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Sunday, 29 June 2014

The Road to Outstanding Part 3 - Behaviour for Learning

All teachers have experienced pupils behaving badly both in and out of the classroom. Bad behaviour can take many forms from verbal, physical to low level disruption. Whatever the type of bad behaviour the impact upon learning is the same, learning is disrupted. In some cases it is only disrupted for one learner but in many cases bad behaviour has a ripple effect and then directly impacts the learning of whole groups, classes or even schools.

It is not surprising therefore that behaviour has always played a part in Ofsted judgements of schools as a whole. What has changed is that behaviour is now one of the elements that go towards an Ofsted inspectors judgement of an individual teachers grading. This is linked directly to the Teachers Standards. Several of which link directly towards behaviour for learning:

  • Encourage pupils to take a responsible and conscientious attitude to their own work and study.
  • Have clear rules and routines for behaviour in classrooms, and take responsibility for promoting good and courteous behaviour both in classrooms and around the school, in accordance with the school’s behaviour policy
  • Have high expectations of behaviour, and establish a framework for discipline with a range of strategies, using praise, sanctions and rewards consistently and fairly
  • Manage classes effectively, using approaches which are appropriate to pupils’ needs in order to involve and motivate them
  • Maintain good relationships with pupils

So what is the difference between the behaviour of pupils in the school, classroom or behaviour for learning? Quite simply not a lot. The question that all teachers and SLTs need to ask is 'do students' attitudes to learning 'hinder their progress in lessons'? If the answer is yes then learning has been disrupted.

Whilst behaviour of pupils around the school and indeed the school ethos towards behaviour cannot be controlled by individual teachers the outstanding teacher can manage the behaviour of their class despite these barriers. The key lies in the word 'expectation' if the teacher has low expectations of behaviour then bad behaviour will ensue however if the expectations are high then pupils will respond appropriately. As it says in the well known quote 'No one rises to low expectations'

Managing behaviour is not rocket science however, it is evolving constantly and what may be a tried and tested method with one class will not necessarily work with another one. Whatever systems are put in place It shouldn't be based upon fear or punishment:

“If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed.” Albert Einstein

I have blogged before about the importance of teaching the three Rs, Respect, Responsibility and Resilience this is an excellent place to start. Get this right and the rest will follow.  I have also got lots of suggestions for  Managing low level disruption. 

If out on the corridor, in the dinner hall or in the classroom down the hall the pupils are not as well behaved that is a matter for the SLT and unless you are part of that team you cannot be held responsible, it may make your job more difficult but it is not impossible. 

Remember rigorous behaviour systems, good teacher/pupil relationship built upon trust and responsible, respectful and resilient pupils are all clearly evident in the classroom of an outstanding teacher.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

The Road to Outstanding Part Two - The Learning Environment

This is part of a series of posts taken from the new advice from Ofsted about the ways teaching should be measured, taking us away from single lessons as the sole measure. 

Step two on the road to outstanding leads us to the importance of the learning environment. A lot of what is said in this blog post will translate to KS1 and KS2 including the references to 'outdoor provision' which in KS2 does still have some relevance.

Outstanding teachers look for outstanding, they take risks constantly reviewing and revising their practice. They move thinking away from the conventional classroom layout shown in the picture above and think more about how to adapt the room or physical layout of the learning environment to maximise learning.  There is no 'wrong' place to learn, learning can take place indoors, outdoors and in the community.

The classroom environment can be a learning tool and is a fundamentally important means of engaging children. It can create a sense of ownership and be used to support and promote learning as well as celebrating children’s achievements. With thought, planning and effort, an effective environment is used as an interactive resource supporting teaching, learning and assessment. 

There are several things to consider in order to maximise the indoor learning environment:

A rich print environment with a reading area, up to date and relevant displays, prompts to support learning, learning walls and children's independent work, celebrating achievement on display. 

Organisation and presentation of resources should encourage choice, independence,
self-sufficiency and responsible use by pupils. Systems should be in place allowing children
ease of access to resources and places to leave work for completion or marking.

Space and layout of furniture conducive to high quality learning, dialogue and collaboration 
between pupils.  The space should be divided into defined areas. Where possible establish
visual boundaries. In developing a floor plan, considering the fixed elements of the physical
setting and traffic flow allowing ease of access around the room. Provide space for
investigative, collaborative learning yet where possible providing quiet areas for reading etc.
Modify the areas throughout the year changing it to suit different topics, moving or pushing back
furniture to suit the needs of the lessons. The classroom should be an inclusive environment
which meet the different needs and learning styles of pupils. Pupils with A.S.D may need a
calm place or space to work independently away from others.

Learning outside the classroom is highly motivating. Learning in the school grounds stimulates
interest, curiosity and passion for ‘doing’. It activities broadens young people’s horizons,
enabling them to develop new skills and build relationships.

The ‘outdoors’ can be interpreted in a range of ways within education, from outdoor learning
environments in the EYFS to Forest Schools or any outdoor space which encourages playing
and exploring, active learning, creating and thinking critically.  There is a  list of organisations
such as Play England, Forest Schools, Eco Schools, Learning through Landscapes, the
National Trust and Growing Schools. The outdoors, however, is no longer the realm
of progressive or creative schools but part of the mainstream approach to education and
preparation for the workplace. The outstanding teacher embraces the notion of outdoor
learning no matter what year group they teach or how much outdoor space they have. 

Things to consider in order to maximise the outdoor learning environment:

Planning for outdoor learning - Organising learning in relation to learning outside the classroom activities is fundamentally no different from organising any other kind of learning. It starts with your appreciation that the learning you want to enable may be better achieved outside the ‘sort of’ classroom normally used. That is an important step in every teacher’s thinking. The outstanding teacher asks ‘What do I want my students to learn?’ and ‘Where is the best place for them to learn it?’ Be creative and innovative with your planning, thinking outside of the box. Will you organise a percentage of curriculum time for learning outside the classroom in every subject or a regular ‘slot’ in the week?

Using the space available  - This is again about being creative within the boundaries of your own physical setting. However, no matter how large or small your outdoor space is there will be opportunities for outdoor learning. Do you have a door straight to the outdoors where a table or tarpaulin could be placed? If no direct access do you have a pond? Gardens? Perhaps you have no more than a concrete playground so how could this be transformed into an outdoor learning space?

We are approaching the time of year when teachers all of the country are preparing to say goodbye to their new class with one eye on their incoming class. Use the opportunity of this new academic year to transform your learning environment into one where outstanding teaching and learning takes place!

Saturday, 14 June 2014

The Road to Outstanding Part One - Know your Cohort

I recently attended a course at The Early Excellence Centre in Huddersfield hosted by Jane Golightly entitled 'Putting Outstanding into Teaching and Learning at KS1.' It was, as good courses should be, useful, informative, inspiring and most importantly left me with a huge to do list. 

In the past when I have heard the words 'Outstanding Teaching' I have like most teachers bristled! What is Outstanding teaching? It seemed the goalposts were moving constantly. Buzzwords ruled the waves on Twitter, in the press and in schools. Outstanding, Progress,  
Book Scrutiny, Lesson Observations. All of this led to pressure and confusion. How could it be possible to show you are an Outstanding teacher in one lesson? Is it possible to demonstrate progress in that same lesson? Add into this the mention of Performance related pay and stress levels rise!

Jane Golightly though soon answered most of these questions. She began the session by handing out and discussing Why do Ofsted inspectors observe individual lessons and how do they evaluate schools?  which gave some clarification. She went on to give advice for Senior Leaders about how they should both observe their teachers and in addition what other things they should look for to assist them in arriving at a grading for teaching in their school. In the past all of this would have left me at best cold and at worse feeling stressed, however everything that Jane suggested made absolute sense. There was nothing that in fact most teachers either are doing already or cannot be supported to do. 

Therefore in order to address the fears of fellow teachers and hopefully to pass on her wonderful recommendations to SLT I will over a series of blog posts pass on Jane's guidance and advice for putting outstanding into teaching and learning. I also must emphasise that this advice is the same for KS1 and KS2.

Step I Knowing Your Cohort

Effective teachers know all of their pupils inside out. They understand their needs as learners, where they are now, where they need to be next, what they need to do to enable them to get there and any barriers that may prevent them. 

For the teacher, to achieve 'outstanding' or meet your own performance management targets you can use this knowledge to plan effectively, enable your pupils to 'progress' and if necessary argue your case about why you did not focus on that group in an observed lesson or indeed if Sue, Ahmed etc have not met their end of term or year target.   

So your first step is to plan a transition meeting with the teacher of the pupils you are receiving next year and another with the teacher you are sending your pupils to. Often when teachers and S.L.T hear the words 'Transition Meeting' they assume this means a meeting for parents and more specifically a meeting for parents of pupils going into F2, Year 3 and Year 7. However, this isn't or shouldn't be the case.

Transition meetings are absolutely vital for all teachers as knowledge is power. Our pupils are more than a series of data typed into Target Tracker they are children, human beings with problems, issues, needs, fears, desires, likes, dislikes, skills, talents etc.........

A teacher that has taught and nurtured a class or group of pupils for a year is therefore the font of all knowledge when it comes to those pupils. Often she or he will know things about those pupils that even their parents don't. So plan a meeting, sit down and have discussion, take notes and get to know your new pupils. I know that lots of teachers will think:

'I haven't got the time'

'I can look at the data, I.E.Ps , Home School Agreements and some of their books, that will do' 

You have got the time, an effective transition meeting, planned before hand should take no more than a couple of hours after school. The data, books etc will not give you all of the information that you will need in order to teach that pupil effectively from that very first lesson. The more information you have will enable you to hit the ground running in September! 

The information you will need to discuss at this meeting will obviously be, in some cases very sensitive so you will need to use your professional judgement about what information to record and what you will just need to remember.

Some ideas:

Home life - Are parents supportive of school policy? Any family break downs? Will parent attend parents evening together? Siblings in and out of school?

Pupils as learners - Do they listen well? Can they sit still? Work in a group? Co-operate with others? Prefer to work alone? Manage classroom routines?  What do they excel in? Any areas of concern? Why? Do they prefer the classroom to be quiet? Noisy? Do they chat a lot? Lack confidence? Which topics have they enjoyed the most? Which would you you not teach again?

Pupils as individuals - Friendship groups? What do they do after school? Beavers? Football? Dancing? Any particular talents or interests? 

Data - Look at and analyse the data together, having a professional dialogue about the reasons some of the pupils have not met targets and likewise why some have exceeded. This will provide you with far more information than looking at the data alone.

Meeting to discuss the pupils will assist you in:

Planning your first series of lessons for the new term to directly meet the needs of your new cohort. There is little point planning lessons for your new space topic and including a series of lessons about aliens when your new class are overly sensitive and would respond better to information about the astronaut or the rocket. 

Communicating well with parents based upon the information you have been given will prevent you putting your foot in it and inquiring about Grandad only to be told he died at the end of last term.

Meeting the pastoral needs of your pupils - you will be able to sort effective groups avoiding problems with pupils who clash or will chat too much to their friends etc. Set your classroom routines to directly meet the needs of the class.

Target setting for your pupils.

Professional dialogue with your SLT during your first performance management meeting where your personal targets are discussed. You will know some of the potential barriers to learning for your pupils immediately. 

The next couple of weeks is the ideal time to meet and discuss your new cohort so be proactive and go ahead and set a date convenient to all concerned!


Sunday, 8 June 2014

Is Teaching a Noble Profession?

Teachers are an extremely important part of any society for a variety of reasons. One of the most important aspects of any society is the youngest generation, they represent the future and the direction that society will take. Teachers can enrich a young generation of children so that the future is a safe, secure and great place to live in for every person in the society. Moving forward in the education of the future we will increasingly need teachers who aim to develop learners instead of teaching them, who help their pupils to become independent (learning to learn), who provide students with motivation and interest for life-long learning and urge them to become autonomous learners. But that is my opinion. So here are some quotes on the importance of the role of the teacher:

To me the sole hope of human salvation lies in teaching.
George Bernard Shaw

The important thing is not so much that every child should be taught, as that every child should be given the wish to learn. JOHN LUBBOCK

A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.
Henry Adams
 "Teachers are more than any other class the guardians of civilization." Bertrand Russell
Those who educate the children are more to be honored than they who produce them; for these only gave them life, those the art of living well. Aristotle

Even our own current government have given some great quotes based upon the importance of the teacher. 

'The most successful countries, from the Far East to Scandinavia, are those where teaching has the highest status as a profession. David Cameron in the foreword of The Importance of Teaching White Paper 2010

'This White Paper outlines the steps necessary to enact such whole-system reform in England. It encompasses both profound structural change and rigorous attention to standards. It includes a plan for attracting and training even better teachers. It outlines a direction of travel on the curriculum and qualifications which allows us to learn from, and outpace, the world’s best. At the heart of our plan is a vision of the teacher as our society’s most valuable asset. We know that nothing matters more in improving education than giving every child access to the best possible teaching. There is no calling more noble, no profession more vital and no service more important than teaching. It is because we believe in the importance of teaching – as the means by which we liberate every child to become the adult they aspire to be – that this White Paper has been written. The importance of teaching cannot be over-stated. And that is why there is a fierce urgency to our plans for reform.' Michael Gove says of the 2010 White Paper

So if teaching is indeed such an important and some say noble profession why are so many experienced teacher leaving and why are less graduates and undergraduates applying to teaching? 

'While demand for teachers is growing, recruitment to initial teacher training (ITT) has fallen. Preliminary data suggests a reduction in the number of new entrants for teacher training this year (2013–14).' Parliamentary Briefing November 2013

Just like the question of teaching as a noble profession, the answer is multi faceted: teachers pay freeze, higher pension contributions, increasing workload,  ...... the list goes on. Another often not as widely talked about reason is the disintegration of the very notion that teaching is indeed a noble profession. In short Society has lost all regard for teachers. 

Teachers have become easy scapegoats for all of societies ills and I am sure there is not a teacher reading this blog, that has not encountered lack of respect for their role this academic year in one form or another from the government, parents, the press, social media and in some cases their own school ....... and then as a result of all of this negativity the pupils. The results are stress, anxiety, anger and for growing numbers of teachers the desire to leave teaching altogether.

If we do not value our teachers as parents, governments and indeed society then how can we expect our young people to? Of course teachers need to have and abide by standards, to be highly skilled and committed. In my experience the vast majority of teachers are totally self regulating, driving their own CPD, spending hours and hours out of the classroom preparing lessons and marking books. But where that is not the case we do need systems in place. However, we also need systems in place to support teachers, recognise and respect their professionalism and protect them from this growing tide of accountability to every member of society. 

Teachers have a great responsibility but we must recognise that they also have rights. The right to be treated with respect, to be safe in their work place and to be treated as professionals.