Educational leadership & learning

Eastleigh Deputy Headteacher Conference                                    12.6.2014

We had a fascinating and thought provoking day. It was a great opportunity to hear all the developmental work and projects that were taking place in primary schools across the borough. We were fortunate, as well as having twelve senior leaders, to be joined in the morning by our LA School Improvement Partner.

Thank you to everyone who was able to attend, particularly for the open way in which you shared your school’s progress on preparing for curriculum and assessment from September 2014. Many people started their presentation with phrases like: “it’s fairly straightforward” or “its just common sense really”, but what I realised as the day went on is that common sense only exists when we ourselves have a sense of the commonalities. What to one person seems simple and obvious, is something new to someone else because they haven’t experienced it yet or not had time to consider that line of thinking.

I know that everyone gained something of value to take back to their schools – which is after all a key reason for networking.

Below are some trends that came out through the day that were integral to some, most or indeed all of the different presentations. This is followed by my thoughts (please note the subjectivity, not necessarily 100% accuracy) on the key ideas from each speaker.

 

Trends across schools

  • Keeping the focus for all the development work securely on the children and their needs as learners
  • Project based / integrated curriculum projects with authentic, meaningful and purposeful outcomes
  • Many examples of enquiry based learning / use of key questions
  • Important for staff to think through and take more ownership / responsibility / control of the learning experiences they plan for their pupils
  • No-one seems to be rushing ahead and planning the every week of 2014-2015 in detail. Nor did anybody have a definitive plan for assessment after levels

 

Michelle’s presentation

  • The realisation that a fantastic curriculum is a key driver to make a school outstanding
  • Working on a project with Guy Claxton from Winchester University on learner’s attributes which has been invaluable
  • Discussed with a parent focus group, what the parents would like the children to leave Y6 being able to do (and it was a lot more than being able to read, write and do maths)
  • Working as a whole staff on the whole curriculum – not individual subjects by Subject Leaders
  • The curriculum focuses on 7 learning values (e.g. thinking, independence, collaboration…), of which 2 are linked to each project. The values are what the staff agreed previously that they believe is important about learning
  • Developed a more integrated curriculum with Jane Warwick – having hooks to engage and relevant and purposeful outcomes
  • Very keen to keep rich texts for English (particularly fiction) and to have some English led projects
  • By keeping children and their needs as learners at the forefront of thinking, NC 2014 can be very flexible
  • They plan to have an overview for the curriculum by September 2014, but not detailed plans for the whole year
  • Moved some learning to join that of the same aspect in younger years (e.g. all electricity in Y4) but with opportunities for application in later year groups
  • Developing having: Lead and Applied subjects, although some elements will still be taught discretely (as in not through a project)
  • With assessment: key to keep asking, what is the purpose? Why do we assess?
  • Considering using the “Emerging, Expected, Exceeding” terminology to more clearly link with the EYFS assessment system, although the EYFS will be going by 2016, and no-one seems to be sure what it is being replaced with
  • It is crucial that the assessment system should be linked to the curriculum the children are actually experiencing

 

Lucy’s presentation

  • Staff had looked at the pictures “Burden children” and “Future Man” by Paul Klee
  • From these pieces of art the staff had discussed what they wanted for the children: skills, abilities, personal traits…
  • Developed Investigative projects led by enquiry questions (mainly led by History, Geography and Science curriculum)
  • Theme weeks for other trickier aspects of the curriculum (e.g. exploring trade routes during Fair Trade week)
  • Although subject leaders have produced subject progressions, the aim is for class teachers to plan their own creative interactive curriculum
  • Key Stage Phase teams are working on more detailed plans – but only for Autumn
  • Currently considering using the EYFS terms: Emerging, Expecting and Exceeding

 

Mary & Sarah’s presentation

  • The two schools are federated and changed their curriculum 5 years ago: developing exciting hooks, purposeful outcomes and a variety of home learning
  • Staff were asked what from this curriculum they wanted to keep, these included: writing for a purpose, TASC wheel, community elements, drama, debate, risk taking, control their own learning, variety of homework, real life contexts and applications…
  • Worked on developing a John Hattie principle of backward planning and developing 21st century skills
  • Subject Leaders from both schools have worked together in pairs producing plans and progressions for the Autumn term – which has also led to some strong Joint Professional Development
  • Once they have an overview for the foundations subjects they are going to consider how English might best fit in.

 

Becky, Emma & Tim’s presentation

  • Shared a one page summary of the main aspects of NC 2014
  • Shared a summary of the LA curriculum conference (January) with the staff. In particular they discussed the greater freedoms schools had with a slimmed down curriculum, that it is an opportunity to innovate and that three key drivers would make it successful: high quality teaching & learning, a creative & engaging learner focused curriculum and high expectations (of both staff and pupils)

 

  • Discussed how the process had been more about what could we keep so that we don’t have to change too much and that this was the wrong approach
  • Staff critically looked at the overview of projects / subjects and if they weren’t exciting / inspiring for staff created a range of new ideas. These are still being developed and the latest improvement is merging History and Geography projects where they can be into ‘Time and Place’ projects
  • New project ideas were given more exciting titles (e.g. Heavy Metal and Rock of Ages for the Stone Age), engaging hooks and clear purposeful outcomes to work towards
  • New subject progressions have been drafted. There has been a focus on identifying Essential and Optional criteria. The hope is this will free up curriculum time for other aspects that are needed when responding to the learners barriers or targets, but to give additional support for staff who may not have an expertise in that particular subject. An example of the progression for History was shared
  • Draft assessment grids shared for Writing and Maths (and a version of maths split into Number and Non-number). These have a link to current NC levels, but have new end of year / key stage expectations, have a series of next learning steps for staff, but these are built into phases. Phases was described as being a better word, as something that learners pass through rather than a level to label them with. These documents are stills in draft, so the colleagues are happy for any suggestions to improve them

 

Sarah’s presentation

  • Has worked with Guy Claxton’s group on: Building Learning Power (e.g. resilience, resourcefulness)
  • Created a new vision for learning: “Working together, learning for life”
  • Created a set of skills pupils should have by the time they leave
  • Developing a Crescent Passport for additional experiences children should experience at primary (e.g. learning an instrument, going on a residential)
  • Key to think of new projects with catchy titles to deter staff from pulling out old plans (e.g. Greece Lightning!)
  • Creating a Learning Challenge Curriculum
  • Projects start with key questions and a hook / wow experience which creates energy and excitement
  • The key outcome is always decided before the plan in created

 

Mark & Kate’s presentation

  • Using quality texts as a starting point – to help develop a love of reading
  • Retained the successful History and Geography projects if they fit
  • Undertaking the “Talk for Writing” project with Pie Corbett
  • Building in time to evaluate and research
  • Developing: cold task – complete the learning – hot task – site of application later

 

Laura’s presentation

  • Raised the profile of certain foundation subjects, as the school had been too heavily focused on the core subject in the recent past
  • Whole school development of Project Based Learning: with the engaging hooks, children questions and involvement in deciding the learning journey and a final interactive outcome. The staff’s professional development in understanding rich and meaningful learning experiences mean they are ready for planning a new curriculum
  • Staff have developed as creative and critical thinkers who plan more through the eyes of the learners

 

Tim Oates YouTube film

At a suggestion from a few colleagues we started again after lunch watching a recent YouTube clip of Tim Oates explaining the Expert Panel’s rationale behind the new curriculum and removing levels.

He talked about:

    • Deep secure understanding of concepts, ideas, knowledge and skills, through covering fewer things but in greater depth. By focusing in less we can help children develop their level of mastery
    • NC levels should go because it is dysfunctional for learners to label themselves or to compare themselves with others
    • There has been a case of trying to rush learners through levels too quickly
    • There should be more formative assessment, with teachers selecting questions and assessment activities. These should focus on whether a child has mastered a particular aspect of learning. Teachers will develop their expertise in assessment though their probing of learners’ understanding
    • Assessment should support learning

My personal reflection on this film was that although the DfE may have taken the headline of removing NC levels, I don’t think they have accepted or fully understood the rationale behind it. Maybe they should focus on less to develop their mastery understanding of assessment?

 

 

Other thoughts

    • Key Thing: define our own standards. What are they?
    • The importance of triangulation of books, data and observations (and discussions with pupils – which I know makes it a quadrilateral) when making judgements about teaching & learning
    • Pupil progress meetings will become even more crucial
    • Senior leaders will need to be alert of trends across a class, a year group, a key stage or a whole school
    • Help staff and senior leaders to change their mindset about a grade at the end of a single observation (although how does this sit with new Performance Management and Performance Related Pay), and in a similar way help staff and pupils to move away from a levels mindset
    • How will consistency between schools work smoothly if all schools have different assessment systems and terminology (particularly transition during key stages)?
  • Many people seem stuck between a ‘rock and a hard place’ with the Stone Age! (Just checking you’ve read to the end)

 

 

 

You will be able to read this soon on Twitter by following        @HantsPrimSLT

 

 

 

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