Doing NPQH as a member of SLT

With thanks and apologies to Kev Bartle for the title!

News from the NCTL

News from the NCTL

I received notification yesterday that I have passed the NPQH. It’s no longer mandatory to have the qualification to be a Headteacher, but I’ve spent sixteen months on the course. This blog is really for anyone weighing up the prospect of taking it on. I’ll run through my experiences, and try to answer the question…is it worth it?

Getting on the course

This is really, really tough. I can’t actually blog about what happens in the selection process, as we were sworn to secrecy so as not to prejudice or advantage future cohorts. Suffice to say, when our cohort got together for the first time we bonded over the incredibly rigorous, taxing tasks you have to do just to get a place on the course – really, really tough! The idea is that, if you pass the selection process, you’re definitely capable of passing the course; it reduces the likelihood of anyone getting on it, spending a year and a half, and then failing. Sensible investment I suppose, and a good test!

After successfully passing the selection process, there’s a useful 360° exercise where you self-assess your competencies and your colleagues do the same. You get a report of the results and I found this a great starting point to pinpoint strengths, areas for development and discrepancies between my self-assessment and my colleagues’ views. A really useful process.

My chosen licensee

My chosen licensee

Finally, you have to choose a licensee. NPQH is not delivered direct by the NCTL any more, but by regional licensees. I did mine with CPD Southwest and I was very happy with my choice – efficient administration, knowledgeable and helpful trainers, and a functional online resource bank. I went to an information session before I chose my licensee and this was definitely useful in helping make my mind up. I’d recommend doing a bit of research first! Although much of the material is common across NPQH courses, and the assessment is standard, it’s worth bearing in mind that my experience is with one particular licensee and they’re not all the same!

The Leadership Capacity Matrix. I took the red pill.

The Leadership Capacity Matrix. I took the red pill.

Face to face sessions

There were nine of these in total, covering the core modules: Leading and Improving Teaching, Succeeding in Headship, and Leading an Effective School. There were also sessions on Advanced Coaching Skills and a Viewpoints on Style self-assessment day. On the whole, these were useful days! Here are some of the plus points:

  • “Talking Heads” sessions: most days, a serving Headteacher came in to talk to us about aspects of their practice and their route to Headship. These were, without exception, really inspiring and useful. There was a huge range, including Heads from large secondaries and tiny primaries, special schools, new heads, experienced system leaders…and all dedicated, positive, uplifting speakers with lots to offer. I was scribbling furiously during these, cribbing tips and ideas aplenty!
  • Cross-phase working: the NPQH was a great opportunity for me to work alongside school leaders from primary and special school sector. Most of the CPD events I go to are secondary-focused, so it was really refreshing to get a different perspective and work with colleagues from across a range of schools. My cohort were brilliant – really supportive of one another and thoughtful, caring leaders.
  • Time to reflect: there is rarely enough time in school to step back and think properly about what you’re doing. Taking nine days out across ten terms is a considerable investment of time but the opportunity it provides to reflect is invaluable. It felt, at times, like a retreat – and a treat.
  • Coaching: this was my single biggest take-away from NPQH. I’d done coaching training before but it hadn’t really been embedded in my practice; now I use it daily in interactions with staff but also with students. It’s worth a blog post on its own! I know Vic Goddard swears by it and I can see why. I was lucky to have Judith Tolhurst running our session, whose book is well worth a read.
  • Finance: we were all worried about this aspect of Headship, and there was a really useful session on running the budget of a school. This was a real confidence booster – it turned out I knew a lot more than I thought I did!

Of course, it wasn’t all brilliant. This happened on one of the days:

And then there was this:

I suppose you can’t get through nine days of CPD without being asked to draw yourself a spirit animal! But aside from these points the days were really valuable and the opportunity to take time out from the daily whirlwind was incredible helpful.

Hitting the books...well, the pdfs.

Hitting the books…well, the pdfs.

Online learning

Aside from the three core modules, NPQH involves two elective modules. I did mine on Leading Change for Improvement and School Improvement for Effective Partnerships. At the start of my course, all of the material was hosted on the NCTL’s own rather convoluted website, but halfway through that was shut down and the material moved over to licensees. Either way, there is a lot of reading! At the start, I tried to read everything and I did a pretty good job, filing it away and keeping a running record of key points in Evernote. We discussed the reading often on our face to face days – mainly how hard it was to read it all! – and we soon worked out that you could be selective in your choices. However, I would recommend looking at as much of the resource as possible, because there are some gems in there. Case studies, research papers, policy documents, official guidance, legal frameworks – all useful, some essential. I didn’t agree with all that I read, but then as an avid reader of edublogs I’m used to that – and reading stuff you don’t agree with is often more valuable than reading in an echo chamber as it helps you define what it is that you do really believe that little bit more clearly.

Projects

NPQH involves two separate projects: one in your “home” school, and a second in a “Placement” school. My home school project was to implement Teaching and Learning Leaders, and my placement project was an examination of literacy across the curriculum at another secondary academy. This was fantastic – spending five days in another school, seeing what’s the same and what’s different, was an invaluable opportunity. I’ve forged long-lasting links with the SLT there: they came out to visit Chew Valley to have a look at how we’d implemented growth mindset, and I’ve been back there to work on assessment without levels. NPQH forces this kind of system partnership and there’s no doubt this is a real strength of the programme.

Assessment

The assessment part of the NPQH was time-consuming and difficult. It’s necessary, and in all honesty I couldn’t see a way of making it simpler without reducing the quality. It’s supposed to be challenging! Each of the five modules required a reflective “impact evaluation form” – a summary of what you’d learned and the impact it had had on your leadership. Again, the process here forces reflection, which is important for the process of self-improvement the course is trying to implement. But they are time-consuming to fill in!

Towards the end of the course you have to submit write-ups of your two projects. There are very strict guidelines around pages and word counts here, which were difficult to stick to, and the process of writing up took several days for each project. There was plenty of guidance from the NCTL and my licensee, so I knew what I had to do, but doing it within the word-count was tough!

Finally, if the projects pass, there is a face-to-face assessment. I went to mine already having secured a Headship following a three-day interview, and then having a two-day Ofsted inspection the week before the final assessment. It couldn’t be anything like as tough as those experiences…could it? Simple answer – yes. A panel of three properly grilled me for over an hour following a fifteen-minute presentation. It was every bit as rigorous, thorough and searching as my Headship interview and Ofsted had been. And quite right too; although I did things a bit back-to-front, securing a Headship before completing NPQH, there is no doubt that the final assessment interview would be a good preparation for anyone going on to Headship interviews after completing the course.

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Was it worth it?

In a word – yes. The longer answer: I know I don’t need NPQH to be a Headteacher. But sixteen months working on the course has forced me to be more reflective about my leadership, to think about why, how and what I do in my job, in a way that I wouldn’t have done in the normal run of things. The online learning, whilst onerous, was useful. The opportunity to meet and work with colleagues outside my school, beyond my phase, with different experiences and approaches, was invaluable and enriching. And the fact that the assessment, both at the start and end of the course, was so rigorous, gives me faith that the standards of leadership expected of Headteachers are reassuringly high. I have gained NPQH and secured a Headship; now I have to ensure that I live up to those standards in the future.

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#TLT14 – a tale of two conferences

Simon Sinek, in one of his excellent presentations about communities and culture, says the following:

What’s a community? What’s a culture? It’s a group of people with a common set of values and beliefs…when we’re surrounded by people who believe what we believe, something remarkable happens. Trust emerges…as a group, we’re pretty damn amazing. And the reason is that we all have our certain strengths, and we all have our certain weaknesses, and the goal is not to fix your weaknesses but to amplify your strengths.

What a week it’s been. On Thursday I presented a keynote at the Assessment Without Levels conference in London, under the shadow of Wembley Stadium’s arch. It was a good event, well attended, with some helpful input from representatives from the DfE and some thoughtful and interesting sessions, but it was suffused with a kind of mild panic – is what we’re doing right? How can we demonstrate progress? And – again and again and again – what will Ofsted think? On the train home I reflected that the 200+ delegates had paid their £300+ each in the hope that someone would be able to help them find “the answer” – or at least, an answer – to that death-knell question, and to fix their weaknesses.

What a contrast to Saturday, when I made my journey past Stonehenge to Southampton for #TLT14. David Fawcett and Jen Ludgate have organised this free event for the second year running and must surely now be in line for recognition in the civil list for services to education, if not national treasure status. On arrival, it felt so different. It was like walking through a living 3D gallery of my Twitter timeline avatars; teachers who exceeded my stratospheric expectations when I met them in person. Teachers who were there on a Saturday, who had come to the conference because they wanted to learn from one another. The choice of Tom Sherrington (@headguruteacher) for the opening keynote was inspired, as he began with his most successful tweet:

This was a true keynote. The theme for the day, for me at least, was about great teaching and learning on our own terms, led by the profession, because we are professionals and we know what we are doing. If we do that anyway, then we are effectively bulletproofing ourselves from external attack. My other big takeaway from Tom’s speech was the approach to behaviour he is taking in his new Headship:

Tom’s blog has been the go-to reading for my fellow deputy and myself as we re-examine our approaches to behaviour and this felt like the perfect rationale for aiming for “impeccable”.

My first session was with Debbie and Mel (@TeacherTweaks) whose blog has been a constant source of great ideas. Their session was bursting at the seams with even more of them! It was the perfect way to start the day as Debbie and Mel typify the kind of self-improving professionalism that Tom Sherrington was alluding to in his opening speech. The session was based around four books the dynamic duo had read and how those books had influenced their classroom practice. The books were:

  • Mindset by Carol Dweck
  • Ethic of Excellence by Ron Berger
  • The Hidden Lives of Learners by Graham Nuthall
  • Make It Stick by Brown, Roediger and McDaniel

What was superb was the way in which Debbie and Mel exemplified evidence-based practice. They had read the research, thought about it, and implemented approaches in their classrooms as a result. I thought about the student who had successfully remembered embedded clauses “because Miss Light taught us it last year” using techniques from the books and imagined that he was far from a one-off!

In search of the X-Factor...a slide from my #TLT14 presentation

In search of the X-Factor…a slide from my #TLT14 presentation (click the picture for the rest)

I was already buzzing with ideas, ready to go straight back to school and get stuck in, but I had a session to do next! I was presenting in the same room I’d sat in a year ago listening to John Tomsett describing his school’s Dweck-inspired Growth Mindset culture. Given the impact that this session had on me, it felt like quite a responsibility to step up to the lectern! I was presenting a version of our approach to assessment without levels from the Thursday conference but with added X-Men, pirate maps and ill-thought-through carrying-over-the-threshold metaphors. People seemed to like it (at least, Rachel and Jo did!). I had a ball!

I had a lovely lunch showing off my school’s newly viral video of Sir Ian McKellen going full-on Gandalf during his visit on Friday as part of our work as Stonewall Champions, before the delight of attending Jo Facer‘s session on literacy. Jo’s blog is one of my absolute favourites and it was lovely to be in a room full of English teachers (including my twitter-hero @TillyTeacher) talking about literature and how to encourage readers whilst maintaining rigour. Jo was even more than I’d hoped for – a bundle of energy and wide-eyed enthusiasm, driven by a genuine moral purpose. I left the room with a book recommendation and a renewed resolve to embed and strengthen the reading culture in my school.

My final session was with Jill Berry. Jill and I have corresponded at length via twitter, blogs and on Guardian panels, but I had never met her in person until #TLT14. Her session focused on the doctoral research she is conducting into moving from Deputy Headship to Headship and was the perfect end to the day for me. I sat with Amjad Ali and really enjoyed the discussion about moving into senior leadership positions. Jill was fantastic – an excellent facilitator who provided the forum for really useful discussion and provoked thinking in all the delegates.

And so we gathered back in the main room for the day’s close, delivered by Kev Bartle. As a Sunderland fan travelling to Southampton on Saturday, I think he got a better deal at #TLT14 than he would have got at St Mary’s! He got the whole room doing a Bartle version of Brain Gym (of course!) before capping off the day perfectly by explaining why we don’t need to try to be superheroes because, in our classrooms, we already are. Looking around that room, I was convinced that he was right. We were a room full of professionals who, through sharing and collaboration, were having our strengths amplified.

The Simon Sinek presentation I began this blog with finishes with the following questions:

What are you doing to help the person next to you? Don’t you want to wake up and go to work for the only reason that you can do something good for someone else? Wouldn’t you want them to do that for you? 

At #TLT14 I was surrounded by people who get up every day – even on a Saturday – and make other people’s lives better. I know that I will go to work on Monday and do a better job than I would have done otherwise. It was a privilege to be there.

Growth Mindset Launch

Back in March I blogged about becoming a growth mindset school following our staff launch event.  Since that time we have been very busy preparing to roll out the ethos to the whole school. Here’s what we’ve been up to, and what we’re planning for September…

Re-branding the school

Our old school motto was “Developing Potential to the Full” – a noble idea full of good intentions. However, as John Tomsett pointed out on Twitter, how do you know what anyone’s potential is, even your own? For this reason we have rewritten our school aims and changed our motto to “Learn, Grow, Achieve” to encapsulate our growth mindset ethos.

Graphic of our new school sign

Graphic of our new school sign

The external signs and website have all been “refreshed” with the new motto. Unfortunately our paper prospectus was printed in bulk so re-branding that will have to wait until next year!

Inside the school, we have put up over ninety “inspiration signs.” These all feature quotations which encapsulate aspects of the Growth Mindset crowdsourced from the school staff (and a good trawl of Twitter and Google!), made up into A3 sized plastic signs. You can see the whole collection here. One of the activities we will be running with young people is an “Inspiration Treasure Hunt” where the students have to find all the different signs and research the sources of the quotations. There will be prizes for the most detailed research as well as the first to find them all!

Finally, there are two displays in school explaining the idea of Growth Mindset – one outside my office, and another due to go up in main reception. The latter will also include an excellence wall to celebrate student work after the model of Pete Jones and Shaun Allison.

We felt that it was important that the students arrived in September to see something visibly different about the school, and we also felt it important to wear our hearts on our sleeves. The ethos should be visible from the front gate through every corridor and into every classroom in the school.

First days back with staff – INSET

Staff have already had the launch presentation, so the presentation below will serve as a reminder of the principles and set out our strategy for launching the new ethos.

The presentation boils down the growth mindset approach to three key mindset traits, and lays out the importance of praising effort not intelligence. I have also prepared a handout on the use of growth mindset language in the classroom and in written feedback (GM Language) adapted from various sources including the Grow Mindsets blog from Huntington School. From this session, teachers will move into their inaugural Teaching and Learning Team sessions to work on improving their own teaching practice. This is a cornerstone of the growth mindset approach, as teachers as well as students will be working hard to develop a growth mindset for themselves. You can read about our Teaching and Learning Leaders approach here.

Launching Growth Mindset With Students

1. Growth Mindset Questionnaires

With tutors on the first morning, students will complete a Student GM Questionnaire. This has also been borrowed from Huntington School via John Tomsett and their excellent Grow Mindsets blog.  The idea behind this is to get the students thinking about the ideas of intelligence and mindset, and reflecting as they start the school year on their own mindsets. We will also be collecting the data to evaluate whether our interventions have had an impact on student mindsets over the first year.

2. Launch Assembly

Secondly, I will be delivering a Growth Mindset launch assembly, using the Prezi below. If you can’t see the embed, please click this link.

This assembly is a refined and condensed version of the presentation delivered to staff and governors in March. I didn’t want to over-complicate it, so I began by thinking about the most important information that students needed to know. I came up with:

  1. The difference between growth and fixed mindset
  2. The basic neuroscience of how the brain learns
  3. How this neuroscience can be used to understand the benefits of a growth mindset
  4. How to use a growth mindset voice in learning situations
fixedgrowth-copy

Growth Mindset Infographic

I based sections 1 and 3 on a simplified version of the well-known mindset infographic by Nigel Holmes, and used this Robert Winston video from The Human Body for the neuroscience:

The key part of the assembly is emphasising why the growth mindset attributes – embracing challenges, seeing effort as the path to mastery, learning from critique and the success of others – help develop intelligence by growing and developing neural pathways. Struggle is essential for learning. I will also make sure that the students know that all teachers will also be working hard to develop a growth mindset in their Teaching and Learning Teams to ensure that the quality of teaching young people receive continues to be excellent and improving. It’s important that students understand that learning, growth and achievement are critical for every member of the school community.

3. Tutorial session

The week after the assembly, all students have a session with their tutors to reinforce growth mindset ideas and apply them. Click here for the lesson plan: GM Enrichment Lesson 230914 . This session uses “The Learning Brain” video to revisit the link between neuroscience and mindset from the assembly:

Tutors then have a choice of three activities to help embed the ideas of a growth mindset, including Elizabeth’s Story.

Learning Reflection Journals

The final part of the tutorial session involves the launch of our Learning Journal for reflection (click here for a copy). Each student has a journal and they will use it to define their goals at the start of the year. It serves as a “getting to know you” exercise for new tutors, as well as being something to refer back to during the year to remind students of the big picture. There are also sections in the journal for more detailed reflection at monitoring points when reports are shared with parents (three times a year). The bulk of it, however, is taken up with weekly sheets to review learning in the previous week and set goals for the week ahead:

Weekly reflection from an original by @abbie_tucker adapted by @Ashley_Loynton and @chrishildrew

Weekly reflection from an original #5minplan by @abbie_tucker adapted by @Ashley_Loynton and @chrishildrew

The aim of this is to promote consistent reflection on learning and enable regular dialogue between tutors and students about mindsets and approaches to the learning process.

Next steps

We have already put family information sessions into the school calendar. I have pushed hard for these and they represent a substantial investment in terms of staff time out of normal school hours. However, it is essential that families understand what we are trying to achieve in school so that they can reinforce the message and provide consistent feedback at home. I will publish a separate post about these in due course!

Finally, it’s about getting on with it and ensuring that all of this planning actually makes a difference. That means enacting and developing a growth mindset in every interaction, every lesson, and every communication in every classroom, corridor and playground, not just for now but for the long haul – until it becomes the norm. Through the aggregation of these marginal gains, I hope we can achieve a true ethic of excellence.

Napoleon Hill with pic

Teaching and Learning Leaders

Image courtesy of @TeacherTweaks – click for link!

Dylan Wiliam’s quote has become totemic for many teachers and school leaders as a driver for good quality CPD, and I am no exception. So much so, that we are reorganising our approach to CPD across the whole school in September, using teaching and learning leaders appointed from within our existing staff body. This is part of our commitment to becoming a growth mindset school, and is the strand that will foster a growth mindset amongst our teaching staff.

The idea first began to percolate when I went to Kev Bartle‘s workshop at TeachMeet Clevedon back in October 2012. In that session, Kev outlined his model of bottom-up CPD run by classroom teachers, his antidote to the top-down model that had become anathema to me over many Inset days listening to another expensive speaker brought in to provide no lasting impact on my practice. It made perfect sense to me, and Kev continued to evangelise the Pedagogy Leaders model through his Trojan Mouse keynote at Pedagoo London in March 2013, and then in a Guardian article in June. The principle is described there as follows:

an approach to the development of teaching and learning…that doesn’t come top-down from a member of the senior leadership team with an “amazing idea” but instead emerges from the experiences and insights of those true classroom-heroes who teach four out of five periods every day.

I jumped at the opportunity to visit Canons High, with my Headteacher, for the first Pedagogy Leaders Network Day in December 2013. The day was designed to outline how they had approached the project and to help delegates to learn some of the lessons, so that the model could be propagated in other schools. It was a real privilege to be there, along with Zoe @fullonlearning Elder and David @dockers_hoops Doherty amongst others, to hear and see the Pedagogy Leaders in action.

pedleaders

 

Once I’d heard one of the Pedagogy Leaders, Tom Curtis, describe his role, I was already sold, but a presentation from Leah McCormick on how the Ped Leaders worked as a team to drive improvement in teaching and learning across the whole school sealed the deal. I didn’t need to see Canons’ glowing Ofsted report and RAISEonline data to know that this worked, and that it could work for us.

Back at base, we were putting the finishing touches to our vision of becoming a growth mindset school, and the continuous improvement approach to teaching and learning chimed perfectly with where we were headed. We began to adapt the Pedagogy Leaders model to our own context, creating the idea of Teaching and Learning Leaders at Chew Valley.

Image courtesy of @shaun_allison. Click for link!

Crucial to the concept was that it should involve all staff. In September, every teacher will be assigned to a Teaching & Learning Team on a cross-curricular basis. My initial idea was that the T&L Teams would focus on developing a growth mindset through:

  • Differentiation
  • Marking & Feedback
  • Questioning
  • Literacy & Numeracy
  • Independent learning

Teaching and Learning teams will meet once per short term in the standard Monday meeting cycle to share best practice and develop skills in their specialist area. In addition, each Inset Day will have a standard structure:

  1. Whole staff (if needed)
  2. Teaching and Learning Teams
  3. Faculty Teams
  4. Pastoral Teams
  5. Development Time

Teaching and Learning Leaders will also meet with SLT as a group once per short term to discuss the overall direction of the project.

We advertised for five Teaching and Learning Leaders, each to be assigned to one of the priorities. These role comes with two non-contact periods in each timetable cycle and a one-year TLR3 payment. The advantage of the TLR3 is that is can be added on to an existing TLR, meaning that existing TLR post-holders could apply for Teaching and Learning Leader roles. The non-contact periods are designated time for the Teaching and Learning Leaders to observe lessons (developmentally and confidentially – not graded), work with colleagues, and find best practice in their expertise area. Teaching & Learning Leaders would also chair and coordinate their termly meetings and the Inset day training sessions. They would be entitled to (and expected to use) a full day to visit other schools to find best practice in their specialist area. This could be split to allow visits to more than one school. The posts would be held for one academic year and new T&L leaders would be appointed for 2015-16. Existing T&L Leaders would be able to apply for the second round.

Once appointed, the Teaching and Learning Leaders will have a bespoke CPD programme in term 6 to prepare for the September launch, covering:

  • Developing Growth Mindset
  • Leadership skills
  • Coaching
  • Lesson observation
  • Facilitation
  • Sharing best practice
  • Twitter and blogging

These sessions will also be crucial for the T&L Leaders to shape their vision for the programme and decide on their priorities; Leah McCormick was very clear that this was crucial for the success of the Pedagogy Leaders at Canons, who asserted their independence from the start by banishing SLT from their first meeting!

The advantages of this model for me are clear:

  • Distributed leadership
  • Cross-curricular working
  • Whole staff regular and continuous focus on key teaching and learning issues
  • Working collaboratively to improve practice
  • Pushing teaching and learning forward
  • Developmental lesson observation model
  • Leadership experience and CPD for T&L leaders

We launched the strategy at our growth mindset inset in March, and in the end made six appointments (such was the strength of the field). In the initial meetings with the newly appointed Teaching and Learning leaders over the coming term, we will negotiate the priorities and how the group will work together. Much of it will be up to them!

One of the key elements which I want to see is the T&L Leaders sharing the best practice they find on a communal blog, after the model of Canons Broadside, KEGS Learning Lessons, and Durrington High’s Class Teaching. The blog – eChewcation – is already set up and I hope it will become a resource not just for Chew Valley staff but for wider teacher community. What shape it – and the project as a whole – will take is as yet undecided, but it feels like the exciting start of something new, and better.

Becoming a growth mindset school

The idea of becoming a growth mindset school has been over a year in the making. Our Headteacher bought each member of SLT a copy of Mindset for Christmas, and it was the main agenda item at our annual senior team conference. Today I launched the idea of becoming a growth mindset school to all staff at our INSET day. This is the basis of the presentation I did.

Our INSET session was for all staff – teaching, support, administrative, catering, site, network, technicians – everyone! It was essential for us, if we’re going to begin the process of shifting the culture of the school, that all staff are working together as one coherent team. It felt wonderful! As people arrived and settled down, we encouraged everyone to fill out a self-assessment questionnaire, with the results to be given out later! You can download our questionnaire (borrowed from John Tomsett and Huntington School) here.

What is Growth Mindset? 

Professor Carol Dweck and "Mindset"

Professor Carol Dweck and “Mindset”

Growth Mindset is the idea Professor Carol Dweck, the Lewis and Virginia Eaton Professor of Psychology at Stanford University. Dweck has conducted a lifetime’s research into mindsets and established an opposition between a fixed mindset (the belief that intelligence is fixed) and a growth mindset (the belief that intelligence can grow). The differences Dweck establishes are well illustrated in this helpful infographic by Nigel Holmes.

fixedgrowth-copy

Dweck’s approach to mindset was sparked by her own experience of education. In her book, she describes what happened in her sixth-grade class:

Even as a child, I was focused on being smart, but the fixed mindset was really stamped in by Mrs. Wilson, my sixth-grade teacher… She believed that people’s IQ scores told the whole story of who they were. We were seated around the room in IQ order, and only the highest-IQ students could be trusted to carry the flag, clap the erasers, or take a note to the principal. Aside from the daily stomachaches she provoked with her judgmental stance, she was creating a mindset in which everyone in the class had one consuming goal—look smart, don’t look dumb. Who cared about or enjoyed learning when our whole being was at stake every time she gave us a test or called on us in class?

Our aim as a school has to be to build the growth mindset in our young people, and avoid the fixed mindset that can trap them into a premature plateau and cause them to fall short of their unknowable potential.

The Science behind Growth Mindset

I have previously blogged about my tentative first steps into neuroscience. As part of today’s presentation I used this Robert Winston video to explain about neural pathways and synapses:

This video really helps to visualise the learning process in the brain. The first time we try to learn something, it can be really hard. This is because we are making the first connection between neurons across a synapse. If we give up at this stage – as the fixed mindset might encourage us to do – we will never form that neural pathway. If we persist, repeat and deliberately practice the new skill or knowledge, we will create a secure pathway in our brains which will allow us to recall and re-use that skill or knowledge.

Establishing a growth mindset works in just the same way. The first time we challenge our fixed mindset approach to something, it’s difficult. Persisting in the fixed mindset strengthens that pathway in our brains and makes it more difficult to challenge. But building and repeating growth mindset approaches makes them stronger and more powerful too.

Dweck’s work and why a Growth Mindset is important

To give my audience a break from my voice, I turned to a helpful TED talk:

Here Eduardo Briceño outlines some of Dweck’s research studies, and how they apply in particular to education. The most powerful for me was the study into the use of praise. When similar children were given fixed mindset praise (“you did that really well; are so clever at doing puzzles!”) or growth mindset praise (“you did that really well; you must have tried really hard!”) it dramatically reduced or improved their ability to progress onto harder puzzles. Briceño’s examples are clear and well-articulated, which helped to illustrate the application of Dweck’s research into an educational context.

Why are we interested in Growth Mindset

In our school, we use PASS surveys to help us understand how our young people feel about themselves and their school experience. In these nationally benchmarked tests, our school’s scores come out green, well above the national norms. However, there are some interesting anomalies around the numbers. Students’ own perceived learning capabilities – the extent to which they believe they are effective learners – are the lowest average scores across the school. Even more powerfully, as students moved from Year 7 to Year 8, whilst their self-esteem and attitudes to teachers improved, their perceived learning capability declined. As SLT, we interpreted this to mean that whilst students were increasingly positive about school and themselves as they progressed, they became less confident in their own ability to learn. This can lead to a slow-down of academic progress, often manifested as a lack of effort or a “can’t do” attitude: “I can’t do Maths.”

In simple terms, we need to reverse this trend. As Shaun Allison has noted on his blog, we need to be producing Hobnob learners, not Rich Tea:

The #BiscuitClub Case Study

Ashley Loynton has run a case study group with the boys in his Year 11 Science class to develop a growth mindset approach. You can read more on his blog, but he outlined the approach that he had taken and shared the impressive results: from Year 10 Core Science achievement of 2Bs, 8Cs and 1D, the students went on to achieve 1A*, 1A, 5Bs, 3Cs and 1D in their Physics mock exam at Christmas. The difference? A growth mindset approach. One boy even stuck the Nigel Holmes infographic over the power button on his XBox, to make him think about what he should be doing every time he went to switch the console on and break the habit of getting in from school and switching straight into gaming mode. That feels like success to me.

What difference can a Growth Mindset make? 

Here I paid due tribute to John Tomsett, who firmed up the idea of a growth mindset school for me as I sat in his session at #TLT13. His blog has been incredibly influential, but most notably the post “This much I know about…developing a Dweck-inspired Growth Mindset culture.” John has been very helpful and supportive, providing materials that he has used at his school and useful, intelligent advice. Thank you Mr Tomsett! This results graph, taken from his #TLT13 presentation (which he has helpfully embedded on his blog), helped illustrate what can happen to a school which adopts a growth mindset culture enthusiastically:

Huntington School A*-C, courtesy of John Tomsett

Huntington School A*-C, courtesy of John Tomsett

I also used the example of New Heys School in Liverpool which, when faced with closure, adopted growth mindsets and saw their results rise by 39% in two years. You can read Winchester University’s case study of New Heys here.

How will we enact a Growth Mindset culture? 

This is where the session became more open. We have several ideas already:

  • Ensuring all stakeholders – staff, students, governors and parents – have the approach clearly explained
  • Changing the language of reporting
  • Using growth mindset praise
  • Using formative comments only for assessments (both on student work and in lesson observation)
  • Removing the concept of “Gifted and Talented” and instead identifying “high starters” in curriculum areas
  • Using peer-to-peer coaching to develop teaching and learning

The buzz in the school hall was overwhelming. Staff were full of ideas. We aren’t launching to students and parents until September, so there is plenty of time to harness that energy and those ideas into a coherent strategy. It’s really exciting!

Changing Mindsets

I finished the session with the results of the questionnaire, so that all staff could assess where they currently were in terms of their mindsets. Finally, we discussed how Dweck encourages us to change our mindsets when we find ourselves taking a fixed approach:

  1. Learn to hear your fixed mindset voice
  2. Recognise that you have a choice.
  3. Talk back in your growth mindset voice.
  4. Take action.

I finished on this animation illustrating the mindsets:


Below is the Prezi I used in the INSET session. If you can’t see the embed, click this link.

I will be updating you on the progress of this project on this blog over the coming months – with the first being our new teaching and learning approach! Watch this space…the Trojan Mice are coming!

Closing the Gap Marking – Twilight CPD

As part of our twilight INSET programme this year I am delivering a CPD session on marking. It’s a great opportunity to bring together lots of ideas from lots of superb bloggers, teachers and thinkers – it’s been quite difficult to condense everything down! Here is the Prezi I’m using in the session (click this link if you can’t see the embed):

I have also adapted this session for Pedagoo South West and a 45 minute version of the 90 minute session can be found by clicking this link, along with the video of the session on YouTube.

The aims of the session are to improve the effectiveness of marking without spending more time on it. This will be done by looking at:

  • Public Critique (via Tait Coles here)
  • Triple Impact Marking  (via David Didau here)
  • DIRT (via Alex Quigley here)

Why are we looking at marking? Because…well, I’ll let Phil Beadle take this one:

beadle

I chose that photo on purpose.

The key thing to first is identify the gap that we’re trying to close. Fortunately, Tom Sherrington already has this covered in his Making Feedback Count blog:

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Graphic adapted from @headguruteacher

It’s the gap between students receiving the feedback and acting on it that we need to address. There is no better example of this process in action that Austin’s Butterfly, also blogged about by Tom here, and demonstrated by Ron Berger himself here:

Nowhere is the power of feedback on performance better demonstrated than in this example! Our feedback needs to be:

  • Specific
  • Hard on the content
  • Supportive of the person

And by “our”, of course I mean peer and teacher feedback, since Berger’s example is primarily focused on teacher-mediated peer feedback.

To demonstrate this, I ask colleagues to undertake a public critique exercise (inspired in part by the Alan Partridge clip used by Tait Coles at TeachMeet Clevedon). I ask staff to produce something to a set of criteria – a haiku, in the Prezi example – and submit it for public critique using Tait Coles’ critique sheets. I have adapted them so that there is space at the top measured for post-it notes to fit into – because I’m obsessive like that. You can download the Public Critique Sheet here.

Following reflection on public critique and applications in practice, we move on to Triple Impact Marking. This idea comes from David Didau and is captured in this presentation from his blog:

A key component of Triple Impact Marking is DIRT – Dedicated Improvement and Reflection Time. Alex Quigley explains the concept in detail (with links) here, but essentially students need TIME to act on the feedback given. This is where the gap is closed. I have been as guilty as any teacher of handing back meticulously marked books, asked my class to read the comments, and then got on with the next bit of the course. What. A. Waste. Well no more – we’re getting DIRTy.

To conclude our look at feedback, who better than Dylan Wiliam (via Mark Miller here):


This emphasises the importance of creating a successful feedback culture to enable a growth mindset. No grades. No levels. Specific targeted feedback, hard on the content, soft on the person.

To conclude the session, an exercise looking at managing marking workload. Many of these ideas come from another excellent Mark Miller blog, found here. There are twelve strategies and staff note down the advantages and disadvantages of each strategy in terms of learning and performance gains and workload implications. The idea is to evaluate each strategy in terms of its overall cost benefit to the busy classroom professional.

Twelve Tips and Tricks for marking and feedback

Twelve Tips and Tricks for marking and feedback

As a takeaway I’ve also adapted the sheet that Tom Sherrington blogged from Saffron Walden High School – you can download the Student engagement with written feedback sheet which can be seen here:
Increase marking impact
What has become clear to me in planning this inset is how rich my personal learning network is. The blogosphere is teeming with great ideas about marking, feedback and critique – all I had to do was synthesise the great work of others and stitch it into a package that will fit into 90 minutes of a dark, January evening. I hope it will go well!

Can Twitter change education?

twitter-bird-blue-on-white (1)

As observed by Thomas Starkey in Stack of Marking, it’s obligatory for any blogger to include a “Twitter” post on their blog. Here is mine! I am writing in response to The Tweacher Revolution by Carol Davenport at Scientists have said…which is itself a response to Joe Kirby’s How Are Teachers Using Social Media and How Might Social Media Help Teachers Improve Education? Davenport sensibly resists the tide of “Twitter will change the world” posts with the conclusion:

Twitter and blogging is unlikely to cause system wide change.  The vast majority of teachers will be untouched by the ebb and flow of ideas on twitter.  They will continue to go to, and grump about, in-school CPD, they’ll teach, and they’ll be good at their job.  They’ll complain about the new changes, and implement them well (or badly).

The system is so large and ponderous that having a small proportion of teachers (and others involved in education) on twitter will not change the system.

I appreciate where this is coming from. Plenty of bloggers refer to the “fact” that only 5-10% of teachers are on twitter, although the statistical validity of this mainly seems to come from straw-polls at CPD events and guesswork. It’s slightly higher than 10% at my school (we have a page on our website showing our online presence), though we all feel in awe of  places like Huntingdon and Clevedon where it seems like every other teacher is a fully signed-up member of the edublogging twitterati.

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Being on twitter helps my practice. Reading the ideas and discussions there helps me to sharpen my thinking and informs my own position on key issues and debates (apart from the perennial Paso Doble of @oldandrewuk and @heymisssmith which verges on public flirtation). It’s a mine of good ideas and a source of information and inspiration. However, there is a dangerous arrogance that assumes that “being on twitter” or “having a blog” somehow confers excellence or superiority. Reading the Ofsted reports of schools with Kev Bartle or Sapuran Gill on the SLT proves that some of the twitterati really do walk the walk. However, many of the finest teachers and school leaders are far too busy being fine teachers and school leaders to spend their time blogging about it or building a virtual PLN. I find it enriching, enlightening and helpful – but that doesn’t mean it’s right for everyone.

My second point is that, just because only 10% of teachers are on twitter, doesn’t make it impotent. Twitter and blogging can reach beyond its users. I found out about @TeacherToolkit‘s Five Minute Plan on twitter, but I shared it with my colleagues and it’s now in frequent use across the school. We have a weekly “Blog of the Week” on our staff bulletin which many teachers read (an idea I poached from Shaun Allison on his Class Teaching blog). Our English Department is running a Poundland Pedagogy project though none of them are tweachers. Provided the ideas get into schools, they can spread – tweachers can be the vehicles for this but not all teachers need to tweet.

I wonder if the same is true for policy change? We know that Michael Gove read some education blogs, though he seems to be selective in his choices. The Headteachers’ Roundtable is a unit formed via twitter and blogging which has met with Stephen Twigg and recently with Tristram Hunt to outline what are, in my view, credible alternative qualifications/curriculum and accountability proposals. Twitter and edublogging pedagogy will spread beyond the reach of the platforms; will policy proposal and debate? I am definitely better informed as a result of my twitter and blogging habit, and this (I’d like to think) makes for better policy in my school. The fact that I have read some blogs therefore has a positive impact across the institution, not just on the individual reading the blog. In the same way as the attendees at #SLTeachMeet could influence over 40,000 students and over 2,800 teachers between them, a blog like Tom Sherrington’s Gifted and Talented Provision: A Total Philosophy has the potential to influence students and teachers well beyond those who have actually read it. If only six secondary senior leaders read and act on that blog, it reaches nine thousand students; I suspect its reach is far greater than that.

If anyone were to ask me (and they sometimes do!), I would advise them to use twitter and blogging to inform their practice. You don’t have to be a tweacher to teach, and you don’t have to be a blogger to lead; but I think it helps.

Other twitter meta-blogs that I’ve enjoyed:

Outstanding teaching and great teachers – part 2

Back in March I wrote about “outstanding teaching and great teachers – a whole school CPD approach“. It’s had nearly 2000 views and generated a really positive response from teachers and school leaders up and down the country, which has been lovely. Despite the attention it’s received, its primary focus was the approach we have taken at my school to empower teachers to be in charge of their own professional development. We challenged them to define and then enact the definition of an outstanding lesson freed from the burden of an externally imposed view of what “outstanding” meant.

Following the process I collated the definitions our staff generated. You can read our Outstanding Lessons Definitions here. It was fascinating to see the similarities and differences between departments as they generated their subject-specific definitions from a blank sheet. Here is the English Department’s:

The lesson will:

  • give students the tools with which to articulate their creativity
  • have a sense of direction shared by all, including an understanding of where it belongs within the topic
  • allow a transference of skills which empowers students
  • use questioning to engage all students and stretch the more able
  • make full use of available resources in a purposeful fashion
  • be flexible to the needs of all students
  • have cultural, moral and social values at its core
  • inspire an independent curiosity
  • reinforce high expectations, both in terms of behaviour and attainment
  • allow all participants to leave the lesson feeling a sense of pride in their achievements

And here is Art:

The teacher:

  •  Is enthusiastic, well prepared and knowledgeable
  •  Engages the students, and sets high expectations
  •  Motivates and encourages the students
  •  Provides examples of quality practice, whether artists’, students’ or their own work
  •  Ensures pace and productivity

The students:

  •  Understand what they are aiming for, and are motivated to achieve it
  •  Are respectful of the subject, the teacher and each other
  •  Are challenged, and respond well to advice and guidance
  •  Work independently, making decisions for themselves
  •  Organise and use materials and equipment confidently and safely
  •  Reflect on what they have learnt and achieved

The key words from the definitions went to make up this wordle:

outstanding wordle

Wordle made from our staff definitions of outstanding lessons

It’s worth taking time to study the wordle carefully, as the detail in the smaller words is just as important as the key emphases on assessment, relationships, differentiation and pace. I’ve found this a goldmine for my own practice. Each teacher in the school has been given a card with their departmental definition on one side and the wordle on the back like this:

A5 Card Background

The back of our “outstanding lessons” aide-memoire cards

Staff can keep their cards in their teacher planners, on their desks, in offices, at home – anywhere they plan their lessons, to remind them what they are aspiring to achieve every time they welcome a group of young people into their classroom.

Beyond just defining “outstanding”, the process opened up professional dialogue about the process and practice of teaching. All staff evaluated their lessons in departmental meetings, discussing together what had worked or not and why. These discussions gave the initiative even more traction in embedding continuous professional development at the heart of all interactions between staff and encouraging Trojan Mouse working as inspired by Kev Bartle’s Pedagogy Leaders project. We have plenty of plans to nurture this culture into the next academic year…watch this space!

Following on from the outstanding lessons strand, middle leaders went on to work with their teams to try to define a “great teacher” of a particular subject. This was, in part, inspired by John Tomsett’s “How we will become a truly great school” and Tom Sherrington’s “what makes a great teacher?” Again, you can read what our teachers though in our booklet: Great Teachers. Whilst there are subject specific qualities in many of the definitions, there is also much agreement. I summarised the definitions as follows:

A Great Teacher is..

  • A role model
  • Challenging
  • Confident
  • Creative
  • Encouraging
  • Enthusiastic
  • Fair
  • Flexible
  • Imaginative
  • Inclusive
  • Knowledgeable
  • Organised
  • Passionate
  • Positive
  • Supportive

A Great Teacher

  • Assesses
  • Builds strong, effective relationships
  • Creates a safe environment
  • Engages
  • Keeps up-to-date
  • Listens
  • Sets high expectations
  • Tries new approaches

I asked #SLTchat to complete the same exercise when I hosted in May with 3-word summaries – there is much, it seems, that is universal! As you may have gathered, I’m not one to resist a wordle when the opportunity presents itself:

Greatteacherswordle

#SLTchat’s definition of great teachers from 12th May 2013

As a school leader I hope I can create a culture where teachers constantly aspire to be great, and work in every lesson to be outstanding. And, crucially, a culture where teachers in the classroom are trusted to own the definition of great teaching and outstanding lessons by their own professional judgement, not by an externally imposed standard.

http://issuu.com/chewvalleyschool/docs/outstanding_lessons_definitions?e=6530603/2539808

What I learned from #SLTeachMeet

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A week ago I travelled down to London to #SLTeachmeet. Expertly hosted by Ross McGill (@TeacherToolkit) and Stephen Lockyer (@mrlockyer) the event was exactly the “rocket-fuelled CPD” I’d been promised. Tweeting through the event forced me to crystallise my thinking about the presentations, and I took advantage of the train journey home to put the highlights into Evernote. As part of each CPD event I go on I have to feed back what I have learned to relevant staff. This is the first time I have done this in a blog, and I have only included a small selection, but here goes…

Leadership is letting go

Plantation vs Rainforest Thinking

Tom Sherrington (@headguruteacher) and James Heale (@Heale2011) both expressed this key idea. In his “Plantation vs Rainforest Thinking” opener, Tom Sherrington outlined the benefits from thinking about schools as the latter, rather than the former. The temptation to make everything uniform, have a standard set planning format, a standard set teaching and learning strategy, and a standard set technology package, is clearly overwhelming for school leaders. Instead, Tom argued, school leaders should set the standard and expectations and have the confidence in their middle leaders and teachers to find their own way, holding them to account for the outcomes but allowing the autonomy to plan their own methods. This method of fostering innovative practice and “taking the lid off learning” was really engaging and was underlined by James Heale in his reflections on his first year (so far) in Headship when he said “tighten up to become good; loosen up to become outstanding.” That’s so good, it should be on a poster.

It’s your job to catch people doing the right thing

situational-leadership-2In his presentation on Situational Leadership Sapuran Gill (@ssgill76) made this really important point. In the current climate more than ever, where school leaders are urged to challenge under-performance, raise aspirations, and be the friends of promise, it is our responsibility to catch those we lead doing the right thing, recognise it, and celebrate it. It struck me that this is true as much in the classroom as the staffroom. I’m getting badges made.

Don’t think about what they can’t do – think about what they can do

slteachmeet

Judith Enright (@judeenright) was passionate and moving in her presentation about SEN. She reminded me of the importance of inclusion not as an after thought, but as something at the very core of what education and leadership is about. Her acronym “LeNS IF” (Leadership, Needs, Staffing, Impact, Finance) is a tool I am already applying not just to SEN but to all school development priorities. Jude also provided a helpful and timely reminder about the changing national and local context for SEN which, in the midst of all the other seismic educational changes, must not get lost.

Digital Learning – it’s the future! (and the present…)

I was really looking forward to meeting Sarah Findlater (@MsFindlater) as a fan of her blog and on-the-money #SLTchat contributions over the weeks. She didn’t disappoint, with an engaging presentation on the power of digital learning. Sarah outlined her own journey from digital novice to edublogging royalty (she was quite modest about it!) and ran out of time to talk about the many tools and sites she is experimenting with, but helpfully tweeted them out afterwards:

I have a similar list at the back of my school’s “Teacher’s Toolkit” and it’s great to be reminded of the resources that are out there to transform learning, and the need to continue to explore, experiment with and evaluate new digital resources. I still hanker after trying Edutronic‘s bold “replace exercise books with blogs” strategy, which is working to an extent with A-Level Media Studies. One day!

Education for social responsibility

Given my anti-independent school tirades in the past (see The Past Feeds the Present and The Universal Panacea) I was very pleasantly surprised to hear Neil Jones (@neiljones) speaking about Education for Social Responsibility. Anyone speaking on behalf of the Independent Association of Prep Schools was going to have a hard time winning me over, but win me over he did with a compelling vision for the overarching purpose of education. This, coupled with John Tomsett’s thought-provoking blog on bridging the independent and state sector divide and the role some independent schools are playing as academy sponsors is continuing to provide me with much food for thought on a subject which is very close to my heart.

Engaging with parents – a letter of hope

hogwarts_letter_by_emilywhetstone-d4m7bsn

The biggest “lump in the throat” moment came from James Heale (again!) as he explained a strategy he’d introduced in his first year as a Headteacher to help raise aspirations and focus his Year 11 on the task ahead. He asked all parents to write a hand written letter to their son or daughter explaining their hopes and aspirations for them over the coming year. So simple. So incredibly powerful I got choked up just thinking about the potential emotional and motivational content of the experience. I went straight back to school and told my Head about it! Of course I also thought about the drawbacks – what about those students whose parents don’t write them a letter? Is there a danger of aggravating strained relationships and causing damage by intruding into the family unit? I think the good it could do is immense and I’ll certainly be exploring it further.

It’s the best job in the world

One thing became absolutely clear through the evening. I heard from James Heale in his first year in Headship and Kenny Frederick (@kennygfrederick) about to retire after seventeen eventful years in post. I heard from deputies, assistants and serving Headteachers. I spoke to primary and secondary colleagues from the West Midlands, East Anglia and across the South of the country. There was an unwavering certainty in every person I spoke to that we can make a difference. At a time when there are more reasons that ever to be downhearted, glum or pessimistic about education in Britain, this was a room full of school leaders who weren’t moaning or complaining, but looking forwards and upwards with positivity and enthusiasm about what could be achieved, not what the barriers were. As the event programme stated, the attendees at #SLTeachmeet work with over 40,000 students and over 2,800 teachers. I walked back to the station through the rainy London streets feeling reassured, hopeful and optimistic for the profession that I love.

Outstanding teaching and great teachers – a whole school CPD approach

In September 2011 our self-evaluation judgement – that we were an outstanding school with outstanding teaching and learning – was confirmed by Ofsted. It was a great endorsement of the work of the school, but was pretty quickly followed by the question, “what now?” We were facing the same problem that John Tomsett has so eloquently blogged about in “the tricky issue of planning the development of an outstanding school.”

Our priority – as at Huntingdon – is to keep the main thing the main thing and continue to develop our outstanding teaching and learning. I believe it is essential that every teacher in every school should aim to be outstanding – what David Didau calls perfection.  The approach we have taken is partly born out of the “grace period” that the outstanding judgement has given us; we know that inspectors won’t be knocking on our door this academic year. We are able (to a certain extent) to disregard Ofsted’s definition of outstanding teaching and learning (though even Ofsted struggle to agree on that)  and make our own minds up about what constitutes outstanding.

This was the task we set each department back in October. Ignore what you’ve been told and define for yourselves what an outstanding lesson looks like in your subject. Nobody is going to tell you what it should or shouldn’t be. There is no set format. It’s up to you. Then plan and teach a lesson that deliberately sets out to meet that definition.

For this to work, teachers had to be empowered to take risks. We insisted that the “outstanding lesson” did not need to be observed by anyone. If teachers felt it would help to be observed, however, they could choose a colleague to observe them. If cover were required, a member of the senior team would provide it. The notes from the observation would remain confidential between the two colleagues, unless the observed teacher chose to share them. The only requirement was that a self-evaluation of the lesson was offered (verbally – no paperwork) in a department or faculty meeting. You can read the guidance we issued to staff here: Outstanding Lessons Introduction.

The great thing about this initiative was that teachers finally owned the definition of outstanding teaching. They weren’t being told that their lesson had to have four parts, that they have to have WALT and WILF on the board, that they had to start with brain gym, that their lesson objective had to be linked to an assessment focus and include a literacy, learning to learn, building learning power, citizenship, SEAL, and cross-curricular theme element. Instead, it was up to them. And when I collated the definitions, I found some really reassuring common threads across the school. Apparently, outstanding lessons are about:

  • Enjoyment
  • Challenge
  • Pace
  • Engagement
  • Expertise

At the end of an outstanding lesson, students and teachers should leave the room feeling “proud of what they’ve achieved”, “energised, enthused and informed”; this is the intangible x-factor that makes an outstanding lesson outstanding.

The feedback from the process was overwhelmingly positive. Teachers engaged with it, and the discussions across the school in agreeing the definitions brought teaching and learning to the fore in a lamentably rare way. The self-evaluations offered in faculties were helpful and reflective. Did everyone teach an outstanding lesson? Of course not. But the honest dissection of why a lesson which was planned carefully to be outstanding ended up not being so was exceptionally helpful.

So, every teacher had a go at teaching one outstanding lesson. We still have the same question: “what now?” James Heale hit the nail on the head in a recent #SLTchat:

Here, the Heads of Faculty really took the reins. Energised by the professional discussions of what made an outstanding Art, English, or Science lesson, they were keen to generalise it. If we can decide what makes an outstanding PE lesson, can we go on to define what makes an outstanding PE teacher? Or Technology teacher? Or Drama teacher? Inspired again by John Tomsett’s blog, this time his post on becoming a “truly great school”, and by Tom Sherrington’s post “what makes a great teacher”, we ditched the “outstanding” tag and replaced it with “great”.

Over the coming terms, faculty teams will be discussing what makes a truly great teacher in their subject. And then, critically, each teacher will be self-evaluating and trying to develop their own practice to meet the definition they’ve agreed on. There won’t be a paper trail, it won’t be part of performance management, their line manager won’t be following them around with a checklist to see how they’re doing. It is every teacher’s professional responsibility to continue to improve their teaching and the learning in their classroom. This approach puts the emphasis firmly on that professionalism in the spirit of building a trust culture, and, hopefully empowers teachers to aspire to greatness day by day by day. I am certainly looking forward to discussing and collating the definitions, which will almost certainly be the subject of a future post!

UPDATE: read the results of this INSET programme here in part 2 of this blog, and see the summary presented at #TLT13 and adapted for #TMNSL here.