Typicality and Support by @TeacherToolkit

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Dare-to-be-Different Typicality and Support Zebra


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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Several months ago, I shared a blog about Progress Over Time and what this ‘evidence trail’ without lesson gradings may look like for teachers, for all types of observations and leadership teams.


This blog explains what ‘typicality and support’ aspect of progress over time is, and reinforces what I have written about in the past. You can see what the ‘Open versus Closed process’ looks like in a useful image here; it’s worth a quick look before reading on and explained in more detail in these articles.


“… the quality of showing the most usual characteristics of a particular type of person and therefore being a good example of that type.”

Typicality and Support


In the latest Ofsted framework, it says:

Observing teaching and learning:

“176. Inspectors should not grade the quality of teaching in individual lesson observations, learning walks or equivalent activities. In arriving at a judgement on the overall quality of teaching, inspectors must consider strengths and weaknesses of teaching observed across the broad range of lessons.

Evaluating learning over time:

“183. Inspectors’ direct observation must be supplemented by a range of other evidence to enable inspectors to evaluate what teaching is like typically and the impact that teaching has had on pupils’ learning over time. Such additional evidence may include:”

  • the school’s own evaluations of the quality of teaching and its impact on learning.
  • discussions with pupils about the work they have undertaken, what they have learned from it and their experience of teaching and learning over longer periods.
  • discussion about teaching and learning with teachers, teaching assistants and other staff.
  • the views of pupils, parents and staff.
  • scrutiny of pupils’ work, with particular attention to:
    • whether marking, assessment and testing are carried out in line with the school’s policy and whether they are used effectively to help teachers improve pupils’ learning
    • the level of challenge provided, and whether pupils have to grapple appropriately with content, not necessarily ‘getting it right’ first time, which could be evidence that the work is too easy
    • pupils’ effort and success in completing their work and the progress they make over a period of time.

Source: The School Inspection Handbook – September 2014.


What is it? Why does it matter? How can you evidence it?  In my previous Progress Over Time blog, I shared the following image:



Progress Over TIme @TeacherToolkit

One Source:

In the image above, I discuss one fifth of the range of possible evidence than can be sourced from teaching over time.

On Duty:

In most schools – and all I have worked in – teachers are supported by their leadership teams who are on hand around the school to support staff with low-level behaviour, rare emergencies and general teaching and learning support required, and found across any school. This is often called ‘On Duty’ or ‘On Patrol’, or ‘Call Out.’ Whatever it is called, a member of staff can be timetabled to support teachers in their time of need. This is not what Typicality and Support is about, nor this blogpost.

I want to be very explicit about the purpose of Typicality and Support and what it is and what it is not! I will explain this below.

On duty ‘typically’ involves middle and senior members of staff on duty to deal with immediate issues during every period of the timetable. On rare occasions, this may be for serious events. In my experience, this has been corridor based on a roving walk-around the school premises; but as of last year, this ‘on-call’ system became office based (but not absolute) with a radio. This member of staff remained the first port of call for emergencies and any call-out for help from teachers.

The reason for a change in ‘On Duty’ procedures was due to the introduction of ‘Typicality and Support.’


The need for Typicality stems from middle and senior staff to be fully aware of what is actually happening in the school and to be available for support teachers day-to-day – without judgement.


  • Typical = To gather a view on what is typical day-to-day; which is non-judgemental.
  • Support = To offer support in times of need and offer praise / recognition for something good.

What is Typicality?

So, three-to-five times a day – alongside ‘On Duty’ and separate to – a middle or senior member of staff will move from classroom to classroom. They may or may not go into classrooms, but the expectation is that they will and that they may stay for a few moments and then move on; they may remain and browse through student books, speak to students, and they may decide to remain as another pair of hands to support. Staff moving around the school should make sure that when they see good practice they drop a personal email to the relevant member of staff or ideally, speak to them in person.

 What is not Typicality?

None of this has any pretence at lesson observation and it is not a part of the appraisal process. It is not to be seen as threatening in any way and can become an accepted part of the school day to support teachers. I know, I have used it. If those staff – including middle leaders – timetabled for ‘typicality and support’ have a concern or have noticed something not quite right, that they should use their professional judgement to stay and support the teacher, speak directly to the relevant member of staff, and likewise if they see that books have not been marked up-to-date they should speak directly to the relevant member of staff. In all these cases, this should simply be a personal matter and quickly sorted out. No-one else needs to know unless the matter is not resolved over time.

If this methodology if used correctly, fairly and in a non-judgemental manner, Typicality and Support can be used as it is designed; to gather views on what is typical – without fear of any kind of lesson judgement – and to support teachers through the ups and downs of day-to-day practice found in teaching.

Download the template:

The document is produced in an Excel file and can be edited to suit your own school needs. In short, the member of staff keeps this document to themselves. It is not to be shared elsewhere for any formal recording. You may consider that middle and senior leadership share their views verbally to each other each week. This will enable all those timetabled to gather a view of what is typical, identify good sources and use this to support teachers across the school. Feedback (good or bad) must be precise, supportive and fair, whether this is achieved in person or in a short email, you decide what works best for you, your teachers and your students.

I do have anonymised examples of these sheets and exemplar emails should you wish to consider using Typicality and Support. Get in touch here and consider those who deserve the credit below.

Typicality and Support


Credit for this supportive process should go to Headteacher Victoria Linsley who shared this with my former principal, Paul Sutton.


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