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 🧬

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