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Legacy by James Kerr

I am a leader. I am a leader finding my way from the murky depths of leading an English department to the even murkier depths of leading on TL across the academy I work out.

It’s hard. It’s difficult and, for me, it is often plagued with uncertainty. I have days when I feel I am cracking it and days when I wonder what the hell I am doing.

For this reason, I love a good leadership book to root me back into what it means to be a leader.

Legacy by James Kerr is a superb read on leadership. Sharing 15 key lessons for leadership, the book offers strategy to ensure your team becomes a high-performing team.

Below are my key take-aways.  I am hoping to be able to blog on how I have used this book in future to shape my leadership development.

Chapter 1 – Character

What does the book say?

  • True success starts with humility – knowing oneself and recognising that character triumphs over talent because whilst winning takes talent, to repeat it takes character.
  • The importance of getting the basics right and ensuring that you are creating the highest operating standards. The culture needs to be right.
  • The importance of team and collective character. And all members of the team constantly asking how can we do this better and have a vested input into this ongoing discussion.
  • The importance of vision. Action without vision is a nightmare. Vision without action is a dream. Vision into every day action. Principle into practice.

Chapter 2 – Adapt

  • A winning environment is one of personal and professional development.
  • Clear strategy for change – an environment that would stimulate the players and make them want to take part in it.
  • Recognise there will be learning dips in performance.
  • Decision cycle = observe, orient, decide act and then repeat.
  • Identify 10 things you need to achieve in 100 days. Three actions for each. Review every Friday.

Chapter 3 – Purpose

  • People want to be part of something worth fighting for, something they can be proud of.
  • The way we feel about something is more important than what we think about it.
  • Emotional reward is more important than material gain.
  • Personal meaning is how we connect.

Chapter 4 – Responsibility

  • A team of leaders is ahead of the game
  • Flexible leadership groups – distributed leadership.
  • Ownership – building trust and a common understanding.
  • The learning environment should be dedicated to improving the individual.

Chapter 5 – Learn

  • Success is modest improvement consistently done. A long-term commitment to improving excellence
  • Constant improvement – always asking how we can do things better.
  • Without the right structure in place, strategy won’t be successful. Structure follows strategy
  • Each team member should identify their 7/8 pillars of improvement and ensure everything they do feeds into a daily map of self-improvement.
  • Success is how a team work together under pressure, how they understand importance of team work and how they are willing to do 100 things 1% better.
  • The environment needs to be dedicated to learning. How do leaders create opportunities for personal growth and professional development?
  • Excellence is a process of evolution.

Chapter 6 – Whanau

  • Fly in formation. Be of one mind. On a good team, there are no superstars.
  • Turn standards into action with peer to peer enforcement. High standards must come from within.
  • Leadership works best when it comes from the team.
  • The greater connections between a team, the stronger the team.
  • Find a structure that would empower everyone on the team and allow the players to grow as individuals.

Chapter 7 – Expectations

  • Those who prepare properly normally win.
  • Successful leaders have high internal benchmarks. They set their expectations high and exceed them.
  • It’s the repetition of affirmation that leads to belief. Self-fulfilling prophecies.
  • Words shape our story, our story becomes a framework for our behaviours, our behaviours determine the way we lead our life and the way we run our organisations.

Chapter 8 – Preparation

  • The way the sapling is shaped determines how the tree grows.
  • Practise with intensity to develop the mindset to win.
  • If you’re not growing anywhere, you are not going anywhere.
  • Effective training is intense, regular and repetitious. For world class results, it should be central to culture.
  • Avoid red head. Aim for blue head: alternatives, consequences and task behaviours.
  • Develop clarity with a more accurate automatic execution and situational awareness.

Chapter 9 – Pressure

  • Pressure is expectation, scrutiny and consequence.
  • Bad decisions are made as a result of inability to handle pressure at the pivotal moment.
  • Where we direct our mind is where thoughts will take us. Thoughts create an emotion and emotion defines behaviour. Behaviour defines our performance.
  • Avoid bad experience pictures from the past or fear of future consequences.
  • Brain is three parts – instinct, thinking and emotion. Disconnect emotion to remain focused on outcome. When this happens find an external force and get yourself back into the present.
  • Mantra – three word act and takes one from chaos through clarity into action.
  • Meet pressure with pressure. By controlling our attention, we control our performance and by controlling our performance, we control the game.

Chapter 10 – Authenticity

  • Follow your own path. Be resilient, stand tall, keep faith and stand strong within yourself. Be genuine, real and true to who you are. Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.
  • Leaders who fail suffer from a lack of strong identity, belief in themselves and respect for themselves.
  • When leaders disrespect with others, it starts with themselves.
  • Bad faith occurs when peer pressures and social forces combine to have us disown our own values.
  • Leaders need to role model behaviours around admission of mistakes and weaknesses and fear.
  • Essential for safe conflict and safe confrontation.
  • Integrity – thoughts, deeds and words are as one.
  • Authenticity is alignment of head, mouth, heart and feet thinking, saying and doing the same thing consistently. Honesty – integrity – authenticity – resilience – performance.
  • Every morning write a list of things that need to be done that day. Do them.
  • With an authentic voice, we have authority

Chapter 11 – Sacrifice

  • It’s the work we do behind close doors that makes the difference
  • These are the things I need to work on. These are my weaknesses.
  • Never surrender. Spill blood for the team. Sacrifice.

Chapter 12 – Language


  • Let your ears listen
  • No one is bigger than the team
  • Leave the jersey in a better place
  • Live for the jersey. Die for the jersey.
  • It’s not enough to be good. It’s about being great.
  • In the belly – not the back.
  • It’s an honour, not a job.
  • Leaders are storytellers.
  • If you are going to die for something, you need to know what you are dying for.
  • Companies that maintain their core values are those that stand alone, stand apart and stand for something.
  • First we shape our values then our values shape us.

Chapter 13 – Ritual

  • Ritualised to actualise.
  • Identity and purpose need to be continually renewed and reinterpreted to give them meaning.
  • Inspiring leaders use rituals to lead their team to its core narrative and uses them to reflect, remind, reinforce and reignite collective identity and purpose.

Chapter 14 – Whakapapa

  • Plant trees you’ll never see. Be a good ancestor.
  • What is important is that when the sun is on us, we inherit our tribes, values, stories, mythology and standards. Live to that standard and then pass it on to the next person in the team.
  • True leaders are stewards of the future.
  • Be more concerned with your character than your reputation. Your character is what you really are whilst your reputation is merely what others think you are.

Chapter 15 – Legacy

  • Write your legacy. This is your time.

Explode a quotation

Jamie Clark originally introduced this idea and it is something we now use at the start of every lesson.  It’s a simple idea but has had significant impact on how confident our pupils are becoming in analysing language and structure.

Each lesson we take a key quotation from a particular act or stave (dependent on what we are studying) and place onto the board.  Pupils have a copy in their booklet.Explode a quotation.jpg

Pupils begin by summarising what they understand about the quotation.  For example, who says the line, where it comes from and in what context.

Pupils then analyse the quotation, identifying key techniques and what can be inferred as a result.

As a class, we share our thoughts which helps pupils to develop their responses to a quotation and see alternative interpretations.

Having just marked a couple of sets of essays on language and structure, I have seen a significant improvement in pupils’ confidence in getting to grips with key language and structure terms.

For us now, we need to focus on transferring analytical notes into analytical paragraphs of writing.


Last week I had to grade my teaching. This was for positive reasons as we have a new coaching system coming into place and it was more to do with identifying need than it was a brutal exercise in ragging teaching staff.

I graded myself a 2.

I am not a 2.

But I graded myself a 2.

And I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

I graded myself a 2 because I am no longer an all singing and all dancing teacher. I rarely do group work, I don’t differentiate in the old-fashioned sense and sometimes I even forget to discuss the different learning goals of a lesson. I’m really struggling with Big questions.

I’m what I would call conventional now. Traditional.

Every lesson of mine begins with recap questions from the previous lesson (sometimes a bit of silent reading if you are in KS3). I expect pupils to answer these questions using full sentences. Then at KS3, pupils complete a vocabulary exercise and at KS4 pupils explode a quotation. We take feedback, using our green pens. We then read…we learn new stuff and after that we answer questions which we feedback through discussions. In our reflection tasks, we attempt to make connections to previous learning in order to develop pupils’ holistic understanding of topics or key texts.

It’s a simple structure. A repetitive structure. But it has made me doubt whether I am outstanding and it made me put down a 2 instead of a 1.

And then a number of things happened this week. A boy, who I have recently inherited walked out of my classroom telling me he really understood Act Four of Macbeth. He hadn’t got any of the previous acts but he got Act Four – the way I taught it. And then another girl, consoling a girl I had made cry (another blog post) referred to me as an excellent teacher. Another girl, told me she no longer understood Macbeth (she’s recently moved to another class) but she got it with me. And one by one, the pupils are, in their own way, telling me that I am great at what I do. That they get it when they are with me. They understand and they see they are making progress.

Perhaps as teachers we should learn to listen more to our biggest critics – our pupils. Because, according to them, the simple approach to teaching is outstanding.  And maybe now, I need to start believing it myself.


This isn’t a radical blog post but I kind of promised myself I would write more this year so instead here is a summary of where we are up to with knowledge.

75% of what I do at my academy now has been influenced by Michaela. I’m not going to claim these ideas as my own because 9/10 they aren’t. They are modified versions and that is incredibly important because what works in one school won’t necessarily work in another so you have to modify and adapt accordingly.

However, when it comes to knowledge much we do is the same.

  • Knowledge organisers

All Literature units at KS4 have a knowledge organiser (these are attached below). These are issued to pupils at the start of a unit. They are also sent home to parents. Knowledge organisers give parents a useful role in supporting their children with their education. They provide parents with the key knowledge pupils need to know so that they can support this by testing them each week. By September, all KS3 units will also have a knowledge organiser. As we teach these KS3 units for the first time, we are building them rather than going in all guns blazing. However, this does not mean knowledge at KS3 is omitted.


KS4 Macbeth Knowledge Organiser

KS4 A Christmas Carol Knowledge Organiser


  • Daily recaps

Every lesson in English begins with recap questions testing prior knowledge. Every time there is an opportunity to link into the teaching of prior knowledge across a lesson that opportunity is taken. Repetition, daily recaps and drilling have helped to improve our pupils’ knowledge.

  • Weekly tests

Each week pupils are tested on a section of the knowledge organiser. Each week the sections increase. Every fortnight, pupils at KS3 have a distinct knowledge and drilling lesson dedicated to securing the foundations ahead of GCSE.


  • Data tracking  

We collect these in as a form of knowledge tracking. We do this live – therefore we don’t have to do this at a separate time nor does it become an additional admin task.

Pupils work out their scores and convert these to % which tag into our Learning / Mastering / Extending assessment system. Numeracy – tick!


We can easily identify sections pupils did not perform well in and retest.

It is the pupils’ responsibility to learn their knowledge.

In our summative assessments (one every big term), we compile a larger knowledge test, testing all the knowledge from the unit and all the knowledge from previous units if applicable.

If pupils’ knowledge does not improve, then we shall intervene with after school sessions and the like. This happens rarely.

  • Self quizzing

We did this last year with mixed success.  Must try harder with this and build this in to what we do.


Overall, we are seeing an increase in how much our pupils know and will continue to push this on and on because we recognise how much of a difference the amount we know could impact upon our outcomes.


My top resources from 2017

  1. Booklets

Originating from Michaela, who are quite rightly, very protective of their booklets, booklets are a resource sent from heaven. Yes, they are time-consuming to produce – but, without a shadow of a doubt,  they have some distinct advantages.

All your resources are in one place – no dash to the photocopier and no time spent photocopying. Everything you need is collated into one neat package. Revision books are no longer needed because it is all there in the booklet!

A pupil misses a lesson – they have everything they need to catch up. A pupil is sent out / in isolation – their booklet is ready for them.  They can be shared with parents so parents have full access to the curriculum as well.

Beautifying is a thing of the past. No time spent analysing fonts or images for a pretty powerpoint. No, instead that time is spent on enhancing knowledge and on enriching understanding. It is knowledge heavy.  It is focused.

Our booklets are evolving as we think about the strategies that suit our pupils best but the bones of what we will do for the next 4-5 years is there. Teachers love the booklets. Pupils love the booklets. They’ve been a win-win.

2. Whole class marking. 

What used to take 3 hours to mark, can now take ½ an hour and the feedback – the DIRT lesson includes some of the most thorough feedback and guidance on how to improve ever seen.

Beginning as a sheet on which to record praise, misconceptions, literacy errors and missing work, these sheets have now developed so that they can be stuck in pupils’ books and corresponding DIRT tasks created for teacher ease.

Again, originating from Michaela and then developed by Mr Thornton and once again by members of Team English including Rebecca Foster, these have dramatically changed the way we mark or should that be the way we feedback.  They have also helped to significantly reduce workload whilst not compromising on the quality of feedback pupils receive.

3. Knowledge Organisers 

This has massively influenced what I do at my academy. We have Knowledge Organisers for all the GCSE units and by July this year we will have Knowledge Organisers for all our KS3 units as well. We test knowledge weekly, using the knowledge organisers and have embedded a knowledge section within our summative assessments.

Again from Michaela, Joe Kirby originally blogged about Knowledge Organisers. A simple A4 sheet containing key knowledge with regard to texts – plot details, characters, the contextual backdrop etc etc to support the teaching of a unit.   Yes, they can be used to frame a unit – replace what was an MTP but pupils also use them to ensure their foundational knowledge is sound.  They learn sections of the knowledge organiser each week – self quiz and are then tested in school.  This regular use of a knowledge organiser and testing of such knowledge is really enhancing pupils wider understanding and improving their responses to key literary texts.

4. Do it now – recap. 

Andrew Tharby originally blogged about memory platforms and the need to interleave questioning to aid long term memory and retrieval of key texts. Rebecca Foster then developed this into the 5-a-day starter. Whilst we don’t stick to 5-a-day, we begin every lesson with recap questions and this has really helped embed pupils’ retentions of texts. I need to get better at the interleaving side of things though – a target for 2018.

5. Structure strips.  

Originating from Stephen Lockyear and then Caroline Spalding, these strips guide pupils through the writing process. They provide pupils with a structure to develop their writing across a piece and although, yes, need withdrawing to some extent by the time pupils reach year 11 (or, as an alternative, pupils creating their own), the confidence they provide pupils to tackle key questions cannot be argued against

They certainly have helped enhance my pupils’ writing for the Imaginative writing sections which brings me on to resource 6.

6. Writing

Chris Curtis blogged about the 200 word challenge which many schools have now adopted.  A block of time each week dedicated to writing 200 words with the idea that regular practice and guidance as to what to include would really help pupils develop.

Nick Wells then blogged about his approach to writing – Drop / Shift / Zoom in and Zoom out which I felt offered pupils a brilliant framework for Imaginative Writing.  Using the structure strip idea from above, I created structure strips to accompany images to help guide pupils through the process.  This has produced some simply brilliant pieces of writing and has, in turn, evolved itself into an approach to writing that I really think works. (Blogged about this previously so do check).

7. Explode a quotation

Originally from Jamie Clark, I believe. We do one quotation per lesson at GCSE. Pupils independently explode, drawing out their overall understanding and then focusing in on key techniques. Once they have done this, we feed back on to the board. Their confidence in approaching quotations has significantly developed and it is a joy to behold. Amy Forrester has done an amazing job of slicing key quotes for Macbeth and A Christmas Carol already.

So these are my seven top resources from 2017.  I would love to know what yours are and cannot wait to see what evolves in 2018.

Word of the week


So if you have read Hirsch, you will know that knowledge is the biggest differential between pupils of high socio economic status and those of low.  For us, at my academy, we have been focused on knowledge ever since I had the pleasure of visiting Michaela.  We have introduced Knowledge Organisers, recap tests, knowledge exams etc etc.

However, we also have to improve our pupils’ vocabulary.  We are currently exploring the online Bedrock package but in the mean time, one simple thing we do whole school is Word of the week.

Each week, I send out the word of the week.  These words have been taken from Geoff Barton’s A* Vocabulary list which you can find here:

GB vocab

On the slide I send out, I have the word and the word class, followed by a definition, examples of the word in use and synonyms and antonyms.  All of these are taken from the Cobuild site which is fantastic.  I am also introducing a visual to go with this after attending an amazing vocabulary session at TLT17.

The idea is that the form tutor will introduce the word and the definition.  They will then go through the examples and offer further ones of their own.  Pupils will then have 1-2 minutes to come up with further examples which they share (all done orally).  I’ve found this is key in immediately quashing misconceptions and incorrect use of the word.  We then also go through possible synonyms and antonyms and see if we can identify more.

Pupils are then awarded house points if they use the word correctly in a lesson.  They are also asked to use it in their 100 word writing challenge each week as well.

The slide is shared on screens across the school, the school’s social media sites and sent home to parents.

The first few slides I have done are available here:

Word of the week.jpg

Vocabulary only



When ideas from Twitter come together…

I love reading and, as a result, I love teaching reading. Just this week, I got over-excited reading Oliver Twist with year 8, getting into character as the fight between Noah and Oliver ensued. I like that with reading it is slightly logical or methodical – we are looking for key things within texts and, to an extent, we have a structure that we can use to help pupils enhance their reading of texts. I’ve always found teaching writing much harder. Yes, there are the same nuts and bolts but, at some point, pupils need to pick the baton up and run creatively, something which is harder in my mind to teach.

Last year, Chris Curtis introduced the idea of the 200 word writing challenge which I adored. The idea of regular and deliberate practice with regard to writing I thought was incredibly powerful. And then James Theo, I think, suggested using literature texts as a stimulus and so with it came an incredibly powerful revision tool.

However, when our results came in, AO5 for writing was weak and this feeling of uncertainty reappeared within me: how do you guide pupils to structure their writing without inhibiting their creative freedom? How also do you embed a structure without leading them to write a narrative? Nick Wells, this year, has become my salvation. Nick blogged about a simple structural approach he has employed within his school: drop, shift, zoom in and zoom out.  Read the blog here:

Knowing that literacy is an area of focus for us and pondering why our literacy mats over the past couple of years have disappeared, I decided to take this approach and use Nick’s model to produce a literacy mat for each desk using a different picture stimulus to guide pupils through the writing process.  And then after seeing a superb idea on Twitter from a Geography teacher (sadly I can’t remember who this is), I decided to use each of these structural sections to pose key questions to support my pupils with their thinking and how they might respond to the image.

Writing prompt.jpg

And then last week I attended the Salisbury Literary festival which was a superb event. Writers from all over including Philippa Gregory and Alex Wheatle attended the festival. Their love for writing got me thinking about writing too. I never write. Yet I teach writing. How can I teach writing, if I am not a writer myself? I mentioned this to an amazing colleague of mine, Olessia Doyle who then, off her own back, suggested setting up a writing club for staff before rolling this out to pupils.

On Wednesday, we had our first meeting. Attending without a piece, I listened to the pieces that had been written by staff. Olessia asked us to highlight any words / phrases and details we particularly liked and identify grammatical errors or clunky language that did not contribute to a convincing piece. We then discussed each piece in turn. I absolutely loved this. I loved the dialogue and the conscious thinking about our own writing that we were doing and the critique within a small but safe environment.

staff writing clubWhich got me to thinking about how what we were doing here in our small staff group could be applied to what I do in the classroom.  This led me to come up with the lesson structure below to tie everything I had come across in the past month or so and help my pupils with their writing.

Lesson 1

In my ‘Do it now task’ I provided pupils with a picture stimulus and asked them to thought shower round the outside key words, key phrases and key questions they had about the picture.House pic.png

I then took feedback, without comment.

Thought shower.pngI then introduced the drop, shift, zoom in and zoom out structure and used the literacy mats to talk through the example Nick had written.

To help pupils structure their response, I gave all my pupils a structure strip – a genius idea arrived at by Stephen Lockyer and Caroline Spalding – with the drop, shift, zoom in and zoom out structure. I posed key questions about the picture using these structural sections. When I had finished, I realised that actually I also needed to indicate some skills based content so added in sentence structures and literary devices I wanted them to try to use within their writing as well.

structure strip.pngPupils then had 20-25 minutes to begin their piece of writing with an aim of completing the drop and the shift. IMPORTANT POINT: I also wrote during this time. I am a terrible writer so this was so interesting for me to do and feel myself struggle alongside them.  It was also really good for them to see.  Here is what I came up with below for my drop paragraph:

The helmet of my head felt tight as I pondered the situation before me. Shifting my gaze to look at the monster towering above me, I could feel it tremble, increasing my anxiety. In instinct, I tugged on my rope: a safety net like the umbilical cord in the womb. I continued to ponder my situation. I had always had someone to fall back on, make decisions for me and, now, confronted by the unknown, I was feeling uncertain and at my most indecisive.



Lesson 2:

By the start of lesson 2, I will have photocopied everyone’s work and organised the work into packs of four and the pupils consequently into groups of four. (This time I went with mixed groups but I am also toying with setting groups according to their MEGs so could flip between the two)

The lesson began with pupils getting into their writing groups. Pupils were given 16 mins approx. to read each piece in turn, critiquing the writing that they have been presented. Their focus was specifically on the use of stylistic devices, the structure and organisation of their text and spelling, punctuation and grammar.

To support pupils, scaffolding for critiquing is displayed:

Recognising brilliance

  • Is there a particular word, phrase or sentence you really enjoyed when you read it? Why? What effect did it have on your as a reader or your understanding of the character or situation?
  • What methods (simile, metaphor, personification, alliteration) has the writer used that you were particularly impressed by and why? What effect did it have on you as a reader?
  • Does the imaginative piece flow? Are cohesive devices used to structure the text and guide the reader through?

Offering helpful feedback

  • Has the person written enough? Has the work been paragraphed?
  • Which words do you think could be improved and developed because they aren’t ambitious enough or because they don’t capture the character or situation well enough? Have any words been spelt wrong?
  • Are there any errors with regard to punctuation that you can identify?
  • Is there repetition of a particular sentence structure (not for effect) that could be improved?

As this feedback is being provided, the pupil whose work is being critiqued will use their green pen to show where feedback has been given and then respond to feedback when they continue with their writing time.

But as I write this, I am also thinking I am going to provide pupils with a tick box grid as well to staple to the work in terms of peer assessment. This can be completed as they are reading the work and listening to the piece.

Peer assessment 3.png

Once pupils have fed back, they then returned to their desks to continue with their drop, shift, zoom in and zoom out paragraphs of writing in response to the stimulus.  It is important, to me anyway, that the writing is done in silence.

At the end of the lesson, I asked pupils to complete their piece for homework and email to me.

Upon receiving emails from pupils, I began to see that the structure of their ideas had significantly improved and I was impressed with the level of descriptive detail. However, immediately I could see issues with technicality especially in terms of punctuation.

I decided to introduce a lesson 3 at this point. During this lesson, I used direct instruction to re-teach the use of commas to mark clauses and colons. Pupils were then given twenty minutes of deliberate practice writing time before returning to their piece to edit with these two specific details in mind.

HOWEVER, I think, upon reflection I am going to amend my approach. I am going to use the peer assessment sheet above and create a worksheet for each ‘technique’. This worksheet will cover the definitions and the rules for usage if applicable and then offer pupils the opportunity for some deliberate practice. But this will be done at home!

When pupils have received their peer assessment feedback sheet, pupils will choose a minimum of one area that has not been ticked or evidenced and they will choose that to be their area of focus for deliberate practice as part of their homework in an attempt for them to embed into their piece of writing which they would still complete and email for homework.

Receiving homework:

To celebrate their writing and promote writing across the academy, I knocked up a quick anthology structure and as pupils emailed me added their work to this. I have not amended or corrected their work as part of the anthology and I feel this is important that I don’t interfere with it. The anthology is then shared with pupils, parents, staff and is placed in areas such as reception, the library to celebrate the work they are producing. It is exciting for them to see each other’s work (and I am hoping will motivate some of my more reluctant writers to write more!)

Here is the first one from my year 11 class Cordelia:

11Cordelia Blown awayv2

With thanks to Chris Curtis, Nick Wells, Stephen Lockyer, Caroline Spalding and Olessia Doyle.


Picture stimulus

Structure strip drop shift zoom in zoom out


Peer Assessment sheet


We all row together…

One thing that surprised me about the response to my reading article in the TES was the response from a number of librarians. Many librarians got in touch with me to say thank you for acknowledging them. I was surprised by this. Librarians are at the heart of what we do and it got me thinking….and then I wrote this…


As I walk through the doors at just after 7.30 am with my colleague Kaz, we are greeted by Julie who is there every single morning, bright and breezy getting the breakfast options ready for our pupils. Every now and then I tuck into one of the breakfasts myself but today I have decided to be good. Kaz and I go our separate ways as she heads to the KS3 office and me, to my classroom. I walk up the steps using them as a barometer to distinguish how tired I am that morning. Often I pop into my Deputy Head’s office, Michael Goves, for a morning chat and catch up. We are both incredibly passionate about education and like to ensure our edu reading is up-to-date so we can talk for hours about the craft of teaching and learning in his office. I will eventually leave him to go into my classroom and set up for the day, hollering a hello to any of team English who have appeared: Sophie, Freya, Ria, Marija, Steve, Elizabeth – one by one the lights to our rooms turn on, our computers whirr up and the day begins to kick into action. On the way to our staffroom, I will bump into Carol Moorhouse, our librarian. I desperately need to meet with her to catch up on our AR strategy for next year and say, half-emptily, that we must catch up, knowing full well my diary is rammed. However, we will meet because we need to get our AR strategy right and I know she is really keen to do so. Before I get to the staffroom I will pop in to see Paul and Matthew. Paul is our hero – head of reprographics he will endeavour to meet any of our crazy requests. Today I’ve made a mistake and need my knowledge organisers un-comb bound and then re-comb-bound. I offer to do this and we laugh at how stupid I am but I pop back that afternoon and he has nearly done them all. Matthew is our IT whizz, developing our website and newsletters and social media content. He tells me he will get the banners done that I’ve asked for and I tell him there is no rush, it’s for September after all. Once I’ve touched base with repro, I make my way to the staffroom, shouting a good morning to ICT – Simon’s smile always makes me smile harder. As I’m heading to the staffroom, I cross paths with my line manager, Daniel Rosen, who gives me a cheeky grin. We pass sarcastic comments to one another as we fill up our coffee cups and he tells me he will see me on duty in 5. I head down to reception and grab the gate key off Denise, who reminds me to return it straight afterwards. I am notorious for going home with the gate key and, quite rightly, she has now become fiercely protective of it. I stand on duty for 15 minutes before my colleagues, Richard and Rebecca come out to keep me company. We have our weekly catch-up and look forward to the holidays exchanging notes about where we are heading. As I head to my classroom to teach, I catch up with Kelly, our Progress Leader for year 10 and tell her the Knowledge Organisers are nearly ready. And then I teach. For two beautiful hours, alone in my room with the wonderful pupils that make up my classes. At break, I head down to the atrium to check my duty team are all on duty and ensure I get round to saying hello to everyone. First I speak to Julie who, sadly, is leaving this year after 17 years teaching. She is always on duty on time. Next I say good morning to Ed – a brilliant man, ex-army and so very well-respected by staff and pupils alike. I catch up with Lucy, our amazing Head of MFL and we have a giggle about life and work in general before break comes to an end and I am ringing the bell to signal to our pupils that it is time to return to the classroom and begin work again. After I have grabbed a coffee, I pop into HR and ask Kelly and Nicky if they have heard from someone we employed last week and then I make my way up to my classroom to catch up with Matt Baker, our brilliant Head of Geography and new Director of Assessment. We discuss knowledge, exams, assessment and end of term. I then pop over to see Nev and discuss the English timetable which isn’t as straightforward as I would like it to be but we’ve been in worse positions so I just shrug my shoulders and we have a giggle about it. I am hoping I will get it sorted today. There comes a point when it just needs to be done. At lunch I go to the canteen where I am served by Karen. I ask her, as I do every day at the moment, which meal contains the lowest calories and she laughs at me as she knows this is my feeble attempt at trying to diet. I sit with the other staff – Courtney, Lucy, Sarah, Tiggy and catch up over lunch about the day’s events before heading for a wander around the atrium. I talk to Tracy who is our achievement leader for year 7 and express concern about a pupil who I know I need to have a better handle on next year. As I am walking to the staffroom, I catch up with a new member of staff who introduces herself and informs me that she will be my new admin assistant. I’ve never had an admin assistant and as I am walking away, I think about what I might ask her to do and make a mental note to tell my other Subject Leaders about this. In the afternoon, I return to teaching and receive an email from Donna, who is in charge of The Bridge – our alternative education site. It reminds me I must catch up with them about curriculum planning for next year. It also reminds me that I must catch up with Carla, who runs our nurture groups about their curriculum for next year to ensure they cover less content but in more depth.  After school, I head down to the detention room where I am on duty with Verity and Elisabeth. They kindly offer to do the detention so that I can be in the hall with staff as we focus on our planning for next year. I walk into the hall and am greeted by Rob, my new line manager and head over to where English are sitting. I’ve already put Kaz and Freya in charge of leading English so that I can wander round to my other subject leads: Gemma, Peter and Matt to see how they are getting on. Gemma has it all organised and Peter is keen to show me the new curriculum map for Ethics and Philosophy that we sat down and wrote. He thinks it is better than previous years and I am excited by his enthusiasm. Matt is working with Katy, our latest recruit. She was phenomenal at interview – one of the perks of my job and I am excited to listen to their discussion as they plan for September. I am lucky to have such excellent Subject Leads. Once I have spoken to everyone, I take a seat at a table and crack on. Our head, Abrilli, comes over to see how I am getting on and when I’ve finished I head back up to my room. Our cleaners are busy hoovering and wiping the desks so I stop and have a chat with them and offer to sponsor Ann whose son is doing a run for a local hospital. As I leave my classroom for the night, I thank them and head downstairs to meet Kaz. We leave with Sophie, another Achievement Leader who is always one of the last to leave and one of the hardest working people I know. Another day is done.


Our academy is the sum of its total parts: teachers, senior leaders, librarians, ICT technicians, receptionists, hr departments, canteen staff and cleaners. We are all pieces of the jigsaw working together to try and improve the lives of our young people. We are all as equally valid and as important as the next and I am privileged to work with as many special and talented people as I do. I would hope that no-one in our academy ever feels like they are not listened to or respected and that we continue to make time in our day for all, regardless of their position.

To the librarians, no school can have a successful reading strategy without you and the library being at the heart of it.

Tutor Time reading

Moving in to the academic year 2017-2018, I am really keen to focus and develop three things with regard to reading across the academy:

  1. Our use of AR – we have purchased this for another two years so have an absolute necessity to maximise its use.
  2. Classroom libraries – these are starting to appear across the academy in different subject areas – EVERY classroom Freya…that’s the goal.
  3. Tutor time reading programme

The tutor time reading programme has come about after reading Michaela’s blogs about how they maximise reading opportunity.  I decided that this would be another brilliant way to offer a reading opportunity to our pupils.

We have a 30 minute community time slot each day and for one of these sessions per week, a tutor group will participate in shared reading.  That is the tutor will read to the group before completing whole class reading.  Simples.

The first decision that had to be made was re choice of books.  Michaela have gone for classics.  I have decided not to.  My main driver was initially to identify books that fit in with our core values or respect and kindness etc.  I think sometimes we create values but don’t easily demonstrate to pupils what it means to possess these values and I think that literature has a powerful way into this.  You can see how this driver has dictated the choices in year 7 and beyond.

I’ve been involved in quite a few discussion re. KS2 / KS3 books so have had to rethink some year 8 and year 9 choices and still need another book for year 9 and several seminal works for year 10.  I had already purchased the year 7 books so whilst some, arguably, are KS2…they will remain as being central to our core values. These are the books I have opted for in the end

Pics of book lists.jpg

The other thing I am keen to prevent is that this reading leads into lots of writing.  Instead, I provide each tutor (hopefully in Sep – eek!) with a reading guide.  This guide contains two things:

  1. Key vocabulary (tier two vocabulary) – I want tutors to define the key words for pupils, explore the word in context within the novella and then orally identify further examples of the word within a number of sentences.
  2. Discussion questions to aid comprehension.

An example of a reading guide is attached here.  Thanks to Lucy Strange, the author of The Secrets of Nightingale Wood who actually supplied the questions for this one 🙂

Nightingale reading guide

I, of course, have to thank the SLT of my academy for backing me and this idea and providing the finances to buy tutor group book boxes.  Without their support, this would not be possible.

Reading Journal

After today’s TES article, I have uploaded an updated version of The Wellington Academy’s Reading Journal which is issued or will be issued to all pupils in years 7-9.

Reading Journal 2017-2018

The reading journal challenges pupils to read 40 books across the year and is organised into sections.

  1. Opening section – opportunity to record pupils’ AR scores.  We do this three times a year and will be using the AR screening facility.
  2. Interest survey – as recommended by Donalyn Miller.  An interest survey enables you to identify what your pupils are interested in which makes book recommendations easier.
  3. Attitudes towards Reading Survey – this helps me to establish my pupils current attitudes towards reading.  It provides an effective baseline and a similar survey is present at the end of the booklet to measure the difference in attitudes across the year.
  4. The 40 book challenge with the aim of widening pupils’ reading habits so they read a range of genres and text types.  Includes a graph to tally their progress.
  5. New for this year – a log, albeit a brief one.  Our excellent Teach First Ria Macrae would start each week by bringing up a log on the board and asking pupils what they were reading and where they were up to.  (This happened during our 10 mins DEAR time).  I am keen we track readers and what they are reading more closely as we do have some pupils who flit from book to book without reading anything consistently and I want to knuckle down on this which is why I’ve included it this year.
  6. Reading list – adapted from Donalyn Miller.  I am in total agreement with Donalyn that I don’t want pupils to think they have to write reams about a book when they have a read a book as this can be off-putting for some.  Instead we have opted for short simple reviews which have proven to be really effective this year.
  7. A reading wish-list to promote the idea that we are always thinking about our next read.
  8. End-of-year evaluation.