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 evaluating our practice for evidence.


I was fortunate to attend a College of Teaching event on “Assessment in Practice” at Winchester University on the 6th of December. For me the event was fairly affirming as many aspects resonated with actions we have taken to move our thinking, understanding and practice on.


Key points from theory

Assessment comes from the Latin word ‘Assidere’: which means to sit alongside. This is common practice in our Year R and Year 1 classes, but has also become a much more regular feature of lessons across the school in the past few years. Through dialogue, mainly listening we get to know our learners better as learners.

the learning, not be focused on ‘weighing the pig’. The vast majority of our assessment is focused on knowing our learners better and therefore more purposefully using the information to plan future learning.

Responsive teaching, changing, adapting, re-orgainsing, re-pacing lessons and learning ‘in the moment’. I am very proud of the number of times our staff change and adapt during lessons. For a number of years we haven’t heard “but that wasn’t on my lesson plan”.



Julie Bray from St John the Baptist, Andover

Julie is the headteacher, and spoke about the journey their staff had been on to develop their assessment processes. (Cornerstone points in purple font).

    • Embed learning deeply (not rushing through content). At Cornerstone we have certainly developed ways of deliberate and varied practice to ensure learners really understand rather than just superficially remember in the short term.
    • Informs future planning in real time.
    • Staff ownership of the assessment system (the school have created it). We have created our own system focused on the National Curriculum. Staff have created and we annually review our criteria for judgements.
    • Lower and Higher Attainers (not abilities). At different points on their learning journey. We have worked hard to remove the word ‘ability’ from our spoken language and our thinking, although this is often challenging.
    • Teachers produce assessment information once. Our teachers input their ongoing teacher assessments of learners security and depth of understanding / learning onto our Assessment Journeys. They are not asked to analyse this any further than to use it to adapt their planning and grouping. As headteacher I undertake the number crunching elements of data analysis.
    • Teachers know the pupils as learners in detail. This is evident on a daily basis, and also during our Pupil Achievement Meetings.
    • Use SOLO to plan for and assess ‘depth of learning’. We produce SOLO Learning Journeys for maths, which both staff and learners use to assess their progress
    • Investigate those not on track and discuss mini-plan of actions. We produce Action Plans through discussions in November, February and April. These are focused on vulnerable groups and those learners not on track.

So in conclusion, I am proud of how far we have come at Cornerstone (and as a profession) in our understanding and use of assessment. I think it is far more focused than it has been previously on the learners, their strengths, next steps and informing actions to support those next steps.

Primary Assessment Journeys

Feedback policy May 2017

Feedback TLT 17

SOLO Maths Learning Journeys

Part One.

I was fortunate and privileged to be able to spend a day in professional dialogue and reflection with two passionate, dedicated and inspiring headteachers: Jon Le Fevre (@advens_learning) and Matt Hickey (@headhighwood).

We have all taken on headships at our current schools in the last 3-4 years (although it is Jon’s second headship) and each of our schools is a growing school. What I think really unites us though is the desire and determination to make learning and the curriculum meaningful, real and engaging for our learners, and to support staff to grow professionally in a trusting and empowering school culture.

We are visiting each other’s schools over the course of this academic year, to analyse how these visions are developing in practice. For me our first day was a mixture of ‘magpie-ing’ resources / ideas, raising questions / thoughts for me to discuss with colleagues at my school, and evaluating the evidence in practice seen on a range of classroom drop ins.

We shared different formats for Strategic Development Plans and Self Evaluations.

  • Matt’s made me consider whether we should add Ofsted criteria for Outstanding and Good (RAG rated) to the top of each section. Should our SDP focus more directly than currently on gaps in the Outstanding criteria?
  • Jon’s SDP was on the same format as his whole school vision map (based on Simon Sineck’s Golden Circle). It made it clear how each element of school improvement was strongly personalised to the school context.
  • It also made me question our SEF. Previously we had a one page summary and then a separate evidence document. Currently we now have a combined document which provides our grades, rationale for these, evidence and next steps. However I was reminded of the power and usefulness of having all the key info on a one page document. This is definitely something I want to re-consider
  • We discussed setting data targets for staff, including as part of their PM. It reminded me of a conversation I had last year about setting a range (from minimum expected to more aspirational).


We discussed the structure and focus of SLT and Subject Leader monitoring activities, and how this provides accurate information but also helps drive school improvement.

  • I want to consider whether as we grow as a school (both in size and number of years since we opened) we would benefit from a more centrally agreed and tight focus for monitoring.
  • Do we have the right balance of leadership and management tasks / time in our SLT, or do we need to ring-fence more regular strategic work?

Matt is very passionate about developing and embedding ‘Learning Behaviours’ with his staff. Jon is currently developing a ‘Learning Adventures’ pedagogy with his team, but plans to develop a similar approach re. learning behaviours as he did at his previous school.

  • At our school we agreed with our Pupil Voice Groups 5 ‘Learning Powers’ last year (to our power up our learning journey). These are: Communication, Teamwork, Resilience, Independence and Positivity. We have launched new posters and ‘Learning Powers’ vehicles with our learners this term.
  • Questions I want to consider include, how we might develop ideas / expectations about how these might be evident during an English or Maths unit of learning? Or how they might be evident during a Learning Quest?
  • Should we consider creating with our learners social stories for each of the Learning Powers?

We all valued a long term approach and investment in culture and staff development at our schools. This is something that at our school I think we generally do well, and has been commented on positively by many visitors and the staff themselves.

  • How effective though is our coaching model and practice?
  • How often should we be encouraging teachers to self-evaluate in a more formal way? They currently do against elements of our Teaching for Learning policy and the ‘Teacher Standards’, but what impact does this have? Could it have more?
  • Could we use technology to make more use of photographing and filming learners during drop-ins and learning walks, and this being part of the following professional dialogue?

We discussed the importance of the balance between the core subjects and wider broader curriculum experience. That standards in one are not mutually exclusive, and that a broad balanced and empowering learning experience was what we are all striving for, for our learners.

If we ensure learning is always the focus, the results should take care of themselves.

We discussed the overview of English & Maths in each year group.

  • This made me want to come back and review again with staff the range of documents / systems they are using
  • How do these fit with our Learning Quests and Curriculum Maps, which staff develop in additional release time with our Curriculum Leader?

Jon explained in more detail the ‘Learning Adventures’ approach to their curriculum. These included the elements: destination, flexible map, great guides, learning skills, up for it attitude. He was keen to find out if we could identify these elements when we dropped into classes and how the learners would articulate their learning.

There was agreement between us that learning and lessons should always aim to have a real purpose, but without ‘crowbars’ being employed to force all learning into the same contexts. Learning should be exciting and fun but with rigour and clear Learning Aims underneath.

I reflected on our school’s Values of Love, Forgiveness and Hope and our Vision to ‘Grow an Inspirational Learning Community’ amongst staff and pupils.

  • I want to return again to look at how these fit in with our Cornerstone Rules, Learning Powers and Learning Quests?
  • Do I regularly enough and authentically enough live out our Values and Vision?
  • Do I regularly enough engage in conversations with staff and learners about Values, Vision and learning?
  • Do these conversations have as much positive impact as they could / should?
  • Am I being effective enough as a ‘Great Guide’ (in Jon’s ‘Learning Adventures’ vocab)? Are other staff with their learners? Do we spend sufficient time observing and listening before considering the most appropriate actions?

What I really valued was the time to reflect and the expertise / collegiate approach Jon and Matt selflessly provided. It certainly proved that ‘Three Heads are better than One!’

I look forward to developing some of my thinking in practice before ‘Part 2’ of the trilogy, when I will be hosting in the Spring term.

TLT17 Pick n Mix

Chris Moyse (@ChrisMoyse) opened the day, talking about how we need to focusing on “Raising the Bar”.

Chris referenced a range of books he has found enlightening over the last few years, in particular “Legacy” by James Kerr.

In this book the legacy of the ‘All Blacks’ is explored. As the most successful sports team ever, with an 86% win ratio, what is it that makes them so successful. The Haka is well known to be performed by the team before matches, but in New Zealand Chris explained they also perform it at weddings, funerals and indeed assemblies.

It is a chant about character, humility and recognising you are part of something bigger. It’s about leaving the shirt to the next player / generation in a better condition than you found it.

Chris asked us to think about our role as teachers.

  • What legacy do we want to leave behind?
  • What will we leave woven into the lives of other people?

Next Chris asked us who had inspired us? Who it was we wanted to emulate?

He discussed Sergey Bubka, who had broken the pole vault world record 35 times in his career. That Bubka had maintained a very high standard for years, but was always trying to slightly raise the bar.

Chris explained that purposeful practice is when we take control of what we are trying to develop, and we deliberately move out of our auto-pilot mode.

If we were to rate our practice on a range of 1-10, and we were to rate ourselves as a 7 (for example), the question Chris asked is what would it take to get to 7.1? It’s about raising the bar slightly and gradually improving over time.



Gaz Needle (@gazneedle) was the next speaker I listened to. In truth (and with no disrespect to any other presenters) Gaz was the one colleague I was most excited to meet and listen to (and I was not disappointed)

Gaz incredibly openly and professionally explained the journey his career path has been on over the past few years. From being a Y2 teacher, to acting headteacher to substantive headteacher within a short space of time.

Gaz is clearly an inspiring and genuine head, who teachers would love working with.

Gaz believes a headteacher should focus on:

  • spreading their values
  • having a positive impact
  • developing great relationships with staff
  • being empathetic
  • giving staff a second chance
  • recognising that all teachers want to do a good job and get better
  • creating and growing a great team
  • listening to people
  • leading and giving time to people

As a school leader: you make the weather. So smile, be positive, energetic and enthusiastic!

Also: be yourself, know yourself and be authentic.


Next was David Fawcett (@davidfawcett27) discussing Feedback. His focus was on “Less input: more output”.

David discussed the numbers of myths there are about marking and feedback. Some teachers interpret research to back up their theories / personal beliefs.

A key question to keep in mind is: “Is it for the learners or is it for evidence of the policy?”

David referenced Sean Harford’s Ofsted myth clarification documents.

Feedback effects can be variable. We need to consider why it is done? How it is done? What’s the impact?

The aim should be for feedback practice to be effective, sustainable and have positive impacts.


Lisa Jane Ashes (@lisajaneashes) closed the day. She started with the question: “What are you doing here?” (She wasn’t just suggesting that the more intelligent people had already made their way to the pub!)

For Lisa her focus in teaching has always been based around solving problems and being creative. We must think, or allow our learners to think, that there is only one solution to any problem.

She encouraged us to take on some of the ideas from today, put them into action and then to share the process and results with others.

Whatever the problems are in our classroom or school, those problems will always remain if we don’t do anything about them.

So after a day of professional learning and reflection now time for action and professional development.



I was very pleased to invited to #TLT17 at Southampton University on 7 October 2017, to run a workshop explaining how our school have developed and use our Feedback policy. The aim I shared was to maximise learning for the pupils whilst minimising the workload for the teachers.

Our first version came in the autumn term of 2014 (the term when the new National Curriculum came in and NC levels went out). I shared some summaries of research about the value of Feedback, and as a staff team we designed our Feedback policy.

We used this throughout this and the next year, and it seemed to work fairly well. However when the DfE Workload Groups produced their reports we evaluated our policy and practice to analyse whether it was meaningful, manageable and motivating.

During 2016-2017 we were extremely fortunate to have the wonderful Natasha Jones undertake her NPQH project with us. Working with the staff in two groups she helped us reflect on the principles and purposes of feedback and what we wanted it to achieve.

Also in this year I was involved in a Hampshire run project with colleagues from a number of other schools. We visited each others schools and observed and analysed their Feedback policy and practice. It was a reassuring process, as we had many similar elements of practice.

However we plan to continue to be self-critical and reflect on effectiveness and impact of our policy.

Below is the presentation I shared at #TLT17 and a copy of our current Feedback policy.

Feedback TLT 17

Feedback policy May 2017 


Foundation Assessment Journeys

From the start I need to acknowledge and thank some amazing colleagues who worked incredibly hard to produce the first version of this document and then incredibly generously shared it with so many schools within our local area.

Thank you: VikkiBaker-Gunnill, WarrenBeadell, AliClarke, Zoe Evans, Jen Johnson, Clare Slowther and Steve Summerton.

I would also like to thank the staff at Cornerstone CE Primary who have then spent time reviewing the document and adapting it for our use in school.

When you first look at it you might be slightly put off by the number of objectives for each subject in each year group. I encouraged our staff to slim down these objectives, but they said they would rather keep them, as it was helpful for pitching the learning and seeing the progression over year groups.

Staff are able to assess up to about half of the objectives, although less is fine. At the end of the year they all complete the “EYE 1 2 3” and the “Effort / Attitude” columns. This is an overall for each child for the whole year. These overall numbers are the grades that then go on the end of year report for parents. These overall grades are also then used by Subject Leaders to track standards in their subject (the Excel spreadsheet produces the percentages for Subject Leaders).

The 1, 2 and 3 criteria has been created by us as a staff team and is reviewed each year. It is also the same criteria we use for English and Maths.

The aim is to make it helpful for teachers with planning, with a minimum of time recording numbers, and quick and useful for Subject Leaders.

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

Foundation Assessment Journeys master


Subject Leadership

I’m leading a Staff Development Meeting next week on the role of Subject Leadership. My plan is to make this mainly a collaborative and professional conversation around some key questions.



What is the impact we want to have as subject leaders?

What is the positive difference we want to make?



What are the specific actions we should undertake?

What processes do we need to put in place?

How can we collate these ideas into a Role Profile so we have a shared understanding?

How can we make sure that every subject contributes to a broad and balanced curriculum?



What will be the outcome?

What will we all have achieved together?


Subject Leadership

Subject Leader role profile


I have included some quotes from Andy Buck’s (@Andy_Buck) excellent book: Leadership Matters to encourage us to think together about the type of leaders we want to be, and what being a leader means.


If you have any thoughts or suggestions I would be very happy to hear them.








Tag Cloud

%d bloggers like this: