By leaders for leaders- blown away and totally inspired!

Today I was very lucky to attend the By leaders for leaders conference at Regents Hall in London. The organic nature, honesty and selfless collaboration these days hold are really important for leaders in schools today as it is very easy to become isolated in your own role within your own context- and conferences like this are really aiming to support school to school collaboration and leadership support, and for this reason- I love attending them. Here is a summary of my takeaways from the day.

Will Smith- opening welcome

This event is like a catalyst, and be encouraged to dive deeper and engage in areas you find interesting.

We are in Beta podcast- interviewing inspirational leaders. Follow the podcast through Spotify/iTunes.

Matthew Syed- Mindset advantage: measure, reflect, improve

Rebel ideas- the power of diversity. We can draw a distinction between demographic diversity, differences in race, gender, age, social class etc in comparison with cognitive diversity and how we process/ deliver ideas and information. There is an overlap between these two areas- especially when building teams. We have to move away from diversity as a box ticking exercise- it can be so much more.

Cognitive diversity

⁃ If your team is cognitively diverse the amount of creative/useful ideas could be vast

⁃ A cognitively diverse team is far more effective and creative

⁃ This is the key source of competitive advantage

⁃ Each person in your team uses a different model to generate their ideas

⁃ With problem solving activities, divergent, challenging views that are converging you get a much more deeper rooted solution

⁃ We are attracted to people who think like we do, we unconsciously gravitate towards people like ourselves. This can be the downfall of teams as if people think like you, they are more likely to agree with you and thus create fundamental flaws. If we employ a team like this it can lead to collective stupidity.

⁃ When we understand the power of cognitive diversity we can unleash divergent thinking and be able to think outside of the box and unleash different solutions

⁃ Running schools are complex, multifaceted institutions with many different and divergent ‘thinkers’- so we need to be able to tap into this which will build a collective responsibility and encourage collaboration.

⁃ Engineer cognitive diversity can lead to extraordinary collective intelligence that can do great things.

⁃ Experts that are individual but their ideas and individual talents add to the development of a school. Teams should be comprised of many different experts that is relevant to the problem. This takes imagination and creativity. This is a source of extraordinary innovation.

What could inform how we think as a leadership team? What voices are we not hearing from? How can their different information challenge us and inform how we change and be more effective? Find the voices that know things we don’t know!

As a leader know what your strengths and developments are and build a team that have different strengths and developments to really encourage cognitive diversity.

Cognitively diverse groups perform better when they are encouraged to be in a cognitively diverse culture/ environment.

Over my dead body: Practical aspirations- Brad Nash (Henley Bank High School- Dove Deeper Day)

The journey Brad spoke about is one that really resonates with me as I have joined a school where the foci for Henley Bank two years ago are very similar to my context now.

2017- P8 -0.87, 7 Head teachers in 5 years. Chaos and frustration and a reputation that is demising. Numbers dropping (53% below capacity)and financial strain. Other head teachers advocating not to come to the school. Students have a lack of aspiration and faith in their school.

First job- increase strident recruitment. How can we change the tide and making the change:

⁃ advocating the wonderful staff, fixing ones that are demoralised and broken

⁃ Strategy is the culture- high aspirations, treating people well and do things simply.

⁃ Drip feed the community every day about aspirations and success without fail.

⁃ Positive quotes on the door every morning for the staff and visitors.

⁃ First impressions count- wearing uniform with pride to send a strong message- uncompromising high expectations

⁃ Read a lot- guided reading and drop everything and read at the end of the day. To encourage improvements in reading ages and this will improve learning

⁃ Disruption free learning- students can learn, teachers can teach so all students can learn

⁃ Simplicity, time efficient, impactful- live marking in lessons only.

⁃ Virtual shop window- simple, clear and effective website. Head teachers letter every week. This enables the head to drip feed the success and aspirations of Staff and students to the parents. Great for well being

⁃ Postcards for parents- dramatic impact on the home school relationships for parents who have your back.

⁃ Colleges rather than houses- tokens. Given for above and beyond, stepping out comfort zone, embodying the ethos.

⁃ Primary school visits- SENCO, AHT and HT visits all primaries, and then invited to meet the head teacher event. The team standing united, clarity of the message, advocating the structure of the school. This also enables HT to show support of staff.

⁃ Fun Friday- director of fun, to keep well being high. Every Friday to develop student and staff wellbeing and aspirations.

⁃ University signpost- with miles to show destinations

⁃ Every day is an open day- visit us and see what the buzz is about. Challenge the parents to see what they need. Parents take themselves with a member of staff.

Outcome: progress 8 in +0.67 in 2019. This shows that improvements and sacrifices of staff have all been worth it. Feeder primaries have increased 5 times. Student recruitment has increased from 57 to 148.

Find out what is your WHY!

Rosenshine’s Principles- Tom Sherrington

Evidence informed wisdom? Teachers have to make calls and judgements all the time about many different things. So how do we get a large amount of research into the hands of a busy teacher? Rosenshine is a small, practical document that applies directly to classroom practice. This is based on observational studies of teachers with great and poor outcomes, studies of cognitive science and the impact of those, and specific strategies to apply. Rosenshine notes that all 3 strands actually compliment each other to support great classroom practice. It’s intuitive and sensible.

The 4 strands is easier to communicate and work with. Research influences our habits- and Rosenshine advocates good habits and enables you to reflect on how well you perform these habits. Rosenshine is built on a model about thinking about learning such as education and training, experience, personal confidence, relationships, self awareness, values, mindsets, personal goals, beliefs about learning and the theory of action.

The impact of cognitive science and development of the long term memory is key to impactful learning. Teachers who understand the reason why it is ok not to cut the corners will have better outcomes with their learners as they are developing the schema of each individual.

Sequencing concepts– understanding how and why things are taught in the way they are. But do staff know this? Do students? Clear focus needs to be on the language that is being used, what is the prior knowledge or foundations in which you are building new knowledge, modelling ideas and giving concrete (practical) experiences but also explaining the relevance of what is being taught to them through clear scaffolding and differentiation.

Questioning– checking the message has been received.

Using a bank of questioning techniques that can be used throughout the learning to check understanding- simple switches for have you understood to what have you understood.

Reviewing material- enabling students to test themselves, check their own learning and develop their own methods of retrieval practice. You need to involve everyone, making checking easy and accurate and outlining the learning that need to happen. This can really develop student confidence. Another option is telling the story- giving key words. Teaching students that some questions are hard and they have a strategy to them- this is done through effective modelling. Skills and drills approach- breaking things down and enabling students to practice, but the key is making all students participate with a level of repetition to enable confidence.

Learning should be built around success through achievable steps and ambitious goals.

Rosenshine’s principles are not a checklist! There is no rule that says this- if you understand learning you will naturally do this not in an enforced way and create that culture where Rosenshine is the law. It’s about how you use it, how well you do them, how intensively you do them, how well you adapt and adjust according to student responses and how well you blend instruction with the principles.

Diving Deeper- 13th November 7:45-12 Rosenshine’s principles in action (Forest of Dean)

Lindsay Caldwell- Leading Curriculum Change

(Dive Deeper Day Cherwell School)

2014 curriculum changes happened. The delivery of WHAT they were teaching wasn’t clear enough. Even though something seems like it is a good idea- but if it’s not working, why are we doing it?

Ideas like this are dispiriting for students, teachers and leaders- and it’s important that our curriculum does not become like this!

We need to consider what is the most important thing in our school? And how are we going to do this? This then creates the guiding principles for change:

what is going to make the most difference to the students?

What is going to make things better for the teachers in the classroom?

English case study:

Starting point- Inconsistently effective

⁃ teaching has not been especially research informed

⁃ Associations with personal expression and creativity

⁃ Dedicated faculty

Changes: much more evidence informed, creativity rooted in knowledge, results improved and students learned and developed new skills, priorities knowledge and assessing this (what are the best bits and why are we teaching this?), the sequencing of knowledge and the etymology of curriculum- where does it fit? Is it coherent in building knowledge, standardised assessments (summative and formative)- making sure students and staff know what they are being assessed on and when they will be assessed.

Staff can write down the knowledge and see how it all fits together especially to the wider knowledge. This is about developing a secure knowledge of the subject. So what can we do with subject leaders?

Leading subjects:

⁃ Recognise the variation and have conversations with faculty leader

⁃ Clear training on the framework: showing the key ideas, properties and structure of the curriculum planning. This is a tool and repeatedly referred back to and sticking to them is important. The language is tentative. This enables rationale and vision for the curriculum.

⁃ 3 meetings a year with HT, SL, SLT link and governor. This enables the people to think about the curriculum and one is dedicated to KS3. Talking about difficult areas of the curriculum- why is it there? What does it connect to? Why I’m that way?

⁃ Road map- this sets out the journey for the subject leader, which allows you to differentiate for each faulty that can lead through each department. This is also supported by a checking document

Christine Counsel- the dignity of the thing (blog)

Leadership and Vision- Will Smith

The most important thing is to look after yourself, build in time to think, reflect and talk to others. Develop the mindsets but in a way that will be effective for you and not in isolation- connect and develop.

Leadership is everything and the person who figures out how to harness the collective genius of their organisation is going to blow the competition away… but actually not in isolation, we need to find a way to bring the teams together and through this it’s not a competition but an advantage.

What we do, how we do it… but what influences you? Stepping back and accepting it’s not about us- it’s about the people around us and how we work within our values, our intent, our drivers and the people within our team. We have to see what we do through our own values and use this as a personal driver to lead change.

Difference in understanding view points and personal values are important drivers for what we do. Great strategic leaders are almost always great simplifiers, who can cut through argument, debate and doubt to offer a solution everyone can understand… this is reducing complexity, and increasing clarity to build success. (Colin Powell)

Ask the middle leaders with what the issues are with your school- they will know and be able to pin point it. This will highlight what needs to be challenged.

Pre mortem- we need to see the bigger picture. Understanding what and why we do the things we do at every level. If we can do this successfully all our leaders will be able to drive the successes and vision. Clarity in each persons role as a integral part (especially SLT). Staff need to be open to improvement and where possible we need to develop creative excitement by being open to cognitive diversity and allowing others to contribute ideas. We need to consider the technical competency of our staff- teachers, middle leaders, SLT, HT and CEO. Are too many senior leaders limited in their technical competency in the areas they are leading- developing the expertise in the areas you are leading needs to happen- this is crucial rather than just being an inspirational leader.

As a leader we need to be able to follow through- words are meaningless without intent and follow through. We need to identify and undertake the actions needed to make it happen. The greatest leaders do not let up or let go. Minimise your focus and work hard at them.

A local perspective- Jeremy Turner

Organic growth creates a momentum and with good coaching, an effective structure and organic, substantial growth- so much can be achieved. The sense of collaboration really enables a collaborative cluster- these links can be strong and foster effective school to school support.

Termly leadership development meetings of ideas that are discussed on a national level being implemented in a local context.

Monday 4th November- conference

Dive deeper day for middle leaders- Wednesday 4th December

Linda Emmett- Joy and Ofsted (All saints catholic school)

Can you spot the diamond in the rough? The children that are desperate to learn, parents that want a positive change and governance that wanted the leadership to be effective.

Can you take a school from broken to brilliant? How do you do this? How can we unite a whole community drive the vision of excellence that is what the children deserve?

Ethical leadership has been the catalyst for driving change and empowering others to enable the change to happen:

⁃ Focus on what’s best for the pupils

⁃ Focus on life chances

⁃ Honesty and engaging everyone in the school journey whilst maintaining an open dialogue

⁃ Positivity

⁃ Presence

⁃ Listen

⁃ Support

⁃ Encourage staff to be open and honest

⁃ Hope

⁃ Being willing to open the can of worms to enable rapid improvement

Inspiration- rewriting the vision inclusive of every stakeholder in the school (staff, parents, students) and what success will look like. This meant having difficult conversations, investing in high quality training for staff, ambition institute for leaders. The school empower staff at all levels and unleash their brilliance to drive the improvement at all levels, this increases the capacity in the school but also probing and upskilling everyone to be experts in their field.

SLT are in service for staff, SLT expectations, praise for staff and pupils, celebrating relentlessly, showing staff they are valued… these are ways to really galvanise your staff and unite them. Use staff voice and feedback to improve everything and don’t be afraid to reach out for help.

How will you and your leadership be visible, present and support staff even when difficult conversations are needed for the benefit of the students? @lindaemmett4

Diver Deeper day available.

Lessons learned from the summer and what to do now- Joe Ambrose school improvement leader Greenshaw learning trust

Some of the mistakes that school leaders make are:

⁃ Look at current performance rather than past performance, look at what is happening now by gathering as much information as possible about teachers and pupils.

⁃ Current performance tells us more than future predictions, don’t collect data based on teacher performance rather gather data on current pupil performance

⁃ Pick your best players in the most important places, putting experienced and knowledgable teachers with the correct classes to make the biggest impact.

⁃ Deploy your resources including time where they will have the most impact, and we need to make sure that everything year 11 do are not wasting time and is adding value to them. Ask yourself if every part of the pupils day is adding value? If not change it. Making every moment count.

⁃ Play full games- pre season. Proper mock sessions as an opportunity for deliberate practice and being able to experience this 2/3 times a year.

Dean Bellman- The adventure is within, positive mental health

Positive mental health is one end of a continuum and it’s about embracing and developing. Negative mental health was one of the largest causes of staff absence over that last few years. The vast resources of negative mental health is increase in diagnosis and treatment. In order to mitigate this we need to build positive mental health and engage with the greatest adventure in your own mind and take control of this. I order to do this we need to choose one thing and focus on doing that well- this will be our constant, this never varies. So when we choose this as our focal point- we must commit to it.

Positive psychology is a new branch of science and it’s all about taking responsibility and taking control. Having time to listen people, smiling and just keeping going. Buying in to cognitive diversity and developing the team around you so collaboration is successful!

Exposing people to positive psychology will enable them to grow and develop in intrinsic confidence. Positive psychology focuses on positive outliers that plots above the trend line and studies have looked at their characteristics and insights to move the trend line upwards. Success is a combination of the skills, techniques and mindset and developing this in students and teams do staff help. We need to train the brain to see the positive outcome before it happens and preempt the possible pitfalls and how to deal with them in a positive way. This can help build performance but also prevent some of the negative mental health that happens in our sector.

Spin recovery:

⁃ Dealing with challenge or adversity in the actual moment (not applicable to permanent or pervasive scenarios): recover back to logical thinking using breathing control (4 box breaths), reframe thinking to move forward positively (looking at the same situation from different angles), choosing a positive response and act on it (doesn’t need to solve- just positive action), create a positive memory lens through literal recall of the event (you create the story)- which enables you to face challenge and set back and link it to positive action and post traumatic growth.

I would certainly recommend signing up for these events and attending the dive deeper days and immerse yourself in a positive and collaborative environment.

Mrs S 🧬

Research Ed 2019

The gravitas of educational conferences is growing- and whether you believe teachers should or should attend in their own time is purely up to you. For me personally I enjoy attended CPD outside of my school context as it enables me to connect with many different people and hear about their contexts. Research Ed provide a multitude of choice that anyone attending can create their own menu of researched based information. The freedom of choice is what I like. The popularity of the event is growing year on year and it was excellent to hear, speak with and make connections with so many people.

Here is a summary of some of the sessions I attended today:

Professor Paul Kirschner- standing on the shoulders of giants

If you don’t know why you are doing something then you have no idea what you’re doing means anything. It is imperative to understand the why behind ever decision or action you would like to enforce.


Advance organisers

⁃ powerful influence on learning is what you already know. You need to find out what they know as it acts as an anchor, it enables you to build on more abstract, inclusive and general principles, it enables you to describe or compare something to prior to learning, assimilation into your schema and subsumption of making it fit or accommodating their own schema to make sense of it (this is where misconceptions can arise)

This enables the learning to become embedded in the cognitive schema- if they don’t have it you need to scaffold it for the students.

Elaboration theory

⁃ begin simple and work towards the complex. Presents an epitome first (examples), where you start with broad, inclusive concepts, procedures, principles before narrowing and becoming more detailed. Macro to the micro (discrimination). Differentiation and scaffolding are key components to this being successful. Ensure success before moving to the next complexity.

Instructions exist in layers where every layer builds upon the previous. Start with the simple and add the complexity little by little, ensure that you factor time to repeat and show schematic connections, then expand showing relations and connections, add detail and finally review, summarise and synthesise.

Information processing

This is combining the memory models and cognitive theories of how we process different information. This also shows how the models have changed over time.

Cognitive load theory

⁃ Decoding information is vital to enable the cognitive load of learning to be reduced, as practitioners we need to strengthen the encoding/decoding skill as well as the retrieval skill.

Swellers cognitive load theory: tasks have a certain level of demand, and we have a certain amount of resources to deal with this. This is different for each person dependent on their schema. Load that is intrinsic to the task- we need to look at the complexity of the task, how to introduce new elements, and interactions. Prior learning and experiences will significantly influence this. Load that is extrinsic by teaching- chosen pedagogy, maximise useful load and minimise irrelevant load. The goal is not to reduce cognitive load- it is to maximise the useful load to maximise learning and reduce the irrelevant information and reduce the split attention effect.

Key CLT principles:

⁃ redundancy effect

⁃ Split attention effect (special and temporal)

⁃ Modality

⁃ Coherence (avoiding seductive details- Hinterland)

⁃ Expertise reversal

⁃ Dual coding theory (visual and verbal system)- this is an integrates system that simplifies and aids neuro-connections in learning and memory

Expert teachers

⁃ set challenging goals for students to give them difficult tasks

⁃ Have deep conceptual knowledge and instruction

⁃ Better monitoring

⁃ Can adapt and extend knowledge.

⁃ Builds success and self efficacy

It gives you the conceptual understanding and tools that make you an effective practitioner.

Literacy in schools: Megan Hubbard

Starting point was literacy and the research is strong and compelling that we have a moral imperative to do it better. Literacy is about good quality teaching. The EEF report really supports this.

Summary of Megan’s research and strategies she has put in place within her context:

⁃ Some students are not secondary ready with regards to the literacy demands

⁃ Literacy is a often a bolt on to a teacher of leaders roll.

⁃ Oracy is important in building literacy and often gets forgotten.

⁃ Gap between academic talk and literacy demands the students need exists from an early age, schools compound and make this worse.

⁃ Literacy is linked to social mobility- especially from deprived backgrounds

⁃ We need to flood them with language rather than simplify or give less- if we don’t do this we are giving them a disservice

⁃ The focus is KS3, we need to make much more of the time in KS3 and dedicate it to literacy strategies surrounding oracy and reading. We need to put our best teachers and best intervention in place from day one. There is no silver bullet. We need to support them the second they come through the door and it being part of their curriculum offer as quite frankly a 6 week intervention programme will not cut it in year 11.

⁃ Look at reading and making it important. It is a complex process, and the major factor is comprehension so it needs to be a focal point.

⁃ Phonics is usually linked to EAL and can be a factor to improve.

⁃ Key priority- everyone across the school is teaching literacy and communication, teach all students to read, and it’s an expectation for all students to read.

⁃ EEF is linked to the ofsted framework. Disciplinary literacy and domain specific knowledge, this is linked to literacy and the language that surrounds the knowledge is important. Teachers outside of English find this difficult- so time with departments and planning for this is important.

⁃ The language gap- vocabulary is important and central to everything we do in the classroom.

⁃ Developed reading program- that is consistently delivered by experienced staff that can support students to read.

⁃ Reading and literacy department

⁃ Oracy across curriculum- needs to be a focus and time in departments needs to be dedicated to talk.

⁃ Writing across the curriculum is another strand that will improve with increased talk

⁃ Sometime students can sound like they are reading fluently- but lack in comprehension and understanding of the words they are decoding

⁃ We need to create a bridge, to enable students reading and literacy to evolve and grow. This is for any students at any level whether they are SEND or high attaining students.

⁃ As teachers we need to model our academic register of tier 2 vocabulary. Staff were still not doing it because it is hard. You start with the end and what a model answer looks like. HODs bring a question and write the very best answer. Highlight the words the students will not use and the drip in those words into lessons more regularly, explicitly teach them and their meaning and make the teacher conscious of those words and their own teacher talk- as most of the time it goes over student head. Explain what the words mean in your academic register to the students. Give examples and non examples of words used and model how to use the vocabulary correctly- not only the subject specific vocabulary but the language surrounding that key terminology.

⁃ Modelling- I do, we do, you do process to scaffold and eventually take it away is a successful strategy that can be used for both teacher talk, comprehension and reading.

⁃ Vocabulary is important as it links to knowledge. Without the right vocabulary students have missing or naive knowledge. We need to model the patterns/ phrases verbally and then express it in writing. Misconceptions can arrive due to lack of language.

⁃ The difference between success is how eloquently students can express an idea. Higher achieving students express with more clarity and understanding.

⁃ Knowledge organisers- what is the core knowledge you want to teach them and build this.

⁃ Key vocabulary identified, used, practiced and revisited multiple times.

⁃ Model sentences and paragraphs of what the students need to learn and how they need to write.

⁃ Practice and repeat the techniques multiple times using different scenarios.

⁃ Oracy and getting student to speak to improve writing will support learners across subjects.

⁃ Figure out what you want them to say and work backwards- it is better coming from the teacher as the expert.

⁃ Don’t just focus on the content and subject specific words- develop words surrounding judgement, connectives and enable students to become nuanced because non secondary students are not there.

⁃ Reading and literacy department: best teachers, the staff have full and regular training, year 7/8 have sessions 3 times a week (guided reading and reciprocal reading), employed a primary teacher which helped in bridging grammar gap between primary and secondary. Primary lead train and support the secondary team. The department also train parents. They explicitly teach reading to the students to close the gap. Teach discrete reading and writing lessons.

⁃ Strategies: modelling, talk, sentence stems.

⁃ Book selection is key- enjoyment and engage with as well as cultural value.

⁃ Every lesson starts with vocabulary- explicit vocabulary instruction is taught first.

⁃ Reciprocal reading- lead by primary specialists. You can get them to a level of independence.

⁃ Pro noun bridging- weaker students don’t follow the pro noun, students need to be taught to go back. Students have to go back and highlight them and write who the pro nouns refer to.

Benefits of the implemented strategies:

⁃ Ignited a love of reading

⁃ Student feedback is more confident and able to engage with more subjects across the curriculum.

⁃ School needs to commit

⁃ Voice 21 (oracy)- students roles for talk (Cards) Talking assemblies, oracy sessions in tutor times, Ignite(3-5 minute speeches- celebratory day)

⁃ CPD sessions, dialogue between student and teachers needs to be a priority- you need to plan for student talk and reconstruct ideas

⁃ Word of the week- recording these in a book which creates a culture that words matter

⁃ The Day- online curriculum based news articles appropriate to students and also develops cultural capital. What they have read then becomes part of discussions at tutor times.

⁃ We have to teach students how to talk and the rules around talk.

⁃ Modelling and evaluating teaching literacy- sentence stems to vary language and eventually remove the scaffold and encourage them to use as much tier 2 vocabulary as much as possible to improve their answer. Get students to rearrange their sentences to express ideas in a better way.

⁃ Departments need to plan to prepare for talk in their department, model it and repeated practice of using examples and non examples which will prepare them for writing.

⁃ Because, but, so… small tweaks to think about meaning and different functions of words. It is about well chosen vocabulary and the mean of the words they have chosen and what they want to say.

Tom Sherrington: Rosenshines Principles, is it just common sense?

Evidence informed wisdom- this is based on classroom practice and sharing effective strategies. Teachers who don’t necessarily have good outcomes could potentially lack in one of the areas Rosenshines discusses. It looks at what effective teachers have done for years- it is not underpinned by cognitive science but lies quite firmly within the advocates of cognitive science.

Rosenshines presents people with ideas and more importantly a menu for improvement.

Sequencing material

⁃ developing clear routes through the concepts

⁃ Staring simple and building to the more complex

⁃ Understanding the pitfalls and cognitive demands of the content and scaffolding that successfully

⁃ Find out what the students already know- this enables you to identify the gaps and possible misconceptions.

⁃ This enables you to build schema and make connections between concepts.

⁃ Understanding where the knowledge will go in the future and building successful foundations through effective planning of the curriculum.

⁃ Modelling how- I do, we do, you do.

Reviewing material

⁃ Create formative assessment processes that involve everybody

⁃ Build in opportunities for retrieval

⁃ Enable students to check their own knowledge.

⁃ Organise the information linked with clear narrative structures to help remember the information

⁃ When providing collaborative learning opportunities, they must magnify the key facts and knowledge that is important

⁃ Students self assessing and teaching them how to do this effectively can not only save time but enables students to become more self regulated learning


⁃ Ask questions in more detail and more often to try and see how and why the student for the answers they did (probing)

⁃ Address misunderstandings

⁃ Checking the understanding of all students- then address gaps

⁃ Message sent =Message received?

⁃ Vary the style of questioning

⁃ Feedback to you will allow you to gain the flavour of the thinking in the class. This can then allow you to address the whole class with potential misconceptions or slight tweaks in understanding.

⁃ Avoid rhetorical questioning around checking understanding as you don’t know what or how well they have understood. Focus the questioning more.

⁃ Don’t be deluding by asking a question to 1 person that there is a good level of understanding across the class.

⁃ Opening up the questions enable you to see what the schema is like of all students.

⁃ Ask multiple people

⁃ Vary the depth of the questions

⁃ How and when is a judgment call based on the feedback you receive.

Staged practice

⁃ how often do the students practice?

⁃ Engineer success

⁃ Practice, drill and try to enable fluency

⁃ Provide multiple opportunities to practice

It is the principles of instruction- it doesn’t deal with some other aspects linked to teaching. It’s most applicable to an expert teacher that is teaching students. This would feel less threatening. It discusses practical strategies that can be implemented within the classroom. It looks at research and the habits that exist, and how the research translates into habits within the classroom.

It feeds back into 5 common areas:

⁃ behaviour management

⁃ Questioning

⁃ Knowledge

⁃ Standards

⁃ Marking and feedback

The paper offers a framework or template for you to work to and improve the consistency in your own practice. However understanding the principles is one thing but implementing them are another- we need to develop teacher trust and show they are effective.

You need to develop a mental model of how learning works and understand how and when students are learning more.

Model for questioning:

Developing the long term memory is vital- and we are not sure learning is effective unless we are questioning and teasing out their thinking and understanding of the concepts you are teaching. Knowledge builds on knowledge- and each persons individual schema develops differently. We need to actively retrieve knowledge through questioning and we can use many different guides. How much of the lesson that you teach is in the forgotten section? How do you know? How often do you do retrieve?

It is not a checklist!

I thoroughly enjoyed the day and it certainly stimulates the brain after an eventful summer of fun!

Mrs S 🧬

Ideas, ideas, ideas!

Today I attended the PiXL science conference at Central Hall in Westminster. I always look forward to the events as I am able to gain ideas from many different practitioners, present ideas that have worked in my classroom, catch up with colleagues and network with people. I see and will continue to see it as an opportunity for me to learn and be inspired to critically reflect on myself as a leader and teacher.

I was really privileged to be asked to present two break out sessions today on “Knowledge and retrieval practice in Science”. Throughout the session I discussed the cognitive principles, student schema, the pros and cons of retrieval practice and strategies that can be applied in the classroom (I will share this in a later blog). As I was leading my own breakout session, I was sad not to be able to attend some of the fantastic sessions from:

  • KS3 a strategic approach (Sally and Iona)
  • How to motivate students in science (Adam Boxer)
  • Authentic leadership in science (Claire Buffam and Amanda Clegg)
  • How to support non- specialists and trainee teachers ( Robert Brooks)
  • PiXL 6 (Adam Hodgkinson and Daniel Rose)
  • How to conduct successful, challenging conversations as a science leader (Robert Brooks and Andre Letheren)

Coffee came and went and it was time for the main meeting. I enjoy this format of quick fire presenters- gaining ideas and inspiration from many different people, from different contexts and experiences. So here is an outline of my notes from the main meeting:

Time to reflect and consider the future.

Phil Vickery- Leadership and teachers that have influenced me

Why am I here? What do I do? what is my purpose?

If you want to be the best you have to do something about it. Make students feel valued and that they have a purpose. When you are leading teams, schools or students you need to consider how you will do this and be a good leader. Leadership is about balance and knowing when to tip the balance and which direction to tip it. A good leader also knows how to drive inspiration within their teams either from themselves or through their team members.

It is important for you as a leader to reflect critically, whilst under consistent pressure and review. As leaders we need to be open to critique as this will enable you to reflect and become a better leader. There will be people that will always pull you down, that are negative, uninspiring, there will be people that coast, and people that will work with you and are open to new challenges- these are the people that will drive your vision. The key is focusing energies on the people that buy in to your vision and share the common goals/ purpose- it’s these people that will enable the tide to rise, that ultimately will rise all ships.

Gaining trust and confidence is a key determining factor to successful outcomes. We have challenges, difficult conversations and reality is different to the things people often tell you to say. We have to be able to step up and tackle this, be prepared to hold people to account and make them accountable and as responsible as you as the leader. The team talk, the preparation and the pressure are factors that all leaders have to face at some point.

However theoretical leadership is that- a theory, we Need to bring it back down to real people, to the people you work with, to the students you deal with every day. As a leader you need to be able to inspire your team to inspire their students. Being able to identify, magpie, support and collaborate to get the best out of your team are all useful and essential attributes. Where possible don’t try to over complicate things, but if you can make a difference from changing your own attitude you will see a difference in your team and your teams attitude.

You need to ensure that you confirm your vision, your goal, your intent and how you will galvanise your team to achieve them. Knowing your team, knowing their strengths, their areas to develop, knowing who can take charge, knowing who to have a robust conversations with are determining factors in successful leadership of high performing teams. It’s about listening, thinking and valuing people and yourself- it’s leading by example and showing through your actions.

Sometimes it’s not about looking for inspiration elsewhere, it’s looking for the inspiration within your team and within your self. The most inspiring people are teachers and have profound effects more that they will ever know.

Jenny Gaylor- hitting the ground running

Are we losing our grip? Times have changed and are we prepared for this? If we are losing our grip are we less efficient? Less confident? Less able to deal with things?

Get a grip on the why…

1. Leaders have a preoccupation about the future

2. Stop and reflect on what we are doing and why we are doing them.

3. What is the why for you at your school? What is the bigger picture to young people.

Creating trusting teams

⁃ Trust is critical, team work is critical to the success of a team

⁃ We have different values in teams, people need to share values, support each other and have enthusiasm for the vision

⁃ Do the teams understand their role within the team? Do they have the opportunity to grow and develop?

⁃ Quanked- overpowered by fatigue. This is one of our major factors that can cause us to lose our grip throughout the school year.

Science curriculum

Key changes:

• New ofsted framework. Important that what works for you in your schools context.

• Higher level of scrutiny of curriculum provision

• Intent at the heart- is it for for purpose (How, What, Why)- Simon Sinek- Golden circle

• Curriculum is a framework for setting out the aims for a programme of study for science that includes knowledge and understanding at each phase.

• Structure and narrative- this is how it is sequenced and organised: what you are teaching and why you are teaching it. The thinking behind this is important and pertinent for you and your team. Time out to collaborate is crucial.

• How will you measure the impact of your curriculum?

• You will be involved in lesson observations, pupils work scrutinise and talk to the inspectors about what you are teaching and why.

• Gone are the says of internal data. You will however be asked to state what you have learned from your data and how that is informing your practice.

• Do’s and dont’s: don’t write statements of intent, don’t discard what you already do, discuss critically why you do, evaluate the sequence of how things are taught, evaluate time to each topic, keep up to date with current thinking, discuss pupils work regularly as part of departmental time. Bring books and talk about pupils learning over time- are they making progress?

Dr Jasper Green- UCL powerful knowledgeand big science ideas

What is the point of an education in science?

The fallacies of science education ultimately that if we view it as a detached, objective quest for truth free from interaction we are doing the subject a disservice. Also ideas surrounding critical thinking and development of generalisable/ transferable skills, or fallacy of a single method or to live in a world with ease…. so what’s the point?

Michael Young discusses powerful knowledge that should be different from their every day thinking. This should be specialised and asks students to think beyond, think the unthinkable. It can liberate students. A group of science educators discussed the goals of science education that come down to 10 major understandings- termed the big ideas in science. (

How do we teach these big ideas?

We need to provide students with a number of experiences so they can interact with those big ideas, they need repeated experiences of these ideas to develop schema and memory. Creating multiple and different encounters with lots of small ideas throughout our curriculum support the learning of the big ideas. These smaller ideas enable the big ideas. We can enable students to make conceptual links through careful sequencing of the introduction and teaching of expert knowledge. Understanding the big ideas enables you to see progression towards the big ideas through different stages within the curriculum. We need to develop that relationship by assessing where it falls and in what stage and what it looks like at each point.

Knowledge can be coined as information and portrayed ‘encounters’. Encountering the concept makes the information and knowledge more powerful. So we need to encourage this within our curriculum.

Science gives the everyday world meaning and it is our job to make them accessible to everyone.

Peter Rooke- Gatsby Benchmarks in science

Careers education within schools that enable all schools to offer the same provision. By 2020 all schools need to be achieving all 8 benchmarks:

These need to be done throughout every subject. We need to tailor the needs to our students need and link it to the students, and how it will help them in the world of work. We need to provide opportunities for students to interact with employers and employees, work experiences and higher education are important. However we need to consider tailoring it to the individual students.

Schools also need to track it through Compass careers tracker and planning school. Every school needs a careers leader and they need to be linked into the tracker. This is a self assessment tool. The tracker can then be accessed (through local enterprise partner) and this formulated an action plan.

Science- Benchmark 2/4 seem to be problematic areas to achieve:

• delivered as a subject

• Extracurricular

• Within the subject as if students were going to experience the career.

Ofsted want to know where you are, how many you are achieving the benchmarks and what you’re doing to get there.

PiXL futures:

This is aimed at the 20 students in school that are really struggling with the current science curriculum. PiXL are working in partnership with IOP, RSB, RSC, STEM learning, SEND- NASEN all have resources to download and use alongside 3 PiXL power points to use in the classroom.

⁃ Year 7: science without lab coats

⁃ Year 9: citizens in science

⁃ KS5- Potential careers in science

PiXL build up programme

This is aimed at the lowest achieving 20 students in a PiXL school, who are struggling to access the science curriculum.

Schools need to identify 20 KS4 students, think about who will lead this group, track progress online. Engaging parents is important, select the partners (GCSE pod, Tassomai), choose the PiXL modules, make sure students have access, student guide and then how you will deliver it. Make time for the course and embed the science content. Measure the impact! Regularly check students. The purpose it to raise the attainment and aspirations of the students.

Resources that will be developed over the summer. This is introducing scientific concepts through the world of work. This will also link to PiXL edge and LORIC skills.

KS3- a new approach? Karen Collins

When we refer to assessment we mean AFL- not a stand alone test. This is build around diagnosis, therapy and testing. We need to ensure that students have learned the knowledge, understand the knowledge, apply their knowledge or link their knowledge to complex concepts.


⁃ Recall the knowledge

⁃ Understand- the knowledge

⁃ Applying knowledge

⁃ Linking between sciences and within the sciences.

PiXL will produce resources that can support this and develop a series of therapies that can enable students to move trough RUAL. They will also devise a series of test questions to assess the students on the difference skills. Resources will also support the misconceptions in science and you can use these to build into the relevant place in our curriculums.

Literacy in science- Andre Letheren

Literacy is vital to unlocking understanding of science and scientific concepts. Literacy is a strong predictor of students attainment in secondary science. Science is difficult due to the different tiered vocabulary we use- specifically tier 3.

Students need to be clear on the vocabulary and the meaning. PiXL unlock process is based around the Frayer model being able to read it, define it, draw it, use it, link it, deconstruct it, and being able to dig deeper and find other ideas that think to the word.

Word lists have been built into booklets, there will also be an app available for students to use. PiXL have also developed unlock maps both blank and prepopulated maps which can be used to test, revise, differentiate and close the gap. The app will look at vocabulary (non subject specific), words for , command words and subject specific. This will allow the decoding and deconstruction of words. You can assign students specific tasks to complete. Students can navigate the app easily and self differentiate and develop personalised learning and independence. The “do you know” sheets can also reinforce concepts within science and deepen wider learning (possible pastoral).

Metacognition cycle:

We need to develop these skills within our students. 5 practical ideas :

1. Explicitly teach students how to plan, monitor and evaluate their learning (flipped learning)

2. Create opportunities for students to talk and have focussed dialogue- collaborative learning tasks for all students to contribute

3. Model your own thinking and be a good example to your students

4. Use examples of scientific discoveries to model the process of learning

5. Help to build students repertoire of learning techniques

So as you can imagine- today was full on, but thoroughly enjoyable and full of ideas I can take back to my team to share.

Mrs S 🧬

#CogSciSci- always question, always wonder.

Cognitive science is the scientific study of the human mind. It partially overlaps with its mother disciplines: psychology, artificial intelligence, linguistics, philosophy, anthropology, and the neurosciences. For me this is an area of study that has always fascinated me since studying psychology components within my degree. So when I saw on twitter the #cogscisci hashtag- I wanted to explore. The group not only scratched an itch, but enabled me to connect and network with lots of different people researching, applying and evaluating strategies within their classrooms, so I joined the mailing list and attended the first conference at Brunel University.

The year has certainly flown by, and rather quickly the eventbrite link was circulating for the second event held at Westminster school, I clicked and secured my ticket. The day was great, I had the fantastic opportunity to network, put faces to twitter handles and get the synapses firing ready to develop my own personal schema a bit further. So I thought I would share my notes from the sessions I attended (unfortunately I had to leave at 2pm as I had a monumental trip around the UK to see the Spice Girls #GirlPower #SpiceUpYourLife #notsorry).

Goal free effect- Adam Robbins

The goal-free effect was the first instructional effect investigated within a ­cognitive load theory framework. Goal-free problems occur when a conventional problem with a specific goal is replaced by a problem with a non-specific goal. The strategy reduces cognitive load by removing the actual question from the problem, leaving just infromation, often in the form of a diagram.

“Work out as much as you can” rather than narrowing the instruction- open it up. The goal-free element is getting pupils to explore the information without the prejudice of a question. On top of this you can use annotation to reduce cognitive load and then promote learning further with metacognition –discussing how student could eventually come to an answer.

Problems with it include

⁃ Students need to maintain an idea of the problem and encapsulate their entire thinking: the goal state

⁃ The problems conditions: What information you are given at the beginning?

⁃ The differences between the goal state and problem: this takes lots of time to link

⁃ Possible ways those two might link

All of the above can lead to a high level of interactivity- which increases the cognitive load, thus making it hard.

Goal free approach doesn’t overwhelm the process. This has a lot less demand on the brains resources, this can engage more of the working memory space to inform the students schemes. This provides a stronger and more flexible schema. This can be powerful as it enables any of the actions to lead somewhere useful and strengthen the student capabilities to link and enrich their schema.


⁃ Frees up students working memory

⁃ Richer experience of the initial state and not focussed on a singular aspect

⁃ More than one possible outcomes creates links that might be viewed as separate by the students

⁃ Detailed schema formation

⁃ Greater depth in the encoding of the information

⁃ Flexibility


⁃ The novice issue: good at the end of a sequence of lessons

⁃ Comparisons to the worked example effect (this is much easier- but less successful)

⁃ Doesn’t have utility in all aspects of science, so choose carefully

In the classroom:

1. Data questions/ Diagrammatic questions

2. Make careful selections (not too open)

3. Students become more familiar with the inherent rules of what to do in a particular question

Build up to a goal free approach as it can effectively reduce extraneous cognitive load for transformation style questions.

Amanda Fleck- language and literacy in science.

Improving vocabulary- practical applications in the secondary curriculum.

“Science educators are also to some extent language teachers and that the learning of science is like learning a whole new language.” (Wellington and Osbourne)

Literacy is a larger indicator of performance than any other factor, it is a predictor of scientific attainment. Students can be overwhelmed by how many scientific key terms they need to know.

Improving secondary science report- strand 6, vocabulary explain that this is pivotal and key, and we need to address it within the classroom. We need to be able to deconstruct or decode those words and model how to do this for our students, this then gives them the skills to decode words for themselves.

FrayerModel- Alister Talbot: uses this to decode words (explore the key term, explore it further, explain the what the word means, consolidate the word): this could consume lots of time in lessons, however focus could be placed on those pivotal words. We must also consider the colloquial language and misconceptions that some students may have based on socio/economic/background.

The basics of language

Morphology- studying the different part of the words (prefix, root, suffix)

Etymology- the study of word origins


1. Pronunciation- students to repeat

2. Write it on the board- clearly (leave space around it)

3. Break it into parts

4. Repeat the word- emphasise it

5. Link to every day language

6. Address any misconceptions

7. Discuss the etymology

8. Give examples by using it in a complex sentences to show what they know.

9. Regularly reinforce the vocabulary by revisiting it.

Deep Ghataura- Assessment (What can I extract about my students?)

QLA- is it psychometrically useful?

⁃ How we interpret the world is deeply affected by our beliefs. Theory determines what you look for and what you observe. This is the analytical concept- this can inform change.

⁃ There is no such thing as a valid assessment/ reliable assessment.

⁃ QLA Is a data matrix but is it useful? Haberman 2008, states that you need to know the correlation where in the true sub score and the total score, and also what is the estimated reliability of the total score and sub score.

⁃ They are useless if splitting into A01,2&3 and actually what does this show us? How could we use this to inform our teaching?

Where can thoughtful interrogation lead us?

⁃ People don’t take into account the difficulty of the test, ability of the students, realise that getting 70% is not twice as good as getting 35%, deal with change we’ll.

⁃ Non linear effects when constraining between 0-100

⁃ 4 levels of measurement (nominal- labelling, ordinal-the order matters, interval-the differences between the values are regular Rasch model, ratio-meaningful zero point)

⁃ Using probabilities is more powerful

⁃ The Rasch model can link H/F tiers, inform grouping, measure progress over a short and long time. Link the common items in an assessment so students can attempt the same questions. What Heston School found that foundation tier overestimated the grades and for the higher tier students grades were underestimated. This model allows error bars. This enables you to measure and argue the progress defensibly.

⁃ Beeswarm package Matthew Benyohai population is a good place to start.

Dom Shibli

Cognitive science is a discipline where the laws don’t quite work in the same way linking evolutionary biology, computer science and psychology. There can be limitations to this research. Sometimes we take what we see, simplify it and link it to strategies.

CLT theory understanding of it can link to your practice as well as informing it.

Retrieval practice has major benefits!! Strategies to enable this is where the challenge lies and addressing the misconceptions for every student. But we must also consider what happens before we put the retrieval practice in place, how are we approaching the learning?

We should embrace complexity and look for different insights into it to strengthen our own stance.

This is a model of the mind. This predicts how the mind works… but this is not always how it works. This should pose questions, but for teachers in the classroom it helps understand the learning process and reinforces the need for retrieval and spaced practice. However learning is more complicated than this- people and perspectives differ and can affect how people learn. Students and teachers own prior knowledge and previous experience can directly or indirectly affect learning.

Spaced practice and retrieval is aimed at content and concepts that have already been taught, but more importantly we need to consider what do you do before this. Focus on powerful explanations, how does learning take place? We need to build the schema and relate it to prior and other knowledge- don’t build it in isolation as this becomes more difficult for the student to encode. With retrieval you can focus on what you want the students to retrieve- but this worked effectively when we focus equally on the explanation and the learning that takes place prior to this practice. Students have different experiences and can add to this for themselves and other participants in the class, but often this gets left behind. We cannot anticipate what a student is thinking so dialogue is vital but not always applicable with larger classes, so designing a lesson or implementing a strategy that brings out a students thinking can be powerful as we can identify why a student thinks as they do or any potential misconceptions they may possess. As a teacher we need to focus on the explanation rather than just explicitly the retrieval process.

Bill Wilkinson- powerful explanations

Oral narrative in lessons. Communication is absolutely key to enabling students to understand. The power of a good explanation will enable a student to develop their schema and also make connections and links between concepts.

Without verbal instruction transmission of information is poor and decays faster. Enabling students to then pass on the explanations to other students is a powerful way of checking understanding as well as identifying and addressing misconceptions.

Creativity is important for new advances but must be shared with the population. We listen and learn from stories that are engaging, interesting and of personal value. Creativity, discovery and innovation come after learning the basic information and key knowledge needed.

#sciencestories project – science stories by science teachers.

⁃ Improves literacy

⁃ Memory and retention for key information

⁃ Engagement and interest

⁃ Cultural capital

⁃ Stimulating discussion

Can be used: extension activity, starter for silent reading, group reading together, one as part of a choice of activities. (1 page of story, 1 page of comprehension questions- linked to curriculum, extension task linked to ethics and further reading list). if you would like to email a story

Andrew Carroll- Narrative

Narrative is defined by an unfolding in time of a connected sequence of events. These can be causally related, involving specific characters and times and displays a certain level of organisation in understanding.

The importance of narrative aids in learning and memory. Stories are not just for fun, there are important cognitive consequences of the story format. They are easy to understand, engage and remember. Circumstances that arouse memory orientations set up a platform that is primarily towards a particular schematic organisation (Ghosh and Gilboa 2004).

Narrative and human cognition are tightly linked. It’s a valuable tool in memory (Bartlett 1932). Narrative and believability by Norton Wise (2019), looks at the ideas of metaphors, and what makes people believe in one rather than the other is the narrative and how the story was told. This script discusses how a narrative should be delivered in science lessons.

Hinterland: Kernel and Satellites

⁃ Bringing students to the point of the narrative is very important, but can be very difficult.

⁃ If we wander around the orbital, we need to always come back to the kernel. What is the actual point of the story? What is the intended learning?

⁃ Hinterland does not merely contextualise the core, it engages the student and allows the core to be accessed at an emotional level

⁃ With careful planning we can interweave core knowledge and hinterland into a powerful explanation. This however needs to be followed up with an activity that supporting the learning of the key knowledge.


Overall this meeting was a day where I could listen, engage and take others experience and research on board. I have no doubt that from the presentations I was privileged to listen to, a wealth of ideas will be ignited for me to implement in my own teaching practice. After decades of background research, it appears that cognitive science has discovered how to make learning really work.The beauty of this day is that people who have a passion for this get the opportunity to come together and share not only the research, but how they have interpreted the research into practice within the classroom. I look forward to many more, thank you, and bravo!

Mrs S 🧬


Today I am feeling not quite right, actually rather sad. I genuinely believe that it is because my time at working at my current school where I have been for a long time is coming to an end at what feels like turbo pace. Now I don’t want anyone to think I am not excited about my new venture- I am! But the memories, the comfort, the ease, the familiarity, the students, the staff which are more like family are what I will miss the most.

11 years seems an absolute lifetime at the moment- and actually since moving to the ‘sarrf’, I haven’t actually worked in another school. So as I sit here admittedly emotional, I began to ponder about my journey- and WOW what a journey it has been!

When I started am my school, myself (a KS3 science coordinator at the time) and the equally newly appointed second in science were pulled into the Headteachers office who explained that since our appointment back in November, she was the new Headteacher and the school was in special measures with Ofsted imminent. @MrsCole and I looked at each other in what I can describe as utter shock and horror! We both started looking a little bit green around the gills and were swiftly dismissed to get on with our jobs. There was many a time that my car buddy and I sat there and said “Shall we go to Brighton today and have fish and chips on the beach?” in hopes we could stall as much time as possible so we didn’t have to go in. The big O arrived, then arrived again, and then once more and boom! The special measures label had gone…

Now the real work began. This school has provided me with so many opportunities to grown and develop not only as a teacher but as a leader. From KS3 coordinator to Head of science, to head of year, to Director of teaching and learning, to Director of science, to whole school lead practitioner. This school has supported me through leadership qualifications, a Masters in Education, my science role across our MAT, my accreditation of becoming a specialist leader in education and most recently they had supported me in the final 3 of Biology teacher of the year. This school has made me who I am, the teacher I am, the leader I am and more importantly the learner I am and will always be. It have given me the opportunity to learn from some of the most inspirational teachers within the profession… and to this day I continue to learn and be inspired by them.

I have many fond memories that will stay with me a lifetime such as the staff pantomimes, gym and dance displays, open evenings, the endless cheeky comments from students where I could do nothing but laugh, the tears, the hugs, the successes! But I think my fondest 3 memories will have to be the Friday afternoon snack group where a group of year 11’s would come and work for hours on end and have an endless supply of food in my cupboard, another being my two amazing form groups that I have carried through from year 7 to year 11, and finally to the boy who shall remain nameless who came into my year 11 lesson from my other year 11 class and said “Miss…. I really need your help”, I replied and said “come in- what’s wrong Ryan”, to which he held his right hand up and said “look, I just can’t get it off!”. My jaw dropped, the whole class started giggling, he tried to contain his panic as I frantically tried to pull the test tube rack off all of his fingers!

Whilst working at this school I have grown, I have developed and I now have the confidence to take the next step for me to try and make a difference elsewhere… but it is with an extremely heavy heart- because this school ‘gets’ you, it gets under your skin, right down to your core and takes over your heart. The students are just amazing, but the staff- well I don’t know what I can say to do them justice! They are a team, a force of support, guidance, experience as well as youth. They are inspirational, motivators and innovators. They build you up and allow you shine…they are a Beacon of best practice, a Beacon of talent, a Beacon that I hope will burn bright and support its community, its students and its teachers.

Mrs S 🧬

Inspired by others…learning from the experience of others is crucial to development

On Wednesday 1st May I attended the By leaders, for leaders held in London and coordinated by Will Smith. To be honest I really didn’t know what to expect… and I was pleasantly surprised. The variety of leaders sharing strategies that they have implemented along with the successful impact they have had was a privilege to listen to, but what was more impressive was the golden thread running through every presentation which linked to introducing change, simplicity, clarity and communication are crucial to its success but more importantly it must be underpinned by your core values and ethos which must be embodied throughout the school and in everything you do.

The variety of speakers really enables me to gain ideas from every single person and so I have decided to include my notes from the day:

David Weston- CEO teacher development trust

-Developing professionals: one of the major challenges is collaboration between staff because of 3 main things

1. The Ikea effect- but we worked hard on that…pride is out of proportion/ sunk cost bias- if you work hard on an idea you really value it. If you constantly change this can disrupt staff feeling when introducing new initiatives. This is why getting people to change is difficult as people get attached.

2. Halo effect/ tribal bias- more likely to believe things from your context and peers, less likely otherwise. This can cause judgement or challenge. This is based on how connected we are to the person delivering the change.

3. Fundamental attribution error- it is not my mental failing, it’s your character defect. The challenge is if you don’t agree, you cause conflict which means you distrust them- this then reinforces the halo effect and the two concepts become cyclical.

The only way to overcome these biases is to create a culture where people are really connected and trust each other.

Kraft and Papay 2014- looked at the quality of professional development. They found that schools can plateau and this was linked to the quality of teacher environment. Schools that were higher performing noticeably had an “improvement” culture and continually improved rather than lower performing schools by about 40%. This idea of teacher improving year on year were down to big 6 factors;

1. Peer collaboration- to refine practice and solve problems in the school (coaching, collaborative enquiry, middle leaders), this can also be driven by research!! Solution based focus.

2. Principal leadership- school leaders support teachers, listen more and address concerns. Responsive to concerns (coaching, change management and staff surveys)

3. Behaviour for learning- a safe environment and rules are consistently enforced and school leader assist teachers (behaviour routines, pedagogical coaching and CPD). Student behaviour and teacher behaviour are both important. Collaborative approach the “we”.

4. Professional development- sufficient time, resources for relevant CPD and INSET. (CPD leadership, collaborative enquiry). Ensure that staff see the relevance and get buy in to their own practice. We don’t want superficial learning… we want ideas based on relevant impact to their students. We need to consider how we are leading CPD. Encourage teachers to revisit, reflect and measure their own impact in their own lessons. Strip it back and build in time. Don’t do too much- focus on embedding.

5. School culture- mutual trust, respect, openness, commitment to student achievement. (Coaching culture, effective conversation, CPD leadership) sense of team and collegiality. Effective team work conversation. Spaces and time for staff to work.

6. Teacher appraisal- meaningful, consistent feedback that helps staff improve their teaching (change monitoring and appraisal to coaching).

If you want staff to improve we need to consider culture and not just CPD. Unleash great teaching- great read.

Take the learning of your colleagues as seriously as the learning of your students.

Leann Swain- Disruption free classroom (easy Barnett school)

Be courages and deliberate when leading whole school change. Strategies that help:

1. Absolute clarity (keep it simple)

2. Over-communicate to all stakeholders- you are on board, others may not. Sell, sell, sell.

3. Remind, support, challenge

4. Evaluate

5. Repeat

Building up a culture of trust. Ensure that all stakeholders are on board with a change. Model the behaviour and develop confidence in staff to see through what you want to happen.

Switch model (Heath and Heath)- you are the rider but you are not going anywhere unless you take the staff and students with you. Know your destination and script the critical. Outline the rules and find the feeling- discuss and share concerns. Shrink the change by sharing the expectation with the staff and students and absolute clarity is key. Grown your people through role modelling and development of staff confidence not only in you- but in the strategy. Motivate the herd. Use common language.

Shaping the path is important by tweaking the environment by reminders or expectations. Encourage good habits and enable formation of habits so it becomes responsive and automatic. Rally the herd to support this. Show how it works in other schools- enable staff to see this in other schools and how it works. Common language for staff is important and can be confusing for students- level of scripting is key (behind the scenes). Make it easy for the staff and encourage staff to follow the simple systems- SLT need to work hard to embed a system and not falter.

Communicate this to parents and students and ensure the environment is ready for the change so it can become habitual. Create a canvas by which teachers can teach- next step is to develop teachers.

“Be courageous and deliberate”

Joe Ambrose- More development, less monitoring of teaching and learning. (Henbury School)

First principles:

1. Practice informed by what works.

2. Improving the quality of teaching and learning is the core business.

3. Teachers improve most quickly when they receive frequent feedback and opportunities to practice.


All teachers will receive drop ins every two weeks by 2 professionals.

1. DDI are developmental

2. Last no longer than 15 minutes and scheduled

3. Lessons are visited in pairs

4. Teachers are set one achievable actionable target

5. Teachers ensure that feedback translates into practice.

Principles of better practice: feedback around the L&T principles, then a target takeaway form, this is then fed into a target sheet and links to what L&T principle it links to. This allows you to look at trends, patterns and can look at support. This enables triangulation of teaching need. You can then give an appraisal target to engage with this process- this then sets up accountability.

Books- leverage leadership (Bambrick Santoyo) and practice perfect (Doug Lemov)

Jill Rowe- Directing the ethos (Oasis academy)

Ethos is so fundamentally important and it has to be absolutely intentional. Ethos is the way we do things around here- this can be both intended and unintended. Does the ethos match between staff and what actually happens. Ethos is your exoskeleton that provides the shape and structure by which everything happens and is built upon. Ethos is really easy to get stuck on one aspect. Ethos is an indicator of what you are rooted in- it’s your distinctive. Values should be specific to you and your context. Your ethos needs to be your guiding principle for absolutely everything that needs and will happen. This enables you to identify the Golden Thread and the narrative that it is rooted in. This enables you to explore the origins of the values- if you don’t they will get discarded and lost. Ethos needs to be specific, clear and defined- they need to be seen, heard, discussed, embedded, they should be explored, explained and explicit. Your ethos is a declaration of intent and a description of the way you think the world should be.

Ethos needs to be embodied, lives, exemplified and led. It always begins with the leaders. What are you passing and and how do you know? Are you modelling your communicable acts and everyday interactions. When we are not in tune with our ethos there is dissonance- this can be crippling and damaging. Leaders need to be vulnerable, visionary and courageous but also intentional.

Introduce, embed and sustain! Enable your ethos to invite people to see the world differently.

Ben Parnell- Creating and sustaining brilliant teams (Greenshaw)

Dixon’s Academy in Bradford (email Oli to book in)

SLT need to know their school in and out. Do they know the children, their classes, the subject, the type of work and subject matter.

Relentless focus on teaching and learning that is evident in the structures and systems in what they do. Does it enable a genuine development of teachers. Purposeful drive to improve teaching and learning throughout.

High quality line management- this can really drive improvement. Eye to detail where nothing slips.

How can you address these?

1. Snags board- micro is not missed within the school. Nothing gets away from staff, anything that you notice then gets challenged and is addressed. The eye to detail is key. Everyone in the team being accountable. SLT have to be out and about- visibility is imperative to ensure high success and higher performing teams. This enables you to moderate and standardise the judgement between leadership members. This should then be linked to middle leaders and then into classroom teachers.

2. SLT Meeting every morning at 7:45. Check snag board and address, the. DDI structure then is the main bulk to try and spot strong teaching or possible concerns that need addressing. It is key that the SLT need to understand how to improve teaching and learning.

3. Experts in the exam specifications and examiners reports. If you don’t understand the subject how can you interrogate, coach and support if you don’t know. Become the expert in the subjects you manage. This should improve the quality of the line management meeting.

John Rudd- Positivity and marginal gains (Swimming and diving Ireland Head Coach)

Marginal gains is what we are about. It’s the small changes that can lead to total transformation. The aggregation of the small changes lead to a lever change that is more

likely to be adopted and embedded.

1. The window of opportunity is small

2. The chance of finding your full potential is challenging

3. Maximise everything that is positive

4. Eradicate everything that isn’t

5. Clear focus and direction

6. Process driven- control the controllable (you can not control the outcomes, but you can prepare the students or staff the best way you can)

7. Be patient

8. Reach the individual within the group- that is key

9. Common core delivery principles- beat the same drum

10. Quality of rest is as important as the quality of performance (students and staff)

11. Educate holistically, the lifestyle and the support network- person first, staff/student second

12. Develop self reliance, self management within individuals- put speed bumps in place to prepare them for challenges

13. High performance delivery is a step across not a step up. The expectations and standards are the same everyday so that the exams or the teaching aspects in department become consistent and embedded.

Don’t leave any stone unturned. Pay massive attention to the micro detail. Use the expertise of the people surrounding you, but you ultimately are accountable. Put the snags right!

Differentiation of approach directly correlates to the quality of delivery

Value added is the only factor that truly determines a professionals ability and their impact of those in their care.

We must consider:

-Deliver a performance in a moment that matters.

-Establish strategies to establish this as well as the direction.

-Culturally buy into this

-Forget the past- it’s gone

-Our behaviour has to be consistent

-Be resilient and ready for the challenge

-The path will never be as you thought, predicted or planned.

Know that every person you interact with is an individual and do have difference whether slight or massive. No one is bigger than the team.

High performing teams:

1. No one is bigger than the team

2. No one is more entitled

3. Earn it

4. No different rules, standards or conditions

5. You get what you put in

6. The right people make ordinary things extraordinary

7. Evolve as gains can be temporary

8. Enjoy the experience and not endure them

9. Deal with difficulties

10. Keep it simple

11. Leave egos at the door

12. Enjoy each other’s success and support each other

Building resilience:

1. The capacity to survive

2. Progress through difficulty

3. Bounce back

4. Move on positively

5. Nurturing realistic hope along controlled optimism

6. Firm elbows- be prepared

7. Foot up first- are you there first!

Resilience helps with mental health, flexibility, problem solving, show commitment, show control and can take on challenge. This leads to an enduring form of resilience which is hardiness.

@coachjonrudd (Twitter)

Jeremy Turner- Inspiration to impact (Bushy Meads)

Inspire, trust, collaborate and improve.

The power of seeing things in action are very important. Cross school collaboration would be a great way for staff to see specific things. These can then be used and adapted to work in the context of your own school (target takeaway/hidden gems). Sharing best practice across staff.

Dive in deeper day… a day that enables cross collaboration. Use ideas of different school- seeing it in action- adapting to your own context. The idea of sharing solutions to develop a culture of excellence!

(Staff thank you- email from the head teacher to year 11 students, this was celebrated)

The Black book idea- each dept add a teaching and learning strategy and have the number of days as people I. Their teams, no repetition of strategies, extra feedback in weekly briefing and this provides a training booklet for new/ existing staff.

Will Smith- Leadership of outcomes (Greenshaw)

Curriculum- intent, implementation and impact . A broad and balanced, well manned curriculum. Delivery is crucial but if you take your eye off outcomes it can be detrimental.

Outcomes are life changing and transforming for the students. The curriculum underpins this and allows this to be successful. We need to make things less complex with clarity (not easy). Progress 8 is one part of a measure we aim to achieve…we need to develop a narrative surrounding how we are intending in raising standards in our context.

1. Set very high expectations in departments

2. No need to share target grades

3. Identify a raising standard leaders with the RSL chip fully inserted.

4. Reduce the amount of data collected

5. Create space or the subject leaders to lead

6. Focus on development on subject leadership- not constant monitoring.

RSL qualities

⁃ Clear in thought

⁃ Clear communicator

⁃ Disciplined

⁃ Relentless (energy creator)

⁃ Believer (have and generate)

⁃ Authentic

⁃ Wise

Authentic leadership- we are all on a learning journey and it stems from individuality. Sometimes it can be imperfect and that’s ok.

Manny Botwe- Keeping the main thing in focus (Tytherington School)

An ambitious school is at the heart of the community. Create spectacle and theatre. Values and correct culture really enables you to have difficult conversations as it enables you to deal with people effectively.

Raise the profile of the school- get in the local newspaper each week for something.


1. Focus on culture and values of the school- relentless focus!

2. Establishing the collective moral purpose.

3. Ambitious- always striving to improve, but considering the heart and community do schools.

4. High quality experiences for every youngster.

5. Relationships between staff are key and can make or break the school.

6. Obsess about building discretionary effort (Andy Buck- Leadership matters) – right bus wrong seat?

7. As leaders we have a responsibility to be inspirational every day- walking the talk, knowing and understanding your team. Have conversations with your team. Disciplining yourself so you don’t erode the culture.

8. Consider what you say/email- people interpret your words in different ways/ hidden meanings. Face to face works.

9. Model the behaviours you expect (this will drive the cultures that you expect in your staff). Overtly intellectual SLT culture will spread.

10. Invent tradition

11. Attack the great ideas for September attitude- do it now!

12. Look after your staff- talk to them, get to now them, crawl all over the school. How many students and teachers are you conversing with? This shows that you are valued and that people care for both staff and students.

My notes really don’t do any of the speakers justice- but their messages are important! Look after your staff, hold them to account, keep it simple and clear, don’t be afraid to over-communicate and drive the change in line in the image of your vision and ethos.

Mrs S 🧬

Leap of faith… I have finally jumped!

Change….an act or process by which something becomes different. Personally and professionally I love change, it keeps me fresh, motivated and constantly evolving as a teacher and leader. It opens my eyes to new experiences, learning and connections with many amazing professionals. Change is positive…but I am not going to lie I find change difficult to handle!

I have been teaching for 15 years now… my first 3 years in a truly fantastic school in Hull, called Malet Lambert. Within this school I learned so much from experienced colleagues, leaders, SLT and more importantly my NQT colleagues that are life long friends. I was lead by a phenomenal Head of Science called Paul Tempest who showed me what a great teacher looked like, but constantly encouraged me to be effective yet efficient as a work life balance is important. I fell in love with this school and the pupils within it. It was home.

Then it all changed, I met my soul mate, my best friend who encouraged the northern lass to move south. I saw an advert in TES for a 2ic in science at The Beacon School and thought- why not? I applied for the position and didn’t get it. However, they liked my style of teaching and offered me a position as a KS3 coordinator. I snapped their hand off- not just to get down south, but yet again I had fallen instantly in love with the school. As I interviewed in November, I reluctantly handed my resignation in at Malet Lambert. I arrived in the beautiful Surrey at Easter (having bagged a whole moth off due to how the Easter terms fell) and started my first day with the news that the school was in special measures. After the initial jaw dropping moment, Ofsted inspection in my first week with a class I had never met, lots of tears questioning my own decision, oh and being made going Head of Science 6 weeks in- I knew this was the place for me. Over the past 11 years, I have worked with some of the most inspirational people at every level- each teaching me to be the best version of me (I know it sounds cheesy- but it’s true). It is because of all these interactions with superb teachers like Kirsty Carlisle, Kayleigh Jackson, Lynzey Crabb, Kat Cole, Lisa Cook, Kerry Hemming-Taylor, Katie Greenwood, Anna Spencer just to name a few I am the teacher I am today. The teacher that doesn’t want to stop learning, the reflective practitioner, the researcher, the risk taker (in the classroom).

I have always made it openly known that I wanted to become a senior leader…but why has it taken me 6 years to finally take the leap? These were some of the things that crossed my mind:

  • Will I be able to do this and be a mum? My boy will always come first. I have been told by some leaders in my career that the job must come first and I believed this for a long time- and if so am honest, it did deter me.
  • Many people told me that the workload increases massively. I questioned could I actually work any harder? Will o have to give up time with my loved ones? Can I juggle this and do a good job?
  • I want to lead here. I always thought that so wanted to lead in my current school- that I had more to give, not considering how this would affect my relationships within the school.
  • Am I ready? Do I actually have the skills? Will someone believe in me enough to give me such a responsibility? Am I ready for the buck to stop with me?
  • What sort of leader would I be? Will I be able to adapt? Will I have enough ideas? Will I be surrounded by a team that enables me to be the leader I can be?
  • Will I be good enough? Will o be good enough for the staff? Will I be good enough for the students? Will I do a good enough job?

These questions really made me think, but more importantly put me off going for jobs. For those of you who have met me I come across quite loud, confident and opinionated (especially if I am in my comfort zone), but for those who really know me have seen the self doubt, the constant questioning and strive to do better, the self doubt. So what changed? What made me apply for a SLT position?

I believe it is really important to be surrounded by honest people, and knowing who you can have an honest and professional conversation with. I had just this. My deputy head was fantastic as she talked, I talked, she listened, I listened and for nearly 2 hours we looked at all of the pros and cons for applying for this particular job, but it was one thing she said to me which was also reiterated by one of my colleagues on my department which was “you can’t not apply only because you are scared”. That was it… I was scared, no petrified! Terrified to leave my school where I have been so comfortable for the last 11 years, the place where the students, parents and staff know me, where my job was easy. It was this- this is what made me question maybe now was the time. Now don’t get me wrong, I love everything about my job, the ability to visit other schools where I have learned so much from so many, teaching my students… but the job at Meridian High School felt different. It felt like an opportunity for me to leap and find my wings on the way down.

When I teach I try to encourage my students to aim high, take risks and be the best they can be, and I believe it was important to take my own advice. I attended three #WomenEd and #Diverseleaders events this academic year and made me build up courage within. Inspiring talks from so many people who had made the leap made me think I can do it. So I did it, I met with the Head who’s vision I bought into instantly, I filled in the application form and attended the interview to which I was successfully appointed. I was elated, yet the bitter sweet pill of having to leave my current “home” brought an underlying current of sadness. The highs and lows of the emotions were unexpected, high of a new venture and low of leaving everything I have ever known whilst living in the south. But one thing is certain, I am becoming more confident and aware of my own skills and talents as both a teacher and leader and it want until I started to realise this that I could stand closer and closer to the ledge before finally taking the leap. I believe this was my 10% braver moment and I have no doubt there will be many more to come.

So advice for anyone thinking am I ready? Talk to someone who will give you honest and transparent dialogue, who will make you question your motives, your skills and give you the tools to realise that yes maybe you can. We all need a champion, and we all need to make that leap.

Mrs S 🔬🧬