draw out some of the very difficult conflicts that exist in the teaching of British Values in a country with a hugely varied and polarised society.  She suggests that many see the British Values as they are set out by the Government as not British but universal in relation to fairness, balance and freedom of speech. She also points out that the curriculum as it is currently designed provides many opportunities to weave these values seamlessly into learning in subjects such as History, Geography, RE and Literature studies.  There are many themes where democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance are an integral part of learning across subjects.  British Values does not have to have a stand-alone place on the timetable. It does, however, need to be clearly defined as part of the intention linked to curriculum planning. Teachers also need to have the skills and knowledge themselves to teach the specific messages within the British Values framework.  There is a document on the DfE website that suggests British Values should be taught as part of SMSC and OFSTED have created several pages within their handbook for schools related to the evidence that OFSTED look for when assessing the teaching of SMSC. 

We have designed a new course that focuses on how to successfully embed British Values and SMSC within lessons, the wider curriculum and the community. We focus on what is meant by British Values, their core purpose and how schools across the spectrum from early years to post 16 can weave the principles into current curriculum themes and develop highly creative and interactive extra-curricular activities that will engage pupils and equip them with the skills they need to be tolerant, informed and law-abiding citizens or visitors to Britain.

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Metacognition: thinking about learning: how to support pupils to develop their own dialogue about the skills they need to deepen their knowledge and understanding

I have read around the literature related to metacognition and quite frankly there is a lot of confusion out there as to what the term actually means and how it applies to learning in the classroom.  When I am training teachers, I am astounded by how many notes they take when I talk about my interpretation of the term metacognition as it relates to what I assume is their classroom practice.  Even Wikipedia's definition is a bit wacky, 

Metacognition is "cognition about cognition", "thinking about thinking", "knowing about knowing", becoming "aware of one's awareness" and higher-order thinking skills".

Teaching is not just about the giving of our expertise, it is also about creating the right environment for pupils to know what it is that makes them learn and remember their learning. This is vital if they are to apply that learning in other contexts. We need to ensure that we give our pupils the opportunity to take charge of their learning and build a deeper awareness of how they learn. It is essential that the classroom is a place where pupils have the opportunity to develop a deeper understanding of themselves and where they can reflect on what helped them to learn.  There are many techniques that can support this but we need time and the skills ourselves as teachers to embed them.  Pupils need opportunities to develop memory skills, learn how to draw concept maps and grow in confidence in their ability to read increasingly complex texts and understand them. Pupils should develop the skills of note taking, skimming, summary and precis. There should be time to rehearse and reinforce their learning and they should have opportunities for self-evaluation and self-testing. They need to learn how to be active listeners, ask deep questions, reflect with their peers and learn from their mistakes. 

The content that is contained in the curriculum will never be retained unless many of these learning strategies are developed over time and where our pupils become unconsciously competent in their ability to "think about thinking" and "know about knowing".  Developing these skills should be an integral part of a learning curriculum.  The higher-level thinking skills that are essential for pupils to progress and achieve their full potential requires a clear and unambiguous focus on those metacognitive skills that knit our learning together.  There is a lot of content within this curriculum; if we simply impart the content we are doing all the work.  We need to use pedagogy that allows pupils to absorb the curriculum, make connections across their learning and develop the skills that are an inherent part of learning in every subject.  Have all of this in mind when planning changes you make to how the curriculum is taught and make sure you visibly map a metacognitive journey for all your pupils across all phases and key stages.

If you are looking at reviewing and refining your curriculum for September 2019 think about how you can build a strand for metacognition and join us to learn more at one of our Redefining the Curriculum events,

If you want to focus on pedagogy and learning in the classroom to develop consistent approaches to learning and teaching join us at one of the following events.  Or browse our fantastic training programme on our website.

  • Coaching Towards Outstanding Teaching and Learning - Cascading excellence, fostering collaboration and defining the pedagogy for learning
  • Coaching in the Classroom with Pupils - creating the pedagogy that delivers deep learning, fosters resilience and creates reflective and independent learners

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How to plan a consistent, sustainable whole school CPD strategy for all staff including, leaders, managers, teachers and support teams that doesn't break the budget

I started this newsletter saying that we are the profession of professions. However, we cannot expect to gain high levels of respect and positive success in what we do if we do not have the professional development that is compulsory for many other chartered professionals.  At the beginning of the acronym CPD is the word continuing or continuous.  Change is constant in education and in order to learn about and manage that change we must have access to high quality training that enhances our own practice, allows us to reflect and to share our learning with others.  We need and should expect training that refreshes our practice, deepens our knowledge and challenges us to strive for pedagogical, organisational and team excellence.

However, budgets are tight, capacity leaves little room for cover and our responsibility to our colleagues and the pupils often contrive to keep us in school.  Our training programmes are designed to minimise the impact on budgets, provide a solution to ensuring CPD can be shared and disseminated and is therefore sustainable and is relevant to current policy, OFSTED and research priorities. What schools say they need and we provide is a mixture of the academic and the practical, a blend of challenge and deep learning and a focus on the how and not the what.  We use a variety of highly praised resources and activities that delegates can take back to school to use as training aids for and with their colleagues, teams or the whole school.  Following on from the training, everything we use is provided electronically so that it can be re-used again and again.  We want our training to be the beginning of a journey, teachers are excited by the content, love the focus on pedagogy, metacognition and the power of professional dialogue to enhance their learning and that of their colleagues. Leaders and managers leave with new ideas, learn coaching skills that enhance their leadership style and are challenged to reflect on how their leadership of others affects behaviour, impact and successful outcomes. 

Ensure CPD is at the heart of your planning, is integral to your vision and has an impact on learning and teaching long after the training has taken place. Choose the course or courses from the menu below and start your journey towards excellence, improvement and outstanding outcomes for all.

  • Coaching in Education
  •  Curriculum Design and Innovation     
  • Leadership and Management     
  • Teaching and Learning    
  • INSET and in-house training

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Focusing on behaviour management; a coaching perspective that delivers responsibility and reflection

A new and thought-provoking course with content that can transform classroom management and allow teachers, support staff and pastoral teams to reflect on their current behaviour management strategies and build new skills that will ensure low-level and more disruptive behaviour is minimised or eliminated.  Coaching is powerful when it is used to challenge and question behaviour that is unwelcome or not tolerated.  Coaching can be highly manipulative, for instance, learning how to use questioning skills effectively can have a devastating impact on the miscreant.  Their behaviour is challenged but in a way that deflects it back, where the trouble-maker is left owning the behaviour and having to take responsibility for the actions that have proved unacceptable.  Listening and learning from what is not said but seen can also be highly revealing in managing a pupil or an adult whose behaviour is disruptive. The reasons that lie behind the conduct displayed can be heard and explained through the development of deeper listening skills and provide the person who is managing the situation with the opportunity to disarm and un-nerve the perpetrator. Learning how to influence change can be highly useful for those with responsibility for dealing with the unacceptable. These might include voice control and management, using the power of silence, focusing on the positive and using interview techniques that ensure agreement or a contract for improving behaviour is accepted and implemented.

This course is part of our suite of coaching events. We have delivered it over the past term and have received high praise for its content and the quality of resources that those who attend can take back to use to share with colleagues.  Coaching is akin to excellent pedagogy and the outstanding lesson will rarely expose poor behaviour. Highlighting and practicing some of the powerful coaching skills that improve performance can have a significant impact on improving practice inside and outside the classroom especially for those teachers who sometimes find the behaviour of some of their pupils to be a challenge. Just send one person to this course, they will be able to share their learning with others back in school.

  • Behaviour Management - Coaching strategies that deliver success

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Coaching in the Classroom with pupils - Creating the pedagogy that delivers deep learning, fosters resilience and creates reflective and independent learners

We wrote this new course for an all through school in London who have used many of our coaching courses to develop a successful coaching culture across their school.  Designing a specific course about developing coaching skills for pupils is something we have been thinking about for some time.  Taking this commission has helped us to bring it into our family of coaching courses.  In effect, it is the ultimate piece of the jigsaw.  Coaching is all about putting the onus on the individual to find their own solution, solve their own problems and ultimately think deeply about how to use higher level responses in the acquisition and use of knowledge and the development of skills for learning. 

All teachers will benefit from attending and learning about the content of this course. The focus is not on the pedagogy that the teacher uses to manage learning in the classroom but on the impact that pedagogy has on how well pupils learn and progress.  It is suitable for teachers from all stages and phases of learning specifically key stage 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5.  We are developing a stand-alone course for EYFS.  We also focus on learning and the importance of ensuring pupils can articulate how they learn and the skills they need in order to process the knowledge and curriculum content that needs to be built upon year on year. It is this continuum of learning that pupils need in order that they can succeed in tests and examinations that currently only provide a snapshot of their ability to retain and use their learning effectively.

We have delivered this course to over 140 teachers at several schools in the past few weeks.  The feedback has been amazing, it is thought provoking and challenging and for some teachers it is out of their comfort zone which is often a very good thing.  I have loved working with teachers who have relished the opportunity to think differently and question the paradigm that is their current practice. This course complements our Coaching Towards Outstanding Teaching and Learning day.  If you or one of your teachers has attended that course please say so when you book and you can take advantage of our second delegate rate and save £50.00 + VAT.

  • Coaching in the Classroom with Pupils - creating the pedagogy that delivers deep learning, fosters resilience and creates reflective and independent learners
  • Coaching Towards Outstanding Teaching and Learning
  • Coaching for Pastoral Leaders 

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  • Have a look at the Workload Reduction Kit from the Department of Education.  There is a lot in there, so managing your workload may be challenged just by reading it!
  • Educational Leadership - Personal growth for professional development by Harry Tomlinson, seems to have some good nuggets of advice
  • The Coach Approach to School Leadership by Jessica Johnson, Shiraz Leibowitz and Kathy Perret has some very good reviews
  • Classroom Behaviour - a practical guide by Bill Rogers - one of many publications written by Bill Rogers
  • Have you joined the Chartered College of Teaching? If not, you should, once a member you have access to a wealth of research arranged in topics and themes.
  • The end of term Policy Watch from Pearsons highlights a number of revealing and factual reports about education matters and OFSTED have published their amended Handbook for Schools with changes for September 2018. I will read it over the summer and document the changes which will be in our early September newsletter

I am reading Circe by Madeleine Miller, I read the Song of Achilles, her first book and enjoyed it very much.  This is about gods and magic so I hope I can see it through. There is such a lot to read from government and OFSTED that I think it may take a while to turn to 'pure' fiction.

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