Monthly Archives: June 2016

TWA briefing Monday 27.6.16 – Knowledge

The Festival of Education

Reflections here:


Timely takeaway – Curriculum is at the heart of everything.

Timely with the introduction of new specifications and new curriculums being written.


Ed Hirsch – The Knowledge Defecit

‘We will be able to achieve a just and prosperous society only when our schools ensure that everyone commands enough shared background knowledge to be able to communicate effectively with everyone else.’


Summer Turner @ragazza_inglese

For too long we have been focused on the HOW and not the WHAT.

Placing knowledge at the centre of curriculum planning to make our students knowledge rich.

  • What knowledge do they need to have to be GCSE ready?
  • What knowledge do they need to have to be A level ready?
  • What knowledge would we like them to have to be world ready?
  • What knowledge would we like them to have that is subject rich?

E.g. Yr 10 read Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde rooted in Victorian society and exploring the theme of science versus religion. To ensure students have a foundational knowledge in year 8 next year we have introduced Oliver Twist to ensure our students know something about Victorian society and Frankenstein so they can explore the science versus religion debate next year.

Summer Turner went on to describe her process of curriculum design (book out in October). When planning her curriculum she identified key knowledge concepts she thought were integral within English and used these to devise her cohesive curriculum from year 7-year 13

Summer curriculum

Really poor picture but focused on knowledge of grammar, narrative, chronology/context, audience, imagery, rhetoric, form and structure and genre.

Knowledge organisers – pre or post curriculum planning stage. With the onset of the new specifications coming in these have been really prominent in ensuring staff knowledge but also student knowledge with regard to specific texts. James Theo @JamesTheo has collected a range of knowledge organisers here if you want to see a range of these. Could you make use of knowledge organisers to summarise the key knowledge for particular topics?


How do we assess knowledge?

Greg Ashman @greg_ashman in his session on Explicit Instruction shared the principles of instruction with the first step being where we review previous learning. At this point are we testing students’ knowledge to ensure they possess that knowledge and to address any misconceptions.

Andy Tharby @atharby previously has blogged about testing students recall using 5-6 questions from different periods of time of their learning. Are students embedding that knowledge? Can they recall it?  The brilliant blog post is here:

In English, with a focus on three key summative points next year and having followed the knowledge agenda (mainly led by Michaela, a free school in London – follow Michaela @MCSBrent, KatharineBirbalsingh @Miss-Snuffy, Joe Kirby @Joe_Kirby, Katie Ashford @katie_s_ashford), I was keen for our summative assessments moving forward (and trialing for end-of-year examinations) to have three sections: Section A – knowledge (tested through the use of MCQs), Section B – writing skills, Section C – reading skills. Kaz, Sophie and Freya have done some excellent work in constructing MCQs that form the basis of section A to assess students’ knowledge and whether this has been embedded. For example:

Assessment 2

Once we have established the WHAT, we can then go back to the focus on HOW. We are currently reviewing our TL approach but I am a big fan of Shaun Allison (@shaun_allison) and Andy Tharby and their core Teaching and Learning principles for effective teaching. Their book entitled ‘Making Every Lesson Count’ is the best book I have read on Teaching and Learning. They focus on 7 key principles for effective Teaching and Learning which are:


More to follow on this….but everything they do is rooted in these core TL principles and I cannot recommend their book and blog enough

Finally, if you are not on Twitter, why not?


Edfest – Day 2 reflections

Womened – Hannah Wilson, Keziah Featherstone, Vivienne Porritt, Jules Daulby

I am a feminist. Not a burn your bra type feminist but I believe in the strength of women and that this is under-utilised in leadership teams in education. I absolutely would like to see more women in leadership positions and do believe that, in the main, it is confidence that prevents women from applying for such leadership positions. Confidence was the main focus for this session.

Many of us suffer from Imposter System where we believe everyone knows more than we do. There are definitely times when I believe this is true. Going round the festival today, I was in awe of how much knowledge the speakers had, making me feel completely inadequate. However, the message from Womened is simple – that for every element of weakness we have there is a strength and instead of focusing on our weaknesses, we need to focus on embracing those strengths and sing them out loud from the rooftops declaring ‘I am an expert in….’ with confidence. Here goes:

I know that my weakness lies in people management from the point of view of holding them to account (not next year as I am feeling braver) but I know I am an expert in teaching, I am a great strategic thinker and I can transform departments.

Furthermore, the premise of Women ed is one of collaboration and shared experiences. It is in fact true that the more we share, the more we grow. I am a big believer in sharing. I aim to share everything. I have great confidence with this because if I help just one other person then it is worth sharing. If people don’t like what I share they don’t have to use it. That’s freedom of choice J

Womened brought up the idea of values which resonated with Jill’s sessions so was a theme running across the festival. As I have said previously, I am going to spend some time before summer really thinking about my core values and how that drives me moving forward.

A really enjoyable session.

Next steps:

Align my core values with the vision for my new role.

Model the leadership at the heart of my core values.

Seek out the excellent women we have in our academy and foster a greater level of confidence within us so that more women feel empowered.


Embracing the Academic – Summer Turner

I love Summer Turner. She is incredibly knowledgeable and another example of a great woman in leadership. Again, she is an inspiration to me and the work she has done on curriculum design is fantastic. I cannot wait to read her book.

Summer started by getting us to re-focus on the purpose of education and suggest that there are four key purposes of education:

  • The intrinsic value of academic knowledge
  • Character
  • Social justice
  • Preparing for the world of work.

She then went on to share this beautiful quote about the purpose of education which often gets hidden by the preparation for examinations:


What is missing is education to be human beings. Education to make the most of our human powers. Education for our responsibilities as members of a democratic society. Education for freedom.

Robert M Hutchins – ‘A general introduction to the Great Books and a Liberal Education.’


How easily is this simply forgotton – especially where the world of accountability has taken over?

Summer argues that knowledge is at the core of what education is for. Developing knowledge and when it comes to curriculum planning that this should be the first stepping stone to an excellent curriculum. Summer shared with us her thought processes when creating her English curriculum, beginning with a consideration of what she felt her students needed to know. This included:

  • Grammar
  • Narrative
  • Chronology / context
  • Audience
  • Genre
  • Form and structure
  • Rhetoric
  • Imagery

Using these key headings, Summer determined her content focusing on great literature to support the teaching of these core principles.

This was incredibly interesting and Summer really is an engaging speaker. I have been following the knowledge agenda for some time and have really felt the value in creating a knowledge based curriculum and this has been put into place for our new curriculums next year which I must blog about at some point!

I think Summer eloquently summed up my thinking when she said ‘For too long we have been focused on the HOW and not the WHAT.’

What have we done so far:

We have re-drafted our KS3 curriculums with a focus on knowledge and more rigorous text choice.

We have explicitly referenced knowledge in our medium term planning to ensure staff front load this in our planning.

We have recently ran our first department subject knowledge sessions: one on Macbeth and one on poetry to include Beowulf. These were fantastic and I learnt so much from everyone else in my team.

Next steps:

Develop my own subject knowledge further! I am an unusual teacher in that my degree is in Linguistics so I always feel out of depth with regard to the Literature side of things, especially theory and criticisms. I have recently taken myself off A level because I don’t think (now the language A level has gone) that my subject knowledge is up to scratch. There is a great sense of freedom for me in not being Head of English next year in that when you become a leader, you have to act for your people and sometimes you lose a sense of yourself and developing your own practice gets forgotten. I cannot wait to have a year of really focused subject knowledge development.

Metacognition – Phil Beadle


I fell in love with Phil Beadle when he created the videos on how to teach some of the Poems from Different Cultures. Then when he joined the Independent Thinking Company, my love grew. There was no hesitation on my part in signing up for this session.   He is quite simply a GENIUS. He is so unbelievably clever, I am always in awe and always leave his sessions feeling completely inspired. I am currently still processing his session and will blog about it soon but it was deeply fascinating.


Parental Engagement – Dr Kathryn Weston

Another really informative and useful session. Parental engagement is an area I definitely want to focus on.

How about this for a starting fact? The effect of parental engagement over a pupil’s school career is the same as adding 2-3 years to their education (Hattie). In addition, parental influence is learning is 30% greater than school. Wow! So the question for me is am I as a practitioner and a leader investing enough time in ensuring our parents are engaged? And the answer is no so I am not being effective currently.

Parents’ levels of confidence is absolutely integral to their engagement with a school. One vital aspect of this is how we communicate with parents. Kathryn shared with us a letter she had received about curriculum content for her child and I will admit to cringing as I thought about whether we had sent something similar home to parents. Using subject specific terminology, like ‘inference’, ‘anaphora’, ‘structural irony’ when describing curriculum content is not particularly helpful to parents and in fact can be quite alienating. I love the idea of sending information home about curriculum content and last year suggested doing this after seeing some excellent newsletters from fellow Tweeters. I will definitely look to do this for my classes next year but, after this session, will think very carefully about the language I use. This is also true for homework. If we are sending homework home, we need to ensure that it is accessible to parents too. I was thinking, for example, as Kathryn was talking about our grammar programme which I am working on and how I could construct homeworks that would empower parents to be able to sit with their children and complete it with confidence. In addition, when we are talking about things like ‘revision’ and ‘memory’ are we supporting our parents in understanding what effective revision strategies are or how we can improve our memory.

Two of the most effective parental engagement strategies I have used this year are the positive phone call home. It is quite obvious when you ring a parent that they often expect the worse so it can be a really nice way to end your week by making positive phone calls home.   I find it also helps to build relationships and softens the moment when you do need to ring home to address something slightly more negative.

The second most effective parental engagement strategy I have used this year is the parental feedback form introduced by @FKRitson. It is phenomenal and I am going to use it every term next year. It is a simple form which gets stuck into the students’ exercise book. The expectation is that the student shares their exercise book with their parents and the parents write comments about the content, the effort and the presentation. I had some fantastic feedback from parents and I really, really enjoyed reading them. One of the best things I did this year.

Next steps:

Initial contacts for the start of the next academic year. I want to send out information about curriculum content to the parents of the students I teach at the start of the year. I will be much more mindful now of the language that I use.

I will draft the homeworks for our grammar programme with parents in mind so that homework can be done together with confidence.

I will continue to use the parent feedback sheets.

I will set ‘Our Sunday discussion’ topics.

I will ring at least one set of parents from each of my classes at the end of every week.


  • Introvert Leaders – Iesha Small


What a session! This was incredible. Simply because when Iesha was describing an Introvert Leader, I began to understand myself more. I am an introvert leader. In fact, I nearly cried. I’m not one for labels but in listening to Iesha I began to understand myself a little better.

Iesha defined the five qualities that she believes make up an introverted leader:

  1. Listening, communication and empathy.Iesha noted that introverts don’t reveal too much of themselves personally. This is so true for me. At work I am incredibly, incredibly private and function on a professional level with most.

2. Introverts tends to be good listeners and can empathise. I do spend a lot of time listening to people and I do think that people feel as though they can come and talk to me. I am really empathetic. I care about how others are feeling, sometimes way too much for my own sanity.

A quiet passion.‘Hot passion is all about the heart. The head is not even asked to participate…Cold passion is calm, considerate and focused in the long-term future. Heart and brain are aligned. Decisions take time, looked at from all angles. Cold passion is much more effective at getting results.’

This is interesting. I have a cold passion for education in that it is long term and when I am making decisions I do take a long time because I am considering all the options and trying to make a rational decision separate from the emotions I am feeling. I am a Leo, however, and sometimes emotions get in the way

3. Caution / considered nature.

This is definitely me. I am a thinker. I think about everything. I would like to call myself strategic. Iesha says introverts can be indecisive. This made me laugh because one of my 2ic’s critiques of me is that I change my mind. I do. But I change my mind because my focus is on identifying what is best for the students and sometimes I need longer to consider this than I am allowed, leaving me to make decisions that I am not fully confident about. In addition, I will change my mind when I feel we are going down the wrong road for obvious reasons. So indecisive, yes. Introverts watch and listen. I go to SLT meetings every week in a shadowing kind of role. I barely say a word but I am watching and I am listening and I am weighing everything up, evaluating, learning and only when I feel really passionate about something will you hear my voice. It’s different in my dept meetings because my voice is a voice of strength. I have total confidence in myself at the Subject Leader level and within English and therefore, I feel, I am less cautious.   BUT every day, I am watching, listening, evaluating and thinking and I do all of this before making any decisions.

This ties into Iesha’s fourth point

4. Observation / notive

Introverts don’t like being in the spotlight. God I hate it. I am completely phobic about public speaking – I cry and I am sick. If I have to speak in briefing, I am running over the short notice in my head 200 times over to ensure I don’t look like an idiot and my hands start to get all sweaty. Next week I am presenting in Leeds as a way to start to overcome this. I will let you know how it goes! Introverts also walk around noticing things. As per point 3. I watch and observe EVERYTHING.

5. Independence and sufficiency

By this point I was starting to freak out. I am massively independent and self-sufficient. Iesha stated that introverts need their time alone and their space and this is soooooo true. I live by myself so have this but there are times during the work day when I will simply need to go and have a walk somewhere to get away from the chaos of work. Sometimes, at lunchtime, I like to sit on the balcony when no one else is there. At first my department wanted to come and keep me company but then they realised I am content because I need the space to be alone with my thoughts. In addition, Iesha said that whilst introverts are independent they don’t wish to upset people and this has been very true for me. Now I am getting better at depersonalising situations and understanding that sometimes people will be upset with you and there is very little you can do.

Absolutely fascinating session empowering me to embrace my introverted self J

Next steps:

I am keen to connect with other introverted leaders.

I definitely want to read more about this.

Edfest – Day 1 – my takeaways

Making Every Lesson Count – Shaun Allison and Andy Tharby


I have more of an involvement with Teaching and Learning next year and when applying for my new position, I referenced this book as being at the heart of the TL across the faculty. The beauty of Shaun and Andy’s TL policy is that it is simple. Core principles that are at the heart of great TL. The book is fantastic – quite simply the best book on TL out there. Each chapter is dedicated to one of the core principles with plentiful examples of how the principles can be addressed across a range of subject classrooms.

Quote of the session: Responsive differentiation is better than planned differentiation.

Next steps:

  • We are in the process of writing our core principles with regard to TL. I am part of a group for this and don’t feel that I can’t branch out on my own with it.
  • However, I do think the core principles Shaun and Andy have identified are core principles of really effective teaching and, therefore, I will begin to see how they could marry with the principles we have identified.
  • Our new TL principles I don’t believe are going to be shared with staff until September so in the meantime I am quite keen to see what our students’ experiences of Shaun and Andy’s core principles are and our students’ perceptions of these principles in their everyday classroom experience.
  • Once the principles have been shared, I want to ensure there is explicit consideration for these principles when creating new schemes of work. As Shaun and Andy have suggested, not all principles would be used every lesson but I want to work with Subject Leaders to ensure these principles are embedded across schemes and we are developing strategies to support these principles.
  • Andy Tharby and James Theo have both blogged their TL bulletin for staff. I think this is a fab idea and would love to see us introduce this with a focus on our core principles so I am going to suggest this to my line manager and other SCLs.
  • I want to begin to develop a bank of strategies that will support teachers in strengthening their practice in these key areas. A bit like a teacher toolkit.
  • I am also really keen to develop a staff reading group. Choosing a TL book to read and discuss once a term.

Explicit Instruction – Greg Ashman


I really enjoyed this session. I’m really interested in developing subject knowledge at the moment and how this subject knowledge is communicated and practised. Greg started off by exploring the definition of explicit instruction to ensure clarity. Once this had been established, Greg shared Rosenshine’s Principles of Instruction which are below:

  • Begin the lesson with a short review of previous learning
  • Present new material in small steps with students practice after each step
  • Ask a large number of questions and check the responses of all students
  • Provide models
  • Guide student practice
  • Check for student understanding
  • Obtain a high success rate
  • Provide scaffolds for difficult tasks
  • Regular monitor independent practice
  • Build in weekly and monthly reviews

It is striking that these principles of instruction are quite closely aligned to the TL principles from Shaun and Andy. For me, this reinforces the importance of these principles to great TL practice.

Next steps:

  • It will be interesting to see how structuring lessons in this way – e.g. with recap every lesson etc so I am going to plan my year 9 unit of work in this way to see what the impact on the students.


Leadership transitions – Jill Berry

I adore Jill Berry. She has a lovely persona, is incredibly experienced and knowledgeable and is a great example of a woman in leadership. For that reason she inspires me. I have just been promoted within my school to a role that is new and completely unfamiliar. I am incredibly nervous about the transition I need to make and the unknown of what the core of my business will be and therefore this felt as a really good session choice. Interestingly, I am also dealing with the transition of two new leaders coming into our academy as well.

Jill is brilliant at getting everyone thinking and talking and a range of questions were thrown out to get us thinking. Questions such as

  • What is your current sphere of influence? Do you have aspirations to expand it?
  • Are you making the most of current opportunities? Are you enjoying them or relishing them?
  • What are the particular demands or challenges of your current role? Are you building capacity?
  • Are there specific opportunities, satisfactions and rewards in the role you aspire to which motivate and drive you?

Jill spoke about the importance in having a vision and going back to your core values. She asked us to consider what our vision was for the leaders we want to be and what our personal / professional values are.

Jill asked us to consider what some of the challenges are with regard to leadership transitions and how these can be overcome. Here’s the list of what we came up with:

  • Be receptive / Active listening and learning before doing anything or making any decisions
  • Draw upon the expertise of others
  • You inherit a lot / legacy – inheriting is inhabiting
  • Lead in period
  • Consult
  • Reflect and build in thinking time
  • Don’t be too hard on yourself
  • Sustainable balance in lives

Next steps:

  • I want to spend time working through my core values to really focus me in before I start my new role.  (Mary Myatt’s book is fabulous book for exploring values)
  • I am also keen to frame a vision for the work I want to complete in my new role with my core values at the heart of this.
  • I am going to email Jill as she has kindly put together some book and blog suggestions which I am going to read over the summer

Assessment Without Levels – an update

This time last year I blogged about our approach to assessment. A year in education is a long time and so I thought an update would be interesting for all to see.

So last year I sat down with the new GCSE specifications and A level specifications to begin the process of identifying and creating an assessment system that was as cohesive as it could be across 7 years of education.

The first port of call seemed sensible to be the assessment objectives and so I looked at the new specs and the old APP and drafted a number of AOs which we would assess our students against. I am delighted to say that I have refined them slightly this year so now we have six AOs with 11 strands in total.

AO1: Inference and interpretation

AO2: The construction of meaning and effects using language, structure and form

AO3: Comparison and context

AO4: A personal and critical response

AO5: Crafting of language and structural devices to suit form, purpose and audience

AO6: Technical accuracy

Once I had established our AOs and subsequent sub-strands, I worked on identifying the criteria and the development of skillset across the 7 years. To do this, I used the old APP grids, the GCSE specimen assessment materials and the A level specimen assessment materials.

The end result were our progression maps for each AO identifying the expected progression for a student across the 7 years. (GCSE goal band 5).

Progression maps 1617

These progression maps fed quite nicely into our LME approach at The Wellington Academy. Across KS3 we use the determiners: Learning, Mastering and Extending to assess students’ progress in a particlar strand.

Using the progression grid, I was able to identify the learning, mastering and extending criteria for each year group within Key Stage 3. These have just been recently updated and a copy of our year 9  one is here:

Year 9 LME

Once this had been established we began putting our curriculum in place, matching Assessment Objectives to particular units. The premise for assessment was that students would complete two assessment per unit: a Checkpoint task and a Key Assessment with the Checkpoint task being the barometer for the Key Assessment. Checkpoints were a smaller version of the Key Assessment with students writing a 1-2 paragraph response and were measured against only 1-2 AOs. This enabled us to see whether students had grasped a particular skill or not and, as a result, focus teaching in preparation for the Key Assessment which was a longer piece and assessed against 3-4 Assessment Objectives.

Whilst this has given us the tool to show the progress our students make between Checkpoints and Key Assessments and then across Key Assessments, it has meant A LOT of marking. I have reflected long and hard about how I can ensure the wellbeing of our team whilst ensuring students receive feedback that is meaningful and helpful to the development of their skill set. This is what, in discussion with our VPs, Dan Rosen and Mike Goves, I have come up with.

Next year students will sit three summative assessments only in the form of three examinations in the exam hall. The rest of the assessment we will complete will be through the use of formative assessment in the exercise book. As we were preparing the curriculum maps for this year, we identified the Assessment Objectives for each unit as you can see in the example below:

Year 7 Curriculum Map

This gives the team a focus for marking when looking at students’ exercise books. Whilst staff are planning their units, they will be identifying key pieces of work that they will assess formatively against the Assessment Objectives for that unit – e.g. a paragraph analysing the presentation of Piggy in Lord of the Flies with a focus on how Golding has used the character of Piggy to help him invert the classic adventure story and the reasons for this (focus on AO3.2 (context) and AO2.1 (language)). These are the only pieces of work they will mark in detail in the exercise book with everything else in the exercise book being marked for core literacy only. In addition, we won’t necessarily all assess the same pieces of work which I think enables staff to have greater autonomy over what they do.  A minimum standard will be set for staff and it is the job of the KS3 co-ordinator to Quality Assure this. Formative comments will be given and students will have time to respond to those comments and further develop their skill set. The focusing down of what is and is not marked reduces marking load for staff, makes the marking process quicker which enables work to be returned sooner and students to reflect, redraft and address areas of weakness immediately. It also enables a deeper learning process with a focus on a core number of skills only.

I think one of the team’s strengths is their level of feedback and the fact we do give students ample time to respond but I feel that in removing the Checkpoints as part of the assessment process, I am freeing staff up to do this with their students’ needs in mind.

The conformity will come through the bi-termly examinations. Having watched the growth of Michaela this year and their ideological stance on knowledge, I was really keen to ensure the examinations we set students in KS3 follow the same structure and have three sections: Section A – testing the knowledge students have gleaned from the units, Section B – testing students’ skills in writing and Section C – testing students’ skills in reading (with a focus on the relevant AOs). The reason for this is that with the move to a linear examination, we have to ensure our students become better learners, in that they retain what they have been taught and what they have learnt. Our students find this hard and we have to help them with this. By setting examinations bi-termly, we are supporting them in developing revision skills – embedding knowledge – memory and retention so that when they begin their GCSE courses, it is something which comes more naturally to them.

Our KS3 co-ordinator, Karen Armstrong and our shadow co-ordinator, Sophie Francis have been working hard to trial this new structure for the end of year examinations and here is an example of what they have come up with:

I am delighted with what they have produced and really excited about what I think is a great assessment structure which is both manageable for staff and useful for students.  I would love to know your thoughts!