Do We Really Need Lesson Plans?

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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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Should teachers have to plan one-off lessons using lesson planning templates?

On Friday, December 4th 2015, I delivered a keynote at the SSAT National Conference: Leading Learning.

Cut through the waffle, reduce workload

During my mainstage presentation at the SSAT National Conference 2015, I raced through one-hundred-and-fifty slides in just forty minutes. Throughout, I gave answers to the question ‘How would you reduce the burden of marking, planning and teaching for teachers?’

This week, the SSAT are sharing five short films taken from my presentation. They are:

  • What is a good teacher?
  • Do we really need lesson plans?
  • Marking is broken
  • How we cut out the marking frenzy
  • Flying Start.


Click to play


When I started my new job as a deputy headteacher, I sat down with the inspector and opened up a file that I’d been given (as I’d only been there for three weeks). To my horror, there were three-page lesson plans in the file.

This is my lesson plan from 7 or 8 years ago!

Old Laborious Lesson Plan

Why? Because it may have been the model; it’s how we bring up our NQTs; it’s how we are taught at university and so. And there lies the issue …

The main issue with lesson plans I think, is that what happens in the plan is not what happens on the ground.

The need for planning lessons will never go away – and if you look in the plan section of our Learning Policy, we encourage our teachers to have ‘evidence of planning’. It doesn’t mean a one-off lesson plan.

I don’t want to use lessons plans, but that does not mean we all need to ignore them, or encourage new teachers to ignore the process of planning.

A middle leader observed me the other day and asked, ’do you have a lesson plan?’ I smiled and said ’no’.

I favour the five-minute lesson plan – because it sits somewhere in the middle – on the left you have DKLs – as described by Jude Enright, a deputy head in west London: Door-Knob Lessons. On the right-hand side you have the laborious three-page lesson plan, spelling out every activity by the minute, and in the middle you have The 5-Minute Lesson Plan.

The NEW 5 Minute Lesson Plan Vitruvian Teaching

What I believe is great about it is, is that it focuses on what’s important. Obviously, the cognition process taking place in your head, the thinking process behind lesson planning provides a lot more detail, but if you’re desperate for some kind of framework to write down (to share with someone if you wish to do so) – it’s a great model. Stickability I’ll come back to later …

If I had Ofsted tomorrow, I’d probably tell my teachers not to give any lesson plans whatsoever!

Though, I’d suggest they consider the five-minute lesson plan as an option, however, I’d tell them ‘not to waste your time!’



You can read my full blogpost here, Cutting Through The Waffle and download my full presentation here. Before you do, please click a tweet of thanks.

Cutting Through The Waffle SSAT Conference Workload

Why not read the Ofsted inspection guidance: myths about lesson planning?


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