50 forward-planning questions 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...
Read more about @TeacherToolkit

In March 2014, after a coaching and mentoring session, I posted 30 simple questions for the teacher, middle leader and senior teacher. You can also find some very useful reflection questions for the ‘outstanding’ classroom teacher.  These self-review questions have proven very popular with readers and serve as a catalyst for this follow-up blog.

Before reading the following sets of questions, I want you to consider that the exam season is over for you and your students. So, you will need to fast-forward one month. Given this image, you should have a little more time on your hands for planning and reflection, just before the start of the next academic year! This read will therefore require you to start thinking ahead. The questions are deliberately broad so that you can adapt them to suit your own role/context.

In this post, I give you 10 questions for:

  • the teacher
  • the middle leader
  • the head of year
  • the senior teacher
  • the headteacher.

This is the ideal time to know where you need to go next.

Photo Credit: HikingArtist.com via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: HikingArtist.com via Compfight cc

10 planning questions to ask every teacher:

  1. What resources could you create; adapt and refine?
  2. What schemes of work do you need to review?
  3. What displays could you update?
  4. Is it time for a classroom spring-clean?
  5. Are there any colleagues you would like to observe?
  6. Could you use ‘gain-time’ to invite colleagues in to observe you?
  7. How could you improve your marking for the schemes you deliver next year?
  8. Could you use the opportunity to plan for smarter marking and reduce time spent giving meaningless feedback?
  9. Why should you review your own staff development needs? What will improve your practice in the classroom? How will you do this?
  10. What would be your next career step? Have you taken the time out to reflect on this yourself? With a colleague? With a critical friend?

What move will you plan next?

Photo Credit: canonsnapper via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: canonsnapper via Compfight cc

10 questions to ask every middle-leader:

  1. Is your department fully staffed for the forthcoming year? Are all classes/teachers allocated?
  2. Is the timetable matched to the needs of the teachers, or the needs of the students?
  3. Are there any outstanding appointments/interviews to be complete? What is plan B?
  4. Have you reviewed your curriculum plans/offer for each year group/key stage?
  5. What schemes of work are currently being monitored, evaluated, reviewed? And by who?
  6. Can you use this time to complete triad-observations with colleagues in your department?
  7. How could you improve your own teaching? What needs refined?
  8. What leadership skills are on your personal development plan? Have you considered a 360-review?
  9. On the surface, how does your department appear? Time to update corridor displays?
  10. What do students say? Is this the time to gather student views about what is going well / even better if in your faculty?

Have you thought ahead?

Photo Credit: Alex E. Proimos via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Alex E. Proimos via Compfight cc

10 questions to ask every head of year:

  1. Is your tutor team fully staffed for next year? Are you discussing plans with your Deputy Headteacher (Pastoral)?
  2. Do any students need to move tutor groups? If so, why? Who needs to know? And by when? Is it a last resort?
  3. What interventions are needed for your students moving up the school? What funding / support is required to facilitate this?
  4. The ethos of your year group: what values need revisiting, to re-align with the school’s vision?
  5. What were your parents evening attendance figures this year? What can you do to target the hard-to-reach?
  6. Do you have a student council? Yes. Well, let’s gather some more views and feedback to the staff / students. No! Well, there’s no time like today!
  7. Are you fully up to date with your own safeguarding procedures and latest guidance? Are your tutors?
  8. What year group celebrations do you have planned? What could be improved? How could you communicate more information and further afield?
  9. When last did you study the data from your year group? Have you looked at the data for: Gender? Ethnicity? Progress? Support? Achievement? Do you know ‘every’ child?
  10. And the parents: Have you met every single family? Or at least, have you have spoken to individual families on the phone?

At what point was the child involved with your planning?

Photo Credit: Phil Dowsing Creative via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Phil Dowsing Creative via Compfight cc

10 questions to ask every senior teacher:

This particular set of forward-planning questions will vary according to any leadership role. Rather than providing a generic set of questions, I have focused specifically on CPD and teaching and learning only.

  1. When last did you visit every classroom in the school?
  2. Which teachers across the school, need support? And what specifically? By when? Is this costed/communicated?
  3. Which teachers are keen to share with others? Do they have a forum to do this? How is this disseminated to all?
  4. What CPD needs to be put in place for this term? And for the start of the academic year?
  5. What CPD pathways need to be refined? Good to Outstanding? NPQML? Masters? Action-research groups?
  6. Have you recently read the Investors In People designation process to achieve the kite-mark? It is very useful for self-review.
  7. Have you contacted new staff regarding dates for school induction? Teaching and learning expectations / systems etc.
  8. Is your school moving towards ‘no-gradings’ for lesson observations? Yes/No? What needs to happen this term? If you are keeping gradings? Has this been communicated and have staff been part of the process?
  9. What T&L/CPD evidence will be used for appraisal from September 2014? Are your policies up to date?
  10. What can you put in place to facilitate teachers having more time together, to talk about teaching?

Is everything in the diary?

Photo Credit: Generationbass.com via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Generationbass.com via Compfight cc

10 questions to ask every headteacher:

I know I am (very) underqualified to be writing the following, and these will not even touch the surface. So, I have used the statutory guidance from the DfE to assist; here goes:

  1. Administration and finance: How could this be improved so systems work smarter? Faster? Sensitively?
  2. Admissions – Do all those that need to know, have access to this information?
  3. Assessment – Progress 8 and national curriculum levels. What are you doing? When will key senior staff inform heads of faculty?
  4. Behaviour and attendance – MIS: Management Information System and ICT Support. Upgrades? Staff training? Backups?
  5. Curriculum (from September 2014) – Budget. Are forecasts for the forthcoming academic year (and more) on the table?
  6. Curriculum (until July 2015) – Timetabling: The planning for this should be near completion. Have heads of faculty had their say?
  7. Governance – What policies need reviewing and consultation?
  8. Involving parents and pupils – Student / parent views: When last did you gather a group to hear their needs? And for staff?
  9. Safeguarding children and young people – When last did you all your staff receive statutory training?
  10. Staff employment and teachers pay – Are all staffing appointment complete? What needs to happen?

Do let me know what you think and if there are any obvious questions missing, please add them below.


8 thoughts on “50 forward-planning questions by @TeacherToolkit

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