Developing our in-house system for improving teaching.

Headguruteacher gets down to work at Highbury Grove


At Highbury Grove we’re in the process of engineering a culture shift away from inspectorial top-down accountability systems towards collegiate high-trust processes built on collective responsibility for student outcomes, professional development, mutual challenge and support.  I’m convinced that this is the best way to secure improved outcomes for students as well as making teaching at the school more rewarding.

There are a number of interlocking elements to the approach, each driven by the same philosophy:

a) that teachers should be treated as professionals, with the default assumption that everyone is committed and hard-working with their students’ best interests at heart in all that they do;

b) that trust is a powerful force for good that needs to be deliberately and explicitly developed

c) that collective responsibility is greater than the sum of individual responsibility; we’re a team of teams

d) that each teacher, at every career stage should be nurtured…

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Improving Social Mobility through Education: The Sutton Trust

The Sutton Trust’s report from their Washington Conference, co-sponsored by the Gates Foundation in December 2014.


“In the most successful schools the leaders provide direction and support, but also trust their staff and encourage creativity, innovation and a degree of risk-taking.”


  • 6 components of great teaching
  • 7 least valid teaching practices
  • 6 approaches to teacher assessment
  • 6 principles of teacher feedback
  • 5 characteristics of a world class system (increased autonomy for teachers and leaders; better PD for teachers, backed by a College of Teachers and NCSL; Ofsted rewarding schools that create evidence-based policy; ensure accountability measures support genuine achievement; collaboration between schools in a self-improving system.)
  • Teacher development strategies from the UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, USA
  • From John Tomsett, 4 practical steps for making time available for professional learning (adapted from Tom Sherrington)



Thoughts from Patrick Watson on schools being engaged in research.

Montrose42 Blog

Some teachers worry about what the concept means in practice

Move  though against top down prescription


Evidence based practice we know is firmly on the political agenda, and will still be after the May election. There is cross party consensus on making sure that evidence informs practice and policy.

There have been attempts to synthesize the findings of educational research through the conduct of systematic research reviews (for example, the work of the Evidence for Policy and Practice Information and Co-ordinating Centre at the Institute of Education in London), and attempts to make the outcomes of research more readily available to different educational constituencies (for example, Evidence-Based Education UK [EBE Network], a network for teachers who want to know ‘‘what works’’ in education. The Education Endowment Foundation is doing its best to point out which interventions work best in the classroom, based on evidence.

Proponents of evidence-based education stress…

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Numeracy across the curriculum: It’s not just the numbers.

If the Second World War began in 1939 and ended 6 years later, what year did the war end?

Henry VII, Henry VIII, Edward VI… what’s going on here?

The Nazis calculated there to be 11 million Jews in Europe in 1942; they killed 6 million Jews in the Holocaust, over 1 million of them in Auschwitz.

Most students will give you the right answer to the first question, but I have found over time that many don’t recognise the year as a number, so fail to ‘count on’. Largely students are fine with regnal numbers written as Roman numerals, but they can get their I’s crossed, and begin to wonder whether Henry in fact had eight wives. Trying to impress my classes with the enormity of numbers in the Shoah, I left many of them cold.

This might be as far as I would take ‘numeracy in History’. If I was feeling bold, I might lob my GCSE class the odd graph, always with the health warning that statistics lie. Sure, there was always a shed load of numbers for them to learn (demonstrators in Saint Petersburg, German soldiers permitted by the Treaty of Versailles), and dates (I won’t lie, there are dates in History). But, that’s not numeracy, if there is no actual calculating to do, right?

Then along comes David Didau with his The Secret of Literacy, and a number-bomb explodes. @Mr_Numerator gets the Numeracy across the Curriculum job and suddenly I am being ‘challenged’ to ‘reflect’ on my own ‘practice’. I realise I have helped to spawn a monster: a PD innovator who sounds more like me than I do.

So, for two weeks I have been reflecting. Then I consider that ‘reflecting’ may actually be a term borrowed from maths. I was trapped in a conversation with @liamdawson9 and found myself discussing a footballer’s low centre of gravity, how well a badminton player covered angles from the back of the court and the trajectory of a ball bowled in cricket. A lead teacher mentioned using the snowball technique during questioning. Someone struggling with behaviour management hoped they could win over the critical mass of her students. Before I knew it, in my own History and Politics classes, I was extrapolating and correlating, upscaling from random samples, eliminating variables and divining significance. I had reached a tipping point (or perhaps a turning point, or maybe a pivotal moment). By the end, thanks to my student teacher who – get this – was having year 9s collect data on attitudes of social groups towards the Nazis in the 1920s, I knew the difference between a line graph and a frequency polygon.

What has happened? It is beginning to dawn on me that ‘numeracy’ (if that is the term that denotes application of mathematical concepts) is much more prevalent than I had previously thought. I am a career-long advocate of literacy, and know that every time I open my mouth, or get a student to open theirs, or ask a class to read something, or get Danny to pick up a pen, I am engaged in the business of literacy. Perhaps especially as a Humanities teacher, I will frequently ask students to consider their reading strategy before tackling a text, I will model and insist upon formal writing, and I can nominalise and foreground a topic sentence like nobody’s business. But beyond the obvious – the dates, the stats, the regnal numbers – I was content to let the scientists and geographers and technologists help out the Maths department with their numeracy.

Not now. Now I realise that if I want to spot a trend, project forward or consider a range of evidence, I am borrowing the language of maths. I may be using it simply metaphorically, as so much so-called technical language is. But even so, I should acknowledge the origins of my terms, give a nod to the numbers, hint at least to my students that what they have just learned with a ruler and a calculator might also be of use in my classroom. And, if I am to really use the terms as they were intended, then there is a duty on me to know my line graphs from my frequency polygons.

Can we teach students to make inferences?

Good stuff from Andy Tharlby

Reflecting English


Image: @jasonramasami

Good readers make inferences. They dive beneath the surface of a text. They reveal rich seams of meaning not immediately obvious to the naked eye. They draw insightful logical conclusions by synthesising a range of information. They deftly translate their findings into finely crafted academic language.

It seems sensible, then, to teach children the skill of inference (or whatever you want to call it: reading-between the lines, interpretation, insight, etc). But does such a reading skill truly exist? What is inference? Might it perhaps be little more than an illusion, a phantom? If indeed it does exist, might it take the form of a squirming, slippery, almost-translucent mass? Like a raw chicken breast?

Unfortunately, technology and science do not as yet allow us to eavesdrop on the thoughts of our students. We cannot enter a student’s mind as they are drawing together clues and ideas…

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