Educational leadership & learning

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Teaching, Learning and Assessment morning

I am running a free morning of CPD for local primary teachers on Friday 27 January 2017. It is taking place at Cornerstone CE Primary school (PO15 7JH) in Hampshire (Junction 9 off the M27).

I will be sharing our journey so far in developing our Teaching and Learning practice and policy, and linked Assessment procedures (since September 2014). Colleagues attending will hopefully be sharing their ideas, the practice in their classroom and schools, and hopefully we will all go away with more ideas and greater clarity.

I have attached a copy of the presentation below, but undoubtedly the professional dialogue will be the most valuable aspect of the morning.

If you live or work locally and would be interested in joining us, you would be very welcome.

Please contact the school on 01489 660750 or to book a place.

Teaching Learning Assessment 27.1.2017



Top 5 posts of 2016

Below is a list of the most popular posts on my blog during 2016.

#teacher5aday #wintercalendar

My December contribution with @vivgrant to @MatrynReah’s important Teacher Wellbeing initiaive.

Assessment Journeys 2016

The principles and processes behind our school’s developing Assessment practices, whihc aim to focus securely on the learners and making it useful and manageable for teachers.

Learning First

My thoughts about the conference I attended in September orgainsed by @AlisonMPeacock and @JuleLilly to focus on Assessment Beyond Levels.

TLT 16

A summary of the thoughts shared by a range of speakers at this year’s event in September at Southampton University.

Big Ideas in Primary Maths

A summary of our staff’s professional learning and development from a day with @mikeaskew26. Thought provoking, insightful and highly helpful.

Key Values

Below are the Values that define me as a person in my role as a headteacher:


I shared more about how these have been developed over time and with colleagues in our school at Pedagoo Hamphire 16. The presentation can be viewed at:

Pedagoo Hampshire 16



Finding the lessons

I spent an interesting and reflective half-morning ‘Finding the lessons’ with the Real David Cameron (@realdcameron) and Tim Brighouse in the company of our expert and experienced Senior Leader Clare Ross, thank to the generosity of Hays Education. Their aim was to share some thoughts, ask some questions and engage a room of school leaders in conversation and thinking about their leadership and it’s impact. This required some well needed slowing of pace and quality time for clarity of thinking.

Inside the head of a school leader…


The key ideas that Clare and I took from the session that are pertinent within our context were:

  • Progress, development focui, workload…have to be manageable and sustainable, otherwise they will not become embedded, effective or have long term sustained impact (this reminded me a little of a previous blog of mine: Succinct Understand Apply Embed wp_20161201_20_09_15_pro
  • The evaluation of all that we do should be on the impact it has on the learners (both the children and adults in our schools). The key question is “so what?” (the question I keep on a post-it on my computer screen)
  • The importance of adapting new ideas into current practice (assimilating) rather than adopting them wholescale with no cohesion between current practice and new ‘potential silver bullet’
  • How as leaders we should ask more questions than provide answers. We want our staff to continue to grow as empowered, independent thinking,  reflective professionals. For us at Cornerstone I think this is encapsulated in our definition of ‘Growing an Inspirational Learning Community’ilc
  • That as leaders we need to identify and analyse those actions that require low effort but result in high impact
  • Finally that we need to consider in the busyness of the role of senior leader, and indeed school staff generally, what are the key plates to keep spinning and which can be allowed to slow or dropped


Other points that David and Tim made that resonated were that genuine change can only come from within (whether personally or as an organisation). That as Leaders we create the climate within schools through every word, action and interaction.

That in the education system we are working in a period of constant change, with time often being taken up dealing with structural change. There has been a decentralisation of blame and an overemphasis on leadership.

“We’re caught in a trap…when you don’t believe a word I say…we can’t go on together with suspicious minds.”

Suspicious minds

What we really need in schools is energetic and enthusiastic staff, who are well supported and nurtured, and are passionate about and committed to learning and improvement.




Challenge accepted David and Tim!

#New2Me TeachMeet

What a fabulous evening of learning, networking, food and laughter!

When you can get people with the passion, expertise and willingness to share, like: @penfoldno1 @francescaprett2 @baggiepr @sarahmu14 @tamgoddard @taniaf77 @grahamandre @braunteaches @IRIS_Connect, all in the same room, volunteering their time to inspire other colleagues, you know you have a special event.

#New2Me Primary TeachMeet, is the first we have run @cornerstonecofe in Hampshire, but hopefully it won’t be the last. Plans are already being draw up for #New2Me2 in 2017!


Key ideas shared by the presenters included.

Henry Penfold

The power of Skype in removing barriers in the classroom, through virtual fieldtrips and conversations with guest speakers. It is relatively easy to set up and arrange links, all you need is: a Skype ID, a webcam, a microphone and a Microsoft account. Microsoft have also created a whole series of Skype lesson to help teachers and pupils uncover the power of connecting face to face online.


Fran Pretty

Fran has done some fantastic work at Cornerstone developing her and our school’s use of Learning Walls. She explained that thery are not about looking like neat displays, and they are quick and easy to put up and add to. Often it is examples of the pupils’ ideas and work that is added as a useful reference for them in their learning. Also due to this it makes the learning journey sequence visual for the pupils and the staff. Fran shared some photos of Learning Walls from her classroom.


Phil Bagge

Phil explained (remotely via YouTube) a range of his favourite coding activities using Scratch Junior. These included “Programming a Dance”, “Build your won clock” and “Can you get the Cat to count?”

All of these activities and many more can be found at Phil’s excellent website:

The link to his YouTube video is:


Sarah Ahmed

Sarah and her school (Crescent Primary in Eastleigh) have done a lot of development work on embedding a mastery approach to their teaching and learning. A key mantra is “Don’t assume: assess”. She explained how they have used SOLO Taxonomy (Structure of Observable Learning Outcomes) to develop a common understanding and language of learning amongst staff and pupils. She also discussed how this supported pre-assessments and the pupils’ self-assessments.


Tamara Goddard

Tamara shared how she is structuring learning over a maths Unit with her Y5 pupils. She discussed how she is developing their fluency, reasoning and problem solving in a range of practical ways, with examples from the pupils books. This included a variety of activities and a range of different questions types to develop their thinking and understanding.


Graham Andre

Graham spoke about the power of Genius Hour which offers pupils a regular time each week to tackle projects that reflect their personal interests and passions. It develops key skills:

  • Creativity and innovation
  • Collaboration
  • Communication
  • Critical thinking

Graham shared examples of projects ranging from costume design to blogging to Minecraft, which promoted deep thinking, engaged pupils and the internal motivation and drive for more learning.


Tania Harding

In Science we would like pupils to work as scientists as much as possible. A model of planning to investigate a question was shared which draws out variables allowing pupils to truly understand fair testing and at the same time produce a results table. This was all done via a flipchart model with audience participation. Contact @taniaf77 to find out more.


Laura Braun

Laura discussed ideas linked to a strategy of “Maths Flash”. This included sharing a range of activities and questions she has used with her class to good effect. Enthusiasm, pace, practice & getting the children enjoying talking about maths were all key elements.


Tim Clarke

Yes me. I felt I couldn’t ask others to present without doing so myself.

I shared the work we have done on developing Learning Journey Prompts. The aim of these questions is to encourage pupils to think and about their thinking and reflect on their learning (metacognition). There are a series of questions from which teachers or pupils can choose 1 or 2 to ask at:

  • the start of a lesson / series of lessons (Packing for the Learning Journey)
  • at points during the lesson / series of lessons (Going on a Learning Journey)
  • at the end of a lesson / series of lessons (Unpacking from a Learning Journey)

Copies of the questions can be downloaded for use / adaption here: learning-journey-prompts-prism


You can see the Collected Presentations from the speakers at the TeachMeet below.



Dare to be different

Inspire, Ignite, Imagine.

Will Ryan ( led an entertaining and enlightening session on creative teaching and learning and how leaders can inspire by daring being to be different.

“Failure is never so frightening as regret”

“Never doubt the capacity of a small group of people to change the world.”

Given a choice between changing and proving that the change is not necessary, most people get busy with the proof.

This needs a leader: someone to inspire.


Ofsted Inspector: why might “Different Dufus school” (Dr Seuss) be outstanding?

  • creativity and enthusiasm of teachers makes learning memorable and standards are high
  • balance of pedagogy: discovery and direct instruction
  • headteacher had a vision and was brave and allowed innovative practice and trusted teachers to give them freedom
  • generating new innovative ideas provides an interesting and inspiring curriculum
  • strong relationships so the pupils feel proud of their school and have a sense of belonging
  • positive attitude and expectations
  • Celebrates individuality
  • It stands out, it has something special

How does a leader walk?

  • determined and purposeful
  • with a wobble but never quite falling over
  • in circles
  • the extra mile for others
  • with a creative unique bounce in their step
  • forwards, not always quickly, but always forwards
  • being only you
  • at the front, at the middle, at the back (at different times)

The more they dare to be different the more moments of self-doubt a leader will have.

The 3 generational lesson: children can’t wait to tell their parents when they get home, as parents later in life they will recall the lesson with their own children.

  • Generating visual images
  • Generating language that brings the lesson to life

Think of the best thing that has happened in your classroom that week before you walk out at the end of the week. Record it in a lovely book, a diary of why I am a special teacher.

School leadership

Too many schools have been managed not led.

External frameworks have been forced upon schools. (Outside – in model).

Never set off on a journey without an idea of where you aim to be going.

Leaders need to take time to pause the clock and think.

Leaders cannot do it on their own: they need to deploy others.

Good leaders are almost always great simplifiers. Make every word count.

Constantly communicate what you believe. Inspiring people with your vision. (Invisible leadership).

Communicating the Dream: The Art of Invisible Leadership

Empathetic, Perceptive, Inclusive, Inspirational, Purposeful, Integrity, Forgiveness, Moral purpose.




Teaching and Learning Takeover took place at Southampton University on the 15 October 2016. It reminded of how important in schools it is to retain the focus on our core purpose, to let teaching and learning takeover all the other busyness and business of school life.

John Tomsett (@johntomsett) started the day asking us to consider how we get better? It’s not about always picking up something new and shiny every week and try to add it to our practice (and teachers can be very magpie like). It’s more about many small steps that take us on a successful journey. Steps we often already know. So development should focus on consolidating and embedding current positives. At our school this is certainly the point we have reached: embedding the good practice and tweaking it carefully and manageably.

I was fascinated by Kev Bartle’s (@kevbartle) session about Leadership. He shared some fascinating clips: ‘Amazing Starlings murmuration’ and ‘Boids’ (sorry didn’t note the full link). Kev talked about school’s being complex organisations and that development of structures was an organic, ecological and chaotic process. However many schools try to impose a linear structure, despite the fallacy of guaranteed cause and effect. He spoke more about Chaos Theory and asked us to consider what the challenges / opportunities this might present for schools:

  • Sustainable capacity-building?
  • Ethical collaboration?
  • Purposeful professional learning?

At the edge of the chaos if schools can give staff agency, so they and the school can evolve positively. For myself as a headteacher it is finding the most appropriate balance in the tension of a process between:

  • the complexity of schools as organisations which means that order is emergent. Structures evolve.
  • and the requirement from the outset for certainty and structure that external accountability requires

Next John Tomsett discussed “cross phase assessment and unfettered learning” across primary and secondary. That it’s important to build from the Early Years up. Transition cross phase needs to be not just in assessment and curriculum, but also crucially in terms of pedagogy. Teachers should have high expectations of all learners and embrace the challenge of bringing all of the learners with them. We need to keep reminding ourselves not to use the language of ability, but at John’s school they to low, mode or high starters. Assessment should be fully focused on moving learning on and not be a hoop jumping exercise. Leaders need to have courage to focus on the key purpose of assessment, and not let it become a barrier to learning.

After lunch Jim Smith (@jim1982) explained passionately about the value of encouraging disruptive learning / innovation. Average is bad, and we need to always be thinking / questioning how we could do things differently and better. We need to focus on these as principles and not become wedded to specific strategies. Jim then asked us in groups to trial a range of practical activities we could use in the classroom.

The entertaining, enthusiastic and inspiring Stephen Lockyer (@mrlockyer) was next and chose to share the story of “The Tiger who came to Teach”. Filled with positive priorities for pedagogy such as:

  • Man the checkpoints: develop their abilities to self-regulate
  • Aim high (like really high): convince them they are working above their level
  • Keep up, not catch up: fill any gaps as quickly as you can
  • Provide a ladder: scaffold levels of development
  • Join the dots backward: build review points short, medium and long term
  • Launch your kitemarks: seek out pupils standards and feature them regularly
  • Share the Blue Peter magic: supply living examples
  • Have stupidly high hopes: reset your bottom group as “not there yet”
  • Beat the drum: publicise high achievement as much as possible


Lindsay Skinner (@lindsayjskinner) rounded off an inspiring day of professional learning by talking about the power of a teacher’s voice. Being clear, fluent and emotionally engaged. Often we focus so much on the content of what we want to say in lessons, we don’t always fully consider the small details and tone of what we say and the impact it has on the understanding of the learners. Lindsay clearly explained the importance of slowing down our speaking pace at challenging times and for key messages, and the power of anecdotes in proving to pupils we are human.


So a wonderful and enjoyable day for us all as human beings, and powerful and inspiring as professional learners.

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