Susan Young looks at what makes an outstanding school leader.
Susan Young talks to Early Years teacher, Jane Flood about becoming part of a Research Learning Community.
James Ashmore writes on the importance of staying optimistic as a middle leader.
How can school leaders use PE, physical activity and sport to tackle issues of childhood obesity and mental well-being and to drive whole school performance?
Jean Gross outlines the provision and support for children with SLCN.
In the UK today, there are areas where a staggering one in six children are currently living in poverty (Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission).
The charity, Speakers for Schools, gives access to top quality speakers for free
Within a school context it is essential to ensure a level of consistency; a common approach to coaching sessions is important.
Exploring video CPD: developing a supportive culture and establishing a solid programme.
Christophe Mullings, Head of Education at IRIS Connect, explores video CPD and practical strategies for getting started.
The BELMAS Reflective Practice Award for innovation and critical reflection in education is now open for entries
Guest blogger James Ashmore asks: As a middle leader, what could you do to raise your team’s happiness quotient?
How does an autistic person get heard and understood? How do they find their voice? How do we hear their voice? And are we giving space to hear the autistic voice?
You may feel that your work/life balance is seriously out of kilter and that moving into middle leadership has done nothing to redress this, in fact it’s made it worse.
In the short term a dedicated middle leader can make sacrifices, willing to take on more because they are not only ambitious for themselves but committed to high quality education for pupils within their school. But is this sustainable asks Lara Ginn?
Teacher workload is among one of the greatest issues schools face nowadays. Over recent years this has become a source of wide scale discussion within the profession and in the media. The government has, through recent independent reviews, endeavoured to identify some of the primary factors causing the heavy workload faced by teaching staff and means by which all stakeholders can redress this.
By the age of 16 at least one child in every classroom (1 in 29) will have experienced the death of a parent or sibling (Penny & Stubbs, 2015).
Middle leaders are increasingly recognised for their pivotal role in developing the quality of practice. So how is this being achieved, and how can you plan for this?
Running successful meetings is an often overlooked skill but one that will almost certainly be required of you as a middle leader. The times you have together with your team can be critical to your success and so it is vitally important that they go well.
It is becoming more and more widely understood that there may well be as many girls and women with autism as there are boys and men, but their needs are not always being identified.
What is behaviour for learning?
Behaviour for learning is a frequently used term when developing an NQT’s understanding of how to foster effective learning in a classroom, giving feedback to a colleague following an observation or working with children on developing their understanding of their roles and responsibilities in the learning process. But what exactly is behaviour for learning? And how can you, as a middle leader, promote it in your department or phase?
Behaviour for learning encompasses the link between the way in which students learn and their social knowledge and behaviour. It’s about the link that a learner has between self, others and the curriculum. For learning to be as effective as possible, there needs to be a positive relationship between the three. This, therefore, has implications not only for the learner but also school leaders, class or subject teachers, parents and carers, and any other professional working with the learner.
Behaviour for learning can’t be seen in isolation as purely how a child behaves in a lesson, or the effort and motivation with which they approach their work. Behaviour for learning affects the learner in multiple ways. Therefore, a school’s approach to fostering good behaviour for learning needs to address all three elements on an individual and collective basis. A school and its leaders need to have a clear understanding of what their vision of effective behaviour for learning looks like, how they’re fostering it and how they’re monitoring the effectiveness of policies and strategies put in place. For a school to develop successful behaviour for learning across a broad spectrum of pupils, the approach must be tailored to the individual but also foster a common and shared ethos that’s simple for all adults and pupils to understand and put into practice.
Behaviour for learning: relationship with self
For effective behaviour for learning, a pupil must feel confident in their abilities and have a sense of worth. They need to believe they can meet the challenges set and succeed. This has an implication for the teacher because they must have a good understanding of each learner and be able to set well-pitched work that would suitably challenge the pupil and enable them to succeed.
It also has wider implications because some learners don’t enter the classroom with a secure sense of themselves as learners or people. A child who enters the classroom with low self-esteem needs to be supported to succeed, so they can develop a positive image of themselves as a learner. Such children also need this sense of self to be developed through other means, such as pastoral groups, focused work with parents and, when necessary, work with other agencies. This work may have little to do with the academic learning in the classroom. However, a child can’t develop good learning habits and succeed academically if they don’t have a secure and confident sense of self.
Behaviour for learning: relationship with others
Social interactions between learners have a significant impact on the pupil’s success. These social interactions are both linked to the pupil’s relationship with self and the strategies a teacher employs to develop effective social interaction in a classroom. The choice of strategy may differ according to the age of the child, but the basic purpose remains constant. The pupil needs to develop learning habits in which they can listen actively in a variety of situations and partake actively in discussions – both contributing their knowledge, thoughts and opinions; and building on those contributed by others. A learner must also be supported in developing the ability to constructively critique the contributions of others in a manner that’s polite, respectful and effectively justified. Similarly, all learners need to develop group work skills that enable them to become adaptable, flexible and resilient team players who can cooperate, negotiate, compromise and lead. Such skills are as essential to effective classrooms as they will be to an individual becoming a productive citizen in adult life. However, if the pupil’s sense of self isn’t secure, such skills can be challenging to develop. The pupil may be overly passive, or conversely unable or unwilling to take the views of others on board. They might be seen by their peers as antagonistic.
Behaviour for learning: the curriculum
The third core aspect of behaviour for learning is the curriculum. A curriculum that’s fit for purpose – meeting the expectations set by government and being tailored to the context of a school and its learners – is an essential factor in developing a positive attitude towards learning. Mick Waters from the Curriculum Foundation said: “The challenge for schools is to create a nourishing and appetising feast that will sustain learners and meet their needs.” If a pupil is to actively engage with a curriculum and invest themselves in it, they must be inspired to do so. The challenge for middle leaders is to ensure their subject area is taught in a varied, creative and child-centered manner, and it provides full coverage of all statutory objectives.
How can a middle leader promote good behaviour for learning?
While we all appreciate the need for good behaviour for learning, how can we promote it? As a middle leader, it’s important that you promote the systems and ethos put in place by senior leaders. This means embracing all aspects and promoting them both inside and outside your classroom. You and your pupils are the role models from which others in your department or phase will take their lead. You must develop a classroom where learning is essential and everyone (regardless of their background or ability) is able to thrive and develop a lifelong love for learning.
Behaviour for learning and a positive classroom culture
In your classroom, you can do the following:
Alternatively, all pupils may undertake the same task, but you should select the scaffolding they need to achieve success.
How can your school promote a shared behaviour for learning ethos?
While every school (whether primary or secondary) is unique and faces a distinct set of circumstances, all pupils need to have the opportunity to become independent learners who can manage their behaviour and readiness for learning. At St Mary’s Primary School in Slough, we take this very seriously and have several means to develop it. Some key strategies through which we foster good behaviour for learning are as follows:
Middle leaders can make a real difference
The promotion of good behaviour for learning may take a flavour distinctive to your setting, pupils and circumstances. However, regardless of what form this takes, it’s essential you are a driving force behind the promotion of it in your classroom, phase or department. You’re in a position whereby you can inspire both staff and pupils to work with determination, pride and a passion to be the very best learners that they can be.
In my previous blog post, I highlighted that in 2014 almost three-quarters (72 per cent) of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) pupils didn’t achieve a level four or higher in key stage two reading, writing and maths.
I explored the link between low attainment and attendence levels, and included a good practice guide on how to reduce absence levels and minimise the impact of unavoidable absences. This blog will look at another issue closely related to low attainment in GRT pupils: low engagement with their parents and guardians.
Although many GRT families are supportive and positive about their children attending school, others may feel more anxious or negative about it. If these families have a low level of engagement with the school, their children’s absences may become more frequent and lengthy, and they may be less likely to inform the school of planned absences or travelling dates. They may also be less likely to attend parents’ evenings, or encourage their children to participate in extracurricular clubs or other out of school events.
What are the benefits of engaging GRT families?
It’s critical for reducing pupil absences and minimising the negative impact of those absences that can’t be avoided. It can also build trust between schools and families, and help to dispel common misconceptions or anxieties held by GRT families and communities.
Why might some GRT parents and guardians feel disengaged from school?
Understanding why these parents and guardians may feel disengaged from school is a key first step. Disengagement doesn’t come from nowhere. It can be traced to beliefs, anxieties or previous experiences that individuals may hold about school and the education system as a whole. These may include the following:
How might you tackle this issue?
Through good practice, positive outreach and consistent communication, schools can build trust and foster positive relationships with GRT families.
Take a look at our good practice guide for a number of ideas on improving parental engagement. The suggestions can be drawn upon to encourage positive relations with GRT families and pupils, increase engagement with parents, address underlying misconceptions and beliefs, and ultimately, improve the attainment of GRT pupils.
Working in any school is exhausting and testing, but that challenge is increased tenfold when a school is categorised as ‘requires improvement’ by Ofsted. For all those who have experienced working in such a setting, I’m sure you’ll recognise there are many positive experiences and outcomes that can be taken from this (for example, a school’s approach to change). Many schools work with an external consultant to bring about that change. But how does a school make that move from change being driven by an external consultant and the leadership team to it being embraced by a whole school and driven by existing members of staff? How can a school take ownership of its improvement, ensure it’s maintainable and make it specific to its needs?
Middle leaders can play a key role in this because – by their very nature and position – they’re able to promote the vision of teaching and learning that comes from the senior leadership team, and at the heart of the day-to-day implementation of this vision. One way a school can promote a clear and consistent approach is through the work of a teaching and learning team. The form that this team takes may differ from school to school, but the ultimate end goal would be the same: high-quality teaching and learning for all pupils that demonstrates a consistent approach from one subject to another and from one age group to another.
Developing a teaching and learning team
In September 2014, I took on the role of team leader of my school’s newly-formed teaching and learning team. Prior to that year, a consultant had worked intensively at the school to improve the quality and consistency of teaching and learning. However, with the consultant’s work having come to an end and a new head teacher in place, it was time for the next step. It was time for the school to take ownership.
The team is made up of senior leaders, middle leaders and experienced teachers. All are outstanding practitioners and keen to make a difference for the good of the pupils. The group is responsible for developing teachers who are struggling to be ‘good.’ Such teachers receive specific targets from the head teacher. The team’s job is to provide mentoring or coaching to address these specific targets.
Supporting the teacher
Each teacher that requires support meets with me (as the team leader) to develop a personalised approach to their improvement. This initial meeting gives the teacher time to reflect on their personal reaction to their Post-Observation Action Plan (POAP) and the opportunity to make decisions about how the targets should be addressed. The teacher needs to accept rapid improvement is necessary, and they’re empowered to take ownership of this development.
This meeting also involves a detailed discussion and decision-making process. For example, the methods through which each target is to be addressed are planned and the team members who are to undertake this work are selected. As the team leader, it’s important to match the needs of the teacher to the strengths of individuals within the team carefully. It’s also good to ensure personalities are well matched.
At this initial meeting, it’s essential to develop a relationship of trust with the teacher and foster a belief that they have the ability to be at least ‘good.’ Because the current situation is simply a step on the road to them becoming the teacher they want to be.
Completing the POAP
Here’s a blank version of the POAP form to be completed at the initial meeting. The ‘aspects requiring improvement’ and ‘expected impact’ would already have been completed by the head teacher.
Although each POAP is highly individualised, some common strategies to promote development are used:
Empowering teachers through professional dialogue and reflection
At the heart of many of these strategies is dialogue. This could be a three-way conversation following a peer observation (between the supported teachers, the team member who accompanied them to the observation and the observed team member). It could be a discussion about independent research and what the supported teacher might take away to improve their practice. It might be a chat about the planning process and how to plan effectively. Alternatively, it may well be a discussion while carrying out a video coaching session or during a learning walk.
The essential aspect being that this dialogue enables the supported teacher to develop their ability to reflect on their practice, consider what changes they need to make, and how (in practical terms) they’re going to implement and embed these changes. For this to be productive, it’s paramount the teacher being supported has trust and confidence in the team member guiding them. They need to be able to be honest about their teaching; share and reflect on their thoughts and ideas; and know that the team member is not judging them, but acting as a coach or mentor to support their development. It’s for this reason, I think, being a middle leader rather than a senior leader can be an advantage. As a middle leader, you’re able to connect at a different level with the supported teacher and develop a distinct relationship.
Keeping the head teacher in the loop
That said, it is of course essential the head teacher is fully aware of the progress being made. At the end of the day, the head teacher sets the targets and decides whether they’ve been met. As the team leader, it’s also important (for example, when the supported teacher has worked with other team members) I’m aware of the progress that’s being made. Ultimately, after the four to six weeks’ work towards the POAP targets, I’m accountable for the impact of the team. So I meet regularly with team members who are working with the supported teacher to discuss progress. I also meet regularly with the supported teacher for coaching or mentoring meetings. I’m aware, at all times, of the progress being made and adjust the support (in terms of strategies or team members) accordingly.
Prior to observation, I meet with the supported teacher. We discuss the upcoming observation in detail. I’m therefore aware of the extent to which the upcoming observation will demonstrate progress towards the targets. Following this meeting, I inform the head teacher of what they’re likely to observe. I don’t attend the observation, but I do attend the post-observation discussion and feedback session. At this point, I’m able to discuss the impact the team has had and to what extent I feel the supported teacher has met the targets.
Embedding lessons learnt into everyday practice
All being well, the supported teacher no longer requires a POAP. But it’s vital the progress that’s been made is sustained and embedded into everyday practice. So I track the progress of the children being taught by the previously supported teacher and carry out observations of the previously supported teacher at four and eight-week intervals. Finally, I submit a report to the head teacher and governors regarding the supported teacher. By ensuring support extends beyond the successful completion of targets in the action plan, I’m able to carry out additional coaching or mentoring meetings as necessary, or alert the head teacher immediately if progress isn’t being sustained, so necessary steps can be taken.
Widening the work of the team to all corners of the school
Now in its second year, the team’s focus has extended into the teaching and learning of NQTs and those teachers who are looking to move from being consistently ‘good’ to consistently ‘outstanding.’ Obviously, the support we provide to these two new groups differs to those teachers who are judged as requiring improvement. However, for each of these categories, a personalised approach with commonly agreed targets and actions is essential – as is mentoring or coaching dialogue.
The work of the team is now reaching all corners of the school. And the school is developing a more open, honest, proactive and sustainable approach to the development of teaching and learning. As the team leader, I’m particularly proud of those teachers who have taken ownership of their progress and, not being satisfied with moving from ‘requires improvement’ to ‘good,’ are now undertaking further coaching. These individuals demonstrate that all teachers, given the right ethos and effective systems for development, can provide high-quality teaching and learning to children in their classrooms. These teachers are a testimony to the positive impact a teaching and learning team can have on the quality of provision within a setting. For any school wanting to promote a unique, proactive and sustainable approach to improve the quality of teaching and learning in their setting while empowering teachers to take responsibility for this, a teaching and learning team is a must.
Since the 1960s, those in the know have been promising technology will revolutionise our lives. Yet, there’s a widespread narrative that when it comes to education it just hasn't. At innovation charity Nesta, I've been exploring the promise and potential of digital technology in schools, and asking the critical question: does it work?
Both the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) toolkit and Prof. John Hattie’s near ubiquitous work on visible learning communicate the potential impact digital technology has shown in many research projects. However, digital technology involves a very broad category of tools, resources and approaches. It includes initiatives such as interactive whiteboards, which have been largely shown to have little systematic impact on learning outcomes in schools, and the web, which clearly and demonstrably makes a vast array of learning resources accessible to both students and teachers.
For school leaders of every level, making decisions about implementing technology requires much more specific thinking. More information is needed on whether a particular type of technology has an impact on a particular type of learning intention.
The difficulty is, however, many digital learning technologies are new to the market and their development is moving at such a pace it’s difficult to keep up. To begin to address this, some years ago, Nesta worked with experts at the London Knowledge Lab to identify the areas of promise and how we might think systematically about their impact. The result of this work was the report 'Decoding learning’, which examined many examples of good practice with learning technologies and sorted them into eight key areas:
One of the things this report identified about learning technology use was the phenomenon of islands of excellence. You may have heard of impressive examples of learning technologies used in schools, but very rarely are these examples scaled up across a local area or system. In fact, one of the most distinctive features of the learning technology field has been the innovative individual. Such individuals create huge opportunities for the pupils they work with directly, but this is just the first step of the spiral of innovation Nesta uses to understand how new ideas lead to system-level change.
We’re currently exploring whether a different approach to growing the impact of learning technology can be used to achieve this scale. Rather than relying on individual teachers to use generic technologies in ways they develop individually, we’re looking at how technologies designed specifically for learning can be rolled out more widely. For example, working with online tutoring company Thirdspace Learning and EEF, we’ve been scaling up one-to-one tutoring via the internet to see whether such an intervention can have a measurable impact on mathematics outcomes across a cohort of 60 schools. We hope to find out if such a programme, when rolled out systematically and not just to a few innovative teachers, can have an impact and how this more standardised approach to technology adoption works.
I’m not saying creativity and innovation by individual teachers isn't important. In fact, many of the most promising new ideas identified in Decoding learning had been generated by educators. However, one of the key things I’ve learned since joining Nesta is innovation isn't just about the new idea; it’s just the starting point of a process that, if successful, can lead to widespread adoption and a positive impact for learners across the wider education system.
This work is still underway. While an individual teacher can have an amazing impact on a few students quite quickly, reliably demonstrating an effect across a system takes a lot longer. Although we’re still waiting for the results of the trial (mentioned above), we’ve learned a lot along the way about how technology is implemented at scale and how teachers can make use of such research evidence.
For now, you can follow Nesta's digital education work as it develops at nesta.org.uk/digital-education. Middle leaders are key to making education technologies work in schools, so feel free to share your own experiences in the comment section below.
In 2010, David Cameron set up the Behavioural Insights Team, popularly known as the Nudge Unit. One of its core objectives was, and remains, to explore the different ways in which to encourage people to make “better choices for themselves.” The Unit has trialled a number of policies, with common characteristics of such trials being as follows:
For example, one of the earliest trials looked at why the majority of people weren’t taking up the government’s loft insulation offer despite it being a zero-risk policy that directly saved people money. Government had been stumped as to why participation was so low when the rewards looked so great. Subsequent studies suggested it could be because people were put off by the inconvenience of having to declutter their lofts, so the Unit trialled sending out the offer of subsidised loft clearance alongside the insulation offer. Despite the fact providing both insulation and loft clearance was a more expensive offer, the dual deal was twice as popular as simply supplying insulation alone. A small ‘poke’ in the right direction resulted in a doubling of the participation.
Likewise, the Unit looked at ways in which to encourage self-employed people to pay their taxes on time. It found a small amendment to the wording of the notice had a huge impact. By replacing the statement “Nine out of 10 people pay their tax on time” with a more personalised message of “Most people in your area pay their taxes on time,” the proportion of people who paid their income tax before the deadline increased in some areas by five per cent. Low-cost, simple pokes encouraged people to change their own behaviour.
The Unit says successful nudges must meet four criteria: Easy, Attractive, Social and Timely (EAST).
Messages must be clear and easy to understand, with as much reduction of ‘hassle’ as possible. Nudges should ‘harness the power of defaults’ since we all have a tendency to automatically go towards our default option.
People should be attracted to the rewards/opportunities on offer.
People, on the whole, like to conform to social norms and what others do. For example, the tax letter worked because people were conforming to the behaviour of their neighbours.
Prompt people when they are likely to be most receptive: the same offer given at different times can have remarkably different levels of success. For example, the sending of personalised text message reminders 10 days before the bailiffs were due to turn up for outstanding debts has apparently saved the Crown Prosecution Service £30 million a year.
Interestingly, while the Behavioural Insights Team has worked with many government departments (including Health, HM Revenue and Customs, and Justice to name a few), it hasn’t as yet struck up a partnership with the Department for Education. So, in part, this blog today is an offer of a challenge: can we, as a team of middle leaders, suggest any ‘nudges’ that might help to ‘prod’ students to make better choices for themselves?
When I reflect on my school’s behaviour policy, we’ve worked very hard to make it as easy for the students to understand as possible. Like many schools, we use a warning system to give students the chance to correct their behaviour, with explicitly clear language. A warning for a student who’s talking when the class has been asked to work in silence would typically sound like “Your behaviour isn’t meeting my expectation and you’re currently disturbing the learning of others. You need to stop talking now.”
So, does this meet the Unit’s success criteria?
Instructions are crystal clear. Students are told what to do and how to do it
Students avoid the consequence of a 30-minute detention, which is an attractive prospect to avoid
The warning explicitly makes clear that everybody else in the class is meeting expectations and they should too
The warning is instant.
On face value, the behaviour ‘prod’ clearly meets the criteria. Students now need to make the choice to change their behaviour. On the other hand, it would be more effective in general (and a more effective ‘prod’) if we didn’t get to this stage at all: if we could nudge students to not disturb the learning of others and themselves in the first place, students would be making better choices that benefit all. I’m also not convinced this instruction adequately meets the attractiveness criteria because it’s based on not having a negative consequence rather than gaining a positive reward.
This isn’t to criticise the behaviour system in my school, and indeed in many other schools, at all. The system we employ is highly effective (for more details, see Doug Lemov’s Teach like a Champion). But, it’s always worth reflecting how we can make such policies even better.
I’m not saying I have the answers, and as I’ve stated, a part of this blog is to initiate discussion. I wonder whether one answer is to begin putting the behaviour policy into the future context for our students in an attempt to make the rewards of behaving well more attractive.
For example, my students know that not completing their homework results automatically in a detention. But, I don’t want my students to complete their homework simply to avoid a detention. I want them to complete the homework because it’ll enrich their understanding of the curriculum, prepare them for their exams (and, crucially, for whatever future they wish to choose) and help them to master their scholarly craft in this subject. So, I’ve started making it absolutely clear each time I set homework the reasons why:
I tell students explicitly what they’ll gain from doing the work. This might be linked to going to university or gaining a great result. For example, “to achieve an A*, you have to know how XX works,” or “to gain that place in college/university, you must achieve your GCSE in history. This homework will help you to get there.” – this instruction is crucial because it justifies the doing of homework as being more than simply an avoidance of detention
Again, this is crucial. Here I might develop my explanation by saying “those who are masters in this subject will know the information you’re going to learn about,” or “those who are at university know the information you’ll learn” – the key here is to make it seem like the knowledge is simply common sense and everybody else will know this
The instruction is directly relevant to the homework set and not a generic piece.
I have no quantitative data on the effectiveness of my attempts, only anecdotal. And while there are still occasional groans when I set homework initially, they’re few and far between when I explain the rationale behind it. There does appear to be, even at this early stage, a more proactive effort to complete the homework.
So, are there any other areas we could explore this further?
The learning environment in a school is composed of a multitude of aspects; one central element is the display.
The display has long been a debated issue in so far as who should be responsible for it. However, it’s also important to consider what format this display should take.
In a primary setting, working walls have seen a growth in popularity over recent years. The key question, as school leaders, is what role should working walls play in your school, and should they replace or complement the more traditional displays? What role does each style of display have to play in a child’s education and progress? As a class teacher and middle leader, this is an issue I feel strongly about and believe we should guide others on in our schools.
The function of a display can vary widely as can the format. In the primary classroom, a display can be composed of children’s best quality work from any subject area, classroom management and behaviour, or key learning facts, such as number bonds or sounds. The function of a display is as diverse as the style and content, but it can be split into three broad categories:
It’s the latter two that I’ll focus on in this blog.
Traditionally, a classroom display reflects the best work a child has to offer. The purpose of this work is to celebrate both progress and achievement. These displays have long since filled corridor, hall and classroom walls. I can’t begin to imagine a primary school without them; they add colour, energy, warmth, creativity and a flavour of the unique character and focus of the school. And at the heart of it all is the child. These displays are of huge significance to the pupils in the school.
For every child – whether it’s the quiet and reserved, or your eager bouncy extrovert type – seeing their work up on the wall displayed in an eye-catching manner is a moment of immense pride. It gives them a boost emotionally and, in turn, can spur them on to greater academic engagement and success. Such displays create a caring and respectful community feel in a classroom because the children are proud of their work but also the work of their peers. They learn to value others’ efforts. And accepting people’s best efforts is different to their own, but as long as it’s their best effort, it’s good enough. The children also recognise the time, thought and care the adults have put into displaying their work. And, in an indirect way, it demonstrates and builds the adults’ bond with the children.
Such displays encourage children to be proud of their progress and achievements, have the courage to share their work with others and, on a very practical note, learn to present their work neatly, which is an important skill in itself. Depending on the display, the children also learn to share their thoughts and views. It gives them a chance to express themselves in a wide variety of ways. While the traditional display isn’t an ‘in the moment’ teaching tool, the benefits of taking the time, thought and effort to have fantastic examples of these in your classroom shouldn’t be underestimated. For me, the moment my class walks in, sees a new traditional display and the babbles of excitement start, I know the extra effort it took was worth it.
As its name denotes, it’s a working document and by its very nature, it’s ever changing. The purpose of a working wall is to support the children in their current learning and enable them to become more independent. Both aspects are of utmost importance in the primary classroom. An effective working wall – when children are taught how to use it and when a teacher keeps it up to date – is, without a shadow of a doubt, a useful learning tool. The most effective working walls should contain the following:
When used as a supportive learning tool, the working wall will play a central role in the input. The teacher will use it explicitly to recap previous learning, locate pupils’ current knowledge in the learning journey and produce models for the working wall. Additionally, the children will be encouraged to use it as a supportive tool during independent work and interactive with it effectively during this time.
While, undoubtedly, opinions will differ, I believe a primary classroom should only have working walls for English, maths and possibly science – though a more traditional style science display can be highly effective. I think the rest of the classroom, apart from the essential behaviour and organisational displays, should be reserved for the more traditional display. A working wall can be a highly effectively learning tool, but what it doesn’t necessarily do is inspire, build pride, create a community feel or create a classroom buzzing with energy and enthusiasm. Without this, a classroom can become very clinical and flat; no primary classroom should feel like this. The moment I walk into a classroom, I want to be struck by the dynamism and unique character of the class. I want to be awed. I love being shown around the room with that bubbly running commentary about the work, progress and achievements your primary school child gives. You can almost touch the warm fuzziness the child feels inside when they show you their work. I want to see the passion and pride of the teacher and their class the moment I walk in because then I know that classroom is about more than academic success; it’s about building the whole child. For that, you need both the core subject working walls and traditional displays created with all the flair and love a primary teacher and support staff can muster.
What’s your role as a middle leader?
In a primary school, it’s important to lead by example. Your classroom should reflect what’s expected of others; it should showcase your class’ current learning and achievements, the passion for learning that thrives in your room and your desire to develop the whole child. The room should display up-to-date best practice examples of working walls, and it should be a place of pride for your class.
Displays, whether working walls or traditional displays, are time consuming and often not what you feel like doing in the midst of a busy working week. However, their impact is vast. As a leader, you need to find ways to ensure the following:
You need to use your classroom as a teaching tool for staff and have endless enthusiasm for supporting others in developing theirs. A tough task when there’s just so much to get done, but one that’s undoubtedly worth it.
“Promoting physical and mental health in schools creates a virtuous circle reinforcing children’s attainment and achievement that, in turn, improves their well-being, enabling children to thrive and achieve their full potential.”
This statement, from the Chief Medical Officer of England, is backed up by a wealth of studies, such as one that identified the amount of physical activity pupils engaged with at age 11 had a positive effect on their academic performance across the key subjects (at age 11 and again at age 13) and final GCSE results. Or another, also from a Public Health England’s report, that highlights children and young people who are aerobically fit achieve higher academic scores.
Evidence such as this is pouring in across the education sector, and schools are certainly in the spotlight. At the Youth Sport Trust, we’re seeing some schools shine in their delivery of a rounded education that includes high-quality PE, school sport and physical activity, which means we’re in a strong position to share such learning across the sector.
So how can teachers tap into this knowledge, put the evidence into practice, and watch their students flourish and the school’s performance ratings soar?
On Thursday 3 March 2016, the Youth Sport Trust 2016 Conference will bring together leading practitioners and those working with young people to tackle the most significant and pressing issues students face today.
This education conference will showcase the contribution and impact that physical activity and PE has on pupils’ cognitive development and performance, their engagement with schools, and their personal development. It’ll aim to support teachers in nurturing and developing the holistic well-being of their students.
It’s expected to be the first national forum following the launch of the expected Department for Culture Media and Sport’s strategy for sport and Department of Health’s childhood obesity strategy – both of which are likely to have profound implications for physical education and school sport.
As such, there will be a sharp focus on supporting schools to provide advice and ideas on how to strategically use PE and school sport to drive well-being, develop leadership skills and explore ways this can impact on raising attainment in both primary and secondary education.
With a host of leading experts from the field of sport, as well as school achievement and improvement, our conference will provide practical learning for delegates as well as an opportunity to network with peers and leading suppliers in the world of PE, school sport and physical activity. There will also be the chance to engage with high-level politicians and policymakers in education, health and sport.
Workshops will highlight how to create a balanced curriculum to ensure a positive impact on pupils' outcomes, personal development, behaviour and welfare (such as how to address the challenges of well-being at pupil, practitioner and school level; develop the life skills needed for employability; and ultimately, help schools raise achievement through PE and school sport).
Sessions for those in secondary education will look at how to use PE and school sport to develop pupils’ character and resilience, and how to equip them with the kind of leadership and employability skills demanded by the Confederation of British Industry. They’ll also include updates and guidance on Ofsted, GCSEs and assessment, as well as improving participation among girls.
Primary specific sessions will showcase how the PE and School Sport Premium can be maximised, with examples of best practice that demonstrate the impact of PE and school sport on achievement, as well as sustained long-term, whole schools. The keynote speech from Baroness Susan Greenfield CBE – scientist, writer, broadcaster and member of the House of Lords – will look at the challenges digitalisation poses to our young people, and consider how sport and physical activity can positively redress and harness some of those effects.
Earlier this year, the Youth Sport Trust released its Class of 2035 report, which provided a unique look ahead at how PE and school sport may need to evolve in the coming 20 years. It uncovered some key insights and presented four possible scenarios where young people will either be empowered or disempowered to take part in physical activity. Focused workshops at the conference will consider these scenarios in greater detail and complement the thoughts of Baroness Greenfield.
At the Youth Sport Trust, we know physical and cognitive development are inextricably linked; and high-quality PE, sport and physical activity at school is essential in combating the challenges faced by all young people and supporting them to fulfil their potential.
It can engage them in learning and support the development of skills needed for success in the classroom – communication, teamwork and self-management. In turn, this not only creates well-rounded individuals but also helps teachers in their role of supporting young people to achieve their full potential.
I look forward to seeing you in Coventry for what promises to be an engaging and thought-provoking day of learning.
To book your place and view the programme, visit youthsporttrust.org/conference.
Special Schools, Specialist and Alternative Provision Conference 2016 (10 to 11 March 2016 in Leicester)
NAHT’s extremely popular and highly regarded annual conference will explore the theme ‘promoting well-being for children, young people and staff.’ Confirmed keynote speakers including Marcus Orlovsky, Dr Andrew Curran (a paediatric neurologist at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool), and David and Carrie Grant. There is also a range of workshops on offer, including the ‘Challenges of teaching a child with foetal alcohol spectrum disorder’, ‘Decoding mental health’, ‘Building emotional resilience in children with SEND’ and ‘Ofsted - the impact of changing and new frameworks on the inspection of provision for children with SEND’. Book early because places are filling up fast.
Decoding mental health – supporting pupils with mental health needs
This course provides an opportunity for you to learn more about what’s meant by mental health, why it’s important to understand what neuroscientists are discovering, and what research tells us about how to engage children and young people with mental health needs in their learning. Don’t wait - get ahead of the game and book your place now.
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