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Leaders putting #LearningFirst

How can school leaders develop partnerships that support inclusion- ways of adapting teaching to ensure all children’s learning is valued?

Seamus Oates @HeadTBAP

The challenge curriculum- start from the point of the children, listen to where they are today and talk to them about where they want to be in 15 years time. Inspire and challenge them to get there. In FE, one might assume we’re very good at listening and asking but I’m not sure that’s the case all of the time. I think we often make too many assumptions about why a student has arrived at our door and what they want out of that experience- whether that’s a student or an employer.

Seamus was in one school whose spirit was missing. A student arrived late and was hurrying through the door. He was asked what lesson he was getting to and it was sewing- he was excited about his textiles class. He began to race down the corridor to get to his lesson and learning and a member of SLT shouted after him, ‘stop running in the corridor!’ Are we always making it clear to students that their (and our) number one priority is learning?

How do we measure progress? We still need to report attainment but we can explore the impact of many approaches: Enrichment activities/ Behaviour for learning interventions for instance. Reporting data is a bit of a security blanket (I certainly think that there is an ease with which leaders rely on it to tell them the whole picture of what’s going on). You want to get learning to a point where you rarely have to look at the learning because the students tell you all you need to know for you to be confident in your school/college. Data should be relied upon less and less- more as an overview at key points in the year.

Assessment is a tool- keep it where it belongs.

How can school leaders promote effective learning through formative assessment?

Shirley Clarke @shirleyclarke_

Formative assessment is the means to an end only.

We need to generate a more explicit learning culture in our schools and colleges. Growth mindset is heavily misunderstood but it’s the answer and we need to get it right.

Why do we still have ability groupings when there are 30 years of robust research indicating that it doesn’t work?

Spend time ascertaining what the child knows- find out what they know and then teach them accordingly. Don’t wait until tomorrow- keep speaking to them while the learning takes place. Capitalise on the feedback students give you about their learning and develop a culture of continuous improvement.

Co-construct the success criteria- don’t just print them off and give them to the students. It is through co-construction that they will internalise what success looks like and then you just need to work on how they can each get there with each of them.

Marking- is what you put on the page making a difference? If not, don’t do it!

In a staffroom- we’re years behind the classroom. We know that students revealing where they’re stuck leads to learning- they find a solution. Cooperative discussion and sharing of ideas is encouraged. It should be the same in a staffroom. All your teachers should feel confident to say that they don’t know what they’re doing. What’s not working and how can we succeed? TOGETHER.

Provide valuable professional learning opportunities- don’t come to staff meetings with lots of brand new things to explore for the first time- send staff preparation beforehand- reading to do so that they can arrive ready to discuss their thoughts. Videos are incredibly valuable for challenging the assumptions we’ve made about students’ learning during a lesson- they can expose that our thinking may not have been accurate.

How can school leaders best support the effective use of feedback/feedforward strategies in their schools moving forward?

Michael Tidd @MichaelT1979

Feedback is a lot more about what we get from them than what we give to them. If a student is stabbing their pen into their desk- this means something- listen to it.

A full-stop stamp that looks like a nipple. If you have a yr6 student who’s unsure where to put a capital letter- a nipple isn’t going to help them!

Dirt has created new problems- let’s not reduce marking time- let’s increase the time students spend responding to all the hard the work we’ve done! NO.

Observe how feedback is used in a lesson obs and provide feedback on the teacher’s feedback. How do they respond to a student and what impact does this have on their learning- engage in dialogue about this. If you want to see good feedback happening- go into a lesson! We’re obsessed with providing other kinds of proof and it’s unnecessary. Feedback should be manageable for the teacher and it should be meaningful and motivating for the students- it’s difficult to achieve this with a pen- sparkly or otherwise. In the moment is the best for students’ learning.

How can school leaders support the effective use of data to promote learning above tracking?

James Pembroke @jpembroke

Ensure your system is a tool for teaching and learning rather than accountability
Separate assessment tracking from performance management. If you connect data to how staff are judged then you can expect your data to become compromised- it will be junk that bears no resemblance to the reality of the situation. You will just get the rose tinted view of progress- learners go up and down- a school leader needs the warts and all view to be able to effectively improve students’ learning.

There’s no accounting for the depth of learning when levels, bands and numbers are used so stop obsessing about quantifying progress.

Point scores promote pace at the expense of depth. They promote a fallacy of linear progression. Don’t start with a number and work backwards. Start with the curriculum and what’s needed to be learnt.

Reduce the complexity- the number of reports produced, the number of menus used. What do they actually tell us? What do we need them to tell us? Is any of it useful?

What we probably need is a list of children, some key objectives and tick as to whether they can do it or not. Then perhaps some % that gives a picture across these?

Read my full reflections on the day here


My writing commitment: I’m learning to honour my thoughts. I’m learning that my words can be shared before I’ve connected all the dots or learned everything there is to know. My writing can be a snapshot of a single moment in continually-evolving time.

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