A unique insight: the first few weeks of teacher training with the Alban TSA

I suppose the biggest point that has struck me, having now visited four secondary schools in the Federation, is how widely the schools vary in their philosophy and approaches to education whilst at the same time providing their students with the opportunities essential for success. For example, at Verulam the whole approach (from lesson structure through to behaviour management techniques) is geared towards the school’s understanding of how boys can be engaged in their learning. It was interesting to see the same techniques employed during a boys only PE lesson at Marlborough School. I am looking forward to my visit to STAGS, to see how their understanding of girls’ learning affects their policies and approaches to teaching.  The interesting extrapolation will then be the extent to which gender-led techniques are streamed into mixed gender schools.

The most interesting systemic approach, unique so far in my experience, is St George’s vertical house system. The House is the core organisational and motivational unit through which all facets of non-teaching school life are channelled: behavioural; pastoral; student leadership; and competitive activities. One consequence and major difference from other schools is that there are no Heads of Years – these functions fuse into the Head of House. Fascinating, but at this stage I don’t know enough to weigh the pros and cons of this.

Turning to Beaumont, I want to thank all of the staff, who have been very welcoming and supportive and ready to provide me with opportunities to develop my understanding of the practicalities of day to day teaching. Being able to observe subjects outside of my own speciality has allowed me to see a variety of approaches and methods, and gain insights as to how some can be translated successfully into the music environment. The music lessons I have observed are far and away the most interesting and entertaining I have ever experienced! The sense of enjoyment and humour that pervade classes of any age combined with the practical focus in the lessons themselves create enthusiasm for experimentation, self- expression and recognition of the pleasure available from music even for students who would not otherwise enjoy it.  The challenge for me, which I face with a mixture of relish and apprehension, is finding out if I can deliver anything remotely akin to this when eventually I get in front of a class.

By Jonathan Burrett

Let’s bring an end to boring INSET

By Sue Lutz

After a buzzing MFL Teachmeet on Wednesday 3rd June, I headed home to relieve my babysitter, a friend who is also a teacher. On hearing that I had run a twilight training session, he started to sympathise because, at his school, there was a lot of negativity regarding INSET sessions. He described “death by powerpoint” and irrelevant training sessions, which I had to tell him just don’t happen at Beaumont. It is a real privilege to work in a school where there is such a positive culture surrounding development of teaching and learning. The twilight Teaching and Learning INSET sessions are relaxed and enjoyable, being in a small group format and mixing staff from a variety of departments so that you can get a real range of ideas. Far from the grumbling described by my friend, my Teaching and Learning group was characterised by laughter. It is a shame that too many teachers still experience training where they are simply lectured at, an approach they would never countenance with their own classes, when there is so much more to be gained by having a chance to talk about teaching with as wide a range of colleagues as possible. Let’s hope that the Beaumont T&L model of show and tell sessions, Teachmeets and generating enthusiasm in all sorts of ways will be spread across as many schools as possible, bringing an end to boring INSET.

Beaumont MFL TeachMeet

By Kirsty Wrightson

mfl TM2 (1)On Wednesday 3rd June, Beaumont MFL department was delighted to welcome 45 delegates from 15 centres in the area to its second annual MFL Teachmeet.

After coffee, cake and a little conversation, the presentations began.  On the agenda were topics as diverse as “Starting an Exchange from Scratch”, “Collaborative Learning Structures”, “Keep Fit French”, “Life Beyond Levels” and many more.  Top of the bill was guest speaker from Routes into Languages, Sarah Schechter, who provided yet more fresh ideas, resources and networking opportunities. Mfl TM2

After the event, conversations continued in the more informal surroundings of The Speckled Hen.  A T&L hub followed by pub grub – we’re looking forward to the next instalment already.

Teaching and Learning Marketplace

On the last Wednesday in May, our final T&L INSET for 2015/16 was a celebration of all the wonderful work in Teaching and Learning which has been happening around the school, in all subjects, throughout the year. We held a “Teaching and Learning Marketplace” where each subject had a “stall” to display their wares – ideas, resources and tips which they had found to be particularly useful over the past year. photo - Copy (4) There were some lovely resources on display, which are easily adaptable to a variety of curriculum areas.  These are all available here for you to download.

photo - Copy (3)As usual there was a really nice buzz around the room as teachers shared their ideas and took the opportunity to discuss how techniques could be made to work in different contexts. Everyone completed a slip of paper before they left, indicating their favourite three ideas or resources – someone will have the lucky job of working out who wins the prize for the most-voted-for idea.

Beaumont Maths Week

By Fiona Rosler

The idea to run “Beaumont Maths Week” arose after attending the Beaumont Teachmeet last November. I attended Sue Lutz’s seminar on “Raising the profile of your department” and came away feeling inspired. I wanted to do something that would get students thinking about the maths skills they were learning and how they could apply them in other areas, and also wanted to promote enthusiasm and excitement for maths around the school.maths cakes

We launched Maths week with an assembly where I shared the story of how I was drawn to the subject of maths when I was in school and the aspects of the subject which I found difficult. The idea of doing an assembly was quite a daunting prospect, but I knew that it would create the right kind of buzz about the subject and the activities that were coming up. I booked myself in for an assembly slot before I could overthink the idea and talk myself out of doing it so, although I didn’t sit down to properly plan what I would speak about until February half term, the thought process began months before and I always had a vague idea of what I wanted. I felt nervous before I began but once I started talking the story just came naturally. The high that I felt when I finished (and realised that people liked it) was amazing and it’s something I’m really glad I did.

maths cake 2There were various activities run during “Maths Week”. Because the idea had formed in my mind so early on in the year, I actually had a few months of being able to let ideas float around in my mind and decide what was good and what wasn’t, or what would work better than something else. This meant that when I sat down to actually write the challenges and questions I had a clear idea of what I wanted.

The staff questions were a big hit and I was so pleased with the response from so many different departments – who knew we had so many talented mathematicians? The competitive element obviously made it a bit of fun and I’m already thinking about more difficult questions for next year. It was really great the way staff talked about the quiz with their classes and the students who helped teachers couldn’t wait to come and brag about it to the maths department.

There were house activities for each year group and again, the response from these was amazing. It was great to see so many students working on problems together and to have students come up to me to chat about what they were doing and see the enthusiasm and excitement it had created.

There was the Numeracy based T&L Challenge which staff also got involved in and which really highlighted how numeracy skills can be transferred across subjects.maths cakes 4

As the finale, we ran a Maths-themed bake off and cake sale for the 6th form. This was the part I was most worried about as I knew that if there weren’t enough entries we couldn’t then have the cake sale that had been advertised. Believe it or not, I actually had dreams the night before about setting up a shop with nothing to sell, My fears were unfounded however – we had so many entries that looked and tasted amazing and the subsequent cake sale was so popular that it only lasted about ten minutes before we were completely sold out. We raised almost £90 which we donated to the National Numeracy Organisation whose work you can read about here.

maths cakes 3For the week to be successful, there was a lot to organise, but with everyone in  the lovely Maths Department pitching in, as well as the 6th form Maths Captains, all of the effort was definitely worth it. I was so pleased with the response from staff and students and am already looking forward to next year.