T&L journal Issue 1 2015-6

This term’s festive inspired T&L journal is out now!

As part of our drive for quality verbal responses, Faculty Leader of Humanities Anton Kolaric has been developing the use of hinge questions. As a result of our recent ‘Bright Spots’ learning walk you can also see examples of the great teaching at Aldridge School. Inspired by Lesson Study, Faculty Leader of Mathematics Graham Wilson has established Learning PODs this term.  Every teacher has been paired up with two colleagues, and are working on a key factor associated with great teaching.  The findings will be shared duirng our whole school Tea-time Tasters next half term. Matthew Moore has also written a detailed review of ‘Making Every Lesson Count‘ and its application in the classroom.

expert pub

Hard copies as usual will go out to all staff but you can find a copy using the link below:

Issue 1 2015-6

Bright Spots Learning Walk – November 2015



This was our first ‘Bright Spots’ learning walk. It has been introduced as part of our existing varied CPD programme – providing bespoke opportunities through tea-time tasters, Outstanding Learning Communities and CPD festival weeks. For various reasons, a trial of lunch-time sharing sessions did not really take off last year so I decided to consider other ways to find and share the best practice taking place across school.


I took inspiration from the superb Shaun Allison’s ‘Perfect Teacher-Led CPD’ and arranged for our Faculty Pupil Champions to give up one lesson to walk around our classrooms, recording examples.Staff were informed through whole staff briefing and examples of great teaching have been shared through this blog and the next edition of the Aldridge T&L journal.


In Geography, Aimee Smith was impressed by the’Wall of Excellence’ display;  celebrating high quality student work and effort. A great example of subjects showcasing high expectations and our core ethos of ‘Achieving Excellence together’

Also in Geography, Aimee saw this simple method of encouraging pupil feedback. The simple use of the word ‘Act’ on the yellow assessment sticker showed students when they needed to respond to the teacher comments.

In English students were tackling personalised improvement tasks. Students were asked to ‘make their work excellent’ by re-drafting the last assessment task using the success criteria.

In Sociology/Psychology Rebecca Ward had made superb use of her classroom space to provide additional tasks to challenge KS5 students. There were four activities on her display board including ‘Reflection Time’ and ‘Tweet Me’. A great example in developing student independence.

Finally in History, students were transfixed by their paired starter activity – piecing together a jigsaw puzzle of a plague doctor. Students were stretched even further with follow-up questions – Describe what you can see. – What you think it is and why? What would you still like to find out about it?

A very positive start to our Bright Spots Learning Walks 2015-6

Thanks to all our Pupil Premium Champions and staff for their time!


This much I know about…improving both my teaching and my students’ learning, the sequel!


I have been a teacher for 26 years, a Headteacher for 11 years and, at the age of 50, this much I know about improving both my teaching and my students’ learning…the sequel!

There is no universal panacea to cure all teaching and learning ills. I find that teachers will sometimes adopt any new teaching tip which promises instant improvement of their students’ learning. I remember five years ago watching the following recording of Dylan Wiliam espousing the effectiveness of tasking students to design their own test questions. The next morning I walked the school and found three different teachers following Wiliam’s advice…with no improvement in learning whatsoever because the students had not been taught the complexities of constructing questions.

To construct test questions requires a deep understanding of how questions are structured. Back in October I posted a piece on how I had changed the way I…

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Great Teaching – Great Teachers

Class Teaching

great teacher quote We spend a great deal of time talking about great teaching at DHS – not outstanding or good teaching, but great teaching. It’s a regular topic of conversation between Andy Tharby and me.  We’ve come to the following conclusions:

  • There’s no prescribed ‘right’ way of teaching.
  • If it gets the right outcomes for the students, then it ‘works’.
  • There’s a great deal to be learnt from those teachers who have truly mastered the craft of the classroom, such as Mr Clarke & Pam McCulloch.
  • There’s a large number of myths around, about what works.
  • It’s worth combining the wisdom of these great teachers with the research evidence base about what makes great teaching.
  • From this wisdom and evidence, there appears to be some firm pedagogical principles that appear to contribute to great teaching.  We’ve summarised them here:

expert pub We’ve then tried to come up with prompts for each of these pedagogical principles to…

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12 Joyous Moments.

A heart warming post on why teaching can be a wonderful profession


Screen shot 2014-12-23 at 17.18.08

12 Joyous Moments for Christmas.  A short selection of moments from my first term at Highbury Grove; the kind of moments that make doing this job so wonderful.

Leah made a video for her science homework. The story of scurvy and vitamin C deficiency brought alive via a bedroom production, scripted and edited on her iphone. I realised I’d never heard her talk for so long in my lessons – it changed my view of her entirely.

I shared my personal remembrance story in assembly. Ahmed approached me later that day. “Sorry to hear about your Dad Sir. He’s with Allah now innit”. Said, looking skywards with total sincerity. I could have hugged him.

Two year 10s approached me in the corridor. “Would it be OK if we set up a lunchtime Philosophy Club for the lower school?. It’s part of our DofE.” Would it be OK??? Just tell me…

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Setting up Outstanding Learning Communities by @jkfairclough


CPD is most effective in improving teachers’ practice and pupils’ achievement when it is sustained and evaluated (Joe Kirby @joe__kirby )

In my first year as Assistant Headteacher I implemented many different ways for staff to share practice with each other – Open Classrooms, Tea-time tasters, termly T&L journal in addition to the existing programme of CPD. There has been a good voluntary uptake and comments have been positive but I was still left with a nagging doubt – ‘How do I know if this is making a difference to the quality of learning for our students?.’

Outstanding Learning Communities:

Barely 1% of training [CUREE] looked at was effectively transforming classroom practice.”
Teacher Development Trust

After reading a range of blog post and articles about effective CPD I realised a need to develop our bespoke programme in a more sustained and focussed way. This blog is intended to outline how I set up teacher groups called Outstanding Learning Communities and my long-term plans for this part of the CPD programme. Considering the effectiveness of our existing CPD,  I used the performance system Bluesky to set up 10 Outstanding Learning Communities (OLCs). I split the groups into ten areas of what I think makes great teaching and each OLC group would focus on one of these ten areas during 4 Twilight sessions. By signing up through Bluesky, staff are able to focus on a particular area of pedagogy and lesson observation targets can be linked to these areas. Each group is led by either a T&L coach or key staff e.g. Faculty Leader for SEN, AHT for Pupil Premium etc. You can see the 10 OLCs below:


However, as Joe Kirby points out the main reason much CPD is ineffective is a complete lack of evaluation. Once training is delivered, only 3% of secondary schools evaluate the effectiveness of its impact on student attainment. A key element of the OLCs is for staff to measure the impact of their actions and be able to make recommendations to the whole-school community.

The OLC’s met for the 1st time on 17th November. Each group were given an introduction on the focus of their OLC – Growth Mindset, Effective Feedback, Closing the gap etc. Following each session each OLC developed a page using our learning platform (@FrogEducation) that would enable articles, research and ideas to be shared between sessions.

 Going Paperless OLCFeedback essentials OLC

Next Term:

In further sessions over the coming term staff will discuss how the impact of their CPD can be evaluated. The Teacher Development Trust wrote this excellent article on ‘Has your CPD had an impact?’ which outlines some simple tools to to consider the impact of professional learning such as student surveys, case study students, using peer observation and video software. The article does not advocate a single approach but recommends that methods are adapted and used in combination where appropriate. The key findings of this article will be shared with staff and there will be time for further collaboration. Each member of staff will then complete the exit ticket below detailing the strategies for development and how they intend to monitor the impact on student learning.


Research from the Teacher Development Trust (2012) shows that effective CPD follows cycles of trying, reflecting and adjusting. In the time between Session 2 and 3 staff will have time to follow this cycle and embed strategies into their daily classroom practice. The third session will be an opportunity for each group to reflect on their learning and how their findings should inform future. Each group will prepare a short 2-3 min presentation based on their recommendations and a display board to be used for the final whole-school ‘Teach-meet’ session.

Ultimately the OLCs are still in the early stages and I will blog again about our findings.  I am confident though, that this is the right step in moving our CPD programme to be evidence-based, collaborative, sustained and evaluated.

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