Tag Archives: leadership

The Lesson Study Cycle

Following our first year of lesson study, we have changed the format in school for this academic year.   As a staff we spent time at the end of the summer term discussing the impact of LS to date and deciding on the best way forward.   We were all convinced that this was the right way to develop teaching and learning but felt it worth tweaking our approach to get more out of it.

As a three from entry primary we are well suited for the model we’ve developed.  Each term a different class in each year group becomes the research class.   The ‘host’ teacher works with their two year group colleagues to plan the lesson study and the three teachers (along with any support staff involved) write up their research.   This research is then shared by the host teacher at a lesson study staff meeting the following term.  Over the year each class in each year group will be the research class once, all teachers will take on the role of researcher/research teacher, and each will present research findings to staff.   All staff will have taken part in at least three lesson studies.   As in the past, we are restricted to two ‘formal’ research lessons during the cycle, due to timetabling and class cover required however, the impact of the research goes beyond the formal process and is instrumental in driving developments in teaching and learning. .

The cycle below outlines our current approach to lesson study

Planning Meeting 1
Agree and sign Lesson Study protocol
Agree on lesson to be taught, who is to teach it and area of focus from AfL work
Plan lesson in detail together as a research team with area of AfL focus in mind, considering any resources necessary and any pre lesson preparation.
Research lesson teacher to identify three pupils, broadly representative of the differing learning groups in the class. Teacher to identify how they think the pupils will respond at different points in the lesson, researchers complete proforma (planning, observation and discussion sheet)
Research Lesson 1
Camera set up prior to lesson to enable inconspicuous filming for class teacher’s reference. Researchers complete proforma whilst observing identified pupils (emphasis is on the learner response)
Researchers also record thoughts regarding AfL focus for feedback in post lesson discussion.
Post Lesson Pupil Interviews
Each researcher interviews identified pupil following the lesson using profroma (suggested questions for post lesson interview) encouraging pupils to answer fully and share any thoughts on the lesson and the learning
Post Lesson Discussion
Following the first research lesson (RL1) and pupil interviews, research team come back together. Session follows format below:
a) Teacher shares thoughts on the lesson/learning
b) Researchers take turn to share findings (notes) on pupil’s response to learning (how teacher thought they would respond/how they were observed to respond)
c) Researchers take turns to share post lesson pupil interview findings
d) Film footage shared (if necessary) to support findings. Footage then provided for teacher to view later
e) AfL focus discussed in general terms and researchers share any notes made during research lesson.
f) Next lesson discussed in light of findings from RL1, changes/amendments made as appropriate, children for observation agreed.
Research Lesson 2
Cycle begins again

Research is then written up by year group team and saved on the school server.   The host teacher then uses the research notes to inform presentation to staff.


Cameras in the Classroom

The recent introduction of lesson study at school was greeted with enthusiasm by staff.   They quickly saw the benefits of such an enquiry based, collaborative approach to professional development.  The only problem some had with the form it would be taking was that we intended to film the lessons.   We have used cameras in the classroom before with varying degrees of success.   Staff would come back into school after taking the video home recognising certain idiosyncrises about themselves and reflecting on what they observed in their classrooms, “don’t I sound broad!”, “have you heard me? I can’t shut up”, “I can’t believe how many of my own questions I answered”.  I’d question to what extend such an approach changed practice but we all recognised it was a powerful vehicle if used in the right way.  Enter Lesson Study.   We firstly reassured staff that the filming would only be used to support this process and not broadcast across the school for end of term amusement.   In fact, the footage would only be seen in its entirety by the staff who were being filmed – if they chose to sit through it.  For the purpose of LS it would simply be a reference point, a chance to discuss some small detail, a momentary response from a pupil or an unexpected reaction to a teaching point raised by a member of the group during the post lesson discussion.   All those involved so far have watched the recorded footage and gained something from it. As part of the Lesson Study, staff are asked how they think the case study pupils will respond.   The observers then record how those pupils did respond and this then leads to discussions about what we think is happening as opposed to what is actually happening.   The filming helps with this as it gives staff the opportunity to observe the things they can miss during the cut and thrust of classroom delivery, it enables them to reflect on, replay and pause their teaching at key points to move learning forward in the future.  Amongst other things we have been able to discuss key areas of AfL that we are developing; response and wait time, approaches to questioning and peer to peer work all with the assistance of recorded evidence.   Staff have taken to this aspect of the Lesson Study process probably because the filming doesn’t really feature them! It focusses on the learner response and gives teachers the chance to view something they rarely get to see, their own classroom practice.  It enables them to hold up a mirror to their teaching.  They can also check how broad their accents are!

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.

Networking For Excellence

The 5th SSAT National Primary Conference entitled ‘Networking for Excellence’ provided a fantastic vehicle for the Network to live out it’s ‘By Schools For Schools‘ motto. A range of great practitioner led workshops complimented the key note presentations that bookended the day.

Bill Lucas, Nick Stuart and Neil Hopkin got the day off to a great start with Bill sharing research into intelligence that contributed to his recent book with Guy Claxton ‘New Kinds of Smart’. Nick Stuart, Chair of the SSAT shared how he sees the Primary Network growing in influence within the Trust as numbers continue to increase and Neil Hopkin, Chair of the Primary Network led delegates in an unexpected dance that will surely see the light of day on you tube providing someone saw fit to film it.

The wide and varied range of workshops meant there was something for everyone with EY, KS1 and KS2 covered for New Technologies, SEN, Leadership and Curriculum. Feedback suggests the workshops were very well received and much as I would have liked to get to the Forest School (led by @icklekaty) and Games Based Learning (@duck_star) workshops, I was delighted to host David Mitchell (@deputyMitchell), Lee Glynn (@glynnlee) and Jack Sloan (@jacksloan). The heavyweights of blogging shared their impressive successes and the importance of ‘traffic’ to ensure the pupils have an audience for their work. David and Jack have had a huge number of hits on their blogs with some famous contributors making the process exciting for the children. The use of web 2.0 tools was also highlighted and Jack, Lee and David extolled the benefits of a range of easy to use tools that can be embedded into blogs without difficulty. Animoto, wordle, wallwisher, voicethread and audioboo to name but a few were given a good press by those presenting.

The day was closed by Alison Peacock from the Cambridge Primary Review, Guin Batten, Olympic rowing medal winner and Sue Williamson, Strategic Director at SSAT. Their underlying message was one of opportunity, the chance for us to grasp the nettle and make a difference as we move forward in this uncertain future. The Primary Network provides schools with a strong national and international body of knowledge and innovative practice through which they can share ideas, build links and learn from the best. The conference give those attending an opportunity to ‘Network for Excellence’ and witness the ‘By schools For Schools’ approach in operation. In the future such practices can only increase.

Thinking about thinking

A while ago a headteacher colleague and myself attended a course on thinking skills. We were keen to develop these in our schools and came up with the following plan.

We set aside a joint inset day for both schools to work together the following year. We identified two key staff in each of our schools to attend training prior to our joint inset. Following the course we released the four teachers to work together, to talk through what they had found out and decide on approaches to try in their own classrooms. Along with us they planned the joint inset day for the beginning of the following year based on their own experiences of using thinking skills in the classroom and what they had learnt from their training.

For the training day itself we hired a local venue convenient for staff from both schools. We wanted the day to feel like a professional experience and give everyone an opportunity to engage in quality surroundings, in recognition of how importantly we viewed this training.

As headteachers, my colleague and I introduced the day. We introduced the staff who would be leading the sessions and handed over to them to talk about thinking skills in the classroom, how they had used key strategies, what had worked and what hadn’t etc. Their own experiences of implementation gave them a credibility with their peers and this was very important. If you’re being encouraged to try something new it is best to hear from someone who has already been there.

Throughout the day we tried out a range of practical ideas in groups. We tried De Bono’s thinking hats and thinking keys amongst others, discussing where and how they might be used to support learners. Schools were mixed and staff talked with each other about experiences beyond the day. Something we actively encouraged. It was the beginning of a local PLN!

At the end of the day staff were asked to decide on a strategy they would take away from the sessions and use in their own class. Contacts were exchanged and a follow up twilight was planned for the next term to share experiences.

The staff who led the training were delighted to have been given the opportunity. It was a chance for them to develop professionally beyond their class or school and lead their peers in a key area supported by their headteachers. The local authority also asked us if the teachers could lead sessions in other schools. Something they did with enthusiasm. It was a great CPD opportunity in many ways.

This kind of collaborative venture is not only hugely beneficial, as it enables a few schools to focus on specific areas of interest to them, but also important in today’s climate where funding and LA support is diminishing. Building networks, big or small, local or global is the way for schools to move forward in uncertain times. I know the staff involved in this project would fully support this view.

Gathering Momentum

As we near the beginning of a new school year and thoughts turn to the first few inset days that will usher in the autumn term, I am reminded of a CPD day from my first headship that was thoroughly enjoyed by staff, despite initial reservations.

The summer reading project.

My deputy and I were keen to involve staff in a quality inset day at the beginning of the school year. We wanted all teachers to feel a real sense of being an active part of the day rather than passive recipients. We believed this would give them more ownership over the experience and make the day more rewarding.

Before finishing for the summer break we bought everyone a carefully chosen book. The books were on areas of education we knew the teachers were interested in or wanted to develop in their classrooms. We sacrificed an earlier training day giving staff free time with the summer reading in mind. We asked each teacher to read their book over the six weeks and prepare a presentation for the first day back in school after the holidays. Despite some initial misgivings from one or two staff the response was fantastic. The presentations showed that everyone had really risen to the challenge. They talked passionately about what they had read and how they were going to try new ideas in their classroom as a result.

Individual teachers got a lot from their own presentations but just as much from hearing their colleagues talk with enthusiasm about their summer read. The quality and relevance of the day made it a huge success and one that enabled us to start the year on a real high.

Many thanks to @whatedsaid for prompting my memory with her post: Teachers teaching teachers! http://bit.ly/cPuVjv

Curriculum Design

Models for the Museum


Curriculum Design 2010

– some questions to ask when planning

What does our pedagogy look like? What would you like learning to be like?


At a recent staff meeting we asked these questions and discussed how we had moved forward with the curriculum over the last few years.   The questions below act as prompts when planning and help us to ensure the curriculum we offer is both relevant and exciting.

Immersion Activities

Is the topic exciting? Does it sound exciting? Is it relevant to the children? Does it ask them questions?
What is our entry point stimulus – how do we engage learners?
Are we starting from what pupils already know or what we think they know? How do we find this out?

Audience and effect

Who is the work for? Teachers, parents, peers, others? How does this affect the learning?
How does it connect to other learning? To real life experiences?

In lessons, is the balance right between pupil centred and adult led?
Do the pupils have the opportunity for independent learning? To use the skills they learn for application?

Presentation and review

How will it be presented? Use of technology?
Is an end of unit activity planned where the learning can be shared? What is the big finale?

Is the opportunity to reflect and review the work provided? Is the work assessed against clear objectives and success criteria? How do the children know if they have been successful? Who reviews the work? Self, peers, teachers, others?

How do the 5Rs impact on learning?

(Reflective, resourceful, resilient, risk taking and relationships)

How do we make use of other partners?

(Local, regional, national, global)

An Inspector Calls – The Ofsted Experience

The Phone Call
Friday May 7th and after worrying about it daily since the beginning of the academic year, we get the call we’re to be inspected the following week. I was sitting in a meeting with a local university planning our next training day when the secretary walked in and told me of the call. When Ofsted call you quickly make yourself available and that’s what I did!

The first call is with the agents, who inform you of the fact that you are to be inspected and who your lead inspector will be. Frantic note taking is the norm at this point, even though an email minutes later confirms the details just given verbally. The second call, from the lead inspector comes pretty quickly after that. No matter how well you think you’ve prepared there is always that thought that you’ll be caught out. That the inspection will be a negative process that will destroy all your efforts. It’s hard to shake your feelings of doubt and see the experience as something positive at this stage!

Following that first phone call, comes an impromptu staff meeting to inform everyone, to reassure, support and advise staff. Then phone calls to governors, letters to parents and meetings with key people. It’s all done very quickly and everyone wants to know when school is open over the weekend, how late can they work, what to do about this, will they want to see that? Some people panic, some worry, some take it all in their stride and some see it as a chance to shine. It’s hard to second guess people’s reactions and subsequent responses.

Inevitably the weekend in school is very busy as we try to ensure the place is seen in its best possible light.

Meeting the team

Tuesday morning, the team arrived and we made sure we were there to greet them at the door. We provided them with an office space and took them down to meet the staff. The lead inspector attempted to put everyone at ease and most people certainly would have felt better about the inspection following his reassuring words. An all too quick tour of the school followed – one which allowed me very little time to talk about things as we went around the building. Before we knew it we were into class observations. The team left their office en masse, clipboards at the ready.

The Inspectionday 1

Following the first day of the inspection I couldn’t have felt lower. The UK’s school inspectorate can make you feel like this. Having been through many inspections I can honestly say this one hit me hard. The inspection process is now something that is done with you, rather than to you – this is what I was told and indeed I was party to a number of evaluations and conversations that have hitherto been held privately. Did this make the process easier? Better? More open? Possibly, in some ways, but ultimately the experience is about a range of judgements based on very shaky criteria and open to interpretation. Some teams are generous, some are more stringent.

Staff must have felt the decidedly miserable atmosphere around the place as we left on that first evening. I found it difficult to see any aspect of the experience as positive and can hardly say I was relishing another day of Ofsted.

The Inspection – day 2

We arrived for day 2 determined the team would see us at our best, witness some of the fantastic things going on around school and leave with an accurate picture of the school. It isn’t easy to do this as it relies on everyone pulling out all the stops, all technology working etc… The day went much better than the previous one and we all felt we’d had a much better experience. Meetings with staff, governors and pupils all seemed to go well and we began to feel a bit better about things. In the afternoon the inspectors met to decide on their judgements. As we sat listening to them deliberate over grades it was obvious there was a range of opinions based on the different experiences and observations of the team. The lead inspector made the final decision on all the judgements and much as I disagreed on a few of them, it was pretty obvious they weren’t going to change.


The team left us after reporting back to our leadership team and chair of governors. As always at these times there are mixed feelings – delight that certain things have been recognised, disappointment that other things have been missed, reassurance that your self evaluation has identified the same areas as the inspection team, relief that the experience is over!

I had been told by colleagues that this round of inspections had been their most positive. I have to say so much still seems to depend on the team you get. People will tell you that report is nearly all written before the team set foot in school anyway, based on your SEF, Raise online data and your previous inspection and there is definitely more than a hint of truth to this. It was pleasing to see common sense once again prevail regarding safeguarding – no one measured fence heights or tried to sneak in the building to catch us out over security.

I recognise the need for accountability in our schools – it’s the price we pay for the autonomy we enjoy, but I’m yet to be convinced there isn’t a better, fairer way to do this. I started writing this post as a real time journal during the inspection – it’s taken me this long to be able to put it together as the experience absolutely floored me. It’s not a helpful place to be. We have reviewed our action plan, taken on board the inspection team’s advice and celebrated their report but would I want to go through the experience again? Has it helped the school recognise anything we weren’t already aware of? Will it ultimately benefit the school community in any way? I have to say my answer is no.

Peer Observations

Something we’ve tried a couple of times at school is peer observations. The idea is really to build on the sharing of good practice combined with a supportive approach to lesson observations. We wanted to make the process a supportive, rather than a judgmental one, to take the fear and worry out of the equation and make it something staff would value and be able to build on and progress from. The process is refined a little more each time we do it but the feedback is positive and staff see this as something that is about building on existing strengths rather than criticising weaknesses.

When we first had a go at peer observations we left the focus down to staff to agree. This time around we have chosen an area that fits in more closely with our school development plan. The most important aspect is that this way of conducting observations gets staff out of their own class and into colleagues rooms to talk, share ideas, offer advice and agree one or two action points to take forward. The process asks staff to think carefully about a colleagues’ approach to support their professional development – this in turn asks staff to consider their own practice. It makes them think about what is working well for them, why and how it might be shared to benefit others.

We have also seen staff developing projects and collaborative approaches following peer observations which is really exciting. Y5 and Y1 children had a great time working together following last year’s round of peer observations, others too, have chosen to link up to create exciting learning opportunities for their classes following initial peer observations and discussions.

We are now considering how this approach might work across our network, enabling staff to build on this with colleagues in other schools. This is already happening with one or two classes in an informal way and the children are benefiting from the opportunity to work with their peers in other settings as much as the staff.

Does this process need formalising any further? I’m not sure. Would this ‘kill it’ for staff making it too much like regular observations? We ask for minimal paperwork – just enough to monitor and support the process. It will be interesting to see how this next round of peer observation develops, the process has changed each time following review and discussions. Staff see this way of operating as far more beneficial to their professional development and it has certainly supported professional dialogue, both formally and informally – not a bad thing at all.

Leadership teams

As Jim Collins states in ‘Good to Great’ its all about getting the right people on the right bus, going in the right direction. I have to admit to feeling blessed with a fantastic leadership team which is, for me, the most important factor in school leadership.

It isn’t an easy task to find the right people, and getting those people into the right positions can be even harder.   Leadership teams are usually inherited, you don’t often walk into a new headship to be told your first job is to recruit your own team (if only!)   If the team you inherit share your vision and philosophy then you’re very fortunate, agreeing common goals is usually one of your first staff meetings.   Getting everyone onboard can be a huge challenge but with the right leadership team  in place to help achieve this, the job is much easier.

The right leadership team isn’t numerous different versions of you, it’s about completing the whole.   I know where my strengths lie and I know where other members of the leadership team excel.   Part of a great team is that level of understanding, knowing the individual parts and how they contribute to the whole .   It’s important to be challenged by those around you, to have a critical ear as well as a supportive one.   The best leadership teams provide the right balance of both.   When I reflect on my role as a headteacher, I know that the most important decisions I have made so far, have been the appointments of those I work closest with, the leadership team.