I wanted to share the systems set up at my school for Quality of Education and T&L. School systems tend to evolve over time and are dependent on so many factors – the individual staff in post, the school culture and school priorities. Unfortunately, a one-size-fits-all will never work but, I hope this post can at least help someone reflect or support them trying to establish their own systems for the first time.
- Staff need a sense of a clear, cohesive whole for T&L. Staff need to know what the underlying principles for good teaching are and how these can be delivered. Staff need both. For the what in our school, we have a framework of 4 Key Qs – What do I want students to learn? How will I show them the learning? How will students practise the learning? How will I check they have learned it? At previous professional development sessions I have shown staff how these questions relate to the very rich research base around good teaching. Fundamentally, whether the principles are broken down into 4, 10 or 15, if their basis is content, modelling, practice, consolidation – they are all singing from the same hymn sheet. What matters is that your staff know what song your school are singing! In terms of the how – again, there are more high impact strategies than can be meaningfully & routinely used by your staff. The aim is the ‘sense of the clear, cohesive whole’ and will differ depending on the school culture. When I set about naming our key teaching strategies, I knew they needed to build on the 4 Key Questions and I wanted oracy, literacy and independent work at the core. After discussion at SLT, we settled on 10 Excellent Teaching Strategies (which, I only realised later, can be abbreviated as tenets). Our 10 ETS are now the main driver for T&L conversations with middle leadership and staff. We are moving to the expectation that in any drop in, one of these high impact strategies is in action. I would expect to see a teacher in a modelling phase, questioning, independent work, reading or explanation. The framework, the strategies and the repetition hold teachers in a supportive way.
- Bring all your professional development avenues together. We have a weekly PD session, T&L briefing twice a term and I send a T&L bulletin each week. They are all short and all repeat the same message for that week. If Monday briefing refers to Cold Call as the school focus, T&L briefing will be on an aspect of this and the T&L weekly bulletin will share a blog post, research summary or video on this topic. The weekly bulletin is a very short email with a quick summary, links embedded and a nod to what is coming up in the next week. I used to create beautiful newsletters but soon realised that, at the end of a working week, if I could barely be bothered to read them, why should anyone else.
- Make the granular details of your teaching strategies explicit. Our professional development programme includes sessions on each of our strategies that are revisited at different points. During these sessions, we explicitly walk through what the strategy looks like in practice. Staff always have time after these sessions to work in faculties and continue the conversation of what this means for their subject, specifically.
- Curriculum tools and resources need the strategies built in. This is a key message for Faculty Leads and one that I repeat often. If it doesn’t exist in your curriculum tools, it won’t exist in the classroom. If we are changing habits, we need to use the habits and routines teachers are already familiar with – the principle of habit stacking. To embed Turn and Talk, it needs to be built into PPTs or booklets – giving teachers a trigger to use. Without this, strategies may be used without real intention, limiting the impact. This carries the risk of derailing the teacher’s confidence if it doesn’t work, wasting valuable time or not being used at all. Collaborative planning on shared resources is key.
- Make accountability transparent. There is a danger that quality assurance and accountability measures obfuscate what is needed to drive change. Lengthy documents can become albatrosses that do not help senior leaders or middle leaders. Staff, too, can be so far removed from this process that the process becomes meaningless. Staff know we have 3 cycles of PM, so we talk using the language of Cycle 1, Cycle 2, Cycle 3. We have scrapped the need to use additional language for accountability – 60 day plans, Short Term Plans etc. and so avoid confusion and distraction. For each cycle, I add notes to a Google Sheet which has a template to capture a Department Overview of quality of curriculum, classroom T&L, data, student/staff experience and action plan. This is shared with each Faculty Leader to discuss the priorities for the coming cycle. This part of the process must be transparent. The Middle Leaders need to hold this information themselves, rather than it being something held over them.
- Hold whole school book looks. We have 3 large book looks a year that involve all staff. We set up Google Forms and staff look at books across a subject, or through the eyes of a student, across a curriculum, using our Chrome Books to capture their responses. It is developmental. Staff see books as representative of us as a whole school, rather than of themselves as a teacher or as a department. It also generates a lot of conversation about departments between department, and about key students. Finally, it supports SLT to see the big picture between what is in the Curriculum and what is done in the classroom.
- Line Management meetings mirror the school calendar. Another Google Sheet is shared with Faculty Leads and I pre-populate the agenda for term (Cycle 1,2,3) so that we discuss what is coming up in later in the term, as well as any immediate concerns. This way, I can support FLs to be forward thinking – a genuine challenge for any busy middle leader. They come to the meeting prepared to discuss the points on the agenda rather than being wrong footed on the day. Central to this agenda is T&L – dealing with behaviour issues occurs to enable quality T&L, talking about data and outcomes is talking about the quality of T&L, talking about curriculum is about strengthening the quality of T&L and making it more impactful. These two documents – the Link Meeting agenda and the Department Overview are all we need have a dialogue about where the Faculty/Department is and what is needed next.
- Be in lessons, a lot. I walk the school every day and visit lessons. It is the most important part of my job. Having conversations with teachers and students is vital. I learn more from these drop-ins than I would from formal lesson observation. I learn about the climate and culture of every class in school, which students might be struggling and why, which teachers are transforming their relationships through day-in, day-out perseverance and which teachers benefit from conversations about seating plans or distractions in the classroom.
It is not perfect but we are a long way from where we were. I have a few next steps. First, we need to join up all of our thinking from our book look Google Forms, Lesson Observation Forms and Support & Challenge meetings. This will enable Faculty Leaders to lead with even greater clarity and purpose. Secondly, although we have Care written into our school mission – Knowledge, Care, Ambition, Care is the one element that we need to constantly work on – like behaviour, it is never done. Whilst it is wrapped up in our pastoral and behaviour system, it is undeniable that good relationships are critical in the classroom. We need to look at how we absorb this into our T&L framework and strategies, rather than it being a separate and distinct feature of the classroom.