Educational leadership & learning

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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.


Discussing metacognition

I was pleased and proud to be invited along to a Chartered College of Teaching event at Winchester University last Wednesday (7 March 2018). The focus for the event was discussing ‘The Science of Learning’ and included other presentations about research included in the latest version of ‘Impact’ (The College of Teaching’s regular research magazine).

I shared work we have done at Cornerstone CE Primary, to develop our understanding and use of metcognitive strategies and thinking. We have:

  • looked at and discussed key research
  • given staff time in research groups led by an external NPQH colleague
  • developed out ‘Teaching for Learning Foundations’ and ‘Feedback policy’ to help learners understand clearly what they are learning, how they can be successful, and how we enable them to reflect on their learning / think about their thinking within specific ‘Learning Aims’
  • developed Learning Powers’ (with out Pupil Voice Groups) and use a variety of ‘Learning Journey Prompts’ to ask before, during and after learning sequences

It was useful to articulate this process to other colleagues, and to reflect on the effectiveness and impact of these approaches through the Q&A session that followed.


Teaching for Learning Foundations

Feedback policy



Maths Parents Workshop 2018

Two years ago I ran a workshop for our parents to explain how we were developing the four calculations with our learners. Parents had the opportunity to try working practically, pictorially and using written methods.

This half term I am running another workshop, but I don’t want to just repeat what I shared previously. I want to explain how our approach to teaching and learning in maths has developed over the past 5 years. So this time we are going to focus on:

  • The National Curriculum: Aims, Domains and progressive objectives
  • Concrete, Pictorial and Abstract
  • Multiple representations
  • Variation theory
  • Question types
  • Use of Pre-Assessments and SOLO Learning Journeys
  • Learn Its (for school and Home Learning)

My aim is to make much of the evening discussion based, with practical examples for parents to try out. My hope is that they find it interesting, informative and enjoyable.

Below is a copy of the presentation I plan to use and a copy of my summary of “Mastering Mathematics” by Dr Helen Drury.

Maths Workshop March 18

Mastering Mathematics




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.

Feedback presentation

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 


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.

Sharing Deeper Learning examples

This half term our Marvellous Minutes* at the start of our Staff Development Meetings are focused on bringing and sharing an example from the week of when we have tried to stretch / challenge / enrich (choose whichever word you wish) some of the learners in our classes. This is about celebrating our achievements, and exploring together different ways we can provide learning opportunities at greater depth, without moving onto different Learning Objectives. This is part of developing our collective understanding and actual use of ‘Mastery and Enrichment’ within our curriculum.

Year R. The class teacher explained how important listening and engaging in conversation with children is. Following a short maths activity, the teacher was listening to a boy who was still practising using his number bonds to 10 within an activity he had chosen. The teacher then asked some additional (pun intended) which developed into challenging the child to extend the range of numbers he could manipulate mentally. He went far further than the teacher had previously assumed he could. We discussed how important it was to listen in to children’s conversations to gain insight into their thinking and to challenge and extend thinking through well chosen questions.

Year 1. After a couple of lessons of deliberate practice on “o’clock” (making times on model clocks with partners, discussing / reading / drawing given times), some of the learners were challenged to apply their knowledge and understanding within a context. “A clock has the small hand at 12 and the big hand at 6. Bob thinks it is 6 o’clock. Is he correct?” The example shared also showed how the learner had explained her thinking in full sentences. This was followed with the challenge to choose 3 usual events in a day and to draw the hands to show an appropriate “o’clock” for those events.

Year 2. Following a series of lessons on the high quality story “Bog Babies”, the class were asked to write a description of a setting. The teacher (@penfoldno1) discussed how he had changed the Learning Aim from a description of the task, to one that concentrated on effective language choice to paint a picture in the reader’s mind. A group of previously identified higher attainers were briefly shown a WAGOLL that the teacher  had prepared, and then asked to write their description independently. The rest of the class then had a more detailed discussion about the WAGOLL and were encouraged to ‘magpie’ words and phrases in their own piece. We discussed how as the learners journey through the year, we need to take more scaffolded support away. By Easter we would hope for them to be independently creating their own Success Criteria for their written pieces.

Year 3. (@francescaprett2) explained that after a series of sessions of practising aspects of fractions and use of tenths as fractions and decimals (involving concrete equipment and a range of visual models) she has challenged her class with some questions in problems solving contexts. The question “prove it” was evident in many and the most worthwhile struggle came through the learners trying to explain their thinking and reasoning in a coherent and precise way.

Year 4. The class teacher shared a couple of examples of how by phrasing questions differently the challenge level had been raised for some learners even though the Learning Aim had remained the same. Towards the end of a series of fractions lessons, questions such as “1/3 of 72 = ” were mixed in with questions such as “1/5 of __ is 14. What is the missing number?” During the session today when the Learning Aim had been to convert using different units of measure, some learners were given greater support and had a longer input to explore converting ‘cm’ to ‘mm’ and vica-versa. A cut away group were moved onto their questions quicker, which involved them needing to add and subtract different measures. It included missing number questions and also introduced ‘m’ alongside ‘cm’ and ‘mm’ after a few questions. We discussed how by phrasing questions in different ways, it challenges the learners to think in different ways and raises the cognitive demand on them.

 As a reflective team, our staff are sometimes harder on themselves than they need to be. Generally the feeling amongst them is that they haven’t fully ‘got their heads around’ the ‘Mastery and Enrichment’ approach. On the evidence on today’s examples I would respectfully disagree, and think we have come a long way in our collective practice.

*The original post explaining Marvellous Minutes

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