Tag Archives: teachers

School to school lesson study 2

I recently blogged about our changing approach to Lesson Study.   Having operated in a number of different ways, we have moved to a school to school model that we hope will be sustainable in the face of cuts to school budgets.   Our existing model requires a lot of release time for staff, and although every cycle of lesson study has proved to be extremely valuable, such as model is operationally challenging as we move forward.  The school to school model requires less release time and has other benefits that we are beginning to see from our early forays into this CPD research field.

As blogged previously, we have tried out different approaches and engaged in some school to school research but are now planning more strategically to build on our previous work.  We recently completed a first round of school to school lesson study with three Y4 classes.   One class acted as host and the research lessons took place in this class over a two week period.  The three teachers involved followed the same approach as we had successfully employed in our own setting with joint planning time and post lesson pupil interviews and review built in to the process.   As is often the case with such things, staff gave their own time over and above the release each school allocated, simply because the research findings and conversations enthused them.

The research in this round focussed on the language used in maths.   The findings suggested that children in the class were put off tougher problems if they didn’t understand the words being used in the problems. Some children didn’t have a clear understanding of the word ‘explain’ and therefore avoided any problems using this word, even though they could solve the actual calculations.   In response to this the teachers decided to create a bank of words often used in maths, and find simple explanations and meanings to display in classes next to them.   From the post lesson pupil interviews it was felt this would help the children access the questions.   The research shows that we may assume children’s understanding of some of the words we regularly use in maths and that it is worth spending time unpicking meanings carefully with children in order to give them the best chance of answering the word problems.

The staff involved in this latest round of research have now planned a presentation to deliver in staff meetings in the schools after the Easter break.   This opportunity to share their findings in more than one school is also a great CPD opportunity and I am sure, it will open up further rich dialogue around this area.   Following this successful trial, we plan to extend the model to other year groups during the summer term.





On Monday we are taking a group of pupils to visit one of our partner schools, Robin Hood in Birmingham. The visit will go beyond pupils meeting their peers, being given a tour of the school and discussing teaching and learning. On this visit the children will be donning the uniform of Robin Hood and spending the day as a pupil. This small scale piece of ethnographic research is intended to give our teaching and learning group a real understanding of how different schools operate. Following the visit, the children will present their findings on how our schools are similar, how we differ in our approaches and what we can learn from each other. A reciprocal visit is planned for later in the year and ongoing online collaboration via class blogs will aid communication.

Over the years, our teaching and learning groups have enjoyed looking at a range of approaches to classroom practice, the use of effective questioning and the work of educators such Guy Claxton, Chris Quigley and Dylan Wiliam. They have visited partner schools, made videos, led assemblies, given presentations, collaborated on projects and even organised a teaching and learning conference. The groups have furthered their own understanding of teaching and learning and regularly share their findings to support developments in pedagogy across our schools.

Through our networked approach to teaching and learning we have facilitated opportunities for staff to visit partner schools and experience the day to day practice in a colleague’s class. This is always hugely appreciated and staff benefit from such an open and collaborative relationship. This will be the first time we have undertaken such a venture with pupils, the outcomes are eagerly awaited.

The Staff Surgery

Smichael920's Blog

Last week we held our first ICT staff meeting of the year.   This was a chance to have a good look at the class blogs.   We asked staff to come with something they needed help with or something they wanted to share that had gone well for them.  The intention of these meetings is for them to operate as a workshop, they provide the time and support to enable all staff to develop their skills and understanding in specific areas.   Over this year we will be holding these staff surgeries regularly, focusing each session on an identified area.

For such sessions to be successful a coaching culture of support and encouragement needs to be present.   Staff have to feel comfortable to come along and hold their hand up without fear of judgement, there has to be a shared understanding that not everyone will get it and…

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What makes the Ideal Teacher?

Successive governments and policy makers have presented schools with what is to be taught. Teachers have been directed to what are assumed to be the best pedagogical approaches via initiatives such as the national curriculum and national strategies, they have been given the content to be delivered and the ways to deliver it. Does such an approach make an ideal teacher? Delivering such a top down model would certainly meet the requirements of policy makers, but would it meet the expectations of a range of stakeholders? If we were to ask parents, pupils and peers (fellow teachers) what would they say are the necessary qualities of an ideal teacher?
As a Headteacher, I believe the most important aspect of my role is to put the best teachers possible in front of the children, but what qualities and attributes make a person ideal? Dylan Wiliam was clear about the importance of the right teacher when he stated ‘it is not about the school your child attends, but which class in that school.’ Countless initiatives and strategies have been introduced over the years but they can only succeed if there is a teacher of the right calibre delivering them at the chalk face. One could argue whether indeed the best teachers need such a top down model? Are they not the best because they believe in taking risks? Because they are flexible and creative? Because they respond to the learners’ needs and are not afraid to deviate from the plan? Can such an approach sit comfortably alongside a prescribed national agenda?
A recent publication from Ofsted suggests ‘Teachers should also be encouraged to be creative and adventurous in their teaching, and to vary approaches depending on the nature of the learning planned for the lesson .’ (Moving English Forward ,Ofsted March 2012) This is heartening news as it encourages practitioners to exercise their professional judgement, make informed choices and respond to need. These qualities would most certainly be present in the ideal teacher, but are there other prerequisites? Would parents argue that establishing positive relationships was the most important factor? Would pupils see classroom management as the precursor to any effective teaching? Are there common traits that different stakeholders would recognise in the ideal teacher, the habits of an effective classroom practitioner that are evident regardless of content, curriculum or strategy? I’d be grateful if you could share your own thoughts on what you believe to be the key qualities of the ideal teacher.

Practice in Action

Most teachers never get to see beyond their own classrooms. As a profession we don’t get out much! We rarely see others in action, observe their pratice in an informal way and talk about pedagogy from the front. Opportunities for reflection are generally given little time in CPD programmes as other priorities jostle for our attention.

It is with this in mind that we are embarking on school visits for our next teacher training day on Monday. 25 teachers will be making trips to various partner schools across the north west and beyond as we try and give staff the opportunity to get into other classrooms, other schools in different Local Authorities, to learn from each other, to share thoughts, ideas and innovations, to see practice in action. It is something we have been keen to do for some time and we’re excited about the potential to develop stronger links and delighted so many of our partner schools have agreed to the visits. A reciprocal arrangement has been agreed and our partners will be visiting us in the autumn. Our first staff meeting of the half term will provide the opportunity for everyone to share their visits, it is something I’m really looking forward to.

Illuminating the Curriculum – Blackpool Winter Gardens, November 1st


Blackpool Winter Gardens, from the west

Image via Wikipedia


On November 1st 2010 we held our first Blackpool SSAT Education Conference.   The event saw 1000+ delegates gather at the Winter Gardens to hear some world class presenters speak with passion about various themes linked to curriculum and creativity.

The day came about by virtue of the previous government agreeing an additional inset day for all primary schools to implement their new curriculum based on the now defunct Rose Review.   In Blackpool we all agreed to keep Nov 1st as a collective INSET day where we could get together and do something meaningful for all our staff.   The commitment of all our schools was important as only through such an approach could we make something this special happen.   As all Blackpool schools are affiliated to the SSAT we were able to sit down with our Head of Regional Network and plan the day with them.   The  Local Authority were also very helpful in negotiating a deal with the Winter Gardens and working together with us on presenters and organising with our local FE college for their Events Management Students to come along and work on the day as part of their course.

A local company Central Media Services (CMS), provided AV support for the day ensuring the event met high conference standards in terms of screening, light and sound. By selling exhibitors space we were able to offset the cost of the day and keep delegates rates at an absolute minimum.   With such guaranteed large numbers in attendance we were able to provide a first class CPD event at an unbelievably low rate.

The conference began with an introduction from Richard Hunter, former head of primary for the SSAT and now once more a headteacher at Robin Hood Primary School in Birmingham.   Richard shared with delegates the real benefits of affiliation; the opportunities for international partnerships, bespoke training for all stakeholders in school, access to world class thinkers and courses, school visits and much more.   Richard introduced Damian Hughes as the first key note of the day.   Damian spoke about how our attitudes and beliefs can impact on our performance.   He presents in a way that you can’t help but engage with, his messages are clear, strong and leave you thinking about what you do and how you do it – a perfect start to a day about challenging and changing our classroom practice.  Damian has written a number of books that ask us to question our thinking, titles such as ‘The Change Catalyst’ and ‘Liquid Thinking’ give you an indication of his passions and how his messages support us in managing change.   Damian created a real buzz around the place and set a fantastic, energetic and enthusiastic tone to the day which was further built on by our next presenter John Davitt.

For those people unfamiliar with John’s work, he is again a world renowned figure in education.   His approach is innovative, original and exiting.   John speaks from the heart about engaging learners and exploring ways to bring the best out of every learning experience.   He has developed a number of ways we can use  technology in a straightforward and simple fashion to support learning.   The approaches John shared with us don’t require a high level of technological savvy to use and many delegates were jotting down ideas and tools that John showed – ideas that can be quickly put into practice back in school.

Following lunch IT coordinators retired with John to a close by local primary school to take part in a workshop where they could explore in more details some of John’s approaches – these can then in turn be shared back in school through staff meetings that will further the day’s messages.

After an extended break to get everyone through lunch (a potential problem that was very efficiently managed by the staff of the Winter Gardens) we came back to the main hall to hear Richard Machin.  Richard is the headteacher of All Saints Primary School in Warwick and he shared with us all the journey he has taken the school on over the last three years.   From a school in difficulty to one of the top 100 performing primaries in the country.   Richard hasn’t done this through a box ticking culture but by providing the children at All Saints with a rich, exciting and active curriculum that puts their needs first and offers them creative ways of doing things.  It was great for delegates to hear from a practising headteacher about how he has worked with the children, satff and parents to move the school forward without sacrificing his beliefs and principles.

The day’s last speaker was unfortunately unable to attend for health reasons and so it fell upon one of his colleagues to deliver a presentation on his behalf.   Dr Peter Twinings is head of Education at the Open University and he was going to speak to delegates about the future of education and how different approaches to training and development could support us in the future.   Stephen Musgrave who works closely with Peter shared with us how Vital can provide bespoke online support and a range of free resources to support ongoing professional development through a tool called Elluminate.   Unfortunately some of the live feeds during Stephen’s presentation were difficult to hear due to technical problems but the messages were well received by people and again, lots of jottings suggested delegates would be further exploring this online support.

The day was brought to a close by Sue Williamson from SSAT.   Sue echoed the thoughts of many of us when she spoke about how much we could achieve through such active collaboration.   To see so many people from local schools together in one place made you realise that the future of education is in our hands if we want it.    There is freedom to teach, freedom to innovate and freedom to do what we know is best for all our children and by working together we can achieve anything.   Days like today show that our strength lies in such a collaborative approach.

Making the ordinary extra-ordinary

If you chose a career in teaching, it’s important to remember that it is not a 9-5 job. It’s a vocation, a calling if you like. It’s not a job you can switch off as you walk out the door.

What teaching is though, is a chance to enthuse and motivate learners, to give them a sense of wonder, to make the ordinary, extra-ordinary. To make a difference in a world of difference. Teaching is about shaping tomorrow’s world, the fires we light today will burn long into the future.

If you want an easy life free from stress, worry and long hours teaching may not be for you. But if you like a challenge, being creative and innovative in your work. If you strive to inspire, regardless of praise and gratitude, if you have a passion to better the lives of others and give selflessly of yourself. If you can do all this in the uncertain times ahead, you’re made of the stuff the profession needs.

No doubt we all started our journey in a similar vein. Damian Hughes in his book ‘Liquid Thinking’ urges us to look back at our CVs and job applications regularly and to be that person more of the time. To be our ideal self, the person we described when we described ourselves at our best. That’s our challenge everyday.