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Contents of our autumn term newsletter

Introduction - Talking teaching and learning - Curriculum, Assessment and CPD

A new term and a new academic year give us all the opportunity to reflect on what we have achieved, what works well for our staff and pupils and what we might want to change.  There are undoubtedly some imperatives that will concentrate the mind as this year unfolds.  OFSTED have produced their new Handbook for Schools with a September 2018 footer.  There are few changes but notably, there is a new paragraph emphasising how inspectors will discuss with school leaders their curriculum vision and ambitions for their pupils, including consideration of EBacc subjects as part of the curriculum offer for secondary schools.  OFSTED through speeches and presentations made by Amanda Spielman and Sean Harford have made several announcements that the framework for inspecting schools will change next year in preparation for the academic year 2019/20.  The key issues are linked, not to the content of the curriculum, but to how it is planned and implemented and the impact it has on learning.  The message is clear, 'make the curriculum offer fit for learning and the learner and not simply for school data and results at the end of year 6, year 11 and year 13.' Sean Harford sets out what OFSTED want to see in his presentation Curriculum Intent, Implementation and Impact last term at the Telegraph Festival of Education at Wellington College. 

The curriculum is the blue print by which any school or college determines the opportunities that will enrich learning and create for the learner the chance to build their knowledge, skills and understanding over time. Setting apart what the inspectorate might want to see, creating the right curriculum content is the passport to the kind of results at the end of all the phases and stages of education that we want to achieve. Creating the vision that clearly defines the intent is the province of the senior leadership team with their middle leaders who know what this means for their particular subject or phase. Implementation is the responsibility of those who teach in the classroom. However, in order to make sure that there is a consistent and cohesive approach to seamless delivery over time where pupils build on prior learning and deepen their knowledge and understanding there needs to be time made for professional conversations, the sharing of good practice and opportunities to focus on the skills that are generic and subject specific across all learning. Assessing how well pupils are accessing the curriculum, making connections across all their learning and deepening their knowledge and understanding over time is an essential part of curriculum planning and implementation and how this is undertaken must be consistent, meaningful and worthwhile in ensuring that it leads to learning and progression.

We have profound evidence that creating a culture for collaborative learning is best achieved where the planning and implementation of the curriculum is linked closely to a well-crafted CPD strategy that gives all staff the opportunity to learn from each other within phases or departments and across curriculum and phase or stage divides. This newsletter is focusing on curriculum and the CPD that will help schools to have the evidence that their curriculum has breadth and depth, deepens knowledge and understanding over time and ensures a seamless learning platform across the key stages.  If this is achieved then there will be a great deal of evidence of impact linked to successful learning outcomes.

We look forward to working with you over the next year and beyond and to sharing with you our knowledge that is woven into what is without doubt some of the highest quality CPD opportunities for educators who want the best for their pupils and for themselves,

Best wishes Glynis

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Assessment and the curriculum -the imperative to make sure they are inseparable and allow for deep learning, deep thinking and deep understanding

If the curriculum leads to learning, then how that learning is assessed is an integral part of measuring its impact, ensuring it is accessible to the pupil and informing teachers what the pupil needs to learn next. The skills a teacher or a teaching assistant needs in order to stretch and challenge, understand and correct misconceptions and support learners who need more time to deepen their understanding are undoubtedly those that are similar to the skills of coaching.  Learning how to use deep questioning that puts the onus on how the pupil can find their own solutions, solve their own problems, make more effort or try a different approach are essential for assessment and for coaching.  Listening is a fundamental skills for learning and is pivotal to coaching. Using feedback techniques such as precis and summary can have a dramatic impact on allowing the pupil or the coachee to hear for themselves what they have said and think carefully about what they actually meant. The power of silence and waiting for an answer is a skill we all find quite difficult, it reaps amazing benefits if we allow time for the answer to emerge before we fill the silence with our own answer.

There needs to be a consistent whole school approach that focuses on formative assessment and how pupils are successfully accessing the curriculum. There needs to be opportunities to look closely at the skills pupils are using in different subjects to look for anomalies or inconsistencies in their performance across their learning.  Pupils need to have opportunities to make connections across their learning so they can see how they use what they learn in one subject area to reinforce learning elsewhere.  There needs to be opportunities for pupils to self-assess, peer-assess and assess as part of a group.  There is some interesting evidence to suggest that taking whole sets of books or papers home to mark is not very effective and pupils do not learn from comments made through this approach.  Have a look at the news post on our website Formative Assessment – teacher autonomy, pupil involvement, positive collaboration which looks at some of the research and offers some interesting tips to use in your planning.

Join us for one of our deeply researched and innovative training courses that looks in-depth at some of the techniques and strategies that can create the evidence that formative assessment focuses on learning and informs the level of impact the delivery of the curriculum is having on learning and achievement.

Another excellent training course for those who want to specifically learn how to coach as part of the pedagogy they use in the classroom

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How to plan for successful transition - creating a seamless curriculum across the bridge from phase to phase

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 plan 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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 Are you thinking carefully? - how a deeper understanding of metacognition can impact on behaviour, attitudes to learning and motivation

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.

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Create a cost effective and sustainable CPD strategy that delivers a positive learning culture built on a deep understanding of the power of coaching

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.  However, CPD is essential for schools to maintain the momentum that goes with continuous improvement.  It is also so very important that we create for individual teachers and others in the profession that feeling of self-worth and belief that teaching is a profession of great importance where personal and professional development are integral to our status.  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. 

With the emphasis on the curriculum and how we ensure a cohesive offer that can be delivered consistently, ensuring all pupils learn and progress there comes the absolute imperative to provide training that will support those who plan, disseminate or deliver to have the knowledge, skills and deep understanding that a positive CPD strategy will bring. 

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.

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Enriching the curriculum, how do we weave British Values, Careers, Work Related Learning and SMSC as part of what is already taught

There are several strands of curriculum content that need to be added into an already full subject and skills agenda.  The need to teach British Values, provide Careers and Information, Advice and Guidance, give students in upper secondary school opportunities for work experience and provide a spiritual, moral, social and cultural dimension can be daunting. It is not, however, necessary to see any of these elements as anything but an opportunity to enrich the curriculum and create exciting lessons, visits or experiences that are integral to learning in and across subjects.

In terms of British Values Amanda Spielman, CEO or OFSTED in a speech she gave to The Policy Exchange Think Tank entitled British Values 'The Ties that Bind',   she, once again, talked about her vision for how schools should deliver the curriculum.  She 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. Also in relation to SMSC 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. 

In the same vein CEIAG should be integral to curriculum planning and intent.  Making informed choices in relation to option choices should have something to do with where pupils want to go next.  Visits out of school can give pupils a good opportunity to see what jobs are available in different settings. Democracy can be an interesting and fertile opportunity for discussions about current issues relating to health, the EU and politics generally and offer pupils an opportunity to look at how their future choices are shaped.  We can separate these elements of the curriculum out or we can creatively incorporate them and deepen the learning for the learner.

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.

We also have a superb training course and associated resource that provides a curriculum for Key Stage 3 and 4 CEAIG.  A not to be missed opportunity to have all you need already planned for you.

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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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Resources

  • OFSTED have published their amended Handbook for Schools with changes for September 2018. I We have reviewed it over the summer and there are very few changes. The main addition is a paragraph about what inspectors will look for in relation to the curriculum in secondary schools especially focusing on the vision and ambitions for pupils, including consideration of EBacc subjects as part of their curriculum offer
  • The DfE have published a Workload Reduction Kit.  There is a lot in there, so managing your workload may be challenged just by reading it!
  • The Coach Approach to School Leadership by Jessica Johnson, Shiraz Leibowitz and Kathy Perret does seem to reinforce some of the messages within our training programmes
  • The National Curriculum and the Teachers Standards edited by Dylan Wiliam - it is always worth a look at what Wiliam has to say
  • Coaching in Professional Contexts by Christian Niewerburgh - as always niewerburgh is easy to read and gives sound advice
  • Successful Difficult Conversations in Schools by Sonia Gill offers a practical approach to having the conversations you would rather not have
  • A Coaching Revolution by Annie Boate and Monica Austin It is as it says on the cover the NEW Clever Way To Coach For Time-Strapped School Leaders, Teachers & Support Staff
  • Don't forget to join 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.

I have just finished reading Reservoir 13 by John McGregor, lovely book with wonderful prose and observations of life in a small community.  I loved Circe by Madeleine Miller which I read on holiday. It is an interesting take on the travels of Odysseus and his encounter with the witch Circe. 

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Policy

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