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.

Useful Links:


Student post – Taking student independence to the next level

leadershipThis was a fantastic English lesson that I had the privilege to watch as part of our Open Classroom week. 3 students have written the post below about their preparations in leading an English lesson and their review of how it went…..

Starter Activity:

We wanted to see the pupils’ understanding of the character of TJ before we started the lesson. It gave us a good understanding of their knowledge already and what they needed to do for their assessment. It showed us that the class knew a lot of basic knowledge but not in enough depth.

Main Activities:

We needed to differentiate the tasks based on the table groups as miss seats us on different tables based on our target grades. As a three, we came up with a list of suitable activities and then gave each one to the group we thought it was best suited to and who would complete the task to a high standard.  Each task had to be challenging. We also had to consider the number of people in each group and pupils’ stronger/weaker areas. For example, we knew that one student was talented in drama and when we looked at the number of people in his group, it fitted the drama task we had previously come up with.


The main task was factual and was based on the story whereas the plenary was more of their own interpretation and allowed them to be more open minded. This is important because in the assessment everyone needs to put in their own individual opinion in order to make their work unique. Furthermore, the plenary focused on TJ’s feelings and emotions which had not been explored in detail in the previous task. By the end of the lesson, we could see that the class had improved their knowledge of TJ that they had at the start of the lesson.


Knowing that in a future lesson we had an assessment on the character TJ, we createStudent independenced a task to develop their understanding and help them achieve a higher grade in their assessment. When we came up with the diary entry idea we realised this was good task for the class to learn more about TJ’s mannerisms. Whilst setting the task, we asked the class whether they understood the success criteria and we went through this with them, so when at home they could complete it to a high standard and had no excuses.

Our Opinion On Teaching:

We all enjoy leading the lesson because it enables us to retain the information. Furthermore, it helps us to understand and appreciate what teachers do and the time it takes. It also enables us to work with new people and in groups and show our full potential.

Many thanks to Caitlin Carter, Natasha Smith and Ruby Worral for taking the time to write this and also Nichola Heeley, their dedicated English teacher.



Class Teaching

calvin and hobbs

Last week I gave a talk to our new staff about teaching.  The night before, I asked the good people of twitter for their input:

fun tweet

It caused a bit of a discussion!  So I thought I would elaborate on some of my thoughts.  Some of which have changed quite a lot over the past few years – thanks to engagement with some great colleagues, tweeters and bloggers!

Learning should be fun

Now don’t get me wrong – I love teaching and think that young people are brilliant.  We have a nice time in lessons and I think I have a good rapport with the students I teach.  But fun is a nice by-product of my teaching – it’s never the focus of my planning.  That’s about what I want them to know, understand and do.  David Didau illustrates this brilliantly with an example of a lesson that he once observed. …

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Marking work twice – Are you mad?!

I believe it is essential to give students the opportunity to actually address the teacher feedback and enable them to improve their work. Surely it is the only way to make marking count?


I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently and having just read by @kennypieper thought I would add my current position on this.

I have started to mark work twice. In particular the assessment pieces in KS3 and exam questions/tests in KS4.


Well we have a policy at our school that once a piece of work has been completed students should use green pens to improve their work. The ideal is that you’ve feedback in your marking to them exactly what they need to do to improve the piece of work so it is simple for them to have a go at improving.

green pen

The key to this is that my initial feedback relates to the next level criteria up from what they achieved first time round and is something quick and easy they can do. I’ve found in some cases writing a question that they can answer, which…

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What is the point of education?



I want to start by putting this blog into a bit of context. I have a long standing commitment to TIDE~Global learning who are a teachers’ network promoting the idea that young people have an entitlement to global learning through engaging with global perspectives, human rights, sustainability and international development.  I am due to travel to the Gambia this October half term as part of an international, three year curriculum development project co-funded by the European Union. This weekend a group of UK and German educators gathered together for our preparatory weekend. After meeting each other for the first time on Friday night, I led a session on Saturday afternoon on ‘The Purpose of Education’.


One clear challenge in delivering this session was the language barrier; the UK group could not speak German and the German educators spoke varying levels of English. I deliberately created resources that did not rely too heavily on text. The opening activity was completed using multi-lingual pairings and small groups. Quotes were distributed and I simply asked for some thoughts and feedback. tide

Initial thoughts:

  • What does Chomsky mean by learning?
  • What is the end goal of education?
  • Who are the ones to teach about ‘the unimaginable’?

Picture cards were then handed out and placed into a diamond nine shape which created a great deal of debate.

Final thoughts:

  • Education is empowering
  • Education can open minds and instill a life-long curiosity
  • Education brings about happiness
  • Education is based on work-related skills
  • Education is for the good of everyone not just the individual


The session was delivered over 40 minutes and was supported by 4 handouts which included a set of laminated pictures. The pictures were deliberately created to be ambiguous to allow for wider discussion.

Click here to download the resources: ~TIDE Purpose of Education

Related links:

Please get in touch if you would like anything explained.


The Benefits of Regular Retrieval Practice

I have a Year 9 group who struggle to retain and recall previous knowledge. This post was just what I needed to reinvigorate some ways to support them.

Class Teaching

quizThe first 15 minute forum of the new year was led tonight by Andy Tharby.  Andy was discussing strategies that can be used to develop memory.

Why knowledge is important

1. The more automatic and effortless their knowledge is, the easier it is to stretch and challenge students.  A good analogy here is driving a car.  The more you practise driving a car, the more effortless it becomes – the less you think about. This allows you to do more whilst driving e.g. plan your lessons for the day ahead!

How does this apply to school?  Well, if students know their multiplication tables, they can solve more complex problems much quicker.  Similarly in English, if students have a good grasp of spelling, punctuation and grammar, writing becomes much easier.  So knowledge is key as it’s the bedrock of everything we do.

2.  Critical thinking requires background knowledge.  If you are…

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Developing student independence – Plenary Leaders



The blog for Creative T&L by jkfairclough

I would argue that all teachers do want their students to become independent learners. However as Mike Gershon aptly points out in his blog there is often a gap between the teacher’s intentions and day to day classroom routines.  In terms of the quality of teaching & learning, much focus at Aldridge School had been placed on ‘reducing the amount of teacher talk’ and various in-house training and resources had been put in place to address this. However as SLT lead for T&L I wanted to shift the focus onto developing the independence of our students and enabling them to take more ownership of their learning. I was further inspired by Matthew Moore – an excellent member of the English faculty who had been successfully using students to lead parts of his lesson.

Together we decided to train up Year 7 students to be able to confidently lead a number of plenary activities. In doing so we wanted to develop their independence and confidence and highlight the importance of students leading their own learning. There was a desire to shift the focus from the teacher onto the student and encourage a more organic approach to the sharing of good practice across faculties.

So how does the project work?

Introduction to the training session

In the Autumn term two Year 7 students from each tutor group are selected to receive a one hour training session

  • In this training students receive coaching on: the purpose of a plenary is, how to lead three different types of plenary and tips on how to manage the class.
  • They also watch an example of a student-led plenary on video and discuss questioning techniques
  • Three quite common and relatively easy plenaries are used to begin with. They are: ‘Three in a row’, ‘Taboo’ and ‘True or False’.
  • Each plenary has the same key elements: the learning objectives must be referred back to by the student leader at the start of the plenary and must  remain the focus of the plenary and all students must take part.

    plenary leaders
    Student log book
  • Each plenary leader aims to completes ten plenaries in their log books, in order to receive a Headteacher certificate. After each one, they receive brief written feedback from the teacher.

So what next?

We want to continue to develop the project with Year 7 students in 2014-5. Before we re-launch next academic year we want to get feedback from those  involved in the pilot and use this to help review, evaluate and tweak the project.  We are keen to video more students leading plenaries and use this to promote the programme further with staff and the rest of the student body.  We also want to make more use of existing leaders by giving them opportunity to train other students to take on the role.

Watch this space!