#Peepshows and #Rubbernecks by @TeacherToolkit

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Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit in 2010, and today, he is one of the 'most followed educators'on social media in the world. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the '500 Most Influential People in Britain' by The Sunday Times as a result of...
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Now that I have your attention; this post is all about marking; feedback; re-drafting and book scrutiny.


Peepshows = Observations; Learning Walks; Book Scrutiny; Faculty Reviews.

Rubbernecks = Observers who twist one’s head; to stare at something in a foolish manner in order to find flaws.

Do you hide? Photo Credit: Corie Howell via Compfight cc
Do you attend Peepshows and Rubberneck? Photo Credit: Corie Howell via Compfight cc

I recently published that, as a school; ‘Why I’m placing #LearningWalks in Room 101?‘. Throughout that particular post, I described the 2-year journey we have been on, following on from our latest Ofsted inspection in November 2011. With hindsight, this process has naturally evolved over 9 distinct phases. They are written in greater depth in this blogpost link, but below is a brief summary for the benefit of this article:

What? Why? How?

Below is the step-by-step process that has taken place over the past 2 years. I have included the term ‘Peepshows and Rubbernecks’ where suitable. Do keep in mind the definitions above.

  1. The first stage was to conduct informal observations (Peepshows); days after an Ofsted inspection! This was only completed with staff who were not seen by inspectors.
  2. The following half-term, we introduced ‘Open Classroom’ (informal Peepshows) so that teachers could share good practice and (Rubberneck) magpie ideas. This list is published half-termly and only includes teachers who wish to be involved in Peepshows. Rubbernecking started to create various misdemeanants, as the focus was misinterpreted. It was vital to drive consistency; so we soon moved onto formal Peepshows.
  3. Department Peepshows or ‘Learning Walks’ were conducted in pairs, which included every TLR (Teaching and Learning Responsibility) holder. The focus was tailored, specific and varied; ranging from 8 to 35 short (10-20 minute) observations for each subject over the course of the week. At the end of each week, the department was provided with a detailed report and action plan for the team. It was a hard slog; intensive, but useful for the staff to move from a position where little or nothing existed.
  4. Book Reviews were introduced (another form of Peepshows), using a slightly adapted and dumbed-down version of the formal Learning Walks template. Rubbernecking was less of an issue here. We also introduced @IRIS_Connect to our Good to Outstanding team to aid best practice.
  5. At this stage, we then moved onto informal Learning Walks, with the aim to observe teachers on a more voluntary basis. The Peepshows and Rubbernecking reduced.
  6. Heads of Department were very receptive and engaged with a 4-phase programme that I initiated to have all senior and middle-leaders accurate in their assessment of lesson judgements. This was complete in pairs with two current HMI advisors. There were some surprising outcomes. There was zero Rubbernecking!
  7. We modified our Appraisal policy in light of DfE changes for September 2012. Rather than being restricted to union-guidance with ‘3 observations per academic year’, we removed the quantity and replaced this with ‘according to the needs of the individual‘. This has been successful on many levels. I can elaborate if you are interested in how.
  8. Over 2012-13, the development of our internal-CPD programmes to assist teaching and learning have pushed forward. Our Good to Outstanding programme now supports our Good in Ten (Requires Improvement) group. We are also initiating a ‘Consolidating Good’ CPD programme for 2013-14. I will be publishing details of this in The Guardian Teacher Network next half term. Each of these programmes involve agreed Peepshows and NO Rubbernecking!
  9. Standards of teaching and learning have now risen from 64% (November 2011) to 75% (July 2013). To raise the pygmalion-expectations even higher, we have introduced our new Teaching and Learning Policy and have updated our Marking Policy. This all links in with our ‘Marking for (literacy) accuracy’ policy to improve standards of literacy across the school. This includes our teachers.
  10. Finally, this academic year, our staff have asked for feedback. They DO NOT want Peepshows (Learning Walks) informal or formal, if NO feedback is given. They DO NOT want drop-ins. They want quality observations with quality feedback and judgements. So, we have binned them! Our staff want to know how they are doing.
Are you a Rubberneck?
Are you a Rubberneck?

What now?

We do know how staff are performing. How? Because systems are in place for middle-leaders to monitor the quality of teaching and learning in faculty areas. We trust each other and Peepshows and Rubbernecking is no more.

We now only operate book-looks as a Peepshow with no Rubbernecking.

Rubbernecking has been re-established as simple conversations at an informal level. Successes and areas for improvement are raised and discussed where and when. So far, it is working and staff are keen as ever, to find out how they are performing.

Why look?

Because looking at books has been our whole-school priority, long before any Ofsted updates in 2011. We have always known that feedback. marking and assessment will make an immediate impact on students and teaching and learning. This should not involve unplanned Peepshows and deplorable Rubbernecks.

What do Ofsted say?

School Inspections Handbook (September 2013) states on Page 10 – Bullet 24: Ofsted now say from September 2013 (with updates in red): “Inspectors must spend as much time as possible gathering evidence on teaching and learning, observing (Peepshows) lessons, scrutinising work (including in pupils’ books and writing), talking to pupils about their work, gauging their understanding and their engagement in learning, and obtaining pupils’ perceptions of typical teaching.”

The process:


On a formal level, the template below is used for faculty monitoring and appraisal. The form is a dogs-dinner if I’m honest, can easily allow ‘Rubbernecks‘ to lose focus! The document works, but the ‘Peepshows‘ foci must be clear … This document is stage 3 listed above and can be downloaded here.

Click to download
Click to download


At an informal level for whole-school learning walks, the template is shown below. This is a simple generic document that can be used for:

  • book-looks
  • learning walks (Peepshows)
  • open classroom visits.

This document can be used by all teachers across the school; particularly for Open Classroom, and is listed as stage 5 above. Click here to download.

Informal Learning Walks - click to download
Informal Learning Walks – click to download

Formal Peepshows with no Rubbernecking:

Below is the template for our senior leadership ‘tough-love’ approach to book scrutiny. This has been shared with middle-leaders so that they are clear what is required to meet our school priorities. The template is designed to be used in or out of class; within 10 minutes and provided enough information for the observer. It is used by all.

Formal book look
Click to download

We are approaching round 2 of our book-looks and I will happily share the results and report back at a later stage throughout the year. If you would like all three templates and anonymised/completed examples, fill in the form below:

Contact Me? Photo Credit: bitzcelt via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: bitzcelt via Compfight cc

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