Is your school returning its focus towards teaching and learning?
In schools, the mood has slightly changed as we slowly emerge from the challenges of COVID-19. Whilst we are not there yet, some schools feel they can return their focus towards teaching and learning strategy …
Where I can help, schools get in touch to see how I can support them with research-informed practice, teaching and learning policies, specifically moving away from marking and feedback to a more forward-thinking approach, and coaching and/or working alongside early career teachers.
I’ve not yet committed to working overseas (again), although offers from Northern Ireland, Italy and Jordan are potential locations for me to return to overseas teaching this summer. Here and now, across England and Wales, I am starting to reach schools (physically) in all parts of the country.
I thought I would take an opportunity to write about two schools I have recently visited. These examples represent the challenges all schools face and where, why, and how I have been helping thousands of teachers …
Meet Perryfields Academy, Birmingham
Perryfields serves the Oldbury community of West Birmingham. It is a secondary non-selective Academy converter with 1,090 pupils on roll; 21.5 per cent of pupils are free school meals. The headteacher is new in post, and there are approximately 67 (FTE) teachers.
Prior to my arrival, I met with the school online. When I visited, the school was hosting its first training day since the start of the pandemic. The focus was to return teachers’ thinking towards pedagogy once more, reviewing their teaching and learning principles which I have summarised below:
|Retrieval||Provide opportunities to review prior learning|
|Sequencing||The context and how it fits into the bigger picture|
|High Expectations||Expectations are high, ambitious and inclusive for all|
|Deliberate Practise||Provide regular opportunities to practice subject-specific skills.|
|Modelling||New material is presented granularly, and ‘success’ is explicitly modelled.|
|Questioning||Skilful questioning is used to aid critical thinking and address common misconceptions.|
|Literacy||Teach with an explicit focus on developing literacy using a range of strategies.|
|Metacognition||Teach effective learning strategies that are gradually removed to promote independence.|
|Feedback||Ensure feedback is regular, specific and manageable.|
I worked with the teaching staff to unpick the Great Teaching Toolkit – a fabulous piece of peer-reviewed research – alongside strategies from Mark Plan Teach 2.0. I was lucky enough to proofread this paper before it was published and it is something that I keep returning to time and time again. Just looking through the references in the actual paper, there is sufficient research-informed practice to keep a teacher going for decades!
It’s a great school, meeting the needs of its community, working in a very challenging context.
Whilst we have some way to go before schools resume a normal working week, it is reassuring to know that some have the confidence to return to some professional growth for the adults …
Meet St. Brigid’s, Denbigh
St. Brigid’s is an all-through (3-19) school set in the Clwydian Range in Denbighshire, North Wales. My last job was in Wales before the pandemic, so it was wonderful to be back!
The school has a fascinating history and the school site is situated in one of the most beautiful places I have ever worked! You can imagine after 25 years of teaching in London, how epic it must be to teach in a rural community with fabulous views on your classroom doorstep. However, this beautiful landscape does not come without its challenges, and as you and I both know, all school environments face significant challenges.
A former boarding school, it serves approximately ~497 pupils. The headteacher is relatively new to the role, having been a former pupil (which is a fabulous story)!
Taking feedback into the next decade…
Together with the headteacher and the staff, we have been working on refining their new teaching and learning policy. Given that I have been working in this area for almost a decade, and now have over 200 copies at my disposal, this work has become something I particularly enjoy; helping schools establish a vision and equip teachers with a core set of principles they can use in their classrooms.
The school is in good hands …
On my travels, all schools report that ‘marking’ remains a great challenge, and where teachers lack confidence, it is being equipped to manage special educational needs and disabilities. This, alongside the challenges of school funding and managing increasing mental health, place all schools on the front line.
- Note, SEND is now Additional Learning Needs in Wales (ALN Code, 2021).
- Don’t forget, there is an excellent route map for building effective CPD