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Welcome to Philips High School’S Teaching and Learning Magazine December 2012 - Sharing ideas with teachers! 1


Festive Greetings! We’ve made it!!!! Congratulations!!! Term 1 is (nearly) complete. As a school we have embedded our new teaching and learning initiatives this half term. I really feel that pupils are talking more about their learning and are more aware of the progress they have to make. Ultimately, this is down to you! Our quest to be consistent does seem to be paying off so thank you for all the hard work that is clearly being put in to lesson planning, marking, feedback to pupils and MAD time. We are making a difference!

I hope you enjoy the articles in the ‘Teaching and Learning Magazine’ this month. They are certainly thought provoking to say the least!

All that remains for me to say is, “Happy Christmas” and I hope you have a relaxing festive break! Thanks again for all you are doing! I really do believe we are making a difference!

Thanks for reading! EPl

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Contents Page

1. Outstanding Teaching & Learning: Missed Opportunities and Marginal Gains – Page 4 2. Beating the ‘December Blues’ – Better Learning With Better Behaviour – Page 6 3. Marking Matters – Page 9 4. Sir, I’m Stuck! – Page 12 5. What are you marking that for? – Page 15 6. Planning a ‘Perfect’ Lesson – Page 17 7. ‘Dear Ofsted Inspector, I’m giving you notice to improve!’ – Page 19 8. ‘Eggciting Challenges’ – Page 21 9. What Makes an Outstanding School? – Page 23 10.

Many Teenagers Can’t Read Exam Papers – Page 25

11. Notes of the new Ofsted Framework: How to be Outstanding! – Page 27 12. Pupils’ Comments About Their Learning at Philips High School – Page 29

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Outstanding teaching & learning: missed opportunities and marginal gains http://learningspy.co.uk/2012/10/14/outstanding-teaching-learning-missedopportunities-and-marginal-gains/ I work at an ‘outstanding’ school where the teaching and learning is ‘good’. As such we are squarely in Wilshaw’s sights and almost certainly due an inspection at some point this year. We were last inspected in November 2011 but a lot of goal post moving has gone on in the intervening months. The new inspection framework is widely seen as a ravening beast out to devour schools that are not delivering to the lofty standards of our hero, the saviour of Mossbourne Academy. In essence, what this means is that if we want to retain the right to put ‘outstanding’ on our headed paper we’d better be able to demonstrate that our T&L has improved since last year. Has it? Well, there’s plenty of wonderful teachers who preside over fantastic lessons every day but, like most schools there’s also several other groups. Most significantly there are those teachers who are currently ‘good’ but aren’t sure how to further improve and those who ‘require improvement’ but not for want of trying. The gulf between good and outstanding appears daunting and insurmountable; small wonder then that many teachers are happy to settle for ‘good’ as being good enough. Clearly this needs to be challenged but not by wielding a stick or telling teachers to try harder. In some of the lessons I’ve recently observed teachers are busting a gut – more effort is not the solution. What’s characterised most of these lessons are missed opportunities: learning that could so easily have happened if the teacher had been in a position to notice what their students were doing and able to intervene. In an outstanding lesson a lot of this ‘noticing’ happens at the point of planning. I encourage teachers to try to ‘break’ their lessons = to look for the weak spots where students won’t get a tricky concept, or where they won’t do what we expect because of something which could have been anticipated. These potential stumbling blocks are often the difference between good and understanding and sometimes all that’s required is to have considered is ‘what will I do when…?’ How do you go about broaching this with staff? There’s absolutely no point telling teachers to change everything they do: even if they could do it it wouldn’t work. But what about making one small change? Or two? Or a whole list of tiny tweaks? No wonder I look smug: I came up with marginal gains. Look at me now! Having read Zoë Elder‘s recent output on the aggregation of marginal gains for learning based on the winning strategy of Team GB Cycling Performance Director, Dave Brailsford, it seems clear that there is huge potential in the idea of making lots of tiny tweaks in our teaching can result in massive improvements in students’ learning. Alex Quigley has even designed a bicycle wheel to help students select and monitor the marginal gains they will make in their work. This is great and a useful addition in our panoply of tools to further rein students’ ability to assess and improve their work. However, it also seems a ready made opportunity to help teachers reflect on the micro improvements they could make to their teaching. 4


Here are some suggested micro improvements which would certainly have made a difference to some of the lessons I’ve recently observed:   

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Design learning objectives so that they have a tighter focus on why students are learning. And then ask yourself whether assessment tasks, however small, align with planned outcomes? Meet and great students at the door (@OldAndrew recommends wedging it open to get them in faster) and have clear routines for distributing books resources Learn students’ names and use them Bell work: learning should begin as soon as students enter the room – make sure you have something for them to do that doesn’t require them to wait until their tardier classmates have arrived Read their books at least once per fortnight – you don’t have to mark everything but they do need to know that you look in their books regularly Build in time for students to act on feedback. Most of the feedback we give students is never acted on – if we give students directed improvement and reflection time they’ll be forced to act on feedback Consider ways to reduce teacher talk – ask how else could I give instructions so that more students will receive the information rather than just the keeners at the front Plan 3 questions to stretch the most able student in the room and 3 questions to support the least able student in the room (if that doesn’t sound marginal enough then just one of each would do) Use language which reflects your amazingly high expectations for all students – I hate the ‘all must, most will, some could’ differentiated outcome which gives ‘some’ students permission not to try as hard as others. If I expect students to achieve A*s they may well surprise themselves. Give students time to answer questions. Get them to discuss first or write down 5 possible answers or whatever. Never allow them to get away with ‘I don’t know’. I always respond with, ‘I know you don’t, but what do you think?‘ and give them time and space to answer. This works especially well if you’re not just asking students to guess the answer you have in your head. Get way from IRE (Initiation, response, evaluation) type questioing. Have a look at ‘Pose Pause Pounce Bounce’ or ‘Basketball not table tennis’ for some suggestions on how to manage questioning well. Give very clear time limits and stick to them – buy an egg timer! Also, be aware that group work expands to fill the time you give it – allow students 5 mins less than you think they need. 5


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After students have completed an activity, ask them what it assessed and how it might have met the learning objective Ask students what they have learned during the lesson – maybe they could suggest 2 or 3 things they now know and 1 or 2 things they still have questions about. A lot of classroom activities involve reading and writing. Make sure you are taking opportunities to explicitly teach literacy.

This list is by no means exhaustive and none of these strategies are ‘right’. In fact you may strongly disagree with some of them. As long as you’re clear about why I have no problem with that: Ofsted make the point in the School Inspection Handbook (Sept 2012) that “The key objective of lesson observations is to evaluate the quality of teaching and its contribution to learning, particularly in the core subjects. Inspectors will not look for a preferred methodology but must identify ways in which teaching and learning can be improved.” In addition, Sir Mike’s gone out his way to assure us that there is no single model for outstanding teaching. Which is nice. No, this list is just a sample of some of the micro improvements we could make to ensure that lessons are less likely to miss opportunities for learning. No single item will shift good teaching to outstanding but if we focus on enough of them we might just do enough to tip the balance. As teachers we will improve our practice by overturning the ill-considered stones in our teaching and having a good look at what crawls out. David Weston (@informed_edu) suggests videoing yourself and watching it back with a trusted colleague. This could be an excellent way to make a start on compiling your own list of marginal gains.

Beating the ‘December Blues’ – Better Learning with Better Behaviour http://huntingenglish.wordpress.com/2012/09/ It is over 3 months in, the start of term vigour and optimism has waned for almost all involved, and everything begins to feel more like hard work. The ‘December blues’ phenomenon is something I have noted in my last few years teaching. As a subject leader, I have witnessed the spike in behaviour issues which appears as consistent as the coming of winter at the beginning of each October – the grace period afforded by September soon ends for most. Perhaps it is the seasonal shift, the cold winds and the interminable rain, compounded by tiredness from students and teachers alike; perhaps it is the students exercising that old adage that ‘familiarity breeds contempt’ when it comes to their new teachers for the school year. Now, we certainly cannot change the weather, amongst a whole host of other factors beyond our control. But we can dig in, reiterate core habits in our pedagogy and master our behaviour management techniques with the greater understanding of our groups granted to us by our graceful September (I would hope!). I have always taken a positive view of behaviour management. I have never believed in an ‘unteachable’ student (though that hypothesis has been sorely tested!), nor have I ever believed in the unteachable group. It is an incredibly powerful belief, one that can test the pride and self-image of a teacher, but can also liberate 6


them, and their groups, from the fixed mindset of failure. I’m not arguing here for the grand transformations seen in films like ‘Dangerous Minds’, but instead for a much more quotidian, gritty and unheralded challenge to master the disaffected Year 11 groups; the chatty Year 7 students; the hormonal and erratic Year 9 groups, and every other archetypal group that tests our patience on a daily basis – some spectacularly so – especially when the ‘October blues’ descend. The solutions – like the issues – are nuanced and multi-faceted, but if I were attempt to simplify them, my list would be comprised of the following: Keep the main thing the main thing. The tiredness has set in, the meetings are clashing and the Open evenings are here already… The relentless pace of teaching today makes a mockery of Wilshaw’s home by three o’ clock assertion. With all the demands upon our time we must put the teaching and learning first – make those tricky decisions to prioritise, say no to opportunities and distractions. Focus upon planning your lessons and marking their work. Students very quickly size up a teacher and their standards. If you mark thoroughly, clearly and with consistency at the start of the year most students will commit themselves to working for you. If you give the feedback that involves them and shows the path to small, but crucial, steps to success, again, they will be much more inclined to follow you, to behave and to do some learning! Ultimately, great pedagogy is the best behaviour management tool there is – that is why planning is essential to progress. Only accept the best work and create a drafting culture in your classroom. I think the key factor that underpins student behaviour is motivation. With high levels of motivation comes pride – with pride comes effort. By refusing sub-standard work you are explicitly sending a message that pride and effort is paramount. This week I had one of my groups complete a detailed written answer three times. The first effort wasn’t good enough – everyone did it again – some a third time. We then all completed a model version for what was the fourth draft for many. The reality is that if I don’t set the tone now, in the first halfterm, it will be irrecoverable. In Ron Berger’s brilliant, ‘Ethic of Excellence’, he explains how peer and teacher led ‘critique’ can enhance motivation. It makes clear how students can be motivated by praise and positive relationships with purpose and the highest of standards. He also explains how a drafting culture it essential for real life and for success. In October particularly, you must make your students accountable to these highest of standards. Help students to learn how to learn. I believe one of the most common failures that we have as teachers is to make assumptions about student learning based on our own personal experience. If you have become a teacher then the obvious reality is that you knew how to learn effectively on the whole; you probably had parental support in giving you the many subtle messages about the very literacy of learning that supported your success along the way. Many of our students simply fail at the first hurdle by not having this internal understanding of how to learn. If a group is having difficulty with collaboration and group work ask yourself: have you made explicit what outstanding group work looks like; feels like and sounds like? This should be a task you can undertake with students to share these expectations – no doubt reiterating the messages about effort and behaviour with which you began the school year. Many students simply do not know what being a good learner feels like or how to become any better. We confidently talk to them about becoming ‘independent learners‘, but have you had students collaborate to try to unpick what we mean by an ‘independent learner’? If you have, is it memorable or visible in the classroom? A good task to undertake is to have students work in groups to create ‘the ideal [insert appropriate subject] student‘. They can have fun creating a name – you can give them prompt questions as a starting point. At the heart of the task is getting students to unpick how to learn effectively. You can select the best 7


character – with a composite of the best skills, attitude and qualities required – and have that character visible and on display in the classroom. This can be referred to on a regular basis to reiterate the key messages about learning, whilst simultaneously providing a template for good behaviour in a very positive way. Follow the school systems with the utmost rigour and complete relentlessness. Sometimes, despite the best pedagogy, eye-poppingly intriguing resources and a positive attitude toward every student, some students are still reluctant to get on board (perhaps it is SAD!). We know who they are – their names and reputation often precedes them, in September and in October! This is where you show them you care by having the highest of standards and being firm with the school behaviour systems. Try not to palm them off at the first opportunity – try to establish your authority with your detentions, your call to parents – before asking from support from your school hierarchy. Even if it fails with one student, the rest will surely take note. Be so relentless with your expectations and standards that one word can be shorthand for a host of things – ‘Active Listening‘ is very precise instruction to my classes (stop talking, pens down, eye contact to speaker etc.). This direct simplicity can be highly effective, even after a windy lunchtime with some epic fight on the school field! Keep it to the three ‘R’s’ – rigorous and relentless routines! Don’t suffer in silence. I am writing this blog as a teacher and a subject leader. I know that the best of teachers still have tricky classes, they can still struggle; that inexperienced teachers will have nightmare lessons and groups and struggle even more. Any subject leader worth their salt has been there and knows that it is the core of their job to help in these situations – not judge staff, or throw their staff to the wolves. I have decidedly struggled with a fair few classes and I got through it because I shared it in my department and I wasn’t frightened of asking for help. My most important work is coaching teachers through those situations, imparting my experience, care and help them improve. All I ask for is that effort and care reciprocated – with that, no monthly dip or worse is insurmountable. I am not naive to think that every school has an entirely supportive approach – so if you are stuck in such a scenario, speak to colleagues you trust, make supportive connections beyond your school (like building a support network through Twitter for example). Finally, if you are suffering, know that across the country many are suffering with you, that your subject leader or head teacher have struggled in their time, and that the ‘December blues’ will inevitably pass like the seasons.

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Marking Matters http://msfindlater.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/marking-matters.html?m=1 Now I'm no expert in this field, but I thought I would share with you what works for me in my classroom on a daily basis. My results have always been good, significant positive value added and all that jazz, so I can't be going far wrong. I was not always a great marker and it took a teacher who was to show me the way and I've never looked back. If you use marking and feedback well in class your students will hugely benefit and you will see real progress from all. Below are some techniques that I find effective with my students.

Focused marking: I think there is a place for extensive all inclusive marking perhaps once a term. One piece of work you can really go to town on and mark for everything can be useful and very interesting. However most of the time I stick to focused marking because I find it is much easier for the students to take in. The whole point of marking work is to provide feedback to allow them to develop and if there is too much to work on it becomes a very daunting experience getting marked work back. I feel it is much better that we find a key focus, something that will really make the difference and move them on and focus on that. Manageable for us and them alike, everyone is happy. Reflection Time: There is simply no point in your pouring over a pile of books every evening marking everything in sight if you do not give them time to look at what you have marked and plan for progression. So many times I see a beautifully marked book but the student is never given time to engage with what the teacher has written. Why, why, why? What a waste of your time teachers! I make sure that I give guided time for reflections during lessons after a marking spree. This can take many forms like silent reading of the words you have written for a set time, reading the comments out aloud to one another, writing out elements of your marking feedback. However you do it, just do it!

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Recording and Reflecting on Achievements and Targets: When my students are getting freshly marked books back they have some little routines that they know I follow, this one is mainly KS3 but works for all. My pupils know that I tick in specific places where they have done well and write the skill the noticed on in the margin allowing them to see exactly what and where they are doing well (e.g. 'vocabulary' or 'style'.) I will the relate my positive comment at the end of work to one element I noted in the margin and expand on this. They have an on-going list of positives at the back of their books and know to fill this in every time their books are marked. I will also place a target or two at the bottom of the work clearly indicated and related to the focus of the task. The students will add these targets to their on-going list of targets at the back of their books. These positives and targets lists are frequently reviewed, used and referred in lessons. They have no choice but to connect with the feedback I have given them. They can really take ownership of this as trends and common positives and targets are easily noticed by them and me. Targets Related to the Objectives Set That Lesson: Too often I see targets such as 'underline your titles' or something just a generic written in books. Now I am all for excellent presentation in books but this is not a learning target in my mind! Underlining their title is not going to move them forward in their levels, I have never seen that phrase in the level descriptors! Make the targets relate to the learning objective. If you are focusing on sentence structure then give them a level related target that will help them move forward with their sentence structures. If that is what you have asked them to focus on then that is what you should feedback on in your marking. Students can feel cheated if you shift the goal post. (We all know about that this year hey English teachers!) Keeping targets focused makes the marking meaningful for all involved.

Individual Marking Meetings: I love these sessions. Once a half term I hold individual marking meetings with all my classes. I set the class up to do some silent work or reading, often with some classical music in the background and set about meeting each student one by one to discuss their work and progress. I time this just prior to reports going home so that they can fully understand where they are before a barrage of levels come at them in their reports. We sit together for a few minutes speaking in hushed tones and flicking through a half terms worth of work in their books discussing their targets and levels. It is really special actually, you get to see them in a completely different light and that private moment shrouded in classic music so the others can't really open students up to moving forward. Really effective in making all your students feel valued and that their voice is being heard in the craziness of the school day.

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Verbal Feedback Given: I started doing this with KS3 last year and have now moved on to use it with KS4 and KS5 also. I have a stamper with the phrase 'verbal feedback given' embossed on it that I carry around with me to all my lessons. I generally use it as I walk around when pupils are working in groups or individually, I discuss an element of whatever they are doing in depth, stamp their books and ask them to note bullet points down that we discussed and tick them off as they address them in the lesson. This is really good for capturing a conversation and allowing them to come back to it at a later date.

Peer Marking: I use peer marking frequently with all key stages. I will share with them the marking criteria I must use for their work, get them to reword it or highlight most important things that are being assessed prior to the task. We will discuss the skills and levels as a class and in groups often. I allow them to choose the levels they are aiming for and connect with that level in some manner. Once the task is complete we will revisit the mark schemes they have deconstructed clarify any issues with it now the task has been completed and peer marking will take place with their study buddies. I always model the task and them also model the peer marking. I also direct them to how I mark their books for guidance with this marking process too. We use green pen for peer marking so that they can look back and see when I mark(various colours but never green) and when it is peer or self marked work. Works like a dream if you keep practising it and clearly explain and discuss the reasons and processes they must go through. Complete focus on what they want to achieve and allowing them to directly see how to get there. I'm a big fan.

The Power of the Sticker: I don't care what anyone says, everyone loves a sticker! Don't deny it now. I use stickers every time I mark work be it Year 7 or Year 13. I will only reward someone with a sticker if I feel they have really achieved in their work, I let them know this and they always love it. A little sparkle in their eye appears even if they then pretend not to have noticed. I'm sure there is room for some sort of teachers sticker scheme, it would motivate me!

Happy marking!

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Sir, I’m stuck! http://learningspy.co.uk/2012/05/05/sir-im-stuck/

Ever tried? Ever failed? No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better. I have this quote from Samuel Becket’s play Worstwood Ho! up in my classroom and regularly refer to it. It’s there as much for me as my students and there’s been plenty of times when (after another cunningly wrought lesson has nose dived into a flaming ball of shame) I’ve been grateful for the sentiment. Never mind, I tell myself, it’ll be better next time. I hear about the need to make students independent learners all the time but I think that might be missing the point. It’s not really about independence. Although there are times in life when we have to rely wholly on our own resources (exams) normally it’s reasonable to ask for help. What we really want is for students to be resilient. To be able to have a go and bounce back from having failed without seeing themselves as failures. I saw Jim Smith, author of The Lazy Teacher’s Handbook, at Teachmeet Clevedon this week talking about students being stuck. He has some great strategies for getting kids to think for themselves when confronted with that anguished cry, “Sir, I’m stuck!” My favourites responses are:   

“What would someone who wasn’t stuck do?” “Would you be able to have a go if I offered you a £1 million? and, top of the list: the Billy Ocean Method. Simply play their song ‘When the Going Gets Tough…’ until they agree to have a crack at it!

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Great stuff! I tried it the following day and my Year 9 class said that as long as I promised never to play it again they would promise not to say they were stuck. Other strategies I use include giving students question tokens at the beginning of the lesson and when they pop up their hands and ask something banal I ask them if they really want to spend their token on that. Usually they don’t. And my own personal favourite: ask Chloe. Chloe is a very sensible student in my Year 11 class who deals with all my silly questions. “Sir, should I use blue or black pen?”, “Sir, can I hand my homework in before the due date?”, “Sir, should I write on both sides of the page?” My answer is always, “I don’t know, ask Chloe.” They quickly get the message. This is another favourite clip for getting kids unstuck: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oXCuGvsThEw The fact that these things work is amazing. They shouldn’t. Not if kids are really stuck. The point is that they’re not really stuck, they’re afraid to fail. And it’s easier not to try than fall on your face and have people laugh at you. Ex-circus strongman and Chronologer to the Queen, Darren Mead told me how the humble list could be used for getting students to reflect on how they learn and what to do when they get stuck. It goes a little something like this: The set up Start by ask the students to list as many countries (or whatever seems appropriate) as they can on their own. Let them struggle for a few minutes, then debrief with the following questions: What strategies did you use? They might have tried alphabetical, geographical, personal experience. But what you’ll find is that most students will list countries alphabetically and then get stuck. Usually on ‘D’. Did you use numbers or bullet points? It’s worth unpicking the benefits to using bullet points (clarity, motivation, next one waiting etc) and encouraging them to imitate successful strategies. Did you miss out a country because you found it difficult? E.g. azabyejian,azebiybarn, You get the idea. What does say about how important confidence is in learning? What’s better – to have go and make a mistake or not take a risk? Do we learn from our mistakes? By writing that list have you learned anything? No, all they’ll have done is recall stuff they already knew. The distraction 13


Still individually, ask students to organise their countries into Northern and Southern hemisphere, adding new countries as they remember them. Students should now be asked to reflect on the usefulness of their list; whether prior knowledge is important in working things out and whether it’s important to review their learning. Ask them again if they’ve learnt anything new. The answer will still be a resounding NO. So, would it be different if they were allowed to ask someone else? The next stage is get them to label those countries which contain deserts with a D and those which contain mountains with an M, but now you should allow them to confer. The capture This time when you debrief, ask them if could they do the task without their prior knowledge of countries but with the ideas and questions? You need to gather examples of how the students helped one another: I thought it was useful when Andrew explained that the Himalayas were formed because India is crashing into Asia- so I worked out that India must have mountains Ah, so you learned because you asked a question. Who else asked a useful question? There’s loads of obvious opportunities to talk about listening skills, strategies for group working, dealing with frustration You could always end by asking them to define what learning is based upon their experience. Who knew lists could be so complicated? Or so useful for getting unstuck!

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What are you marking that for? http://lisajaneashes.edublogs.org/

STOP! Before you start to tick and flick!! Did you find yourself at some point this week with a HUGE pile of books to mark? When you opened them, did you need to look back over several lessons that you had forgotten you’d even taught? I really hope not! If you did, there are ways to avoid such a backlog such as only ever setting a written task for a purpose. If you asked pupils to write a page of work but you have just returned to it to mark it now, what were your reasons for them writing it in the first place? You should plan the tasks that you expect pupils to complete knowing that you are going to assess the outcome for pupils’ developmental needs. For example, if pupils are writing an essay, I will be assessing that essay and using the results to inform the next lesson. You must be organised with time and make sure that you avoid finding yourself swamped with marking. Plan when bigger tasks, which require more time to mark, will take place. Other techniques such as developing a culture of critique can also help lighten your load. However, if you have found yourself in the aforementioned position of having a backlog of work, think carefully about your next move. Personally, I would avoid writing comments on every page to make it look like you marked the work in the first place. This will only give you writer’s cramp and the lack of progression from your comments might lead to you repeating “use apostrophes correctly” a number of times, highlighting ineffective assessment in a book scrutiny. Instead, find a blank page in your planner or sheets of paper for each class to fasten into your planner as a record of this assessment. Read the student’s work from the date it was last marked and look back over your last comments to see if they have read them and made any improvement. Give them a plus sign if you see improvement, equals for a mistake which they have made again and minus for deterioration of their work. This is a simple technique and they can learn to adopt it in peer and self assessment too.

Finally, write a kind, specific and helpful comment at the end of their work and plan for pupils to act upon it when you first return to school. Throughout your reading of their work, you should be noting down any mistakes and misconceptions on the blank page to refer back to later. As you work through the books (at a faster pace than if you were commenting on every page but perhaps not as fast as a pointless tick and flick session) you will begin to notice similarities in pupils’ misconceptions or mistakes. There is no need to repeat what you’ve 15


written; keep a tally by the side of each new comment to build a picture of what your classes can and cannot do. Your classes’ immediate needs should become clear. Even though you have not commented on every mistake made by your pupils, you have a note of them and this knowledge will be disseminated to them in lessons. I sometimes give them the list of common mistakes and get them to identify them in their work, encouraging self assessment. Your pupils will only need to act on their own personal target in that first lesson back but as you have such detailed notes to inform your planning, you could be acting with their needs for weeks to come. If you have reached the end of your massive pile of books and you are feeling that huge sense of relief but then you remember you still need to use this weekend to plan, feel also a huge sense of relief that your planning is now well informed. Note to self‌avoid this situation in future.

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Planning a ‘perfect’ lesson http://learningspy.co.uk/2012/06/30/planning-a-perfect-lesson/ How long does a decent lesson take to plan? Ofsted have recently made clear that they’re not interested in over complicated lesson plans noting that “excessive detail within plans causes teachers to lose sight of the central focus on pupils’ learning.” So, who are we putting all that effort into planning for? Our students? Our selves? Over the past twenty years we have made tremendous progress in teaching and practice in our state schools has never been better; however, over-planned lessons are a curse. One candidate for a post at Huntington had a lesson plan a full nine pages long. He could not teach because he was too obsessed with what his plan said he should be doing every two minutes. And more experienced teachers are losing confidence because they think there is some secret formula for teaching great lessons for which they have not been trained. Sound familiar? I’m with Phil Beadle when he urges us in How To Teach (and I’m paraphrasing cos I can’t find the page reference) put your time into marking instead of planning. He says (and this is a quote) “you can turn up hungover every morning, wearing the same creased pair of Farahs as last week, with hair that looks like a bird has slept in it, then spend most of the lesson talking at kids about how wonderful your are; but mark their books with dedication and rigour and your class will fly.” Obviously, Phil being Phil this is a polemical position with which you will want to take issue. Please note that I am not endorsing Farahs, bad hair or talking at kids. However, the fact remains that pouring your heart and soul into lesson creation is not, perhaps, the best use of your time. Really. I’m a big fan of random lesson generators such as The Lesson Generator and the Learning Event Generator. There’s even an iPhone app. These are all potentially a little bit silly, but I like the challenge of making “democracy” as a “dot to dot activity” work. It often goes awry but as long as you take the students with you and get them to unpick the failures they will always be able to fail better another time. John also mentions checklists in his post and has included this extract from Michael Fullan. For those disinclined to click links I’ll summarise: Fullan says that checklists must be “simple, measurable and transmissable”. They should also be “precise, efficient, to the point and easy to use in even the most difficult circumstances.” Above all they should be “quick and simple tools aimed to buttress the skills of expert professionals.” That’s us lot. Now, as you may know, I’ve just written a book called The Perfect (Ofsted) English Lesson (Very reasonably priced at only 2.39 on Amazon.) In it I address the checklist Ofsted inspectors have been trained to use when inspecting your lesson. Please understand that this is not my checklist, neither am I endorsing it. Planning   

Does the lesson plan relate to the sequence of teaching? Does the planning demonstrate high expectations and challenge? Is the plan appropriate for the learning needs of all groups of pupils? 17


Is there a ‘safe’ learning environment?

Start of the Lesson:    

Does the lesson get off to a flying start? is there a recap of previous learning? Are the learning objectives are clear and appropriate in number? Are the learning objectives are shared? Are the success criteria are clear? Is the learning real?

During the Lesson:            

Is the teaching well placed? Does the teaching hold learners’ interests? Does the teaching meet a range of learning styles? Does the teaching meet a range of abilities? Does the teaching actively engage learners in the learning process? Are learners given clear information and guidance throughout the lesson? Is there paired or collaborative work? Is questioning used effectively? Are all learners actively involved? Is clear feedback given on progress? Is pupil knowledge and understanding increased? is there an opportunity for pupils to demonstrate increased knowledge and learning? Are reading and writing skills are developed?

End of the Lesson:      

Are the learning objectives reviewed? Are questions used to check what learning has taken place? Is there feedback from teacher to pupils? is there pupil-to-pupil feedback? Is there evidence of self-assessment? Is the next lesson previewed? Is the lesson brought to a clear close?

Does this checklist meet Fullan’s criteria? Obviously all this is discussed at tedious length in the book – but that’s the bare bones of what Ofsted are looking for. Whether or not you think it’s important to tick it all off is quite another matter. I certainly don’t.

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The Guardian Secret Teacher: 'Dear Ofsted inspector, I am giving you notice to improve!' After being judged under the new Ofsted Inspection Framework, Secret Teacher offers a school inspector some useful, quality feedback - despite not getting any for themselves

Ofsted inspectors should keep out of the Secret Teacher's classroom until they improve.

Dear Inspector, At the beginning of the year I asked all my new pupils to write down a description of their ideal Maths teacher. I found their jottings very helpful and have used them to improve my teaching; I thought you might appreciate a similar opportunity. My ideal Ofsted inspector would, at the very least, be an outstanding and inspirational teacher. They would renew my passion for teaching by letting me know what I'm doing right and giving useful, readily usable tips to develop mutually identified areas for improvement. They would model good practice in the classroom and they would also be willing to learn from me and provide an experienced ear for my many ideas. I teach with the door open. I feel extremely fortunate to work in a school where I feel completely safe in doing this. I readily welcome observers, both colleagues and visitors, to my lessons. This is because I work in a school with the conditions to let good teachers thrive. I feel not only free to try out new ideas, but completely confident in doing so, because, and this is an essential quality needed in my ideal Ofsted inspector – I am not judged. I am given honest feedback which I can use to improve. Otherwise, there is no point welcoming observers to my classroom; either one or both of us needs to learn something. I am a good teacher. I know this because, thanks to Outstanding Lazy Teacher, Jim Smith, I ask for feedback from my pupils every time I take in their books. It's not an easy thing to do, it can leave you feeling very vulnerable; but it's an incredibly useful exercise and I use it to constantly inform and improve my teaching and planning. I also get good feedback from colleague observations, parents, pupils' progress and exam results. So, when you decided to enter my classroom in the first week of this year, while I 19


was still creating the conditions for learning for the coming year, I did not change my plan for you. Maybe this was naive and idealistic, but my focus was on my pupils and we had important work to do, getting to know each other and (one of the learning objectives) learning to fail. Before you turned up I had reminded the pupils that they would not be going to lunch unless they got stuck and/or made a mistake (again thanks to Jim Smith, an invaluable tip on improving progress in Maths, a subject most are terrified to make an error in). All I can remember of your 'feedback' is the fact you said: "But I can't give you outstanding because..." We both know it was an excellent lesson; that despite your stress-inducing intrusion there was a buzz in the air. However the new Ofsted Inspection Framework states that all pupils should be making rapid and sustained progress (or something like that. I know some schools are now teaching in half hour chunks in order to demonstrate this). Apparently at the moment that you checked my three sub level-four pupils, they weren't making progress. If I'd retained my sense of humour I'd have been relieved that you thought the other 23 might have been. There was no real dialogue between us, no real discussion of my objectives, and you left me with no way to improve my teaching. You had your evidence to downgrade our teaching and that seemed to be all that you were interested in. Your visit left me feeling like I'd been physically punched in the gut. Your team seemed determined to downgrade my school, despite our best exam results ever, despite a huge improvement since our last two 'outstanding' Ofsteds. I feel like I have been visited by the Nazgul or the Dementors. But it's not about me. I'm am angry, really angry, because despite the energy and time zapped out of schools, not once have I seen an Ofsted team improve the outcome for one single child. You cost an enormous amount of money and as I watched you demoralise my excellent school my heart went out to my colleagues who are not so fortunate, who work in schools where they barely survive a bullying ethos, where there is little chance of them recovering and becoming the teachers they would love to be, where there is every chance they will become another casualty in the political war against my profession. Will I still teach with the door open? Yes. Will I welcome you next time you choose to visit? Not unless you have shown improvement in the following areas: do not enter my classroom unless you are willing and open to learning; do not come to judge, it does not improve my teaching; learn to give quality feedback in a two-way dialogue where you listen to what I was trying to achieve (this encourages innovation rather than fear) before letting me know what you think went well, followed by specific ways in which I could improve. Lastly but most importantly, I need you to demonstrate a clear understanding of just how tough it is trying to inspire a love of mathematics, day in and day out, in young people. What I needed was to feel inspired; what you did was leave me completely drained, more exhausted than I felt at the end of July. And that's not acceptable because I have pupils who need me to teach them with energy and enthusiasm. I have the next generation of mathematicians to inspire. So, I have given you useful, quality feedback; I hope you are open to learning from it and improving your profession. Your remit is to improve standards in education in order to improve outcomes for pupils. You failed to do that on your recent visit to my school. I am giving you notice to improve. Until then you are not welcome in my classroom. Today's Secret Teacher is a Maths teacher in the south of England.

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‘Eggciting challenges’ (or maybe the egg will be on my face).` http://stilllearing.wordpress.com/2012/11/10/eggciting-challengesor-maybe-the-egg-will-be-on-my-face/ ‘Eggciting challenges’ (or maybe the egg will be on my face). Ofsted had got in the way of SLT helping with my very challenging bottom set Year 9 group who I have previously talked about in an earlier blog (No longer Bullet Proof). Resulting in the last week of term being left to fend off the advancing lions with a chair but no whip and not being very successful, I put my great Thinking Hat on – ‘Never give up’ The use of ‘Class Dojo’, has been somewhat helpful. The initial realisation that they could see a behaviour award for both their positive and negative behaviours was an interesting side line for all of, well a lesson! However, when the more disruptive elements of the class returned to lessons, Class Dojo turned into a competition to see how many reds could be accumulated, rather than how many greens for positives. The focus of the more disruptive elements became one of ‘miss I’m on task don’t I get a mark?, I’m not shouting out? Doesn’t that deserve a mark’ and the like. I think the lions were trying to tame the keeper; however, I stuck to my guns and awarded marks as I felt were appropriate. So my feeling on ‘Class Dojo’ is one of mild annoyance at the moment. I still want to use the tool but need to refocus my attention on the positives and less on the negatives. I spent time during the weekend before the end of term, thinking about how I could engage this group in some real world applications of science. How do I make it relevant, real, meaningful and fun? So, in all best work avoidance I returned to my love of baking and was busy in the kitchen cooking up a storm when it hit me, well actually it was my rather typical teenage son who mumbled ‘can I help, as I liked it when we used to cook when I was little.’ Eureka struck! This was my light bulb moment. If he likes it and wanted to do it at sixteen, maybe a group of hormonal Year 9’s who haven’t had much success at anything might like it as well. Could I link science to cooking in a way that wasn’t Food Tech (no disrespect) but still covers the scientific topics, concepts and ideas that were needed for Year 9 and beyond? With a burgeoning idea in mind, I thought how I would introduce this nugget of an idea to the group. The last lesson of term beckoned and I was tired, so looked to the good old video to show something different. Once more inspiration struck. How about the final of ‘The Great British Bake Off?’

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I found the episode on BBC iplayer and introduced the idea that next half term we might do something similar. Initially there were the moans… ‘Don’t like food tech, can’t cook, cooking is for girls’. “Ah ah,” I said, in my best Inspector Clouseau voice……. Watch and learn. (Dundun dunnnnn imagine sound effects). The video commenced amongst the realisation that it was all men competing for the prize. We watched about half an hour when I paused to discuss what they had seen, how did they feel about the participants? Much to my delight they were starting to make an emotional attachment to the stories of the contestants each choosing who they wanted to win, commenting on the judging, and discussing in a sensible fashion whether they thought the judges were right, fair, kind, specific and helpful in their comments. The more reluctant of the group now moved forward to be able to see better, others told the chatterboxes to be quiet as they wanted to listen. We laughed through the disastrous attempts at Fondant Fancies, with much talk of comparing Mr Kiplings offerings to Brendan Lynches creations. We looked at the calculations of creating the correct sizes from the 20cm x 20cm cake. Yeah maths and they didn’t notice. When, in the final challenge, James Horton had a disastrous attempt at making five chiffon cakes instead of one, with one hitting the floor. The gasps were audible. Again I stopped the video, discussing what did they think he would do? What would they do, how would he overcome this? This lead on to discussions about perseverance, resilience, keeping going under pressure, problem solving and the like, with the entire group wanting to have their say. Debating and evaluating the outcome. When the final judging took place, we held our own vote, based purely on the visuals of the finished product. They picked up on the fact James made five cakes and was this fair? This led into a great conversation on fair testing with suggestions on the rights and wrongs of not following the brief. I finally turned on the result and they were all cheering for their favourite and were surprised with the winner being John Whaite, there was uproar in the class. What they didn’t realise was just by having these conversations we were using essential science skills needed when they do any scientific experiment.

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So maybe the idea of allowing them to experience the highs and lows of cooking won’t be such a bad idea! So, to summarise the Thinking & Learning Skills they developed in this lessons were: Resilience, perserverance, debating, evaluating, justifying and some social skills; namely that it’s ok to have conversation without yelling at each and a difference of opinion is healthy.

What makes an outstanding school? http://www.guardian.co.uk/teacher-network/teacherblog/2012/apr/16/outstanding-school-recipe Putting Ofsted definitions to one side, our blogger shares the recipe for a school where staff and students are truly fulfilled

What makes a school truly outstanding to work and study in? Photograph: Image Source / Rex Features

I did, I didn't and I do work in an outstanding school; and I don't mean Outstanding by Ofsted definition, I mean outstanding in terms of student and staff fulfilment. Let me set my stall out from the start. This article is "not" based on Ofsted definition, so if this is why you came here, you will only be disappointed, so I suggest read something else. Many years ago I did: I was fortunate enough to be appointed to my first middle leadership position. Starting in 1999, I joined the school as the 13th teacher working for 160 students. Today, the school now thrives with approximately 150 members of staff and over 1300 students. The institution I was joining was established by a group of parents who wanted more first choice places for their children and wanted another local comprehensive school to be part of that decision process. Over a decade later, this would have been known as a Free School I hear you say… I can safely say, my time at this school were the happiest teaching years of my career (to date); so let me tell you why. The luxury of a start-up school allows all stakeholders to join a 23


fresh ethos and a crisp vision. I recall the school motto quite clearly, "Success for All". But behind the scenes, the ethos amongst the staff was "the extra mile" and within such a young evolving cohort, a healthy zest of competitiveness remained. It was great fun and staff morale was epic! Staff relished working, and I loved Monday mornings again. I couldn't get to school quick enough. Parents on the whole, were excited about each new phase of the school's growth, as this made a significant impact on their child's development, fully understanding this unique position of being "the first". With this inimitable situation, came a huge influx of cash to spend as the curriculum grew and the building work increased. I must have spent a budget in excess of half a million pounds furnishing countless 100sqft Design Technology classrooms. I loved every second! In short, staff worked together and supported each other. Students enjoyed their studies, coupled with an array of enrichment opportunities and great successes. For me, truly outstanding and what I would describe as "my wonder years". Not so long ago, I didn't: I found myself as a senior leader in a National Challenge school. There was no hiding place and I knew it was an opportunity to tackle the chalkface after working in such a rewarding school. This particular school had its successes. A diverse multicultural population, covering at least 50 countries and 70 languages. Cultural diversity and community cohesion it was; nothing short of exemplary. On non-uniform days and national flag days, the school was a vibrant and happy place to be and students worked happily together (given the distraction). However, staff did not pull together and union representatives were intent on bringing down any new ideology to drive up standards. As a new member of ASCL Council, I found my own union CPD heightened to challenge any misconceptions to ensure even I was represented as a member of the teaching staff. I hope you can understand where this is going, as I know I have certainly not described to you, an "Outstanding" school by any definition. A multitude of issues tainted the vision at whole-school level and in turn departments started to suffer losses in relation to staffing, standards and morale. Systems broke down and at times staff gossip was rife. Converting to an academy in the short term produced mixed outcomes and staff voted with their feet. I recall a swarm of disputes that hindered the staff from making any expanse of progress in the classroom. I know some of those difficulties are prevalent in other schools, but ice-cold classrooms in winter, juxtaposed with excruciating heat in the summer made teaching and learning an afterthought. Other examples include an ICT network that just did-not-work! Appalling fire-drills; shocking punctuality to lessons and at times, a tenuous leadership team; legionella in the water; little forward-planning and countess "monitoring visits" oozed the life out of classroom teachers. I mean read this carefully, staff well-being even made it onto the list of school priorities! To be frank, staff were peed off, but some of them I admit, needed a good kick up the backside! Currently I do work in an outstanding school. The keys on my keyboard clunk at a frantic pace to keep up with the ideas that are being consumed across the workplace. I can't get 24


around the corridors quick enough to support colleagues; observe lessons, feedback and discuss the varied and inspiring CPD ideas we are planning. I feel like an old steam locomotive en-route for Outstanding! Staff are keen to improve themselves and each other. The students are equally clear about their expectations and being a feisty and needy bunch of wonderful individuals, they sure make it known. We are generating plenty of tailored pathways for them, but it's not quick enough to match their complex needs. What we need to do, is meet the definition of "Outstanding". We are Outstanding, but not by watchdog definition. Staff are happy, students are happy. Systems are in place and do work. Staff are supported and students are achieving. So, given that, what makes me make such an assumption? Well, in layman's terms we are almost there. Pockets of excellence exist in every school, but the key ingredient missing to allow us to have outstanding in every aspect, is fundamental. We just need to simply teach better! • Ross Morrison McGill can be found on Twitter @TeacherToolkit. He is a former assistant head and award-winning teacher (Guardian Award for Teacher of the Year in a Secondary School in London - 2004) and is a former SSAT Design Technology Lead Practitioner 2009/10. He is also an ASCL UK Council representative for London and a member of the Guardian Teacher Network adviser panel. He regularly writes blogs for the Guardian Teacher Network.

Many teenagers 'can't read GCSE exam papers' By Hannah Richardson BBC News education reporter http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-20346204 Older children need to keep practising their reading skills, experts say

Thousands of UK teenagers cannot read well enough to understand their GCSE exam papers, a large-scale analysis of pupils' reading ability suggests. Data on 29,000 teenagers in 1,100 schools in England suggests they have an average reading age of 10 or 11. But GCSE materials and papers were found to be pitched at the correct levels. The tests were based on results of both struggling and bright pupils using Renaissance Learning software. Children's literacy levels were checked by asking them 25 questions which required them to put words into a particular context. The results were then combined with teacher assessments. 25


The researchers also checked six randomly selected GCSE exam papers to determine the average reading age required to comprehend the texts.

Alarmed The IT firm admits the data on the group is not nationally representative, but says it was alarmed by the results. Head teachers were also surprised by the stark nature of the results. Its findings, based on the 29,000 children using its software, suggest 15 and 16-year-olds in England have an average reading age five years lower than their actual age. This is surprising because both primary school and secondary school results have been rising year on year. Nearly nine out of 10 children in England are deemed to have met the required levels in reading at age 11. And nearly seven out of 10 GCSE grades are awarded an A* to C. But James Bell, director of professional services at Renaissance Learning, said he did not believe the data was highlighting the literacy levels of poorer readers. He said: "There may be a little bit of skewing, but there is no indication that schools are buying it as an intervention programme." He said schools tended to use the software as a whole school reading programme.

'Practise or regress' He suggested that although children may learn to read well using phonics in primary school, many did not practise the skill in a formal way once they reached secondary school. He said: "Other research that we have done has shown that if children are reading and understanding on a daily basis for 19 to 24 minutes a day there's substantial growth. "If they are reading and understanding for less than three minutes a day, they regress." Jonathan Douglas, director of the National Literacy Trust, said: "Pupils studying for GCSEs need to be strong enough readers to understand their course textbooks and comprehend exam questions. "By failing to ensure all young people have the literacy skills they need to access their education, we could be depriving them of the opportunity to succeed both academically and in life. "Children's reading must be supported throughout their time at school to help them succeed across the curriculum." But Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said he recognised the critical importance of literacy but disagreed with the suggestion that pupils do not practise reading in secondary schools. "We are surprised at these figures which do not match national statistics about pupil progress in English from the end of primary school through to the age of 16. 26


"Literacy is a key priority for secondary schools with a vast range of strategies in place including libraries, monitoring of pupils' reading, screening of reading ages for all each year in KS3, paired reading with sixth formers and other interventions with pupils who are not making progress in line with chronological expectations."

Notes on the new Ofsted framework: how to be outstanding Posted by @TeacherToolkit ⋅ November 20, 2012. Ross Morrison McGill

Wondering how the new Ofsted framework will affect you in the classroom? Ross Morrison McGill has been looking at the new Ofsted framework and what teachers need to be aware of before the inspector calls… “I’ve recently been working with the magnificent @HeatherLeatt who has been apportioned with the task of training all of our teaching staff through the new Ofsted framework. Alongside the goalpost changes (this is the only political reference in the article) we have identified our own priorities in the classroom for the school. On the whole, these are consistently the same year-on-year with a few coming and going according to a changing environment. So, no real surprises. However, with the latest framework, probably just like everyone else, we are all now redefining what is ‘outstanding’ according to the new framework. We have championed strategies that encourage sharing of good practice and are ever-increasingly popular through online forums that I network with. From simple concepts such as ‘open-classrooms‘; assessment for learning questioning that can pose, pause, pounce and bounce the answers out of your students; learning walks and literacy CPD sessions with inspiring ideas from @LearningSpy, @SophieHalaka and @PhilBeadle to name a few. This aside, we are now moving to the next level and part of the new framework insinuates what we may get up to. So, if you are a teacher and unfamiliar with the headline Ofsted changes that affect you directly in the classroom, using what knowledge I have, allow me to share with you some of the latest Ofsted gems. Judgements Firstly, a school cannot be outstanding with good teaching alone. We are simply in it together. At the break of dawn when inspectors arrive, at the end of the second day, they do not simply count up the proportion of outstanding, good, requires improvement and inadequate lessons to arrive at the overall judgement for teaching. Inspectors will judge the quality of teaching over time and compare their lesson observation judgements on teachers 27


against those of the school. The judgement on the quality of teaching must take account of evidence of pupils’ learning and progress over time. It is therefore vital that your school, at every level, has accurate systems and procedures in place for supporting staff and developing them to make accurate assessments of lessons, regardless of grading, which ensures feedback puts in place relevant CPD for that individual. Inspectors will ask the school to provide its own records of observations, so that inspectors can see if the inspection judgements are in line with the school’s own judgements. This must be accurate. Teaching At a classroom level, many of you will be surprised to hear that inspectors do not expect to see a lesson plan, but wait for it; expect to see a well-planned lesson that enables all pupils to learn and make progress. It took me quite some time to figure this enigma out too. Basically, keep up the day-to-day routines in the classroom and when the hour itself calls, evidence of preparation is what they will see. Lesson planning Didactic teaching will not necessarily lead to a judgement of inadequate (did you fall off your chair when you read that?) and furthermore, the word ‘differentiation’ is rarely used. Note, you would be foolish to disregard the Shangri-la utopia that “all students make significant progress,” so do keep it in mind. Teachers are required to meet the individual needs of all the pupils they teach, so the need for effective differentiation is obvious and inspectors will look for evidence of this during observations. If you are an outstanding practitioner, planning will be evident in student outcomes, but you may want to read this paragraph again. Literacy and numeracy If literacy and/or numeracy are not well supported in a lesson, it is likely to be judged inadequate. It is the duty of every teacher, regardless of the subject they teach, to promote high standards of literacy; so do make sure you check the three Rs in your teaching and assessment. This is taken directly from the Teachers’ Standards: “Demonstrate an understanding of and take responsibility for promoting high standards of literacy, articulacy and the correct use of standard English, whatever the teacher’s specialist subject.” Feedback At the end of the frenzy, when inspectors feedback on lesson observations, they will ask individual teachers about their experience of lesson observations, their CPD and appraisal. Note, this is only for lessons of 25 to 30 minutes long. All other lessons observation lengths can seek feedback, but the minutiae and judgement will be much less in detail. With this in mind, and of course the illustrious ‘progress over time’ avowal, the descriptors are ‘best fit’ for outstanding and good only. It should no longer be a snapshot judgement. Many skeptics, like we all can be, will argue how can you observe a 25 minute lesson and not make a snapshot judgement? What evidence can be sought to gather evidence that good or outstanding is the norm? I’ve always believed, consistently good, is outstanding practice. As we know, to produce an outstanding lesson, hour-after-hour, day-after-day, is attainable, but in the long-term, quite simply, unrealistic. Good luck! 28


Pupils’ Comments about their Learning at Philips High School. I feel I am being really challenged this year!

I am impressed with my progress as I have already reached my mid-term target.

My grades are improving and I think the comments put on my work by teachers are really helpful.

I am paying more attention to the feedback I get as I want to do well and improve.

my progress as I have My teachers show me the mark scheme so I know what already reached my to do to get certain grades. I mid-term target. understand what C/L means!

If I am stuck I know that I can ask for help and my teachers will help me! When I do MAD time, it helps me to look at what I have done wrong so I don’t do it again!

I am learning lots of fun and exciting things this half term. I like it when lessons are interactive and we can work in groups.

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Merry Christmas & a Happy New Year!!!! All the very best for 2013!!

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Christmas Edition of Teaching & Learning Magazine  

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