Presenting at the SSAT Achievement Show

achievement show - logo 1We are excited to be presenting at the SSAT Achievement Show in London on 26 June – come and see us talk about our unique approach to generating enthusiasm for Teaching and Learning across the whole curriculum.

Look out for more details on the blog soon. In the meantime, make sure you book your place. Look for us in the Leading Learning zone at the show.


The Achievement Show

By Helen Wilson, Nat Moody and Jo Cavanagh

On 26 June 2014 we travelled to Twickenham for the SSAT Achievement Show. It’s always good to see what other schools are doing in Teaching and Learning and we managed to split ourselves around as many different workshops and presentations as we could. What follows are short summaries of things we saw and liked. If you want to know more, contact whichever one of us attended the presentation (via email, twitter or in school – contact details are on the Who’s Who page) and we can give you more detail.

Making the students work harder than you do – Haydon School

(attended by Nat Moody)

This was an interesting presentation which tracked the journey of this school in trying to increase engagement of students at AS level. The session involved a useful exercise where delegates shared their personal case study of a group that they are struggling to engage; we then discussed and attempted to resolve a lack of engagement with practical ideas. There were various strategies the school had put in place to increase engagement including setting high expectations; observation of students’ independent learning habits; and providing a useful “40 ways to ensuring students are working harder than you do” as a teacher resource.

What would I take away? Student Workshops are a great idea. Students are identified as experts in a particular topic or subject and are nominated to lead a student workshop for their peers during free time. Students take complete ownership down to completing a 5 minute lesson plan and signing up other students to attend or support their delivery.


Risk taking and creating a culture of Outstanding – Holmfirth High School (Outstanding 2012)

(attended by Nat Moody)

This was a valuable presentation as Holmfirth High School is a school battling to sustain a curriculum that meets the needs of its community in an environment of increasing pressure to fall in line with national strategy. In 2012 the school decided to “be brave” and stick to what works for the school by embracing vocational qualifications, increasing enrichment within the KS3 curriculum and maintaining a big commitment to extra-curricular activities.

In recent years The Holmfirth High School has taken very similar steps to Beaumont to improve teaching and learning, for example creating working groups to resolve issues like closing the gap, organising peer observations, in-house T&L conferences as well as encouraging staff to complete action research.

What would I take away? I really like the sound of an in-house Teaching and Learning Conference as an alternative INSET which fits in nicely with the Teachmeet model. Every year Holmfirth also have what they call a ‘Smart Week’ in which innovation and risk taking by teachers are encouraged, for example ‘no teacher talk’ or ‘no paper day’.

For more information about Holmfirth’s journey to Outstanding email

Going beyond Outstanding: Raising post 16 achievement through raising aspiration; sustaining an 80% A* – B at the end of year 13 – The Rochester Grammar School

(attended by Nat Moody)

“How do we raise the aspirations of our students?”  – a question which arose as only 8% of students were gaining a place at a top ten university 5 years ago (it was 36% in 2014) in spite of excellent academic results. The team at this school focused on four key strands in order to raise aspirations of students who, more often than not, were the first in their family to have the opportunity to go to university.

  1. Year 12 Aspiration Day – A day which guides students from day 1 through to handing in their UCAS applications which includes how to write a successful UCAS application as well as arming students with the tools they need to succeed in sixth form.
  1. PREP – This seemed an efficient ad simple strategy which improved the quality of UCAS applications. Philosophy matters. Research matters. Experience matters. Personality matters.
  1. Virtually University – Timetable is suspended for two weeks at the end of year 12. During this time students attend seminars and lectures which are at an undergraduate level are provided by staff to give students an idea of the experience they can aspire to have at university. Slavery and the destruction of gender; Religion is dead and secularism in the modern age;  and Beyond the Genome are among the 43 titles on offer this year.
  1. Specialist 6th form tutors – Another strategy which seemed to make a lot of sense. Once students have a clearer idea of the courses which they want to apply for at university, specialist tutor groups are created in year 13, for example Medics, Geographers, Vets. A specialist member of staff where available is assigned to the group to provide focused and specialist support where required.

Getting mobile learning right and how “bring your own device” might help

Paul Hynes from George Spencer Academy

(attended by Helen Wilson)

achievement show - mobile devicesIt was interesting to see how and why this school had shied away from the current “let’s give all of our students and iPad” trend – the cost/benefit analysis and the consideration of all the different types of devices available was really insightful. This school had realised that there are a huge number of devices available already in students’ pockets and they decided to move to a “Bring your own Device” culture in their school. Teachers are encouraged to use the resulting technology available in their classrooms as they see fit.

The school soon realised that some movement in teacher confidence is needed in order to fully make use of the technology available, but that by moving to using web tools which can be used universally across all laptops, tablets, phones and so on, teachers can become confident with using one tool instead of a variety of apps, which may not be accessible on some devices.

George Spencer Academy have decided that for pupils to gain as much as possible from the use of technology in their time in school, the environment needs to replicate, as much as is possible, the workplace environment – students need to help to understand and manage their own risks online, rather than have the risks eliminated completely.

My notes from the presentation are in the picture.


Developing independence and resilience through our iLearn initiative

Jay Davenport and Chris Whiting from Ousedale School

(attended by Helen Wilson)

achievement show -resilienceOusedale School had gone through a similar process and realisation that we had at Beaumont prior to our Skills for Success programme was developed; students in year 12 cannot suddenly be expected to be independent learners if they had spent 5 years in an environment where the skills needed for independent learning were not highlighted and encouraged. Ousedale have established their own common vocabulary of independent learning skills and are making it pervasive throughout the school and across all curriculum areas – much as we have done through Skills for Success at Beaumont. What was interesting however, and integral to their program, was the assessment of different styles of teaching and learning activities which are used by teachers in the school. The school were quick to point out that their teachers wanted and needed the flexibility to teach in ways which were individual to them and which they had found to be successful. However they also wanted to encourage teachers to broaden the styles of teaching and learning over a period of time. They introduced an “iScore” for teaching and learning activities ranging from 1 to 8 with increasing amounts of “self-discovery” by students in the learning activity. By giving teachers a way to assess their own styles and encouraging them to look at a range of different styles, the school saw an increase in the variety of teaching and learning techniques employed over a period of time.

The school had also introduced “iStuck” boards in all classrooms around the school. The boards were the places that pupils could go to in order to find support if they were struggling in class. The content of the boards differed between subjects, and in some cases included cards of information to be taken out and read, ipads on the shelf below with hints of websites and apps which might prove useful. The fact of having the same situation in all subjects around the school seemed to be most powerful in ensuring that pupils did not automatically turn to the teacher in order to make progress in their own learning.


Sustaining strong progress for high-attaining pupils

Mark Donohue from Heckmondwike Grammar School

(attended by Helen Wilson)

achievement show -mathsHeckmondwike Grammar School has a very particular intake – they are selective and it seems to be unsurprising that they would achieve 86% A*-A in Maths GCSE. I was, however, particularly impressed with effort which Mark Donohue (Head of Maths) and his team put in to ensuring that their very high attaining intake of pupils achieve at their very best. The strategies were very much a combination of a focus on teaching and learning in the department, and close monitoring of pupils throughout their studies, leading to appropriate interventions for individual pupils. The strong focus on teaching and learning variety and innovation was seen in their “Teaching and Learning Wall” in the Maths office, where staff were encouraged to share ideas; the department meetings where Teaching and Learning is first on the agenda; and the support from all levels in the school for staff to take risks in trying out ideas in lessons and in their teaching in general. Monitoring of pupils is done both on a very individual basis (all 6th form pupils have a “photo-card” in the office which is updated with test results and moves into different sections on the board depending on how close – or far – they are from their target) and also on an overall level (data analysis is shared with all staff – and new trends could be seen by individual teachers who could then see where and why interventions were necessary). Mark also highlighted the need for a choice of start points in work for pupils in order to differentiate – pupils can then move forward through the work, or take a step back to easier, more structured tasks if they needed more support.


Innovation is the day job- Bohunt School

(attended by Jo Cavanagh)

Highlight 1 – Ideas paint

Whiteboard paint that can be out onto walls to use as a whiteboard. From some research this looks a little expensive but I would imagine that students would love the novelty of writing on the walls.

Highlight 2 – Teacher differentiation

This is certainly something I hadn’t given much thought to. Obviously we spend a great deal of our time thinking about differentiation for students. However how much time is actually given to thinking about differentiation for teachers, especially with the introduction of new ideas.

Highlight 3 – Formative lesson analysis

Staff are asked what lessons they would like to be observed in with a specific focus. It encourages staff to take risks and take ownership of their own CPD without the threat of a lesson grade. Staff feel less threatened especially as senior management are not permitted to be part of this process.


Science improvement – Weydon school and The Castle school

(attended by Jo Cavanagh)

 Highlight 1 – Collaboration

Both speakers highlighted the importance of collaboration in terms of department improvement, whereby every member of the team took ownership and responsibility.

Highlight 2 – Extensive analysis

Much was mentioned about drilling down in data, in terms of examination results whereby every member of the department spent time talking about performance. Teaching and learning was also analysed, not just by leaders in the department but by all teaching staff.


Growing a thinking school – Bartholomew school

(attended by Jo Cavanagh)

Highlight 1 – Posing a big question

I really liked this idea and will be trying to incorporate this into my own teaching. On entering the classroom students are provided with a stimulus – a picture or song etc. They then have to get into groups and come up with one question which they would like answered. All questions are then brought together and the class then chooses one question which they would like to pursue further and find the answer to. The idea behind it is based on philosophy for children with the idea of having dialogue and enquiry in the classroom.

Highlight 2 – Thinking skills lessons

I thought that some of the ideas shared here would work very well in our Skills 4 Success programme. The lessons involved encouraging students to think about questions such as would you be born again as a bird, a tortoise, a fish or a lion? Would you rather find a living dinosaur, a real fairy, a purse that never ends or a doorway into a different world?


Welcome to the resistance – South Wirral High School

(attended by Jo Cavanagh)

achievement show 1 Highlight 1 – Adopting a whole school philosophy

It was interesting to hear how a school had taken current educational research and used it to shape a philosophy for their school going forward, for example using the ideas of Claxton and Dweck.

Highlight 2 – Effort grades

This particularly resonated with me. If a student is given a 2 for effort what does that mean? How do they know what to improve? This prompted the school to introduce a whole school approach, called attitudes to learning. The key areas where students are graded are:

  • understanding my role in other students’ learning;
  • engaging with teachers, students and resources;
  • dealing with difficulty;
  • improving my home learning;
  • taking responsibility;
  • practising to improve;
  • acting upon feedback;

Each of these areas have a statement which enables dialogue about how the students can improve. (See photo).