Category Archives: Uncategorized

Lesson Study – School to school

We embraced lesson study wholeheartedly a couple of years ago.   The developmental approach to teaching and learning sits more comfortably than the judgemental.   It encourages research and innovation and enables staff to improve their practice in a supportive and collaborative environment.

The problem with the Lesson Study model we adopted is that to run it successfully there’s a lot of release time required.   We have worked in triads thus needing three teachers out of class to plan and review with two out of class for each research lesson (we work with a cycle of three research lessons).  To sustain this model of LS is a challenge and we have therefore thought carefully about how we can continue to reap the benefits  but without the financial costs and potential disruption to timetables.

Earlier this year we trialled a school to school Lesson Study with a partner school in Birmingham.   Two Y6 staff worked together on a small research project and this gave us the incentive to take the idea further.  We have decided this time around to work with two partner schools closer to home.   This means each of us releasing just one teacher for each round of Lesson Study rather than three.  In January we will begin a Y4 maths Lesson Study which we are all very excited about.  It will build on the successful approach we have employed in school but with the added benefit of insights and ideas from beyond our own community.  It further develops our school to school work and gives staff a great opportunity to learn and research with other practitioners.   We still aim to continue with the distance LS using technology as much as possible to enable us to successfully work beyond local confines.  Staff will still present their findings to their peers and the opportunity to deliver staff PD meetings with colleagues in other schools provides yet another opportunity to share research and learn from each other.

In this era of austerity with educational funding decreasing, it is important to continue to move forward as a profession and school to school Lesson Study provides a great opportunity for us to work together, share research and learn from each other.


Beyond the school gates – how technology helps

This year has seen a rise in the use of techology to support learning beyond school. Some of the approaches we have been using for a while at Hawes Side really helped to bridge the home-school gap and the installation of a green screen further supported us in extending learning opportunities. Here are some of this year’s biggest successes in the use of technology to take learning beyond the school gates.

Blogging – this has continued to rise and be utilised to support and share learning. The introduction of staff surgeries and a coaching appoach to its development has obviously helped get everyone on board and it was no mean feat to get all 21 classes up and running! The live blogging this year, from York and Robin Wood, were really powerful and got the parents engaged like never before. They were able to follow their children’s exploits on the two residentials and comment back. The pupils and staff blogged about everything, from the coach journey and what they had for breakfast to the Minster, the Jorvik Centre and much more. Seeing what they were up to and being able to comment back on things as they were happening was a revelation for many. It is now very much a part of how we intend to take blogging forward.

Green Screen – we were fortunate enough this year, to work closely with CMS, a Blackpool media company who fitted us a green screen sudio. We have been meeting with the company regularly to develop the system and now have a great little set up that the children have confidently made excellent use of. There are many examples of how this has helped extend the childen’s learning but my favourite story from the green screen was Emily’s advert. One of our Y6 classes were filming adverts they’d written to support work on persuasive writing. I watched some of them on the class blog and was impressed with Emily’s as she is such a quiet girl and her advert belied this fact! I tweeted out the advert and received a message back from Mr Tobin aka @narthernlad to ask if he could use the advert as a stimulus for his Y3 writing lesson! Emily was delighted when Ian sent pictures back from his class showing them watching her advert and producing their own work based on it! The green screen, and the use of twitter to share learning is certainly something we wil be expanding on in 2012.


Web 2.0 – like children in a toy shop we have continued to play with lot of web 2.0 tools and made use of some more than others. Among the favourites in school are wordle and tagxedo, wallwisher, voki, voicethread, photopeach, animoto and prezi. Wallwisher has been used well to link with partner schools around Europe and Australia, to gauge parents views on things and collect their thoughts and ideas. We have used it to ask questions of our partner schools and community and it is a simple and effective way of collating feedback. Dropping our school development plan into wordle was also reassuring as the words learning and children came out the largest!

QR Codes – the children have really enjoyed using QR codes. They stick them on displays to lead viewers to further information, they stick them in their books to link to online content and each class door displays a QR code that leads to ther class blog. Next year we intend to create trails with facts and puzzles around school to make a tour of the site an interactive experience!

School Website – our website is always being developed and this year we have changed a lot of content and its look. Thanks to the green screen we have added video introductions and tours with testimonials from staff and children. We have moved away from a text heavy site that no one really wants to wade through and replaced it with a more fun, interactive and engaging experience. We have woked with a company called Virtualsixty to build what we hope is a more appealing and exciting introduction to the school and more. The use of programmes such as I am Learning ensure that the children and their families are able to extend learning by logging on via the website.

The learning will be televised

The introduction of monitors around school gave us somewhere to display our digital content.  A digital display board.


The children had been creating photostories and presentations at home and we were finding it difficult to share their work on any scale in school.   We decided to install screens around the place and scheduled the children’s work to play at key times during the day.   The children are used to the screens now and look forward to seeing their work being broadcast around school but I can still remember the look on thier faces when they were first installed.

I often tell the story of a disenchanted pupil in Y3 who with the support of an enlightened teacher learned to use photostory.   He persuaded his mum to come along to one of our parents’ workshops and less than a week later he was producing photostories for his maths and other films to support different areas of learning.   He loved seeing his work around school and it had a profound impact on his attitude to his learning.   Not only that, his friends saw the potential and got in on the act!   Soon we had children bringing in their own projects for us to broadcast across the school.

As with anything new, when we fitted the screens we weren’t quite sure of where we might go with them.   We began to test and stretch their capabilities and eventually felt we needed something more.    We were fortunate to meet CMS, a local media company who agreed to fit a green screen studio for us in school.   This gave us the opportunity to put the sceens  to much better use.   To not only share the children’s work, but also to create their own in-house films, adverts, vodcasts and more.   Some of the early projects were great fun and the children immediately saw huge possibilities   With the aid of twitter, an early advert made as part of a Y6 literacy lesson was used by a school in Bradford as a stimulus for a Y3 writing lesson! The children quickly turned the green screen into a roller coaster, a newsroom, the beach, a playground, outer space, you name it!!

Current projects include ‘Hawes Siders’ our school soap, ‘A story from School’ our answer to Cbeebies’ Bedtime story and the teaching and learning group are making a film about how children feel about marking – this is for staff and will be used at our next professional development meeting after Christmas.   The children find the green screen easy to use and it supports their basic skills development giving them plenty of opportunity for speaking and listening, reading and writing (planning, scripting and autocue feature as much in any project as filming and presenting.)   The green screen studio has enabled us to explore further possiblities in the use of technology to support learning, the screens enable us to share  this learning.   We also use a scrolling RSS feed on the screens to advertise class blogs and relevant information.   Custom widgets also allow us to screen house point totals, birthdays, awards, sports news and much more.   Live broadcasting is our next step, beaming in-house offerings across the classrooms and screens around school.   The learning will be televised!

What difference does it make?

Our international partnerships have developed over a few years.   We’ve been fortunate enough to be involved in Comenius projects and have also developed our own partnerships with school in Australia and China, but how do such partnerships benefit school?   What difference does any of this make?

If staff attend a course or training session they will invariably come back to school citing the informal chat and the lunch as particularly valued times, it enables them to network and share ideas.   The course content is often lost very quickly once back in school, making little lasting impact on practice.   Through British Council funded Comenius projects we have been able  to take CPD to a different level witnessing a profound and lasting impact on those involved.   Staff have gained so much of lasting value by visiting partner schools in Italy, Czech Republic, Germany, Belgium and Finland.   Our current project will enable teachers and support staff to visit schools in Turkey, Estonia, Germany, Poland and France.   Once staff leave school the dialogue begins, once they arrive at partner schools the conversation develops, comparing, contrasting sharing similarities and exchanging ideas and apporoaches.

The impact of international work at a school and individual level easily outlasts the duration of the visit.  For those interested the opportunity to take part excites and motivates them, it puts a spring in their step and adds additional enthsiasm to their practice both prior to visits and after them.   The sense of purpose such projects can bring to the children’s work means they are also further motivated by an international peer audience.  The opportunity to develop an ongoing online dialogue has never been easier, the chance to share information never simpler or more immediate.

The work with our Australian partners has been documented here previously.   The opportunites to visit each others’ schools is obviously limited but the children have benefited from video conferencing and use of web 2.0 tools such as wallwisher.   We make good use of email and blogging too.   The new link with China is developing and again I have posted about this here already.   The children are fascinated by a culture so different to theirs.   They are thoroughy enjoying finding out all about school and life for children at our partner school in Beijing.   Along with our partner school, Robin Hood in Birmingham, we hope to be able to take pupils out to China by next summer.

For our pupils, finding out about other cultures and comparing them to their own is developing their cultural awareness and understanding in a way no PSHE lesson could hope to do.   The chance to work on international projects has given staff and pupils a global perspective and an opportunity to look beyond local practices and solutions.   It has given them an appetite for working across the world with peers who develop their knowledge and understanding and further their learning.

Can I come back to you later?







The first thing that impresses you about working with Tim Rylands is he doesn’t just talk about it, he does it.   Before we agreed to our two days with him as part of our Kaizen staff training and development, Tim urged me to put him in front of children, so that staff could see his ideas and approaches in action.   It meant a lot.   It gave him credibility with staff because he got up and delivered.   To sixty children at a time! Y2, Y4 and Y6.   Three demo lessons that had the children reaching for language and stretching their imagination like never before.   Staff were invited to get involved and enjoyed the opportunity to watch the children but also to immerse themselves in the virtual worlds being created.   It was great to see some of our more reticent children rising to Tim’s challenges, growing in stature and having a ball.   Staff observed Tim using a range of strategies to draw the maximum out of pupils, to plant a seed, to nudge, provoke and promote thinking.

One of the devices Tim used with the children was to speak to them, listen to them for a while and then ask if he could come back to them later – which he always did.   This enabled the children to think about what they were going to say next – a sort of drip feed that encouraged, prompted and helped them push their ideas along.   Facial expression, tone of voice and use of props all played a part in the demo lessons.   Staff took a lot away from the sessions and reported that it helped the next day make all the more sense.

Tim’s reputation comes from his fantastic work with Myst but it would be doing him a disservice to suggest it rests solely on this.   His work with the staff in our network took us beyond technology and gaming.  He paused scenes in a number of games and encouraged staff to think about what they could see, sense, feel, smell.  He asked them to picture scenes, take on the role of characters and imagine journeys, lives and outcomes.   Just as he had with the children the day before.   The same approaches could be taken with pictures and artifacts, through role play and much more.   At its core Tim’s work is about the art and craft of teaching, a creative, questioning approach used to great effect to draw the very best out of the children, to make learning an exciting adventure.

Leadership Day

Before the start of term we held a Leadership Day to review our valaues and vision.   It was a great opportunity to look anew as a team, at the things we’re passionate about and check our progress and development towards our shared vision.

The day began with a review of ground rules in order for everyone to feel comfortable, their opinions and ideas valued, their contibutions respected.   The following agreed words enabled us to set the right tone:

  • Respect for all views
  • Freedom to speak and confidence to disagree
  • Confidentiality
  • Support and encouragement
  • Clear, effective communication
  • Consider the bigger picture
  • Generate outcomes/follow through actions

Last year we held a Leadership Day for all staff with the University of Cumbria and they introduced us to the work of Lencioni.   We took this opportunity to revisit Lencioni’s work on the dysfunctions of a team and spent some time discussing how these can create disharmony and what we need to do to ensure we always take the opposite approach.

Lencionis’ Five Dysfunctions

  1. Absence of trust
  2. Fear of conflict
  3. Lack of commitment
  4. Avoidance of accountability
  5. Inattention to results

The opposite, positive approach would be:

  1. Trusting one another
  2. Engaging in unfiltered conflict around ideas
  3. Commiting to decisions and plans of action
  4. Holding one another accountable for delivering those plans
  5. Focusing on achievement of collective results

Looking again at this work made us all aware of our own responsibilities as part of a team and as leaders of our own teams.   

We have previously used the dream/nightmare staffroom scenario to help us all see the kind of place we wanted school to be and the kind of place we should work hard to ensure it wasn’t.  This time we used the question ‘what makes Hawes Side, Hawes Side?’ It got us all thinking about the things that are special to our school and that give us a sense of pride in our work.  

We then reviewed what had gone well over the last 12 months and what our priorities were for the next academic year at a personal, team and school level.   This opportunity to reflect, review and think ahead gave us a clear indication of where to focus our attention when shaping this year’s development plan.   

The chance to spend such a day with staff is all too rare.   To be able to engage in professional dialogue, share ideas, philosophies, values and vision at length is something we’re not geared up for in school.   Time is always pressing and conversation usually brief, caught on the hop.  So much of our time in school is spent firefighting  that we rarely get our heads above the parapet to see the bigger picture, to reflect on our practice and share our ideas, our hopes and fears.  The Leadership Day gave us the time and space to do the things it is difficult to do once the cut and thrust of term begins.

The Pupil Passport

This year we are launching our Pupil Passport.   It is based on the work of Guy Claxton and Chris Quigley, who put together a set of ‘Learning to Learn‘ skills in his booklet ‘Planning a Skills Based Curriculum’.   From Guy’s original work on the four Rs (itself a response to the traditional 3Rs) Chris developed the 5Rs of learning (reflective, resilient, risk taking, resourceful and relationships) and carefully put together a pupil friendly set of standards for the children to meet.   I have used the 5Rs for a few years now and the children have come up with some great ways of developing these learner qualities however, in the past the impact has been limited to small groups and classes.   I hope the passport will impact on all learners across the school.

Each pupil will have their own passport which contains bronze, silver and gold standards for each learning to learn skill.   As a school we are going to focus on a different one each half term.   The teaching and learning group will introduce the skill in assemblies and staff will talk with the children about them and sign their passports as they achieve each descriptor.   We have a STAR week at the end of each half term when longer pupil conferences are held to talk with the children about their learning and we are going to incorporate discussion around the passports here as well.

We hope that using the pupil passports will give the children a real understanding of how they are developing as learners, what they need to do to become more resilient, reflective, risk taking and collaborative and how such qualities will help them in all they do.   Rather than looking at these skills discretely we feel this approach will permeate all the children’s learning, in the many different areas of study.  We are currently finalising the passports, ensuring the wording and progression make sense for the children.   We are launching them next week when our new teaching and learning group give an assembly on what it means to be a reflective learner.   I would love to hear from any colleagues who have come up with different ways to develop learning to learn skills across their schools.   It is early days for us but we are excited about the possibilities of this approach.

Meet the Teacher

Tonight we held our ‘Meet the Teacher’ forums.   This is an opportunity for parents to pop into school to meet their children‘s new class teachers before the summer break.   The evening has grown to be a very popular event on the calendar and something we are delighted to see being so well attended.

The idea for Meet the Teacher came about several years ago but it wasn’t until the last few years that we really looked carefully at how the sessions might best benefit parents.   The meetings used to take place early in September but this was too late to allay many parents’ fears.   By then we’d had the first manic morning back and dealt with parental uncertainties as to which class, which door, who is Mrs/Miss/Mr so and so and what does she/he look like?   Through our Home School Group, parents suggested that ‘Meet the Teacher would be more helpful at the end of the summer term rather than the beginning of the autumn term and we subsequently moved the meetings.

A common format was agreed with staff that had enough space and flexibility for teachers to decide how they would best like to share information with parents.   For some, the sessions began as informal one to one chats while other parents looked around the class but this year most teachers gave a short presentation before speaking to parents individually.   When we first set up these meetings we would be lucky to have more than two or three parents in each class, but over the years the numbers have steadily grown and it was pleasing tonight to see that most classes has upwards of half the parents there.

I spoke to several families and asked if they had found the opportunity to come in and meet their children’s new class teacher useful, their response was overwhelmingly positive.   They appreciated the chance to meet staff new to them, to found out about the systems and procedures for September, the curriculum, class blogs, the opportunities for them to come into school, to help the children with their learning logs and much more.   Most importantly, those parents who came into school this evening now know their children’s new teacher, they have begun a relationship with them that will last for the next academic year and beyond.   Meet the Teacher helps us to build a strong positive partnership with parents and families from the outset, a hugely important aspect of school life.

Developing classroom practice through self observation

Last term staff filmed themselves teaching, noting the key areas they were happy with and those they wanted to further develop next year.  This approach to observation filled some with dread however discussions with everyone suggest that most teachers got something out of the experience and found it a powerful tool for reflection.

All staff set up cameras in their classrooms and filmed a lesson of their choosing.   They then watched the results in the comfort of their own homes (most with a large glass of wine!) and completed a pro forma which was then used as the starting point for a discussion with their phase leader.   The observations were revealing to staff and the initial thoughts of many were similar  e.g. ‘Do I really sound like that?’ ‘Don’t I say err a lot!’

A common revelation was the ‘over teaching’ staff felt they were doing.   The amount of time spent ‘delivering’ to the whole class in relation to the amount of time the children spent ‘on task’ engaged in their own learning rather than listening to the teacher.   This is an area many have decided to focus on following the observations.

The filming of lessons can be daunting for staff but ultimately the process proved to be very powerful and one worth using again.

Twitter – confirm, reassure, challenge, enlighten

I met with an educational focus group this week and part of our discussion centred around the use of social media as a professional development tool.   The group was split over the importance of such approaches with some advocating strongly the need to engage and others vehemently opposed to its use.   As a keen and  committed tweeter I thought about how I benefit from twitter.   How it has become an indispensable learning tool and constant source of relevant CDP.

Confirm – Instantly ‘check’ you’re on the right lines.   As a primary headteacher I find twitter a great way to very quickly found out how others have dealt with a certain problem, idea or initiative.   What we their experiences?   How did they overcome difficulties?   Twitter helps me confirm I’m going about things in the right way.   It reassures me that I’m not alone in dealing with a new situation.

Twitter also provides challenge and stimulates discussion.   It is a fantastic way to get involved in professional dialogue with equally passionate educators.  Edchat, ukedchat and numerous other forums provide platforms for discussion around topical issues and there are also those individual lines of thought that can be followed up with others anytime, anywhere.   Twitter is an opportunity to test your thoughts and ideas in a critically supportive, encouraging and honest environment.

Importantly, twitter also enlightens me.   There are so many people happy to share new ideas, innovations and practices that they’ve discovered, trialled and used successfully in their own practice that every visit to twitter reveals something to follow up and learn from.

Twitter has become a part of my professional kit bag, it is for me, the educators’ online companion, connecting me to a world of support, challenge and innovation.