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Showing posts from July, 2016

Getting the curriculum right can set teachers free.

During my NQT year I was a shocking teacher. I lurched from lesson to lesson, with the aim of getting through them.  There was no interconnection between lessons and no sequence of lessons. During my second year of teaching I was very fortunate to be able to work with Jeff Stanfield, then the Geography Advisor for Hampshire and we create several schemes of work together. It became clear to me that individual lessons matter little without a coherent curriculum that binds them together. In 2008 when I became a middle leader, I inherited a 'curriculum' that was on one page, a bit like this: I really wish I was joking. The thing is, if teachers are to focus upon planning for every pupil, then they need to be aware of the bigger picture. Working without a scheme of work and a detailed curriculum us crippling. Not only so young people not benefit from a common curriculum entitlement, but much time is wasted in needless planning. Now, I'm not talking about prescription her

Creating the campfire culture

TeachMeets come in all shapes and sizes and at their heart they are about creating sustainable communities of teachers, focused upon improving teaching. In the words of Sir Tim Brighouse, they are about teachers talking to teachers about teaching and learning. This post is about creating TeachMeets within school and considers the larger TeachMeets. After a long day in the hills, nothing lifts the spirits than the sound of a camping stove roaring in to life for a brew. This is also an opportunity to 'wash-up' the day: to debrief and talk about successes and failures. To learn for the next day and to set priorities. This is part of the culture on the hills and something that I've come to call the campfire culture .  It's where stories are told and learning is shared. Of course, in a wild camp, it's important to get the operational elements right. The tent needs to be pitched, equipment stored, food eaten and the all important lighter. The be successful, systems n

What underpins great teaching and learning?

Last week, I wrote about how leadership is like whack-a-mole : how leaders at all levels have to be aware of many different variables of an organisation. A good example of this is how schools keep the main focus on teaching and learning. From the outset, I'd agree with Covey that keeping the main thing the main thing is vital in schools and that main thing is what happens during sequences of lessons (I've never seen the point of a narrow focus on individual lessons). In other words teaching and learning.  I also believe that: High expectations from lesson one of Year 7 are vital and that day one of Key Stage 3 is the first in a 7 year journey. I advocate GCSE exam questions every lesson, in a style that makes them not feel like a high stakes exam. The quality of middle leadership is vital and is the key driver of school improvement. Teachers are agents of change within schools, and should be involved in creating the curriculum as well as delivering it. I've n

Leadership: more like whack-a-mole than spinning plates

School leadership is often compared to spinning plates.  However, after three years of senior leadership, five years of middle leadership and three years of classroom leadership, I see it more like playing a game of whack-a-mole.  You see, plate spinning is predictable and the variables can be controlled (unless you're doing it in an outdoor environment).  Whack-a-mole, whilst we know what happens and understand the game, sends random combinations to challenge the player.  School leadership is like whack-a-mole but with a few extra burrows opening up every now and again in the guise of new government directives or a multitude of other events. This post is an attempt to reflect upon school leadership, in particular life as an Assistant Headteacher.  If you have a good search of this blog, you'll find similar reflections around middle leadership. I've tried to distil these into a number of simple to follow points. I'm not saying that I always do all of this, so they

The brutal slog: on improving attendance

I enjoy assemblies but the empty seats trouble me.  As the year groups get older, the more empty seats there are. Drill down, and disadvantaged students are absent more often.  I agree with those who advocate that developing high quality teaching and learning is the main thing. Trouble is, we need to get young people in to the building and in to the right frame of mind to enable them to take full advantage of that. Indeed, as my mantra has gone this year: the best teachers in Brighton can't help you if you're not here.' Getting young people in to school is a major priority for schools, especially for children who may have parents who aren't able or willing to act as role models.  The statistics are frightening.  in 2013 a third of students eligible for Pupil Premium funding were absent for more than 15% of the time compared to less than 4% of their more affluent peers. This can create a post code lottery where schools who serve more affluent catchments needn't t

#TMSolutions : the founding party

I understand the irony of writing a post about an event that isn't about ego on a blog that bears my name.  Truth is, I didn't really have a plan past getting some teachers in a pub and I am indebted to the wonderful Leah  for thinking about things like food, nibbles, venue, plan. Well, pretty much the lot. Anyway, here's what went on and the intention is a kind of 'how to' guide. The one reflection that I have is that I would have liked more local teachers there, or indeed a similar event for an individual school. After all, these events are fantastic, but if teachers aren't addressing the internal differences within their own institutions, the impact is only every going to be limited. However, I took a lot from the event and, on the back of a truly shit week and morning, the energy, commitment and enthusiasm of those who came along was a true inspiration.  I wriggled away with far more than I came with - indeed I was that annoying bloke who kept redire