Chartered Teacher Programme:


Technology Literature review: Technology literature review v2

Other CPD:

Knowledge and Retention

Teaching and Learning

24.04.20 Simplicity Rules by Jo Facer

  • Simplicity Rules
  • In this session, Jo Facer spoke about how we can simplify what we do.
  • My takeaway: it’s time to booklet sort.

25.10 Oliver Lovell in conversation with James Mannion and Kate McAllister – Learning to Learn.

  • Fear is a Mind Killer
    • In this session, James and Kate are interviewed about Fear is a Mind Killer – a new book focused on a learning skills programme.
    • My takeaway: hard to say because not a lot was given away about the learning to learn strategies.  Going to have to wait until the book arrives.


25.10: Curriculum Masterclass: Christine Counsell

  • Curriculum Masterclasses Christine Counsell
    • In this session, Christine talks about cross curricularity – intelligent cross curricularity
    • My takeaway: as we build our KS3 curriculum, decipher whether there are any opportunities for intelligent cross curricularity.  Can we make any intelligent links?  Reflection: art used Barnaby from our English novel in their art work whilst focusing on a specific artist who produces bird’s eye view works.

26.10 Curriculum Masterclass: Tom Sherrington

  • Curriculum Masterclass Tom Sherrington
  • In this session, Tom talks about schema-building
  • My takeaway: we’ve just re-written our KS3 curriculum with KS4/KS5 in mind.  I think I am mindful of considering how we build schemas across units and this is something that I think I will focus in on as we start to complete our medium term planning.

27.10 Curriculum Masterclass: Bennie Kara

  • Curriculum Masterclass Bennie Kara
  • In this session, Bennie talks about diversity in the curriculum
  • My takeaway: lots.  Need to go back to our newly written KS3 long term plans and consider how we are working to decentre power structures.  I also want to make sure that I have positive representations across the curriculum.  I like the idea of expanding the world and building that world.

28.10 Curriculum Masterclass: Martin Robinson

  • Curriculum Masterclass Martin Robinson
  • In this session, Martin talks about curriculum conversations
  • My takeaway: lots.  Idea of teaching things in parallel to widen perspectives.  I think this is really important as we build our KS3 curriculum.  Also I really really like the use of Dissoi-logoi as a way of doing things before coursework essays, for example.  This session really ties in well with what Bennie was saying as well about widening perspectives because of everyone’s experience.

The Education Festival 2016 – Reflections on

Day 1 reflections

Making Every Lesson Count – Shaun Allison and Andy Tharby

I have more of an involvement with Teaching and Learning next year and when applying for my new position, I referenced this book as being at the heart of the TL across the faculty. The beauty of Shaun and Andy’s TL policy is that it is simple. Core principles that are at the heart of great TL. The book is fantastic – quite simply the best book on TL out there. Each chapter is dedicated to one of the core principles with plentiful examples of how the principles can be addressed across a range of subject classrooms.

Quote of the session: Responsive differentiation is better than planned differentiation.

Next steps:

  • We are in the process of writing our core principles with regard to TL. I am part of a group for this and don’t feel that I can’t branch out on my own with it.
  • However, I do think the core principles Shaun and Andy have identified are core principles of really effective teaching and, therefore, I will begin to see how they could marry with the principles we have identified.
  • Our new TL principles I don’t believe are going to be shared with staff until September so in the meantime I am quite keen to see what our students’ experiences of Shaun and Andy’s core principles are and our students’ perceptions of these principles in their everyday classroom experience.
  • Once the principles have been shared, I want to ensure there is explicit consideration for these principles when creating new schemes of work. As Shaun and Andy have suggested, not all principles would be used every lesson but I want to work with Subject Leaders to ensure these principles are embedded across schemes and we are developing strategies to support these principles.
  • Andy Tharby and James Theo have both blogged their TL bulletin for staff. I think this is a fab idea and would love to see us introduce this with a focus on our core principles so I am going to suggest this to my line manager and other SCLs.
  • I want to begin to develop a bank of strategies that will support teachers in strengthening their practice in these key areas. A bit like a teacher toolkit.
  • I am also really keen to develop a staff reading group. Choosing a TL book to read and discuss once a term.

Explicit Instruction – Greg Ashman

I really enjoyed this session. I’m really interested in developing subject knowledge at the moment and how this subject knowledge is communicated and practised. Greg started off by exploring the definition of explicit instruction to ensure clarity. Once this had been established, Greg shared Rosenshine’s Principles of Instruction which are below:

  • Begin the lesson with a short review of previous learning
  • Present new material in small steps with students practice after each step
  • Ask a large number of questions and check the responses of all students
  • Provide models
  • Guide student practice
  • Check for student understanding
  • Obtain a high success rate
  • Provide scaffolds for difficult tasks
  • Regular monitor independent practice
  • Build in weekly and monthly reviews

It is striking that these principles of instruction are quite closely aligned to the TL principles from Shaun and Andy. For me, this reinforces the importance of these principles to great TL practice.

Next steps:

  • It will be interesting to see how structuring lessons in this way – e.g. with recap every lesson etc so I am going to plan my year 9 unit of work in this way to see what the impact on the students.

Leadership transitions – Jill Berry

I adore Jill Berry. She has a lovely persona, is incredibly experienced and knowledgeable and is a great example of a woman in leadership. For that reason she inspires me. I have just been promoted within my school to a role that is new and completely unfamiliar. I am incredibly nervous about the transition I need to make and the unknown of what the core of my business will be and therefore this felt as a really good session choice. Interestingly, I am also dealing with the transition of two new leaders coming into our academy as well.

Jill is brilliant at getting everyone thinking and talking and a range of questions were thrown out to get us thinking. Questions such as

  • What is your current sphere of influence? Do you have aspirations to expand it?
  • Are you making the most of current opportunities? Are you enjoying them or relishing them?
  • What are the particular demands or challenges of your current role? Are you building capacity?
  • Are there specific opportunities, satisfactions and rewards in the role you aspire to which motivate and drive you?

Jill spoke about the importance in having a vision and going back to your core values. She asked us to consider what our vision was for the leaders we want to be and what our personal / professional values are.

Jill asked us to consider what some of the challenges are with regard to leadership transitions and how these can be overcome. Here’s the list of what we came up with:

  • Be receptive / Active listening and learning before doing anything or making any decisions
  • Draw upon the expertise of others
  • You inherit a lot / legacy – inheriting is inhabiting
  • Lead in period
  • Consult
  • Reflect and build in thinking time
  • Don’t be too hard on yourself
  • Sustainable balance in lives

Next steps:

  • I want to spend time working through my core values to really focus me in before I start my new role.  (Mary Myatt’s book is fabulous book for exploring values)
  • I am also keen to frame a vision for the work I want to complete in my new role with my core values at the heart of this.
  • I am going to email Jill as she has kindly put together some book and blog suggestions which I am going to read over the summer

Day 2

Womened – Hannah Wilson, Keziah Featherstone, Vivienne Porritt, Jules Daulby

I am a feminist. Not a burn your bra type feminist but I believe in the strength of women and that this is under-utilised in leadership teams in education. I absolutely would like to see more women in leadership positions and do believe that, in the main, it is confidence that prevents women from applying for such leadership positions. Confidence was the main focus for this session.

Many of us suffer from Imposter System where we believe everyone knows more than we do. There are definitely times when I believe this is true. Going round the festival today, I was in awe of how much knowledge the speakers had, making me feel completely inadequate. However, the message from Womened is simple – that for every element of weakness we have there is a strength and instead of focusing on our weaknesses, we need to focus on embracing those strengths and sing them out loud from the rooftops declaring ‘I am an expert in….’ with confidence. Here goes:

I know that my weakness lies in people management from the point of view of holding them to account (not next year as I am feeling braver) but I know I am an expert in teaching, I am a great strategic thinker and I can transform departments.

Furthermore, the premise of Women ed is one of collaboration and shared experiences. It is in fact true that the more we share, the more we grow. I am a big believer in sharing. I aim to share everything. I have great confidence with this because if I help just one other person then it is worth sharing. If people don’t like what I share they don’t have to use it. That’s freedom of choice J

Womened brought up the idea of values which resonated with Jill’s sessions so was a theme running across the festival. As I have said previously, I am going to spend some time before summer really thinking about my core values and how that drives me moving forward.

A really enjoyable session.

Next steps:

Align my core values with the vision for my new role.

Model the leadership at the heart of my core values.

Seek out the excellent women we have in our academy and foster a greater level of confidence within us so that more women feel empowered.

Embracing the Academic – Summer Turner

I love Summer Turner. She is incredibly knowledgeable and another example of a great woman in leadership. Again, she is an inspiration to me and the work she has done on curriculum design is fantastic. I cannot wait to read her book.

Summer started by getting us to re-focus on the purpose of education and suggest that there are four key purposes of education:

  • The intrinsic value of academic knowledge
  • Character
  • Social justice
  • Preparing for the world of work.

She then went on to share this beautiful quote about the purpose of education which often gets hidden by the preparation for examinations:

What is missing is education to be human beings. Education to make the most of our human powers. Education for our responsibilities as members of a democratic society. Education for freedom.

Robert M Hutchins – ‘A general introduction to the Great Books and a Liberal Education.’

How easily is this simply forgotton – especially where the world of accountability has taken over?

Summer argues that knowledge is at the core of what education is for. Developing knowledge and when it comes to curriculum planning that this should be the first stepping stone to an excellent curriculum. Summer shared with us her thought processes when creating her English curriculum, beginning with a consideration of what she felt her students needed to know. This included:

  • Grammar
  • Narrative
  • Chronology / context
  • Audience
  • Genre
  • Form and structure
  • Rhetoric
  • Imagery

Using these key headings, Summer determined her content focusing on great literature to support the teaching of these core principles.

This was incredibly interesting and Summer really is an engaging speaker. I have been following the knowledge agenda for some time and have really felt the value in creating a knowledge based curriculum and this has been put into place for our new curriculums next year which I must blog about at some point!

I think Summer eloquently summed up my thinking when she said ‘For too long we have been focused on the HOW and not the WHAT.’

What have we done so far:

We have re-drafted our KS3 curriculums with a focus on knowledge and more rigorous text choice.

We have explicitly referenced knowledge in our medium term planning to ensure staff front load this in our planning.

We have recently ran our first department subject knowledge sessions: one on Macbeth and one on poetry to include Beowulf. These were fantastic and I learnt so much from everyone else in my team.

Next steps:

Develop my own subject knowledge further! I am an unusual teacher in that my degree is in Linguistics so I always feel out of depth with regard to the Literature side of things, especially theory and criticisms. I have recently taken myself off A level because I don’t think (now the language A level has gone) that my subject knowledge is up to scratch. There is a great sense of freedom for me in not being Head of English next year in that when you become a leader, you have to act for your people and sometimes you lose a sense of yourself and developing your own practice gets forgotten. I cannot wait to have a year of really focused subject knowledge development.

Metacognition – Phil Beadle

I fell in love with Phil Beadle when he created the videos on how to teach some of the Poems from Different Cultures. Then when he joined the Independent Thinking Company, my love grew. There was no hesitation on my part in signing up for this session.   He is quite simply a GENIUS. He is so unbelievably clever, I am always in awe and always leave his sessions feeling completely inspired. I am currently still processing his session and will blog about it soon but it was deeply fascinating.

Parental Engagement – Dr Kathryn Weston

Another really informative and useful session. Parental engagement is an area I definitely want to focus on.

How about this for a starting fact? The effect of parental engagement over a pupil’s school career is the same as adding 2-3 years to their education (Hattie). In addition, parental influence is learning is 30% greater than school. Wow! So the question for me is am I as a practitioner and a leader investing enough time in ensuring our parents are engaged? And the answer is no so I am not being effective currently.

Parents’ levels of confidence is absolutely integral to their engagement with a school. One vital aspect of this is how we communicate with parents. Kathryn shared with us a letter she had received about curriculum content for her child and I will admit to cringing as I thought about whether we had sent something similar home to parents. Using subject specific terminology, like ‘inference’, ‘anaphora’, ‘structural irony’ when describing curriculum content is not particularly helpful to parents and in fact can be quite alienating. I love the idea of sending information home about curriculum content and last year suggested doing this after seeing some excellent newsletters from fellow Tweeters. I will definitely look to do this for my classes next year but, after this session, will think very carefully about the language I use. This is also true for homework. If we are sending homework home, we need to ensure that it is accessible to parents too. I was thinking, for example, as Kathryn was talking about our grammar programme which I am working on and how I could construct homeworks that would empower parents to be able to sit with their children and complete it with confidence. In addition, when we are talking about things like ‘revision’ and ‘memory’ are we supporting our parents in understanding what effective revision strategies are or how we can improve our memory.

Two of the most effective parental engagement strategies I have used this year are the positive phone call home. It is quite obvious when you ring a parent that they often expect the worse so it can be a really nice way to end your week by making positive phone calls home.   I find it also helps to build relationships and softens the moment when you do need to ring home to address something slightly more negative.

The second most effective parental engagement strategy I have used this year is the parental feedback form introduced by @FKRitson. It is phenomenal and I am going to use it every term next year. It is a simple form which gets stuck into the students’ exercise book. The expectation is that the student shares their exercise book with their parents and the parents write comments about the content, the effort and the presentation. I had some fantastic feedback from parents and I really, really enjoyed reading them. One of the best things I did this year.

Next steps:

Initial contacts for the start of the next academic year. I want to send out information about curriculum content to the parents of the students I teach at the start of the year. I will be much more mindful now of the language that I use.

I will draft the homeworks for our grammar programme with parents in mind so that homework can be done together with confidence.

I will continue to use the parent feedback sheets.

I will set ‘Our Sunday discussion’ topics.

I will ring at least one set of parents from each of my classes at the end of every week.

  • Introvert Leaders – Iesha Small

What a session! This was incredible. Simply because when Iesha was describing an Introvert Leader, I began to understand myself more. I am an introvert leader. In fact, I nearly cried. I’m not one for labels but in listening to Iesha I began to understand myself a little better.

Iesha defined the five qualities that she believes make up an introverted leader:

  1. Listening, communication and empathy.Iesha noted that introverts don’t reveal too much of themselves personally. This is so true for me. At work I am incredibly, incredibly private and function on a professional level with most.

2. Introverts tends to be good listeners and can empathise. I do spend a lot of time listening to people and I do think that people feel as though they can come and talk to me. I am really empathetic. I care about how others are feeling, sometimes way too much for my own sanity.

A quiet passion.‘Hot passion is all about the heart. The head is not even asked to participate…Cold passion is calm, considerate and focused in the long-term future. Heart and brain are aligned. Decisions take time, looked at from all angles. Cold passion is much more effective at getting results.’

This is interesting. I have a cold passion for education in that it is long term and when I am making decisions I do take a long time because I am considering all the options and trying to make a rational decision separate from the emotions I am feeling. I am a Leo, however, and sometimes emotions get in the way

3. Caution / considered nature.

This is definitely me. I am a thinker. I think about everything. I would like to call myself strategic. Iesha says introverts can be indecisive. This made me laugh because one of my 2ic’s critiques of me is that I change my mind. I do. But I change my mind because my focus is on identifying what is best for the students and sometimes I need longer to consider this than I am allowed, leaving me to make decisions that I am not fully confident about. In addition, I will change my mind when I feel we are going down the wrong road for obvious reasons. So indecisive, yes. Introverts watch and listen. I go to SLT meetings every week in a shadowing kind of role. I barely say a word but I am watching and I am listening and I am weighing everything up, evaluating, learning and only when I feel really passionate about something will you hear my voice. It’s different in my dept meetings because my voice is a voice of strength. I have total confidence in myself at the Subject Leader level and within English and therefore, I feel, I am less cautious.   BUT every day, I am watching, listening, evaluating and thinking and I do all of this before making any decisions.

This ties into Iesha’s fourth point

4. Observation / notive

Introverts don’t like being in the spotlight. God I hate it. I am completely phobic about public speaking – I cry and I am sick. If I have to speak in briefing, I am running over the short notice in my head 200 times over to ensure I don’t look like an idiot and my hands start to get all sweaty. Next week I am presenting in Leeds as a way to start to overcome this. I will let you know how it goes! Introverts also walk around noticing things. As per point 3. I watch and observe EVERYTHING.

5. Independence and sufficiency

By this point I was starting to freak out. I am massively independent and self-sufficient. Iesha stated that introverts need their time alone and their space and this is soooooo true. I live by myself so have this but there are times during the work day when I will simply need to go and have a walk somewhere to get away from the chaos of work. Sometimes, at lunchtime, I like to sit on the balcony when no one else is there. At first my department wanted to come and keep me company but then they realised I am content because I need the space to be alone with my thoughts. In addition, Iesha said that whilst introverts are independent they don’t wish to upset people and this has been very true for me. Now I am getting better at depersonalising situations and understanding that sometimes people will be upset with you and there is very little you can do.

Absolutely fascinating session empowering me to embrace my introverted self J

Next steps:

I am keen to connect with other introverted leaders.

I definitely want to read more about this.

School visits

SM to outstanding – Magna shows us all how it can be done!

Sometimes you see stuff in schools that blows your mind. Today was one of those days.  Seeing Magna Academy in action is something pretty special.

Six years ago Magna was in special measures.  Today it stands after just acquiring its second outstanding Ofsted rating in December.

Magna Academy is living proof that ANY school can transform behavior and learning if it really wants to.  To do this, it is clear three things are needed 1: strong behavior systems, 2: a collective and united force, 3: a tight infrastructure.

My day began with morning line up.  Incredible.  The whole school lined up outside in silence holding their plastic pencil cases in air.  The silence enables a calm and focused start to the day.  Every pupil having a plastic pencil case ensures that equipment checks can take place quickly without disrupting learning time.  Pupils can pick up replacement pencil cases or buy equipment from the school.

Tutor time – we all love a good booklet, right?  Well, at Magna a carefully crafted tutor programme has been sequenced into a booklet.  Genius – no loose bits of paper or random resources but a systematic approach to tutor based activities.  One tutor session is focused on literacy and the use of frayer diagrams to develop vocabulary, one tutor session is focused on numeracy and numeracy ninjas (I love numeracy ninjas) and then other sessions involve knowledge tests and the like.  Tutors, also during tutor time, check the pupils’ self-quizzing homework.  Pupils are expected to self-quiz each night from their knowledge organisers and a timetable has been put in place for this.

Reading – Michelle, AP for English and Literacy is an absolute wonder.  Her strategic implementation to improve reading at the academy is so well thought through and connected it was inspiring.  Pupils are reading Penguin classic texts during a DEAR slot – 25 minutes a day (with more modern and diverse choices scheduled as a whole class reader for their library lesson).  Teachers across the academy have been trained to run these sessions.  Teachers read with pupils following with a ruler.  They will then stop at a word with pupils chanting the next word back.  A really simple strategy to ensure pupils are following.  Cold call then takes place as the year progresses and pupils become more confident.  This is then followed by individual reading – a specific section being chosen – which is then discussed with pupils.  Teachers will check pupils’ understanding of key vocabulary choices and ask questions to ensure texts have been comprehended.  Definitions for words are sought through google to enhance pupils’ vocabulary.  Books are read in rotation across the year.  All pupils are issued a bookmark with the book they are reading and a space on the back to record tier two vocabulary.  Michelle has also put together a book for each book being read with non-fiction texts that are linked in to the theme.  Questions accompany these texts so that teachers can ensure pupils have read them.   This reading of the non-fiction text forms the second part of their homework.  Michelle recommends the site CommonLit where all these texts and questions are available.

Literacy and numeracy are given priority in the lower years with those pupils who have low reading ages been entered into the Direct Instruction programme.  Gains with this programme have been so incredibly significant and pupils, as a result, have blossomed in confidence and become avid readers.

Research is at the heart of Magna’s approach to teaching and learning. All classrooms have visualisers and much of the teaching is conducted with the use of this.  Booklets are used throughout the school and pupils green pen.  All great strategies – the school doesn’t claim to be doing anything special or unique (that’s to be debated) but what they do do is read, research and embed the very best practice for their context and their pupils.  If things don’t work, they are confident enough to reflect and re-orientate – a great term for an evolving school.

CPD is organized so that staff can attend a variety of different training options.  There is a mixture of both subject development where staff choose journal entries or research to discuss and consider whilst smaller professional development circles are constructed to explore different teaching and learning areas and to train staff in particular initiatives or work.

Silent corridors are a sight to behold.  The swiftness with which pupils move to lessons is exemplary.  No time is spent wasted chatting in corridors.  Instead pupils move calmly and quickly to their next lesson.

During this time – transition time – all staff – including admin staff are present.  It is this collective approach that has really enabled systems like the silent transition to work effectively.

In addition, the staff at Magna recognize they are on a journey and many times throughout the day I heard we are on a 10 year journey and this is year 7 or this is the second year of doing this and we are working to a 5 year plan.  This is an absolutely critical part of great leadership for me – having the confidence to construct a longer term plan and not try to improve everything at once.  It was so refreshing to hear.

Magna has come in for some criticism for its zero tolerance approach to learning.  That criticism is unfair.  What instead, we should be focused on, is the incredible transformation that Magna has undergone to move from inadequate provision to the incredible provision that is on offer today.  In order for that transformation to occur what Magna has done and what other schools in England need to do is hold all pupils to the highest accounts because when this happens, amazing things occur.

Magna is a beacon for other schools and there is so much more I could say.  However, I would, instead, encourage people to go and visit.  They have shown how moving a school from SM to outstanding can be done and their journey is absolutely so impressive.  Congratulations to all staff and thank you for having me.


Magical Michaela

Michaela is magic!  (Still).  I first visited between 2-3 years ago – once to attend one of their conferences and once to visit and see the school in action.  When I had decided that I wanted to tour the south of England visiting various schools, going back to Michaela was a given.

The school is now much larger but you wouldn’t know it because it still runs seamlessly.  This is because every detail is thought about and taken care of.  From the tour guides being given timers, to the way in which teachers line pupils up to go in for family lunch, to the way in which pupils are directed for paired talk and the way responses are gathered.  Meticulous.  To watch it, it is truly magical.

The corridors are still silent.  It is an unbelievably calm school.  The focus is very much on learning and you can feel that focus permeating throughout.  Transitions are silent.  The classes are silent unless directed otherwise.  Behaviour is impeccable.  And, with great behaviour, as a result, you can really, really focus on developing great teaching.  And if you were to visit Michaela that is exactly what you would see.

The lessons are exactly the same – lots of modelling using the visualizer – every lesson had the booklet being used on display, lots of deliberate practice, lots of choral work, lots of paired discussion.  The paired discussion was tight and controlled impeccably – just enough time to discuss the answer and not be distracted.  Booklets remain.  And as we all know, my love for booklets began with Michaela.  The work of year 8s in their exercise books easily reflective of something you might see in year 10 elsewhere.

The classrooms are slightly different now – visualisers are in every room each on their own lovely stand (here she goes off to check Amazon and order one).  I also clocked a few displays promoting great books for the pupils to read. There is a room full of computers for pupils to quiz on (AR) and study on.

Family lunch is still an incredible joy with pupils entering chanting excerpts from Caesar, family tables set up with pupils dishing food out and clearing away and appreciations still as abundant as ever.  The pupils are still given a topic to discuss over lunch.  I could feel myself well up seeing this again.  Katharine took a lot of flack for family lunch to begin with but these habits have meant her pupils have learnt to focus on the positives and appreciate what is good about each day.

My tour guides were incredibly eloquent and full of joy, and clearly incredibly proud of their school.

Opening in September, the sixth form common room is an impressive space.  Soon to follow that will be a new Michaela School and so the challenges over the next few years will be retaining the Michaela way in a different environment with different kids.

And Katharine….you know what, Katharine is a little bit of a hero to me.  She’s bold and doesn’t suffer fools gladly.  She makes decisions that are in the best interests of her pupils and is unapologetic about that whilst, at the same time, being continually reflective and keen to evolve.  She is intimidating because of her utter brilliance.

I don’t think Katharine has any real grasp on how inspiring her work and the work of Michaela has been to schools up and down the land and I would say, arguably, the English education system.

Schools, and teachers from within those schools, have visited Michaela; they’ve read the book and they’ve implemented, in part, some of the practice they’ve seen, read about and listened to.  And they’ve achieved great results as a result.

When I returned to Michaela after my first visit, I changed my curriculum by making it more knowledge focused with a increased sense of rigour, I wrote knowledge organisers, I created booklets, I introduced retrieval practice, I embedded green penning and whole-class feedback.  I took all of those things from Michaela and our results, as a department, went up.  I am certain that I am not alone in this experience.

Michaela shone the spotlight on the what, how and why of a knowledge based curriculum and in doing so influenced the practice of many teachers and departments which in turn improved the quality of education for so many pupils – including my own – and now, well now, we have an education framework that is focused on curriculum and knowledge.

You know what, I think we all have a lot to thank Michaela for.  I will, forever, be indebted to Michaela for influencing my practice as much as they have.  I cannot wait to see what the next 2-3 years has in store for Michaela.

What I learnt about TL and English from Mountbatten and @Siancumming1 / @MissJLud

Having worked in the Hampshire / Wiltshire area, I have always known that Mountbatten is a brilliant school.  Yesterday, I was fortunate enough to be welcomed by Sian Cummings and Jennifer Ludgate to see the school in action.

The day couldn’t have started off any better as Sian invited me in to the Learning Thursday.  Two RQT teachers presented on the research they had conducted over the year – one on the use of precise praise and one on the use of structure strips.  The two RQTs spoke so brilliantly about the reason for their research focus, how they implemented their research and the outcomes.  When talking with Sian, she explained that this presentation was the result of an extensive RQT programme which I really loved.  The idea of not ‘dropping’ teachers the minute they qualify and continuing to support them and engage with professional development in a separate programme is a really good idea.

I was bowled over with Sian’s work on Teaching and Learning across the school.  She has a really excellent strategy in place.  The first thing I particularly liked was the supportive programme, as outlined above.  As training providers we assign mentors to PGCE pupils and NQTs but often once the NQT box has been ticked, the same level of support is removed.  At Mountbatten, a continuous programme of support and CPD has been put in place.  Jenn Ludgate works with the RQTs on embedding research into practice with RQTs presenting to whole school staff at the end of the year on the work they have done.  Sian also runs a programme for those who are within five years of starting the profession.  I really, really like this idea that once trained, staff are nurtured to ensure that they become research engaged and that this support doesn’t automatically drop away as this can only have positive impact on the school as a whole.

I also really loved the wide range of activities that are put on for CPD.  Sian runs a journal club.  She sends the whole school a journal and invites them to attend a meeting to discuss the content of the journal.  We do something similar at St George’s with our academic book club which has single-handedly been one of the most enjoyable parts of the year for me.  I think when these journals and research projects are also tied into school aims and the school development plan it can only really strengthen what is being done.  I think what we need to do at St George’s now is consider what impact this club has on everyday practice and across the school.  I think changing the PM system (not tagged to pay abroad) to a research project is a really good opportunity for ensuring there is some form of impact on the reading and the research you do.

In addition, an open dialogue with staff helps to inform the CPD programme with Sian emailing staff to ascertain what they would like training on.  She then draws upon particular staff expertise to put on sessions that address staff wants and needs.  I think this is a highly effective way of tailoring CPD to suit the staff and also encourages a high take up with after-school sessions.

I really liked that Sian had a Teaching and Learning team.  I think this is a brilliant idea as working together is definitely better than working alone and also distributes the work especially when you have a lot of staff training or new entrants to the profession in addition to the core business of Teaching and Learning and reflective practice.

Finally, Sian has created a fantastic Teaching and Learning website for her staff in which all of the amazing CPD resources and work stemming from the variety of strategies is collated.  Shaun Allison has done something similar.  I think it would be great if we had one of these at our school as it means people can tap into CPD as and when they need it or want it.

I managed to squeeze in an unexpected slot with the leader of AR.  It has been really interesting to speak with different schools about how they work with AR.  At King Alfred’s all pupils in years 7 and 8 are on AR whereas at Mountbatten it is used as an initial testing for reading level and then only as an intervention.  Both schools, however, are equally passionate about AR and committed to its usage.  Both schools have seen great gains.  Both schools have a separate AR lesson.  Both schools reward pupils for their quizzing and for improvements.  Neither schools share reading ages with pupils.  And finally, both schools have a reading record to track progress.   I have been really impressed with how these different schools are utilizing the programme.

I was also really fortunate to also observe a range of lessons during the day from the superb English team at Mountbatten.  It was so lovely to be in the English classroom once again, observing.  Several things struck me – the level of consistency across the team.  Every class started with a focused ‘Do it now’ task or ‘Silent starter’ which really enabled pupils to settle down quickly and crack on.  Every lesson was focused on one core concept or idea – the idea of depth and practice rather than masses of content and, dare I say it, cognitive overload.  Teacher subject knowledge was second to none. Modelling took precedence with exemplars slowly and carefully deconstructed so pupils really understood what constituted high quality responses.  I also really enjoyed seeing such wonderful relationships between the staff and pupils with lots of humour and lots of love.  The English team are such a strength with Jen at the helm.

All in all, I had a superb day at Mountbatten.  It was fantastic to talk Teaching and Learning and see lots of English lessons.  I learnt lots and continue to mull over as I plan my curriculum for 2019/2020.

I bloomin’ love Michaela!


Michaela is phenomenal.

To be honest, I’ve always been supportive so the book launch on Saturday and my visit on Thursday was simply about taking the opportunity to learn more so that I can continue to grow and develop my faculty area.

I arrived on Thursday, feeling incredibly nervous. After signing in, the lovely Katie Ashford came over to chat with me. One thing that struck me on Saturday, which was reinforced on Thursday, was just how lovely and friendly all the staff are. Nothing was too much trouble and all were willing to openly chat and talk through the methodology behind the practice, as well as the practice itself and it was great to have an initial quick chat with Katie.

Reception informed me I would be meeting with Katharine before going on a tour. I was going to meet the scariest head teacher in England! At this point, my nerves trebled. Katherine is inspirational. A week before the Michaela book launch, Katharine had written a blog on how important it was for leaders to put their staff before the students – a happy, healthy staff, after all, will perform better in the classroom, positively impacting on the students. This was so aligned with what I’d been promoting over the last term that she instantly became my new heroine. Then on the Saturday, her passionate talk about social justice made me cry! In front of us all stood the most incredibly compassionate leader who not only promoted the wellbeing of her staff but the importance of ensuring all pupils, regardless of background, achieve and that we, as staff, empower them to believe they can be anyone they want to be and achieve anything they put their mind to. I have to admit I was terrified to meet with her on a one-on-one basis but she was lovely and warm and most importantly, talked sense. In an increasingly frustrating educational world, this was so unbelievably refreshing.  Over the past few weeks she has really inspired me as a female leader.  She has reconnected me with my values and the belief I have in myself to stay true to who I am and to continue to act with my heart by prioritising the wellbeing of my staff and the students in my care so that all are healthy to perform at their best.  I cannot speak highly enough of Katharine and the respect I have for her.

After my chat with Katharine, I was shown around the school by two of the most wonderfully polite and respectful pupils. They exuded confidence and spoke articulately about different aspects of the school, sharing lots of information from how the library was organised to the self-quizzing / assessing process. They were extremely knowledgeable, discussing with me their favourite composers and artists. One of the students told me how Michaela had transformed him from an unruly pupil in primary to the kind human being he felt he was now. In describing his transformation, he stated he felt he had won a ‘golden ticket’ and in wandering the school and speaking with them both, I couldn’t help but agree with him.

In touring the school, the thing I was most struck by was how purposeful the school felt.  It was absolutely silent. Reception when I walked in was silent, the corridors were silent, the classrooms were silent and the staffroom was silent. This was a place of learning and everyone was focused and engaged with just that.

After my tour, it was time for lunch. I have never seen anything like family lunch. I had to hold back my tears. I got to the lunch room a few minutes early, as advised by Katherine and watched as pupils began to fill the room, reciting a poem, led by the wonderful Jo Facer. To see the room fill with just under 200 students all reciting the same poem was captivating (especially as I am an English teacher). Pupils sit in groups made up of pupils from different year groups. This gives all pupils in the school the opportunity to sit and get to know lots of other pupils in the school. Each pupil is assigned a position and this correlates with a job to fulfil over lunch. This is a slick operation and before I even realised, I had been served my lunch and water. Once lunch had been served, Mike Taylor offered the topic for discussion – attendance. With teachers sharing the same tables as pupils, this was a lovely opportunity to spend time talking with the pupils (diverting from the topic occasionally). After lunch, it was time for appreciation. Pupils were encouraged to think of someone they might want to show appreciation to and when asked, nearly all of the pupils raised their hands. In fact, the two pupils sat directly next to me asked me my name as they wanted to offer an appreciation to me. I can’t tell you how lovely this was. And then after lunch we made our way out to the playground. The most striking thing here was that on filing out, I was met by the other half of the school in the corridors and hallway lined up ready to enter the dining hall in absolute silence.  It was an incredible sight.

Playground duty gave me a further opportunity to talk with staff, especially the lovely Olivia Dyer and the pupils. Many of the pupils played sport and table tennis whilst some sat and self-quizzed. I sat with some wonderful young ladies who told me about their studies and I listened in awe as they listed the literature they had read in class. They were full of joy and there was much laughter as we discussed everything from literature to aspirations to imaginary family trees.

After lunch, I gate-crashed Joe Kirby’s lesson. What a wonder! Watching Joe give feedback to the class was a sight to behold. Michaela don’t mark and yet not having marked the essays in the way in which many of us are accustomed to, I have never seen such personalised and detailed feedback. The pupils’ essays were phenomenal – the range of vocabulary, the structure, the content, the knowledge – they were incredible pieces of work and I was in awe, once more.  I promised myself that I would continue pushing my own expectations of our pupils to ensure that they too could feel the same level of confidence to produce work of a similar standard.

And then I saw the lovely Jo Facer. She was also giving feedback to her year 7 class. Again, without having marked every single word with a WWW and EBI, Jo gave personalised and detailed feedback to the pupils. I particularly enjoyed the spellings and vocabulary at the start which I thought was done brilliantly and replicated with my class (different spellings!) the next day.

In both lessons, there was laughter and joy. Pupils demonstrated remarkable knowledge and so many contributed and were eager to contribute throughout. Pupils proudly shared their work. When incorrect answers were given, they accepted their errors with humility. The pace was fast and yet all pupils kept up. Their level of independence was a sight to behold as Jo encouraged them to check their work and self-assess it.

A question I’ve been asked so many times since my visit to Michaela is what can you actually learn from Michaela? There are many sceptics who think that what happens at Michaela is because a) they have been able to establish their expectations from the start and b) (some would argue) they have a selective intake.

However, I’m inclined to disagree. On Friday, I replicated a Michaela lesson with a low ability year 7 group – a group which contains a range of pupils including one boy with extreme autism who regularly calls out. I copied Jo’s approach on spelling. The pupils then finished some work off from the previous lesson. And then I gave them a comprehension which we green penned afterwards – again magpied from Michaela. They worked in silence. I haven’t seen them as focused as they were on Friday in a long, long time. So can it be replicated? Absolutely it can.

As I’ve said on Twitter, the best teachers and leaders have open hearts and open minds so that they can learn from others. I learnt so much on Thursday and my practice as both teacher and leader will improve as a result. This is because I am, unashamedly (sorry Michaela!) going to magpie so much.

Already in place

  1. Knowledge organisers – my faculty started creating these three weeks ago but the original idea I believe came from Joe Kirby
  2. Quizzing
  3. Tutor time reading – I started reading Frankenstein with my year 7s on Monday
  4. This week, prior to visit but post book launch, my students have started to learn and recite ‘All the world’s a stage’ by William Shakespeare.  I am so proud of them and the sheer joy in sharing the poem together in that way has been wonderful.

Going to introduce / develop

  1. Self-assessing. Students, in my faculty, will be given a self-assessment book and each night of the week, one of the five departments within the faculty area will set self-assessing homework.
  2. Subject knowledge. I need to improve mine and think we need to have an enhanced subject knowledge throughout. Wider reading and collaborating more can support this.
  3. Vocabulary development. Magpied Michaela’s approach.
  4. Booklets. Lots of school use booklets and I’ve created a few as has @FKRitson.  For January, I am going to continue creating booklets for my classes. I will not be using my projector, unless I want to show a short clip.  Interestingly, I have already planned a booklet to use for the next two weeks since Thursday.  It took me about four hours and it is the most focused and knowledge based piece of work I have produced in months.
  5. Whole class marking and the much more personalised feedback sharing excellent examples of students’ work more frequently.
  6. Green pen. Loved this. Such a simple idea but so brilliant.
  7. Three warnings and a lunchtime. When imposing a warning, explaining why the warning has been given especially if their actions have a detrimental effect on others.  Michaela reminded me of ensuring that this was explicit.
  8. Insist students make eye contact with me when they enter my classroom – a number of my students lack confidence and these basics will really help them develop that confidence.. Using the language of respect constantly by ensuring students address me as Miss and say please and thank you always.  This is not to say my students aren’t respectful – they are but again explicitly reinforcing respect and kindness is something I am going to do more often.
  9. No calling out. Hands up only.
  10. Expand the tutor programme so all students in year 7 are reading the same book during tutor time.
  11. Year 10 and year 11 to begin learning the anthology poems off by heart.
  12. Produced and now need to implement – appreciation postcards once a week with my tutor group (checked) and then distributed by me

Things I would love to introduce

  1. I loved the fact that students at Michaela register in the morning and the afternoon. In the morning, they leave their coats and bags in their form room and each student has a plastic wallet type thing in which they carry all their books and equipment. LOVE this!
  2. Family lunch – this was so unbelievably powerful.

I am sure there is more but two days on, I am still trying to distill everything.

A huge thank you to Jo Facer for organising my visit and to Katherine for letting me visit.