School leaders: Risk it for a biscuit!

Eddie Aylett

Eddie Aylett is one of the assistant principals at Bower Park Academy in Romford, Essex. He received his BA Honours in Physical Education with QTS from Greenwich University, London in 2000. He has taught in Secondary Education in the London Borough of Havering and has also taught overseas in The Netherlands. In addition to teaching Physical Education, Drama and Science, Eddie is also the academies International School coordinator and global leader.

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Image credit: Flickr // adeelanwer. Image credit: Flickr // adeelanwer.

Teaching and learning is the key to success! Teachers know it, and Ofsted tells everyone! So why can't we get it right in every school? We know that if teaching is deemed to be good and outstanding, then the outcomes should represent this, and therefore so should the Ofsted grading. So easy, right?

I lead on teaching and learning at my academy and love every second of it. The workshops over the last year have been engaging, active and staff have enjoyed them (I did ask them!).

We decided that we needed a new approach to staff training, and invested a large part of the CPD budget in a programme that felt appropriate for us. The Teacher Effectiveness Enhancement Programme (TEEP), supported by SSAT, was eventually our choice. There are other programmes available!

We needed an engaging, active learning environment across all curriculum areas fast. Our previous Ofsted grading placed us in a category that demande we change. I thought that this vital change, for some staff, would be harder than for others, but the rest of the SLT and I were ready to lead that battle.

My biggest surprise - we didn't have a battle! We outlined the purpose, procedure and approach. Staff wanted to be a part of the venture and became excited about the change. The cohesion of the staff has “Our previous Ofsted grading placed us in a category that demand we change.”been a real focus for the teaching staff. Who can share best practice? Who can risk it for a biscuit? Praise and chocolate works wonders when you’re a school leader!

The best way to get staff on board, in my experience, is a packet of digestives (other brands are available) and a Kit Kat each for weekly staff briefings. Suddenly our teachers were trying new strategies, activities, different approaches to learning, creating amazing new resources and using new thinking skills. Most of all, though, they were sharing all sorts of classroom tactics with each other, which had an amazing effect on student engagement.

For us, the use of a video to engage with staff was key - any video will do! I chose a video of a luge and asked staff, “how does this relate to teaching?” The highs, the lows, it's scary, cold (lol), fast paced, and so on. Enabling staff to share sense of humour and empathy to our own teaching was vital for initial dialogue.

Cross-curricular staff planning

Staff were also identifying where and how each strategy or activity engaged different cohorts. Differentiation had started to develop, evolve and become embedded practice, without direction or prompts (well sometimes without direction or prompts!).

With this in mind, we created a list of strategies and activities that led to the creation of a Bower Park Teacher Toolkit; a practical guide to help build these activities into lessons to engage students.

We have a bank of shared resources, such as cross-curricular planning teams a lead practitioners research team (new as of this year). A sharing culture is starting to develop, and throughout this year we’ll continue to develop our CPD programme. The main ingredient - giving staff planning time.

The biggest lessons learnt this year:

  • Teaching and learning is key (we already knew this).
  • Finding the key to unlock staff potential is key.
  • Allowing staff to develop and share is key.
  • Praise is key.
  • Engaging and active learning is key.
  • Time is needed - it's the key!

There are some great lessons learnt last year that we’ll be continuing throughout 2017/18. We have dedicated time for planning and resources. The CPD offer will continue with a theme, 'challenge more', where“Suddenly our teachers were trying new strategies, activities and approaches.” staff can challenge how things are done as standard in their classroom, helping them to reflect and refine. We have teachers in different working groups. Staff have a lanyard with a number, colour and picture that depict what learning family they will work on this week. Also, sharing is caring! We have enabled staff to try, test and revise resources and then share their experiences with other staff. This gives staff the opportunity to test strategies and refine them to then share with confidence. Finally, time is key. We now know that it’s vital to build time for departments to standardise, share ideas and reflect on what practice works well. Make sure to work this into your school’s schedule.

Good/Outstanding teaching and learning will happen - with the right programme, staff and buy in. Staff need to believe they can! In an environment where our teaching is judged at classroom, department and whole-school levels, this can be demoralising. Teaching and learning will continue to be our focus at the academy. We need to keep evolving and developing the 'guide' to stretch and challenge our students, as well as our staff.

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