When a school policy is proposed, how do you know if it’s going to help support staff?
I am sharing this here – conscious that it is the end of an academic year – and deliberately, so that readers have the opportunity to read the details over the summer, rather than during term time. It requires time to digest the details and should also represent the labour of love it has taken to create.
Policies make me shiver, but in my short time as a deputy headteacher, I’ve come to understand the significance of having statutory policies in place, but also other policies such as this to ensure staff are supported and have clarity when things go wrong. This Learning Policy is not a statutory policy, so there is no obligation for schools to have one, but it is important that when schools are in a good place, they can communicate and publish other policies to support staff and raise standards.
Our teaching and learning policy has been almost 18 months in the pipeline. This summer, the policy goes to print for the new academic year and will be ratified by our governing body. It will become a standard document to promote consistent classroom practice.
It has not been a smooth process – we all teach differently and we all work in different ways – but working with over 100 teachers, there is a strong desire for consistency and clarity so that we can all do our job easier. We want to ensure that every teacher is supported and is consistent in their approach, so that we are not undermining each other from classroom to classroom.
More importantly, that we raise our game in terms of quality of teaching and learning across the school. This policy does not mean that the job is now complete, in fact it is only the beginning. So, how do we know if it is going to work? Well, that will be our next phase and for those reading this blog in full, this policy has already been quality controlled in numerous training sessions and quality assurance processes across the school by middle leaders.
As Shaun Allison quotes in his blog: “you know a good school when teachers talk about teaching; teachers observe each other teach; teachers plan, organise and evaluate together; and teachers talk to each other.”
I am confident we are doing all of the above and have been doing so for the past 18 months.
In the post, you can preview my school’s one-page summary and download our full Learning Policy with all its research-thinking and details.
When I first led a staff training – September 2014 – I was asked the following question:
“What do we have to do for lesson plans?”
I certainly knew what I did and what I wanted staff to do, but it was clear – having had this question asked by a great classroom teacher in her 5th year of teaching – that the school had no clarity or expectation in place. It was clear that this expectation had also existed for a number of years. This was confirmed when I shared our evidence file with the OfSTED inspector in my 3rd week as deputy headteacher. Three-page lesson plans and observation (data collection) which shared pretty graphs and numbers on a page, data and evidence which provided no correlation to the quality of teaching that was happening across the school.
It was clear there were some inconsistencies.
Four or five months after the inspection – around 14 months ago, I first shared A Way Forward for Teaching and Learning; discussing the work that we had been doing behind the scenes to draft up a new Learning Policy. During the past 12 months, we have developed a very clear rationale. It has been a collegiate approach and has re-affirmed my belief, that all teachers need clear signposts and support to achieve their goals.
I’ve also taken ‘some stick’ for sharing our work online – sharing ideas with colleagues – with some stating our policy should be avoided or that it is progressive by putting ‘learning’ in the title instead of ‘teaching’ first. Well, this is nonsense of course. Anyone in their right mind who has been responsible for a group of teachers, or anyone who has the experience of designing and writing a policy from the ground up (consulting with all stakeholders) will know that we have every teacher and student at the heart of everything we want to do. There is no ideology promoted here, just good consistent teaching from classroom to classroom.
This policy offers clarity about ‘what the expectations are expected of our teachers’. If detail is not written here, it not required.
The individual points within ‘Mark – Plan – Teach’ have been included in the details to provide context and examples. This policy defines the consistencies and key teaching strategies which will make everyone’s job easier, so that teachers can build up a repertoire of expertise, knowing that what they are doing in these key aspects is the same as what is going on in other classrooms across the school.
Aspects such as the yellow box and the marking code should become common practice in the same way as the steps in the Behaviour for Learning policy. Mark-plan-teach will be monitored, but the main purpose is to ensure progress over time rather than ease of monitoring.
We started off with what was not working and what needed clarified. Once we had defined the starting point, we first discussed what our expectations were under a ‘Mark-Plan-Teach’ methodology. Below is our one page summary which is our go-to reference sheet for every teacher. You will notice on this document, keywords are in bold and hyperlinked. Having this document online enables further details to be shared and context offered in terms of good/bad exemplar material.
The one page summary was the hardest to achieve. The ‘wording’ was difficult to agree, to refine and define. It was important to keep the 3 main components of teaching and what we wanted to just one page so that it remained clear and accessible. The harder task was to keep (details of) the policy to less than 20 pages so that it remained a training manual and not an unwieldy document that nobody ever used!
The contents of this policy are on 18 succinct pages and its purpose, is that it becomes a training manual and a reference point for everyone – new and old to the classroom. We have already spent the past 12 months defining, training (all resources are here) and consulting all staff on each section of the one-page summary. In the next academic year, we want to re-visit what is working and what needs to be refined.
The details of the policy are broken into the following sections:
- Contents Page
- One Page Summary
- Mark 1 – A secure overview …
- Mark 2 – Marking must be primarily formative …
- Mark 3 – Marking and feedback must be regular …
- Mark 4 – The marking code must be used.
- Plan 1 – Be clear and precise …
- Plan 2 – Do the ‘so why?’ test.
- Plan 3 – There must be evidence of long term planning …
- Plan 4 – Differentiation should …
- Plan 5 – Every class must have a seating plan …
- Plan 6 – There should be no ‘dead time.’
- Teach 1 – We are all teachers of literacy …
- Teach 2 – Teachers must be explicit about learning outcomes …
- Teach 3 – Go with the learning!
- Teach 4 – All students must be working harder than the teacher …
- Teach 5 – Ensure that learning has stuck …
- Appendices folder
Our policy is inspired by the following books and research.
- Teach Like A Champion 2.0 by Doug Lemov
- Leverage Leadership by Paul Bambrick-Santoyo
- The Secret of Literacy by David Didau
- How to Teach by Phil Beadle
- Lean Lesson Planning by Peps McCrea
- Embedding Formative Assessment by Dylan Wiliam
- Making Lessons Count by Shaun Allison and Andy Tharby
- The Lazy Teacher’s Handbook by Jim Smith
- Unhomework by Mark Creasy
- Visible Learning for Teachers by John Hattie
- Make It Stick by
- The Hidden Lives of Learners by Graham Nuttall
- Getting the Buggers to Behave by Sue Cowley
- Why Don’t Students Like School by Daniel T Willingham
- Engaging Learners by Andy Griffith
- Trivium by Martin Robinson
- High Challenge, Low Threat by Mary Myatt
- Teacher Toolkit by Ross Morrison McGill (me)
- The Usbourne Guide to Better English by R. Gee
- Over 100 teaching staff and conversations with our support staff
Thank you to all the above authors for inspiration and reference.
Here are a few screenshots of the 18-page document.
Download the full version here.
n.b. this policy is proposed to our governors and will be ratified in October 2016. Note, there are hyperlinks offered throughout the document which link to our school’s internal Google Drive. Any access requested will not be granted, simply because I will not be able to keep up with demand (automated emails). There will also be one or two typing errors in this version which will be edited after publication here.
I’ve also created this succinct summary which is not part of the policy. Download it here.
For a more detailed and in-depth research version, here’s the latest copy.