Educational leadership & learning

As a school we have been determined and confident in developing our practice over the past few years, building on a secure judgement of Good from Ofsted in 2015.

Part of this development has been exploring, researching and debating what ‘better than Good’ means for us, our pupils and our school. We have read and taken into account the Ofsted criteria, but have not wanted to be bound to their framework.

As staff and pupils we defined our aim to grow as an ‘Inspirational Learning Community’ as:

  • Together, igniting a love of learning
  • Encouraging and empowering partnerships
  • Nurturing a Growth Mindset

This year as staff we have defined what we think ‘Inspirational Teaching and Learning’ is:

  • Irresistible, challenging and promotes choice
  • Empowers all to be the best they can be
  • Collaborative, encourages curiosity and self-discovery, and transforms lives

We have now moved a step further and have drafted definitions for what we as a school think defines Inspirational:

  • Leadership
  • Curriculum & Assessment
  • Behaviours
  • Outcomes

Inspirational Cornerstone

Over the coming terms, as we continue to develop as a school and grow professionally, our plan is to agree, review and refine these definitions, whilst also exemplifying our practice with examples. This will involve all members of both teaching and support staff, so that the whole staff develop a shared understanding about ‘Inspirational’ and that we spend some thought and time celebrating the successes.

Below are summaries we have collated so far:

Inspirational Teaching and Learning Spring 2018

Inspirational Teaching and Learning Summer 18

Inspirational Behaviours Autumn 2018



Filling learning gaps…

As a school we have discussed how we support learners who don’t make ARE at the end of a school year. How do we help them to undertake further practice / learning to get a more secure understanding of some of the key objectives from the previous year, whilst also learning the new year’s curriculum with their peers?

As a school we use our own Assessment Journeys to assess learning within each year group.

This year we are trialling new KPI (Key Performance Indicator) Trackers for those individuals who did not master the previous year’s curriculum. These have been created our SENDCO (@SarahSouthall5) and myself. The aim is not for the teachers to withdraw them from lessons to provide personalised learning journeys. However this first year is a trial.

Our hope is that by raising the teachers’ awareness of the pupils and KPIs from the previous year, many of these objectives will be woven into lessons and/or examples of the learners showing these objectives will be observed.

We’ve created a very simple scoring system to show progress from the previous year, but what is far more important is that we are trying to find a manageable way (for both learners and teachers) to help them fill some of their learning gaps.

Pre KS1 Tracker

Y1 KPI Tracker

Y2 KPI Tracker

Y3 KPI Tracker

Y4 KPI Tracker

Y5 KPI Tracker



I was delighted to be asked by Dr Vicky Randall (Senior Fellow at the University of Winchester / @VicksRandall82) to attend the Early Career Conference in Hampshire in July 2018. I also felt quite honoured and humbled to be on the same ‘line-up’ as Dame Alison Peacock (CEO of the Chartered College of Teaching / @AlisonMPeacock) and Professor Bill Lucas (Director of the Centre for Real World Learning / @LucasLearn).

The title for my workshop is:

Teaching, Learning and Curriculum.

How we define Good practice and how we aspire to be Inspirational (not Outstanding).

Vicky has kindly added the following blurb in the programme for the day:

Tim is the inspirational Head Teacher of Cornerstone Primary School in Whitely. In this workshop Tim will share with you the focus of the curriculum at his school and how they consider learning that moves away from being restricted to just ‘outstanding’. You will leave this session feeling motivated and with some great ideas for your teaching.


I am looking forward discussing ideas with colleagues early in their teaching career, as I am sure I will benefit as much from the conversations as I hope they will.

My workshop presentation can be found below:

Teaching Learning Assessment Curriculum – Early Career conference July 18






Our Admin Officer and myself are running staff training on General Data Protection Regulations during this coming week.

Attached is the Powerpoint we are planning to use as the basis of this training, although no doubt there will be a lot of discussion and questions.

Please feel free to use, adapt or ignore as you wish.

GDPR Staff training MASTER

With many thanks to Tony Sheppard (@GDPRTiger) for valuable feedback and advice.

Further advice can be found from @GDPRinSchools with the free online resources at:


High quality outcomes?

Eric Halton, who is a colleague from HIAS (Hampshire Inspection and Advisory Service), spoke at the start of this year’s Primary Headteacher conference. As well as celebrating the hard work that takes place on a daily basis in Hampshire schools, through determination and shared expertise, he asked us to consider what we might really mean by high quality outcomes for our children.

  • Do we allow ourselves and our school’s to become too narrowly focused on specific academic outcomes?
  • Do we ensure a curriculum for life, or a curriculum to ensure our pupils are secondary ready in two core subjects?
  • What is our moral purpose to ensure equality and equity for all our children?

Clearly it is not that striving for high academic standards is the wrong approach, but it is about making sure that external accountability pressures (of which Eric acknowledged the Local Authority is part of) do not sway us away from a broad and rich curriculum, that inspires children and sets them up as motivated learners for life

At Cornerstone we have defined the high quality outcomes we want to help all our pupils achieve as:

  • Positive, caring, hard-working, balanced and wise people
  • Sustained and substantial progress with attainment above LA and National
  • Aspirational, courageous, self-fulfilled, collaborative and reflective learners

For me, having this balanced definition empowers us as a staff to argue the case for not narrowing our curriculum or focus. We are also confident that this balance is in the best interests of our pupils, both now and for their future. It is a balance that has the support of our families, staff and governors.

I have read through the latest Chartered College of Teaching journal over the past few weeks. “Impact” shares summaries of some recent evidence based research in education.

I set myself the challenge of picking out just one quote from each article to share with staff at outback school, to ask them to reflect on the one that resonates most with them a task this time. I didn’t quite succeed, but have not quoted from every article, so that there is still  reasonable amount and balance.

If you had to pick one idea, which would it be and why?


“Just as plants can be nurtured through gardening, so the brain can be shaped and moulder through teaching.” Sarah-Jayne Blakemore

“Effective teachers communicate clearly and concisely, with efforts to minimise distraction. For new learning to be acquired in an educational and meaningful sense, it must be connected to prior knowledge, which requires two way communication.” Paul Howard-Jones et al

“When we consolidate our learning, it not only becomes permanent, but accessing it becomes easier and quicker, demanding less conscious effort.” Paul Howard-Jones et al

“The need for engaging opportunities that challenge students to apply and test their knowledge in low-risk tasks that are free from anxiety.” Paul Howard-Jones at al

“In the absence of a one-size-fits-all prescription for effective teaching, teachers must constantly make decisions based on their own ideas of how learning proceeds and what they observe occurring in their classrooms.” Paul Howard-Jones et al

“Teachers can also provide scaffolding to help their students achieve success initially, and then slowly make retrieval more difficult as the students become more comfortable with the material.” Megan A Sumeracki

Cognitive Load Theory: “The cognitive load in a task is the amount of cognitive effort required by a person to perform the task.” Dominic Shibli

Intrinsic Cognitive Load: the inherent difficulty of the material
Reduce: breaking down content, sub tasks.

Extraneous Cognitive Load: the Load generates by the way the material is presented
Reduce: clear instructions, simple to complex sequencing, start modelling examples, students apply to new question / context.

Germane Cognitive Load: the elements that aid information processing

“If subject knowledge is incomplete, the student is unable to fall back on the long-term memory and the working memory becomes overloaded.” Dominic Shibli

“Threshold concepts…portals to new or transformed understanding.” Niki Kaiser

Six ways visuals help learning:
1. Support attention
2. Activate or build prior knowledge
3. Minimise Cognitive Load
4. Build mental models
5. Support transfer of learning
6. Make use of dual coding
Oliver Caviglioli

“To maximise the chance of learning new material, students’ knowledge of past topics should be committed to their long-term memory.” Caroline Creaby et al

“We know that sleep is fundamental for learning, memory consolidation and information processing, alongside restoration and repair of the body…insufficient sleep is associated with reduced attention, impaired learning, poorer academic performance and also mood and emotional deficits.” Rachel Sherman et al

“Students need to try new strategies and seek input when they’re stuck. They need this repertoire of approaches – not just sheer effort – to learn and improve.” Carol Dweck

“A Growth Mindset can make the difference between someone avoiding challenge and failure, and someone embracing it for the sake of learning.” Carol Dweck

“Where grouping by attainment is used, there is often conflation of the concept of ‘prior attainment’ with ‘ability’.” Becky Francis et al

“The goal of guided play is that children take charge of their own learning and teachers use their expertise to scaffold children’s learning by designing materials and providing prompting and feedback.” Rebecca Merkley et al

“Parents and teachers attitudes toward maths can influence their children’s mathematical achievements.” Beilock and Maloney

“Vocabulary is one of the strongest predictors of children’s educational success.” Tanya M Paes et al


Along with a room full of primary head teachers from Hampshire I had the privilege of listening to, being inspired by and entertained by Miles Hilton Barber at this year’s conference. Miles describes himself as a ‘Blind adventurer’ ho has clearly accrued a great deal of wisdom in his adventure through life. He illustrated this with  many short clips, some of which are the end of this blog.

He offered us basic life principles as leaders of schools based on his experiences:

Start with your dreams and ambitions, not your limitations (whether that be budget, external accountability, context…)

Attitude determines aptitude, success and happiness. It’s not your circumstances, so don’t have a victim mentality. What you want to achieve is not impossible, it just might never have been done before.

The importance’s of saying yes to opportunities when they come along. “Give it a go, or you’ll never know.” You’ll either succeed or learn, but all you can do is you best (you’ll never be able to meet the needs of everyone).

Fear often holds people back. But Miles sees fear as, False Evidence that Appears Real. He also discussed the strength that come from a strong and committed team: where everyone strengthens and covers everyone. The way we as leaders cope with stress and pressures is a role model for staff and pupils.

He finished by concluding that life is really about people and relationships. There’s more to life than educating children. It’s crucial to look after ourelves and our families.

Inspiring, entertaining and wise words of insight from a ‘blind adventurer’.



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