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.

Displays set the tone…

This term a key priority for the department has been on creating the right environment.  Displays, you see, set the tone, establish the culture, support pupil learning and celebrate success.  Here is what we have been working on at the academy.

  1. Welcome to English board

Welcome to EnglishEvery member of staff within the English department has a space on the Welcome to English board.  Each staff member has a WeeMee.  Alongside this, to support our reading culture, every member of staff has identified a book of great significance to them and explained why.

2. Our world map

World Map

When I first joined the academy we had a graphic artist come in to design the subject areas.  Then, due to expansion, the subject areas moved which meant that I have inherited a world map and a historical timeline.  After seeing our fab Geographer Courtney Grainger’s books from around the world display, we decided to create our own using this gigantic map.

3. Pictures of our pupils in action and quotations from visitors

Opposite the map we have a picture of pupils in the library.  In September I will add to this with four further images of our pupils in action.  Underneath these images I have taken quotes from visitors such as Ofsted where they have recognised the work we are doing in English.

4. Quotation wall

Like many English departments, we display the key quotations from our core texts: Blood Brothers, A Christmas Carol and Macbeth to try and aid pupils’ memory.  Thanks to Twitter, we have a quotation wall.

5. Our historical timeline

Historical timeline

The other graphic.  We have used resources, again from Twitter, to create a social and historical timeline, detailing key events and also key literary works.

6. Vocabulary wall

vocab wall

We have displayed all of our core vocabulary in the corridor to help pupils.  When they are arriving at lessons and leaving lessons we hope that they may just soak up one or two words around them.

7. Topic banners

book posters corridor

In the corridor, we have topic banners for each year group and for each unit they are working on.  These banners change every term and makes it easy for everyone to see what we are studying.

8. Learning aids at the front

Learning aids

I strongly believe in displaying all learning aids at the front or to the side of the classroom.  For that reason I have displays to do with sentence structures, paragraphing, punctuation, connectives, adverbials and analysis to support pupils during the lesson at the front of my classroom.  Alongside this I have my biggest resource – my classroom library!

9. Recognition board

recognition board

After reading Pivotal’s book on behaviour and knowing that they are coming to do some training with us in September, I decided to introduce a recognition board.  I am pretty poor at recognising pupils, although I have great relationships with my pupils.  Therefore, I am keen to develop this next year.  Erin, as you can see, felt she deserved recognition the day I was on a course.

10. Book posters

11. Language, structure and form board

book postersWe display a copy of all of the books we study between KS3 and KS5 in every classroom to show our pupils the vast range of literature that they will be exposed to throughout their time with us.

My language, structure and (soon to be) form board is a new display for 2017-18.  I am trying to create a more interactive revision based room and this supports pupils in lessons with their analysis of methods.  One side has the term and on the flip is the definition.  I am hoping it will be an aid for revision.

12. Exemplar essays

Exemplar gcse essaysexemplar a level

I want my pupils to have access to a wide range of brilliant essays.  These folders will contain exemplar essays.  Initially, these have been taken from the exam board but every time one of my pupils creates something spectacular their work is also added to the exemplary folder.

13. Interactive revision cards.


My next revision aid.  Every core literature text has a display board and at the bottom of these display boards will be pockets with these A5 laminated revision cards covering the growth of characters and the development of a theme with key quotations.  These cards will be there to support pupils revision and retention.


So this is where we are up to and there is still a whole heap of stuff to be done!  Over the summer I will be working on my analysis board, our traffic light trays and our growth mindset resource area.  Of course, the next thing in September will be covering the remaining walls, both inside and out of our classrooms with the amazing work our pupils will produce to celebrate and sing loudly how brilliant they are in English.

Writing a scheme of work

A series to be updated over the summer holiday.

This summer is called scheme of work summer.  After a year of variable planning to say the least, I have committed my summer to writing several schemes of work:

Y7 – Poetry (Invictus, If, Desiderata, I shall rise)

Y8 – Oliver Twist

Y9 – Of Mice and Men

Y10 – A Christmas Carol (Lit), a transactional writing unit on the theme of prejudice (Lang)

Y11 – Macbeth (Lit) (re-draft) and imaginative writing (Lang)

Y12 +Y13 – The Handmaid’s Tale

It’s gonna be a fun summer 😉

Anyhow, I thought as I am writing these units that I would blog about the process I go through.  I am a good planner…no, a great planner but I am still learning and every time I read a new book (education book) there is more I learn and bring in to what I am doing.  But this is the process I go through and for any of you planning a unit for the first time, this might be of use….

Step 1: Know your subject

Next year we have taken the decision that all of us will teach A Christmas Carol.  This year, I taught Jekyll and Hyde and wrote a cracking unit.  I have never read A Christmas Carol.  I have only watched the film and, even then, that was 735836726 years ago.  So my first question is how can I teach a text well, if I do not know what I am teaching?   If we want to teach our subject well, we need to know it well and in order to know it well, we need to read up on the subject matter.  We are, after all, researchers.

Therefore the first port of call before you even begin planning is to read.

A. Read the text itself.

B. Read all of the study guides available on the text.  I can remember the first time I tweeted about reading the study guides and someone thanked me as they did not know if this was the done thing.  The person was concerned that her colleagues would tease her for having to read the study guides.  WHAT????  That’s insane.  I even joked (although not joked) at an A level course on Friday that my text choices were determined by the study guides available!!!  Someone, with more time than you, has been paid to put these together and do a lot of the research for you, why wouldn’t you use them would be my question?  When I decide upon a text, I scour Amazon and order absolutely every single study guide I possibly can on that text.  You then have two decisions, pay for them yourself and keep them forever more or….which I think I am going to start to do because it is expensive…charge them to your department and use them to build your department resource library.

ACC pic.jpg

Yesterday, knowing that I am teaching A Christmas Carol in September, I sat down and read all of the study guides I had purchased.  I learnt so much about Dicken’s motivation for writing A Christmas Carol, the era in which the novella was set, the methods Dickens used to present different characters within the novella etc etc.

As I was reading, I made copious notes in a word document which I have attached below.  I categorised these into context, characters, each stave (I would do each chapter for any other text) and the key themes.  I also, simultaneously, updated the Knowledge Organiser for A Christmas Carol that we had with this core learning (also attached below) and, therefore, the foundation for my unit.

Once I have read the study guides, I need to read some more.  Therefore, today I will

  1. Read the workbooks.  Look at the activities and the focus of the activities in these to consider what I might want our pupils to do with the text.  (I have started this process by noting down the activities).
  2. Read as many Schemes of work that have already been written for the same reason.  Rob Ward is a hero of mine and so I will definitely be going through his workbook today.

As I go through these I will add in key activities for pre-reading and then for each stave as well as activities focused on character and theme.

Alongside this I will re-read the text, adding in my ideas and my approaches that I feel will support our pupils to know this text well.

This will then leave me to focus in on how I prepare pupils for the exam (and the nice thing about these study guides are that they come with lots and lots of exemplar essays).


Part 2: Translating notes into a Medium Term Plan and beginning to frame those lessons!

My notes from study guides on A Christmas Carol: A Christmas Carol pre planning notes

A Christmas Carol Knowledge Organiser: KS4 A Christmas Carol Knowledge Organiser







Setting these pages up for a summer of work in getting ready for Sep.

I have used Ian Gilbert’s Thunk book to produce these thunk laminated cards.

Going to use during community time in KS3.  Six group tables max with one card on each.  Pupils spend 2-3 minutes at each station before swapping round (in different groups each time).  Then choose 1-2 thunks to discuss as a class using talking tokens or, in my case, a ball eliciting pupils’ responses and trying to deepen their contributions.



KS3 planning for 17-18


I don’t know where my KS3 resource post went so let’s build this again…one scheme of work at a time

Prior to Sep 2017 planning

  1. Short stories unit – Lamb to the Slaughter and The Speckled Band Unit 4 Short Stories booklet
  2. Language through time – Beowulf, Canterbury Tales, All the World’s a Stage and Dick Turpin. OLD Lang Through Time booklet


  1. My Long Term KS3 plans

Y7 Long Term Plan1

Y8 Long Term Planv2

Y9 Long Term Plan FINAL

2. Progression map spanning KS3-KS5

Progression maps 17-18

Y7 LME grid Year 7 LME grid

Y8 LME grid Year 8 LME grid

Y9 LME grid Year 9 LME grid

3. Core Knowledge ladders

Year 7 Learning ladder

Year 8 Learning Ladder

Year 9 Learning Ladder

Units of work

Year 7

3. Language through time – poetry (Invictus, If, Desiderata, I shall Rise) (a work in progress)

3a. Poetry MTP NEW Lang Through Time MTP

3b. Poetry planning grid NEW Lang Through Time PG v2

3c. Poetry student booklet VERY NEW LANG THROUGH TIME BOOKLET

3d. Poetry homework grid Language through Time Homework grid Term 1

3e. Poetry vocabulary book

3f. Poetry fortnight knowledge tests. NEW Lang Through Time Knowledge Test 1


Year 8

4. Oliver Twist (a work in progress)

4a. Oliver Twist MTP Oliver Twist MTP v3

4b. Oliver Twist Planning grid Oliver Twist PG v3

4c. Oliver Twist student workbook Oliver Twist Booklet v2

4d. Oliver Twist homework grid Oliver Twist Homework grid Term 1

4e. Oliver Twist vocabulary booklet

4f. Oliver Twist fortnightly knowledge tests

Year 9

5. Of Mice and Men (a work in progress – things on here are unfinished but a safe place to store :-))

5a. Of Mice and Men MTP NEW Of Mice and Men MTP v1

5b. Of Mice and Men planning grid NEW Of Mice and Men PG v1

5c. Of Mice and Men student booklet Of Mice and Men part 1

5d. Of Mice and Men homework grid Of Mice and Men homework grid

5e. Of Mice and Men vocabulary booklet

5f. Of Mice and Men fortnightly knowledge tests: Test 1 –  NEW Of Mice and Men Knowledge Test 1


5. Displays

Sentence types – simple, compound and complex

Sentence types – declarative, exclamatory, imperative, interrogative

Sentence types – James Theo – James Theo originally did these posters and so did some kind soul on Dropbox (should have known it was the wonderful @heymrshallahan).  I have simply simplified so they can be seen easily.

Language terminology hangs from my board – term on one side and def on the other

Structural terminology – hangs from my board – term on one side and def on the other


PUNCTUATION Originally taken from TES











thinking and writing stems created by Ria Macrae

6. Our faculty whole class marking and feedback sheet

Whole class marking and feedback sheet



Collaborative planning for Sep 2017

Last year Kaz Armstrong, our KS3 Subject Lead and the English department collaborated to create a Key Stage Three curriculum that we felt would equip our students for the demands of the new GCSE. It is a really good curriculum.

However, at times there has been, for a variety of reasons, a disconnect between the Long Term Plan, the Medium Term Plan and Short Term Planning leading to inconsistencies across the department.

In April, to improve the consistency of the planning, I took the decision to streamline the texts meaning from September we will all be teaching exactly the same content.

With lots of schemes of work to write/redraft, I decided to use one meeting a week to bring the department together to collaboratively plan for a unit on Of Mice and Men.


Meeting One

I firstly asked staff to choose their favourite extract from Of Mice and Men. I explained that in the first meeting, I would be wanting them to present their favourite extract to the rest of the department and explain their choice. The rationale behind this is that I strongly believe that planning is where the love for your subject, for your students and for teaching embeds itself. I wanted everyone in the department to find that place of love for ‘Of Mice and Men’. Fortunately, we had a range of extracts – the opening sequence and Steinbeck’s love for the natural environment, the shooting of Candy’s dog and, for me, the presentation of Crook’s room.

Alongside the choosing of an extract, I asked staff to read Joe Kirby’s blog – How to plan a knowledge unit in English https://pragmaticreform.wordpress.com/2013/12/21/unit-plan/

At the start of the meeting we discussed the blog and I found that the way Joe structured his blog enabled us to use it as a guide to work through.


Step One: Specify the most useful knowledge for the unit.

In asking staff to choose their favourite extracts, we had already specified the most useful knowledge for the unit. Because we are only a team of eight, we then discussed and added to our chosen list to arrive at ten key extracts across the novella.


Step Two: Identifying the characters we want students’ to remember in a year

Once we had identified our key extracts, we then identified the characters that were presented in each extract to see how much attention we were paying to all the main characters.


Step Three: Identify the context

Once we had chosen the extracts and the characters to focus on in each extract, we then began to identify opportunities for link to context.


Step Four: Identify the subject specific concepts

For us, this is our AO2 – language and structure.


As staff were sharing their ideas, I created a table with a basic summary of what was said.

OMAM framework.jpg

This is where we ended our first meeting and where I briefed everyone to their task for the following week.

I asked staff to re-read their extract, identify Steinbeck’s use of language and structure to present a character, theme, setting or event. I also asked staff to identify two-tier vocabulary. I explained to staff that in the next meeting they would need to present their annotated extract to the rest of the group.


We had done this previously after I had read Jo Facer’s blog or seen her speak about how they use their meeting time to jointly read, annotate and analyse an extract.  It seemed a brilliant use of time.


Meeting Two:

We started by reading our blog of the week which tied aptly to what we were doing.

Then we went through the extracts one by one with each member of staff presenting on their chosen extract. This was brilliant. There were some inspired comments being made about the use of modal verbs, person and contrasting verbs to present George and Lennie amongst many, many things. Staff also had the opportunity to feed into the presentation, adding in language and structural techniques that they felt were pertinent and why which meant the original analysis of the extract was enhanced, as was our knowledge of the text or our knowledge of the methods used by Steinbeck.

OMAM analysis.jpg

Had we all been planning the unit alone, we might not have captured the pertinent language and structural techniques and we certainly wouldn’t have some of the interpretations. In addition, in sharing this way, I have confidence that we will all approach a particular extract in the same way which will ensure a level of consistency across the department.

Once staff had presented, I went through our lesson planning structure. This, I think, will vary from school to school. We are now a booklet department and so I went through some of the key things that needed to be in the booklet: What am I learning today, learning goals, learning, mastering and extending opportunities etc. Again, this is school dependent.

Staff were then briefed with the task of producing 3-4 lessons around their chosen extract using our planning framework. One meeting has been cancelled to give staff time to do this. Staff will bring that planning to the meeting and we shall present in a similar way to discuss the lesson structure, content and tasks / activities. This means that we are quality assuring the unit before teaching it to ensure we are all happy and confident with the approach.


To be continued…

Curriculum planning

This blog post does not claim to have all the answers. Lord knows I definitely don’t but I do a lot of listening and then thinking and then planning and then every year, we move forward just a little. So this blog post reflects nearly three years work and is a reflection of where we, as a department, are currently at, and where I am in terms of my thinking.

(Apologies for the quality of the photos, where possible the documents have also been attached.)

NB 2 – you know when you write a blog post and someone simultaneously writes a blog on the same topic which is just so much more innovative and inspiring.  Well, that just happened.  So whilst I would describe my curriculum as  ‘safe’ currently, it is what is entirely right given our context at this point in time.

Assessment objectives at KS4 is where it all begins.

To plan an effective curriculum, one must be clear on how the students are going to be assessed. With a new specification came new assessment objectives:Edexcel criteria.jpg

These assessment objectives, therefore, provide teachers with a framework for their curriculum in which we know that our students need to develop skills in interpretation and personal response, analysis of language, form and structure, context and the relationship between text and context and comparison. In writing, students need to be able to write in a range of different forms for a range of different audiences and purposes, organise their texts effectively, use a range of vocabulary and sentence structures as well as demonstrate accurate punctuation usage.

The framework is there. To dig deeper, analysing the mark-schemes from exam boards enables one to see what the development of a particular skill might look like. For example, this mark scheme assessing AO2: analysis of language, structure and form.AO2 criteria.jpg

Therefore we can see, at GCSE, a student working at a lower level will start to be able to identify language, form and structure techniques within a passage whereas a student working at a level 3 will be able to identify these techniques but also show an understanding of how these techniques have been used using relevant subject terminology. Finally, a student working at the highest level will be able to evaluate all three: language, structure and form cohesively using precise and integrated subject terminology.

Progression maps

This level of progression is a great starting point for thinking about a curriculum beyond the GCSE years. My first task, therefore, was to create a progression map for yrs 7 – 13 using the AOs as my framework to map how our students would develop their skill sets.

Progression maps 1617

(NB this needs to be updated for 17-18 as we have changed our A level specification and I need to ensure this continues to marry up).

When this progression map had been created and a flight path for students established, I then began to look at each year group working with our assessment system in KS3. We have a very simple system in which students are either Learning, Mastering or Extending. If students by the end of year 9 are mastering then we expect them to be ready to achieve a level 4/5 at GCSE or whatever an old school C might look like!

Using this framework, I then came up with our LME grids for each year group. The year 7 one is below.

LME grid.jpgYear 7 LME v2

Curriculum content

Once the assessment structure was in place, the curriculum planning – in terms of content – could begin. The department sat down collectively under the leadership of the KS3 co-ordinator and constructed the curriculum, deciding, like many other schools, to reduce the content down from six core units to four. For the most part, this curriculum will stand moving into 2017-18. The only change being less teacher autonomy over text choice so that we are all teaching the same texts. Here is our KS3 curriculum content.

curriculum content.jpg

One of the main drivers for our curriculum was that reading was at the heart of it and that students across the three years were exposed to a range of reading texts. Whilst we have sought to challenge students with particular texts, we’ve also opted for texts that we think are the most engaging for our students as we want to capture their imagination and love for literature early on.

Mapping assessment to curriculum content

Once the curriculum content had been established we then needed to map our assessment objectives to the curriculum content. I have re-drafted this for the academic year 2017-2018. The reason for this is that I want to ensure, as far as possible, that the AOs being assessed in each unit mirror the AOs being assessed at GCSE. So, for example, when studying a play I want students to be assessed on the same criteria they would be assessed on when studying a play at GCSE so students begin to become familiar with the structures of GCSE. Here is our year 8 assessment mapping:

curriculum map.jpg

Y7 Long Term Plan

Y8 Long Term Planv2

Y9 Long Term Plan

Our academy has moved to an assessment system in which students complete three summative assessments per year. These are formal examinations, with the majority of these conducted in the exam hall. All other assessment is used formatively.

This year, we have allowed the formative assessments to be decided by the teacher but I have decided that, again, we will all complete the same formative assessments to ensure a level of consistency across the department. These are identified in the medium term plan. Below is an example from a year 7 MTP

formative assessment.jpg

(NB – not all formative assessments follow this rigid structure but this is unit 1 and a foundation unit).

Each of these formative assessments target the key AOs for the unit to ensure a focus and clarity in terms of skill development and are only short in length – 1-2 paragraphs at most. Depth rather than breadth.  Formative assessments will be marked by the teaching using a marking grid.  Staff green criteria that is met and pink one area for development.

(NB. The L1, L2 will be changing this from September. To fit in with our school process we will be awarding a proportion of marks to learning, to mastering and to extending (much like the GCSE mark schemes) so learning 1-5 marks, mastering 6-10 marks etc or something along those lines).exam marksheet

Yr 7 Novel Summative Assessment marking sheet (The markig grids have been used this academic year for both formative and summative assessments)

Our summative assessments are also identified in the Medium Term Plan. Below is an example from the same year 7 MTP for the reading section of the summative assessment.

summative assessment

Our summative assessments all contain three sections.

Section A: MCQ questions to test students’ knowledge (this is differentiated in terms of volume and focus of questions asked depending on ability)

Section B: Reading (this is differentiated. At the higher end, students are provided with one essay based question whilst at the lower end, students are provided with a number of shorter questions)

Section C: Writing (this is not differentiated. An image is provided and key bullet points given to act as reminders for what students should seek to include).

Here is an example from the year 7 unit for the lower ability

Dec summative assessment LA

Summative assessments will be marked using a Whole Class Marking sheet as invented, I think, by Mr Thornton on Twitter.  These are being used to speed up the marking process and reduce workload for staff. I was privileged to observe two feedback lessons at Michaela in which this kind of document was in use and the level of personalisation and improvement / response to feedback was staggering. We are currently trialling this with a few teachers at the academy and are incredibly pleased with the results so this will be rolled out as standard practice across the department from September.  An an example of our Whole Class Marking sheet is below.whole class marking

Whole class marking sheet

For both formative and summative assessment, staff are directed to complete 1-2 feedback or DIRT lessons addressing misconceptions and areas for improvement.


However, as you can imagine, a lot of work goes on behind the scenes before any formative assessment or summative assessment occurs. I have always been a fan of booklets, having produced a number of grammar workbooks for the department. However, after my visit to Michaela I have become even more determined to create a workbook department. The benefits of workbooks are plentiful:

  • Abandoning power point or active inspire strips back all of the gimmicks and places a real focus on content and learning
  • All resources are in one place – no forgotten resources or last minute photocopying
  • Students have all the information they need in one document. This is excellent for revision. Our GCSE students place their workbooks into their folder for revision after use so all revision materials are already prepared.
  • If a student is away or sent out / isolated, you have work ready prepared for them to complete as they can be directed to complete a lesson.

The workbooks contain all class work. They contain the notes, the exercises, the practices. These fundamentally are like exercise books which will be lightly marked. Students will be provided with one other exercise book in which they will complete all their formative assessments. This will, therefore, function as an assessment book which I am hoping, again, will focus teachers on the important stuff to mark and reduce workload.

Here is an example from our year 7 workbook

workbook 1

The entire workbook is available here: Y7 Unit 1 Lang Through Time booklet

All booklets begin with a LME self-assessment – although keen to review this as I’m not sure all of the language is student friendly – in which students RAG themselves against the AO criteria. This is then RAG-ged again for each formative assessment and for the summative assessment so progress can be tracked. Then the booklet is divided into lessons with a vocabulary activity, retention questions / do it now task and then the content for each lesson. (I will need to add in our learning goals and learning objectives as this is a focus for our head).

As Head of Department, I am in the process of producing all the booklets which is a huge task. However, my SLT are very supportive and are giving me time once year 11 have left to complete this task. I am doing this because I am clear about my expectations and the core knowledge / skills I want taught / developed and after years of variable planning and quite a new department next year, I am more keen than ever that a bar is set and a level of consistency achieved.

Staff will be provided with these booklets alongside quite a detailed medium term plan – here is a year 7 one:

medium term plan.jpgY7 Unit 1 Lang Through Time MTP

Staff will be provided with both the Medium Term Plan and the workbook with a shared understanding of core coverage. If they choose to accompany with a power point, with an activ inspire that is up to them. If they wish to add to the unit, that is also up to them. I am simply providing them with a base package, if you like.


The final piece of the puzzle with regard to core curriculum is homework. We don’t set enough homework and I am mindful that homework is, in fact, valuable in preparing independence and the realisation that with hard work comes success. I see so many students in year 11 who think that work in the classroom is enough to gain them the grades they need and want to push that the harder you work, the more effort you put in, the more successful you can become. However, I am also keen that homework is not onerous for staff. I do not want to generate huge amounts of marking.

Amy Forrestor and Kate McCabe have provided an excellent idea for meaningful and impactful homework without it being onerous on staff.

Amy recently presented at Research Ed on her retention strategy which is here:

amy homework.jpg

Kate McCabe then shared her revision strategy for year 11 which is here:

kate homework.jpg

I love this approach and feel there is so much mileage here for KS3 so, along with my current and my new KS3 co-ordinator, will be constructing these to support the units we teach at KS3. Thank you so much to Amy and Kate for sharing.

Since first sharing this blog post I have created a homework task sheet for my year 10s which you can find attached here: T5 Homework grid

#teacher5aday #slowchat4 #data

If my SLT knew I was leading a chat on workload and data, they would laugh their heads off.

I hate data. I’m not very good at data. In fact this week, I spent an hour trying to teach myself how to get a column in excel to convert to percentages. It still doesn’t work and my poor data Deputy Head will have to help me at our line management meeting on Wednesday.

I think it stems back to my GCSE in maths. Boy, did I have to work really hard for that C grade and my only memory of the examination was my working out of a simultaneous equation which ran up the sides of the paper as I determined to do the sum. I’m just not so logical.

However, the chat I am leading on Thursday is about workload and data so in preparation for the chat, I have read the Workload Review Group’s report on ‘Eliminating unnecessary workload associated with data management.’ Here is my summary of that report:

The report begins by stating that data can have a profound impact but recognise that, too often, data collection has become an end to itself, divorced from the core purpose of improving outcomes and that all parts of the education system have contributed to excessive data collection (especially when Ofsted identify key groups).

The two main reasons why data management is a burden for teaching staff is

  • When the purpose of collecting data has not clearly identified how it will be used to improve outcomes
  • When the process of collecting data is inefficient

Therefore, the ideal is to ensure that every data collection has a clear purpose and that the process is as efficient as possible. Leaders and teachers need to determine what data will be useful and for what purpose and then collect the minimum amount of data required to help them evaluate how they are doing. The group recommend that leaders produce an assessment and data calendar to ensure transparency and clarity for staff. The key questions for teachers and leaders when thinking about data, therefore are:

  1. Am I clear on the purpose? Why is this data being collected, and how will it help improve the quality of provision?
  2. Is this the most efficient process? Have the workload implications been properly considered and is there a less burdensome way to collect, enter, analyse, interpret and present the information?
  3. Is the data valid? Does the data actually provide a reliable and defensible measure of educational attainment?

An emphasis in the report is on data collection reflecting pupil progress against the bigger ideas. Teachers need to know if pupils are on track to achieve end-of-year expectations, whether pupils are where they should be. Therefore, the workload group recommend that teachers should make professional judgements of pupil attainment against key performance indicators – the big ideas that tell us whether a pupil understands and has grasped what they have been taught. However, they suggest that these judgements are made through their professional knowledge without recourse to elaborate assessment, data generating and recording systems.

The workload review group also recommend that formative assessment should be used for the teachers’ own planning purposes and to inform professional dialogue only and should not be routinely collected at a school level because of the additional burden.

It is worth noting that the report notes Ofsted’s recent announcement: Ofsted does not expect performance and pupil-tracking data to be presented in a particular format. Such data should be provided to inspectors in the format that the school would ordinarily use to track and monitor the progress of pupils in that school.

So to summarise the document suggests that the following common overarching principles should apply to all:

  1. Be streamlined: eliminate duplication – ‘collect once, use many times’
  2. Be ruthless: only collect what is needed to support outcomes for children. The amount of data collected should be proportionate to its usefulness. Always ask why the data is needed.
  3. Be prepared to stop activity: do not assume that collection or analysis must continue just because it always has
  4. Be aware of workload issues: consider not just how long it will take, but whether that time could be better spent on other tasks


On Thursday the 12th January, let’s consider the following questions:

Q1. Are you clear on the process of data collection within your school setting? (In terms of a calendar, the systems used to collect data and why the data is being collected etc) and do you feel the system in place is effective?

Q2. How has your school attempted to reduce or simplify data collection processes whilst still ensuring data is used in a meaningful way to support pupil progress?

Q3. How efficient do you feel your school’s approach to assessment without levels is? Has it increased or reduced workload?

Q4. How does your school approach formative assessment? Is formative assessment tracked?

Q5. What would you like to see put in place to ensure any unnecessary workload is eliminated with regard to data collection?


The report referenced to in this blog can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/reducing-teacher-workload-data-management-review-group-report