#NPQSL – Personal Drive

typoramaSo, at the end of my first module, what have I learned? A lot about myself, actually.  My blogs often reflect upon events in my classroom or in the school in general, and upon how I respond to or feel about them, but rarely do I have the opportunity to consider my strengths and weaknesses.

When I completed my self-evaluation, I felt that “Delivering Continuous Improvement” was an area for development, due to my relatively new position as a Middle Leader.  However, on reflection, I feel I do already do this.

This journey began last year with the trial of my assessment system, where I began to train staff in my own year group.  I shared my expectations for improvement with them, and also with the parents.  This continued on a bigger scale at the start of this year, as our system was rolled out across the school.  My personal drive meant that I wanted the system to work from the outset across the school, which is why I decided to trial it myself, rather than introducing it to staff before I had fully worked out what I was going to do.  Since this time a year ago, I have devised action plans for myself and for the SDP which have been regularly updated and amended, changing the system to meet the needs of individual staff.  I have taken on board suggestions from others, adapting to ensure that the gains in performance from the staff and the children are immediately obvious.  On a bigger scale than last year, I have ensured that parents have been kept informed of the changes through leading part of a curriculum meeting, and have shared my vision and my plans for how to achieve it with the Governing Body.

Already this year, I have challenged my own performance by adapting my planning to better suit the Band Progression Sheets, and am beginning to challenge the performance of others.  I will have further opportunity to challenge colleagues as I begin to undertake appraisals, and have scheduled monitoring book looks to ensure all staff are using the Band Progression Sheets correctly.

Perhaps the greatest risk I have taken as part of this project has been to go against what the majority of local schools have been doing with regard to assessment.  To gain local insight and support, I formed a support network for schools in the area to get together and devise an assessment system.   However, I did not like the way that some of these schools were assessing, and so decided to look further afield.  A blog post led me to The White Horse Federation, who allowed me to trial their Band Progression Sheets within my school.  While still being true to their format and vision, I have made some minor changes to the way in which we have used them.  I still feel that we are very much “out on a limb” locally with our assessment system, as no-one else is using anything like it, but I remain convinced that this risk has definitely paid off.  I also feel anxious that there are elements of the system that we have yet to perfect, but I have the drive to dedicate my own time and energy to make changes to further improve performance.


Championing a cause

I didn’t follow #behaviourchat tonight on Twitter.  I often miss it because I’m planning or marking or some such other joy.  But I caught this final thought to sum it all up:


I completely agree: absolutely every child deserves a champion. Someone to support them, to coach them, to mentor them and help them to succeed and to achieve.  Some children need this more than others: for many, they just need to know that there is someone there for them if they need help or to talk.  But for some, this champion needs to have a more permanent and prominent role.

So what happens when a big proportion of the class needs a champion all of the time? What happens when, being that champion, you are pulled in a multitude of directions?

I have had one of those days. You know the one: the kind of day where one child had an argument on the way to school.  Another is missing a family member.  One didn’t quite get dressed before coming in.  Another has had big family issues over the weekend.  One hadn’t had any breakfast or snack.  Others, well, I didn’t quite get to the bottom of their difficulties today. And several others just came in “in one of those moods”.  Each of these children has strategies in place to help them to cope – for many, just a quiet chat and a reminder about the expectations is all that is needed.  Others have more formal strategies, be it reward charts, adult proximity, time out or time with one of our Learning Mentors.

How is it possible though, as one adult in a class of 30, to support each of these individuals and be the champion they need and deserve.  If one or even two have a difficult start, then it’s easy to provide the support they need.  But when so many of them come in needing undivided adult support and attention, things go wrong.  I want to be that champion, I really do.  I sensed as soon as the children came in that many were needing positivity and TLC.  So the positivity came.  While we registered and went to assembly, each of those children could demand a little bit of my time: I could talk to them, ask about their weekend, calm and soothe those who needed it whilst still attending to the needs of the rest of the class.  But once lessons began, they could no longer have that undivided attention all of the time.  That’s when things went wrong. I couldn’t give the pastoral support each of them needed and teach lessons to the rest of the class.

We have a pastoral team at school who are brilliant at their job.  They can talk with children, calm them down, get them ready to learn and to re-join their peers in class.  But even they are being stretched in all directions.  So many children now have complex needs which we need time and manpower to support.  Children can’t learn if they are angry, upset, anxious or hungry.  If they are worrying about what is going on at home or who they will find meeting them at the end of the day.  We can’t even contemplate teaching them to write stories or to round numbers when their heads are somewhere else.  Yet we are expected to do just that.  We need to do just that, for the other two thirds of the class who have come in to school ready and willing to learn.

Often, Monday is the hardest day of the week for my children.  I guess it’s because of the weekend/week day transition.  Tomorrow is a new day, and I’m sure it will be a better one.  I will be the champion these children deserve.  We’ll take a step back, sit down and calm down and be in a better place to learn, to be happy and to succeed.

All of us.




  It is a truth universally known to those in education that sleep is a tricky thing. All day, all you can think of is crawling into bed to try and get rid of those huge bags under your eyes and hopefully get a small fraction of your allotted 40 winks. “Pah, sleep is for wimps!” I hear you say. “Man up and get on with it!”  In that case, I am a fully paid up member of the Wimp Club, because my goodness, do I ever need my sleep. Weekend lie-ins (courtesy of MNQTH) are greatly appreciated, but it’s getting to bed at a decent time that makes all the difference.  

 But of course, even on the tiredest (?) of days, it doesn’t happen. I lie here now, desperate for some sleep, with lesson plans, interventions, conversations and even blogs going through my head. In a desperate hope to empty my brain, I try writing notes, (silently) singing songs, and now writing this blog. 

Do we ever really switch off? Do we ever stop worrying about that child who, once again, won’t have proper PE kit so will have to shiver in shorts and t-shirt? Do we ever stop thinking of better and more fruitful ways of teaching a lesson? Do we ever stop mulling pointless things over in our heads? I don’t. I’m hopeless. That’s why I’m writing this now, in the hope that a formal Musing will get rid of all the rambling ones. 

If you have the secret to switching off, of forgetting and of getting a decent night’s sleep, please share it!


Curriculum, Learnpad

How I use LearnPads

casestudy-learnpadI have been working with LearnPads for almost a couple of years now, and in that time, the way that I have used them has changed (or perhaps developed) quite significantly.  To me, there seems to be a natural progression in the way in which they can be used, which I would like to share here.

Web Access

My initial use for the LearnPads was perhaps the easiest – using them to share collections of websites.  I began by using them as an aid to delivering our Maths Passports – each passport had a collection of online games. The children simply scanned the QR code for their passport to access the games.  This was ideal for a quick activity at the start of a lesson: the children could choose games linked to the objective they were working on, and having the QR codes accessible meant they could choose the relevant lesson without me having to send it out to their LearnPad.

The LearnPads are also great for independent research: by providing the children with links to websites about Henry VIII’s wives, as well as video clips and documents, they could focus on researching one wife in particular, without getting side tracked by all that the web has to offer them.  Linking this with an app – SimpleMind+ – meant that the children could record their findings on a simple spider diagram as they found out new information.  The children then took screen shots of their diagrams to hand in as evidence.

Combining the internet with apps and online programs can be easy to do, as well as very effective.  Recently, I used a website for my guided reading text, and the children asked and answered questions collaboratively via Padlet – they each spent a few minutes reading the website and then making up questions, before choosing other questions from the Padlet to answer. Also, you can read my post here on how I used a QR creator to make a place value treasure hunt.

Pre-selected lessons and resources

This might seem the obvious starting place, but for me, I wanted time to get to grips with how to use the LearnPads, teach the children how to use them, and spend time researching what was available.  There are enormous quantities of pre-made lessons and resources available, and they are constantly updated.  I have used many of the Remembrance Day activities, and there are some great resources for comparing a Brazilian town with one local to me.  One of my favourite LearnPad apps is their Animator – this has been hugely popular with the children! Hannah and Jess from LearnPad are coming into school very soon to provide staff with further training of what is available to use – there is so much to choose from, it’s great to have someone with expertise steer you in the right direction!

Combining Apps

As I have become more adventurous with the LearnPads, I have begun to use apps together to create different end results.  We have used Explain Everything to great effect to make e-books, creating simple animations and then recording the children reading their stories.  I’m looking forward to the new LearnPad Author app which will also enable us to make simple e-books.  We’ve combined the Animator App with Movie Studio, linking our stop-frame animations together and providing voice overs to go with it.  Some also used Tellagami to make introductions to their movies.

Even common game apps can be a fantastic resource – read here how Candy Crush transformed my maths lessons!

A simple activity of recording explanations with the video camera can easily be transformed into something far more interactive – some of the children have made instructional videos in maths.  Linking them to a trigger on a display using Aurasma means the children can use the LearnPads to access information when they need it.  The next step for me is to work out how to keep some LearnPads accessible in the classroom at all times for the children – we have a small number of Decimos which aren’t currently used, so I think they may well be the solution!

Instant Accessibility

More recently, I have begun to use the LearnPads as a “spur of the moment” tool.  Only last week, we were using the 1418NOW website to read letters to the Unknown Soldier.  The children wanted to read more independently, so a link quickly added to a lesson and sent out using the dashboard meant that the children could access them by themselves and read more.  Again, last week, my teaching partner created a PowerPoint presentation about an artist we were studying.  Knowing my children would struggle to sit and listen to me talking at great length about him, I uploaded the file to an existing lesson, the children picked up a LearnPad and scanned the QR code on the classroom wall, and were able to research independently.

For me, my LearnPad journey is well under way, but the more I read about how others are using Android and Apple devices, the more ideas I get.  If you too are a LearnPad user, I’d love to hear how you use them so I can further broaden my repertoire!


#NPQSL – Analytical Thinking

typoramaAs with the Information Seeking competency, Analytical Thinking was identified as a strength for me: In all 5 evaluations (including my own), I received 3s and 4s.  Working through the activities this week has confirmed this for me.

As I mentioned in my previous NPQSL post, I often read around a problem independently, without being asked to do so by any of the SLT at school.  I enjoy the challenge of finding relationships between factors and working out how best to address them to see positive changes. I believe I am forward thinking and identify issues before they occur: if I am not able to resolve them, then at least identifying potential issues and being prepared for them is a positive step.  An example of this can be seen through my introduction of the new school assessment system.  In its early stages, I cannot be sure that I have set realistic expectations for our children at the various assessment points in the year  – we will need to have been through a whole year of using the new curriculum and the new assessment system before we can make amendments to the expectations.  However, thinking ahead, I felt it was important to warn the staff, governors and parents that this may be the case, as they may see a perceived dip or even peak in their child’s performance which may not be a true reflection of their performance.  This information was conveyed through presentations in staff meetings, governor meetings and during a Parents’ Curriculum Evening.  It has also been reinforced in letters to the parents, and will be again when the children’s next reports are sent out.

In the trial months of this system, I used a range of analytical methods to evaluate how it  was going –I sought help and guidance through my blog (this post is still my most read to date),  I liaised with other more experienced people,  such as the White Horse Federation and Jamie Pembroke to gain expertise from them, I gathered opinions from my teaching partners about how they were finding the new system, and I consulted with parents through the use of a questionnaire.  I have also read extensively around the area of assessment systems, to enable me to make informed decisions.

My self-evaluation shows that I have other areas where the need for development is far greater than in this competency, so I feel that in order to succeed in my NPQSL, I need to continue using the skills of analytical thinking that I already possess, rather than develop them further.  This will enable me to focus more on those areas where I need to develop as a leader.


The new primary progress measure is a Good Thing

As ever,Michael Tidd provides a clear and simple explanation of what many may find difficult to understand.

Ramblings of a Teacher

I do my best to be fair to the Department for Education, even when I find things frustrating. (I honestly do!) I’ve given the department it’s fair share of stick, but the civil servants who work there have a difficult job and almost certainly deserve more credit than I give. And despite the complications and delays and various other issues relating to primary assessment, I think when it comes to the new progress measures for primary school, the department has got it right.

The calculations are complex, but I shall try to illustrate here why I think the new method is an improvement on the old. It is fairly closely based on the existing Value Added measure, but linked to the new scaled scores in KS2. I provide this video to illustrate my understanding of how it works… and hope that if I’ve made an error that someone at the…

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#NPQSL – Information Seeking

typoramaAs part of my NPQSL course, I am required to keep regular blogs about the progress I am making and my personal developments with regard to the competencies I have to demonstrate. I appreciate that, for most of you who read my posts, they probably won’t be of much significance or interest.  However, for me, they will be essential to further my development.  So, I’ll prefix each of them with an NPQSL warning to avoid unnecessary reading!

When I completed the self evaluation form at the beginning of the course, I also asked 4 other colleagues to give their opinions on my performance. All 5 of us identified Information Seeking as an area of strength.  I enjoy gathering information from a broad range of sources, whether it be from Government publications, data analysis, internet research or gathering opinions on Twitter.  This blog has been an important vehicle for gaining information and for learning what to do with it.  I believe I have a natural curiosity (or perhaps nosiness) which helps me to ask questions and to seek answers.  Over time, I have become more confident in working out what information is important  – online conversations and tutorials from Jamie Pembroke (data expert!) have helped me with this.  I am now more able to collate data from a range or sources and combine it to provide a deeper understanding.  An example of this is using RAISE online to identify  a weakness in the performance of groups of children, and to then use school based data (from Target Tracker) on mobility and attendance to help to explain why the groups performed in the way they did.

Now that I am more proficient in choosing relevant data and looking at big pictures (rather than focussing too closely on specific groups), I need to develop my skills in using the data to solve issues. I need to identify trends in our year-on-year data, using both in school and national comparisons to identify issues.  Using sources such as the DfE, Ofsted and the Education Endowment Foundation will be crucial for finding ways to overcome obstacles.  As ever, my Personal Learning Network on Twitter will also be an invaluable resource, as there is a wealth of knowledge and experience available to those who ask for it.

Already this year, I have begun to develop this competency, as I have had some involvement in writing the school’s Self Evaluation Form. At first, I found this incredibly difficult, as I was unsure of what data to include in the Pupil Outcomes section of the form.  However, I already feel better equipped to do this in the future, after working with the SLT, conversations with our school’s SIP and from conversations around this course. My increased confidence with finding useful data means that I can now focus on using the information I find to solve the issues identified.