Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Precise Practice

Have you ever been disappointed with pupil outcomes despite having spent lots of time practising the skills that you thought they needed?

The issue might be that the practice wasn't precise enough, or maybe they were practising the wrong things. So how might we improve this? How can we get pupils to practise the right things? And how can we ensure that teachers are given the most precise and useful information about their pupils’ progress and areas for development?

Sequencing activities:
Pupils sometimes struggle to make connections across whole texts. Rather than waiting until pupils have read the whole story, it is often useful to ask pupils to put events into order even when they only have the bare bones of the story. If they understand the key moments in the text it is more likely that they will be able to then add extra detail and description.

Once they have grasped the sequence of major events in the plot, you can then begin to weave in questions about particular ideas, themes or images in the plot. 

Quick Listing
Sometimes, a good old fashioned ‘mind map’ (or a list if that makes more sense for the content your pupils are studying- I don’t think it really matters) can be a really useful form of retrieval practice, particularly for those pupils who have struggle to think of points to make in their writing. 

These activities test memory, of course, but they also give the teacher a sense of how much pupils know about specific topics. They tell you whether your class are ready to move on, can help to shine a light on misconceptions, and might provide a spring board on which to add further details about a particular idea or topic, as a way to deepen understanding.

Concept Links
In order to develop their understanding of connections between ideas in a text, and to improve their interpretations, pupils need lots of opportunities to think about connections and interpretations. Asking them questions that force them to choose between different interpretations helps to cement their understanding whilst making this visible to the teacher.

As you move forward you can increase the complexity by being less specific, and depending less on the most obvious description of the characters.

Because/But/So sentences:
This idea comes from this book, which is brilliantly summarised here. The idea is that you give pupils the same sentence stem, changing only the final word (to either ‘because’, ‘but’ or ‘so’). For example:
Arthur Birling refers to himself as a ‘hard-headed businessman’ because
Arthur Birling refers to himself as a ‘hard-headed businessman’ but
Arthur Birling perceives refers as a ‘hard-headed businessman’ so

What I particularly like about these questions is that they really force pupils to think about their answers. They have to draw on their knowledge of the plot, characters and ideas. These sentence stems also provide pupils with the opportunity to practise writing out the kinds of sentences they might have to write in an extended piece of writing later, but without having to worry about everything else. As ever, starting with sentence-level drills aids and supports writing further down the line.

Read the full article here

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Primary Assessment - Symphony Updates

We are delighted to be hosting the Symphony Assessment team who are travelling down to Essex to share the updates to the Symphony framework and how it now has a partnership with O Track to provide additional analysis options:

Date: 26th April
Venue: Mead Primary, Amersham Road, RM3 9JD
Time: 9.15am or 1.00pm (session is repeated)
Cost: £75

How to book:
Please send a completed booking form to
Payment as follows:

 Cheques payable to ‘SLT Newcroft Primary Academy’ or,

 BACS: Sort Code 30 94 97 Account Number 65042268

 If you would like us to invoice your school, please provide an order number in your request via email

Monday, 26 February 2018

Tips On Presenting

Presenting is seen as a staple skill for teachers... but it is rarely explicitly taught as such. When you walk into classrooms or staff meetings, often the most basic of rules are ignored

Colleagues reading out irrelevant slides, robotic monotone delivery, over enthusiastic use of animations, tiny fonts, crammed slides: have any of these simple errors ever been seen in your school?

One of the greatest presenters was Steve Jobs - Apple CEO. His presentations appeared flawless and smooth... but this wasn't an accident. Jobs was legendary for his preparation. He would rehearse on stage for many hours over many weeks prior to the launch of a major product. He knew every detail of every demo and every font on every slide. As a result the presentation was delivered flawlessly. 

People will often say, “I’m not as smooth as Jobs was.” Well, neither was he! Hours and hours of practice made Jobs look polished, casual, and effortless.

So painful, awkward presentations don't need to be this way. Here are some simple tips to purge those presentation pains:
  • Practise: how many times will you have read and re read your slides before presenting? Can you ad lib? Do you have to constantly refer to your notes? The more you know your material the more confident you will be... and it means that technical glitches won't throw you off balance.
  • Use the tools available: Google Slides has a great explore tool that will help you lay out text and images effectively (see the video below). That way you can concentrate on the content and not worry about the formatting
  • Make sure you start the slideshow... often presenters/teachers forget to click 'present' which means that slides are much smaller and harder to read. 
  • Use the notes section below each slide to carry your additional information. This helps stop you from just rereading the content on the slide and declutters the presentation.
  • Mix up the layout: include some images (ideally personalised to your school/audience) and ensure that slides look different... this helps to keep it more engaging for the audience

Saturday, 24 February 2018

Sutton Trust: Career Inequality

The challenge for schools based in areas of deprivation are as acute as ever. Data collected by The Sutton Trust from a range of reports reveals that disadvantaged pupils will face significant hurdles if they are to close the gap on their wealthier peers:
  • There is already 19 months gap in school readiness in between the richest and poorest children when starting school. (Social Mobility Report, 2012)
  • Pupils from the highest social class groups are three times more likely to enter university as those from the lowest social groups. (Leading People, 2016)
  • Fewer good jobs are being created than before; for both men and women, upward mobility rates fell for those aged 30 between 1976 and 2004, whilst downward mobility rates rose. (The state of Social Mobility in the UK, 2017)

Despite huge investment in Pupil Premium, Independent schools are hugely over represented in major professions. For schools in challenging areas this poses continued questions about how best to promote career paths and support pupils in not just having a dream, but sustaining it and then achieving it. 
  • What are we doing to tackle the language, behaviour, self regulation and vocabulary gap that already exists by the age of 3?
  • How are careers promoted consistently as part of the everyday curriculum?
  • Is there any way that we can continue to champion and support Primary pupils once they transition to Secondary?

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

OLP Leadership Survey

Outstanding Leaders Partnership launches its first annual school leadership challenges survey today.

Supported by Best Practice Network and the University of Chester, the survey aims to provide a detailed insight into the key issues facing those in charge of schools across the country.

It includes questions on the key challenges you face as a school leader today and how these affect your wellbeing, as well questions on your professional development and support needs, workload and resilience.

The results will help them to refine and develop their professional development programmes and school improvement services so that they continue helping you and your colleagues in your crucial work.

The survey takes just 10 minutes to complete and if you enter your name and school details you’ll be entered into a prize draw to win a package of free places on two of their professional development qualifications.
The survey is open until Monday 16 April 2018 and can be accessed here.

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Social Divide Widening

A new report, by the Longevity Science Panel, shows that efforts to close the life expectancy gap are now kicking into reverse. Despite a wide range of efforts and initiatives, the latest data shows that a boy born in a poor neighbourhood today will die 8.4 years earlier than someone from a richer are. Even with improving outcomes for disadvantaged pupils, the gap in life expectancy is still widening.

On average a boy born in one of the fifth richest neighborhoods can expect to live 8.4 years longer than someone born in one of the poorest areas -up from 7.2 years in 2001. The gap is widening for girls too, with poor girls born this year expected to die 5.8 years younger than rich girls - up from five years in 2001.

Researchers said the widening gap is 'mainly about money' and those on benefits and with little cash expected to die younger than their richer counterparts.

Monday, 19 February 2018

NPQEL Registration

There is still time to register for the NPQEL course starting this spring.

The new NPQ for Executive Leadership is aimed at the growing number of head teachers who are taking on responsibility for more than one school.

The fully blended learning approach with HEI backed content (meaning that participants can go on to achieve an MBA from Liverpool Hope University), combined with executive coaching and enrichment activity from within and outside the education sector, make this an exciting and valuable opportunity for executive leaders.

Candidates working in Opportunity Areas or Category 5 and 6 LA will be eligible for full course funding; you can find more information here.

We will be accepting applications until Friday, 2 March.

The National Professional Qualification for Executive Leadership

Any questions? Contact us on 0117 9209 424 or email

LEAD!: Middle Leadership Development

Last chance to book onto the first of the Middle Leadership development sessions which start on February 22nd.

This course is broken into three chapters: leadership of self, leadership of others and personal reflection. By the end of the sessions you will have:

  • a clearer sense of your own leadership styles and when to apply them
  • a range of strategies to lead teams more effectively
  • tools and tips to aid your ongoing professional development
Please book your place by emailing:

Sunday, 18 February 2018

Retaining Staff - 3 Tips

At this time of year school leaders will be planning for September. Staff will be thinking of where to be next academic year. As a school leader, have you ever lost a great teacher?

The moment you receive their resignation can take you by surprise. However their thought process that led to them resigning most likely happened months. 

When you are leading an organisation it is all too easy to get caught up in the now... absence, daly arrangements, cover, parents, meetings. But if you allow your head to drop and focus on the now, without paying attention to how some of your staff may be wanting to know about the future you can find that there is an erosion of emotional engagement. 

Staff turnover is costly: replacing someone costs a minimum of 6-9 months’ salary. And that’s just the hard costs. There’s also the cost to morale, the classroom impact, and the burden on the school leader trying to fill the gaps, while key initiatives fall further behind.

What can you do as a leader? A lot, and it starts with language. Employees may say they’re leaving for higher pay. There are funding pressures that mean this is always going to feature. In schools of all sizes there are only so many positions that offer additional responsibility. However there are other factors which can be managed. These can be key to maintaining engagement. 

Here are three no cost ways school leaders can keep people engaged:
  1. Feedback – Employees lose their emotional connection quickly when there’s no feedback from their school leader. Companies that implement regular employee feedback have a 14.9% lower turnover rate (HubSpot). Shouting “do better” six times a day doesn’t count. It’s simple; when an employee does a good job, tell them.
  2. Meaning – If you treat your employees like a number they’ll return the favor. They’ll treat their job like a transaction. Teachers who derive meaning and significance from their work were more than three times as likely to stay with their schools — the highest single impact of any variable according to a global study from Tony Schwartz. It costs you nothing to tell an employee how their actions make a difference to the team, your customers, or the world at large... don't take it for granted.
  3. Horizon – When people don’t know where the company is going or where their job is going, there’s no connection to the future. Make a practice of sharing your future vision, and tell your team what’s on the horizon. 

Saturday, 17 February 2018

Greater Depth In Writing - Alan Peat

Are you looking to develop staff confidence with teaching for Greater Depth in Writing?

Would you like to pick up some simple tips on how to implement the 'pupil can' statements into lessons?

Has your school been looking for inspiration to improve writing outcomes for pupils?

On March 22nd we are delighted to be welcoming Alan Peat to the Havering Primary Teaching School to provide an afternoon session on 'Working At Greater Depth in Writing'.

Please see the flyers below for more information and booking details.

Date: March 22nd
Time: 1-4pm
Venue: Mead Primary, RM3 9JD

Lead Like An Eagle

“One man can make a difference, but a team can make a miracle.” 

These were the words of wisdom that Eagles head coach Doug Pederson delivered to kickoff what became his unforeseen – unbelievable – championship winning season. If you weren't aware, this February the Philadelphia Eagles won their first Super Bowl... against the odds.

What is particularly interesting about their story is the way in which this championship team, and their leadership, benefitted from the power of emotional intelligence on their road to victory. So how could we learn some lessons from this remarkable achievement, and how could you begin to incorporate them within your own teams to achieve success?
  1. Practice self-awareness in order to achieve emotional intelligence.
  2. Exercise empathy – put yourself in your team member’s shoes, look through their lens.
  3. Create a culture of transparency – stay visible and grow trusted by your team. 
  4. Invest time in the relationships you have with your team members and give freedom for relationships to grow between them. 
  5. Never allow adversity to get you and your team down – change the narrative to see challenges as opportunities.
  6. Provide a purpose higher than self. Give your team the opportunity to align with something mission-driven, it will elevate them.

Sunday, 4 February 2018

Lessons from Bookcases

Across our Learning Federation, the mantra is to be continually evaluating practice, looking for marginal gains and trying to be better today than we were yesterday.

One company that has a rigorous approach to reviewing and refining processes to ensure constant improvement is IKEA.
Constant Tweaks
In 2010, for example, Ikea rethought the design of its Ektorp sofa and made the armrests detachable.

That helped halve the size of the packaging, which halved the number of lorries needed to get the sofas from factory to warehouse, and warehouse to shop. And that lopped a seventh off the price.

The Bang Mug
IKEA changed the height of their iconic mug when it realised it could make slightly better use of the space in its supplier's kiln, in Romania.

And tweaking the handle design made them stack more compactly - more than doubling the number you could fit on a pallet, more than halving the cost of getting them from the kiln in Romania to the shelves in the shop.

Billy Bookcase
It has been a similar story with the Billy bookcase. It does not look like it has changed much since 1978, yet it costs 30% less. That is partly due to constant, tiny tweaks in both product and production method.

Click here to read the full article

  • What systems and processes do you have that could be refined?
  • Is there something that is good, that with a tweak, could become great?
  • Do staff waste time on low impact tasks that could be made more efficient?
  • How often do you purposefully audit and review the systems and processes used?

Saturday, 3 February 2018

Purpose and clarity... and impact!

Often our SLEs have worked with teachers who have tried to tackle the issue of engagement in their classes. Often a solution can appear to be having a really WOW activity: slime, chemical reactions, pizzas into fractions... swiss rolls.

However, engagement isn't about having a small fireworks display to start the lesson. It is about knowing the objective that you wish to teach, knowing that it is appropriate and challenging for the class you have and then planning a purposeful activity that will allow the pupils to make progress towards it.

What is incredibly unhelpful is the lesson described below, that at the time was WOW... but no one can remember the point.

Thursday, 1 February 2018

Is it really that bad

There are always going to be times when the job seems overwhelming. Quite often it is all too easy to see only the problems and not realise that there is so much more around you that is going well. The image below is a useful reminder that it is rarely as bad as it seems: