Educational leadership & learning

Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

UPDATED: GDPR Staff training

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.

Year 6 aspirations

I would like to start by offering my sincere thanks for the generous and open way  3 schools and particular colleagues within them shared their valuable professional experiences and expertise:

Twyford St Mary’s C of E Primary: Hannah Beckett and Tracey

Uplands Primary: Christina Dalingwater and Sarah Ackernman

Botley C of E Primary: Joe Cooil


The majority of my time as a class teacher was spent teaching Y5 and Y6 (13 years). However the last time I had class teacher responsibility was back in 2011.

Personally I love working with this age group. The questions, the interactions, the curriculum advancing and getting more sophisticated, the greater cognitive independence to generate, adapt and refine ideas, opinions, outcomes…

Our school opened in September 2013 with a YR and a Y1 class, and has grown ‘from the bottom’. So in 2018-2019 we will have our first class of Y6s. This brings new opportunities and new challenges. I am keen it does not also bring an unhealthy amount of stress and pressure, either for us as staff or for the pupils.

All colleagues working in primary are aware of the ‘drop in data’ (not standards per se) in the 2015-2016 with the introduction of the new ‘tougher’ Y6 SATs. We are also aware of how on average schools improved their data last academic year, having reflected and adapted after the first year’s experience.

We are also aware of Amanda Spielman’s focus (rightly so) on maintaining a broad and balanced curriculum across every year group in primary.

Despite a number of years of personal teaching in Y6, I have been keen to visit other schools within our Local Authority (Hampshire) who have supported their Y6 pupils to achieve extremely well over the past 2 years (both in terms of attainment and progress).

At our school we define Inspirational Outcomes (i.e. what we want the pupils to achieve by the end of each year and particularly their final year before transfer) 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

This definition clearly states that although aspirational academic outcomes are very important, they are not the whole picture. Indeed our Curriculum policy Aims (which staff quote correctly like to quote back to me at times) state:

We aim to:

  • Ignite a love of learning in all pupils
  • Encourage empowering partnerships between all learners in the school (pupils and staff)
  • Ensure the statutory entitlement of every pupil to a balanced provision of all subjects within the National Curriculum is met
  • Ensure all pupils achieve well in all aspects of the curriculum, making appropriate rates of personal progress so that they leave Cornerstone fully prepared for the next stage of their education
  • Facilitate children’s acquisition of ideas, knowledge, skills, mindsets and qualities of character, which will help them to develop intellectually, emotionally, socially, physically and morally
  • Develop a range of Learning behaviours with every pupil through the way they uncover and discover the curriculum content to help them grow as ‘Powerful Learners’ and as confident, happy and mature people
  • Grow an ‘Inspirational Learning Community’ amongst both pupils and adults through the way the curriculum is developed, enhanced and celebrated

So I went to visit other schools, to discuss how they have managed to support their pupils to achieve extremely well over the last two years. Below is a summary of some of the main trends, though it was interesting to note that despite commonalities all 3 schools had also had success in different ways.

  1. Focus on developing the quality of Teaching & Learning in all classes
  2. Maintain a positive Growth Mindset, that with perseverance we can continue to improve and the pupils view SATs as an opportunity to proudly show what they have learnt and have achieved
  3. Effective use of assessment information and use of feedback to identify gaps in understanding, enable responsive teaching and inform future planning
  4. The school needs to take ownership of a broad and balanced curriculum, which continue to inspire learners and is exciting and creative, whilst giving numerous opportunities to apply and practice key skills in real and meaningful contexts
  5. Use of targeted and specific cut away groups within lessons and use of registration challenges / daily drips to practice and secure understanding of key basic knowledge and skills to grow the pupils’ confidence

Colleagues also shared many specific ways they have developed to support learning in English, Maths and across the curriculum in Y6.

As I stated at the start I am extremely grateful to these colleagues for the generous and open way they shared their valuable professional experiences and expertise.

Defining & developing ‘Inspirational’

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.

Three heads are better than one

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.

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.








Better than Good?

In July 2017 we reached the end of our 4th year as a school (@cornerstonecofe).

Myself and our Senior Leader (Clare) feel fairly confident that most aspects of our work are at a ‘Good’ standard of a regular basis and pupil outcomes have improved over the past two years.

We spent some time discussing how we wanted to continue our development: by aiming for the Outstanding criteria from Ofsted, or by trying to create our own definitions and practice of being better than Good. We choose the latter.

With staff last term we began to unpick what we might think defines Inspirational teaching and learning. What it might look like? how it might feel? What we might see and hear from the pupils? The impact it might have on them? We also discussed teachers we remember both as children and from a career that we thought were inspiring and what made them so.

For me, a lot of the ideas can come down to:

  • How we do what we do
  • The impact on the learners

This week Clare asked us to consider the following two questions in pairs:

  1. My teacher is inspirational when / because…
  2. Inspirational teaching and learning at Cornerstone is…

Our aim is to define Inspirational teaching and learning and then consider, share and develop examples of this in our practice across the school. Below are some of our thoughts this week. The plan is to try to pick the 3-5 that most resonate with us from each list. Which 3-5 would you choose?


My teacher is inspirational when / because…

  1. Enthusiastic, animated, energetic and curious
  2. Nurture high aspirations
  3. We are reflective and responsive
  4. Recognise effort and improvement
  5. We use the language of learning not doing
  6. Giving real choice
  7. Growth Mindset
  8. Encourage and share genuine moments of awe
  9. Environment of positive assurance
  10. Share something we have learnt and be open when we don’t know
  11. Courageously try, even when it’s difficult
  12. Feed forward
  13. Show genuine interest
  14. Give children many chances to speak
  15. We are happy and smiling
  16. We model learning (WAGOLLS) and make mistakes
  17. Invest time in them, will go ‘off piste’ to value their contributions
  18. Build resilience
  19. We reflect their interests in the learning
  20. Have high expectations
  21. Using positive and reinforcing language
  22. No sense of failure
  23. Use visual cues to explain
  24. Use IT to make it real and exciting

Inspirational teaching and learning at Cornerstone is…

  1. Challenging
  2. Children find out/ discover for themselves
  3. Empowering
  4. Irresistible
  5. Following children’s interests
  6. Builds self-esteem
  7. Self-motivating
  8. Seen when children are in the flow
  9. Practical
  10. Courageous and risk taking
  11. Stimulating
  12. Well-chosen concrete resources
  13. Unrestricted
  14. Ambitious
  15. Fun
  16. Promoting emotional intelligence
  17. Varied
  18. Accessible
  19. New experiences
  20. Achievement
  21. Engaging for all
  22. Building confidence
  23. Comprehensive subject knowledge
  24. Collaborative
  25. Valuing

We would be very interested in hearing other teachers thoughts and opinions.

Many thanks.

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