A better deal for West Sussex children: local approaches to Pupil Premium.

West Sussex Deputies are a committed lot! Either to the concept of collaboration and the network or as last night’s forum showed to Pupil Premium as an issue. We know this as nearly 30 colleagues from 20 different schools, across a range of maintained, faith and academy schools, came together five days before the end of term to share ideas and experiences. No mean feat at this time of year.


We are very grateful to  Midhurst Rother College for their hospitality.  The slides from the evening are attached at the end of this blog for all to use within their schools as required.


The evening consisted of some presentations to update colleagues initially and then plenty of time to discuss practical ideas in table discussion. The updates included changes for September 2014 and the Ofsted perspective, highlighting important issues that could be perhaps forgotten. These issues are posed as questions on the last slide which colleagues had a chance to discuss but are essentially:

  • Are you aware of the changes in funding for 2014-5 and the reasons behind them?
  • What methods are you using to track and monitor?
  • Are you aware of your 3 year trend for PPG outcomes?
  • Do you/would you target PPG for 4 levels of progress?
  • Are you as aware of the Year 7 catch up premium students as you are the PPG and do you know who is both?
  • Can you show impact on an individual and cohort basis?
  • Do all of your leaders understand their responsibilities for PPG and Yr7 catch-up students

It was great to have the Local Authority represented as Catherine Davies talked us through the West Sussex perspective and need to raise standards for all students across the county.  Locality data was sent out to the delegates who attended so colleagues can compare across the local area and also see how Key Stage 2 is impacting on their potential. A conference in the Autumn term should build on the existing network of sharing best practice that we enjoyed at this forum.

As always, it is when teachers and leaders talk to each other that the real magic happens. The table discussions for over an hour showed real understanding of the issues and practical suggestions for overcoming the inevitable hurdles.  Two schools shared their experiences of involvement with Achievement for All. Whilst acknowledging that a few schools had experienced limitations with its structure and implementation there did appear to be some core lessons to be learnt from how colleagues were using it to potentially great effect:

  1. The essential value of raising the status of PPG as an issue and as individual students with all staff.
  2. The power of the structured conversations with parents who are “hard to reach” and the commitment being made by schools to reach them.

It was fascinating to hear how some schools are planning to adopt similar models in a variety of ways to achieve these aims. Sharing a review of the success of different models in a term or years time will be valuable.

Other ideas were discussed and explained which schools were finding effective and echo the findings of the EEF and the Ofsted Pupil Premium report. We have attempted to summarise them below, if colleagues are interested in finding out more detail on specific initiatives then please post a reply to this blog and we can put you in touch with each other.

  1. Investing in quality first teaching using IRIS
  2. Focus on boys literacy as a whole school issue but with specific focus on PPG boys
  3. 6 week data capture which leads to short term 6 week action plans with budgets that can be bid for each round to support the intervention.
  4. Using tute.com for 6 week blocks of intervention which had led to clear evidence of impact.
  5. Giving extra curriculum time to English and Maths, in lesson time and out of lesson time; different models provide different strengths and weaknesses.
  6. “Personal Trainers” focused on PE and literacy where Year 10 meet with Year 7, do pre-school sport, breakfast and reading or mentoring.
  7. Peer tutoring had proved effective in a number of schools.
  8. Literacy support for 10 minutes a day, five times a week. Little and often had been shown to have the greatest impact.
  9. Making pastoral staff accountable for PPG students’ progress, as well as making all staff accountable for “their” PPG students.
  10. Using TAs to staff a homework club for PPG students
  11. Summer Schools: the verdict was undecided on impact although a model where the SEN lead was utilised for 2 paid weeks to liaise with parents directly before and during the summer school, in their home, had proved invaluable at settling students who might have proved behaviourally problematic on transfer.
  12. Variable uses of under-timetabled staff were discussed but seemed most effective when focused in their subject area rather than out of it!
  13. Focusing on ways of capturing the soft data that allows us to know if students have a computer that prints/is compatible at home, has a hobby, is a reader etc. to be able to target resources to develop resilience in PPG students where it may not be fostered outside of school.
  14. Developing parent forums where they work alongside the school to develop the support they need, not what we think they need!
  15. Assertive Mentoring with senior staff

We also explored things that had not worked so well. How brilliant it was that colleagues were prepared to be open, honest and reflective with each other. Top ideas here not to be repeated but absolutely might work for others under different circumstances, included:

  1. Using under-timetable staff to deliver extra literacy and numeracy.
  2. Withdrawal from English classes to support literacy.
  3. Using HLTA/TA for numeracy support instead of a teacher.

There certainly seemed a clear consensus that where extra support was needed, it was most effective delivered by a specialist which was more cost effective in the longer term than additional support that did not have impact.

There is certainly a commitment from colleagues, and it would seem the LA, to try and work together to bring out the best case studies and explore them. Whilst we have the support of colleagues from across all schools, genuinely prepared to work collaboratively, then we have a good chance of really making a difference for 9595 disadvantaged pupils in primary and secondary students across West Sussex.

Presentations from the Forum:

Extra information:

Again, many thanks to all those who came, shared and finally wishing you all a great summer.

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Research in Education: a local response to a national debate?

I really did not intend to write a blog this weekend. Having shared this valuable advice from Teacher Toolkit with our staff on Friday, I was intent that a relaxed weekend was stretching out before me; all thoughts of work were to be banished. However, as I wandered Brighton’s Open Houses, Twitter drew me in! Far, far away, in York, colleagues gathered for a collaborative event between NTEN and ResearchEd. The event was hosted by John Tompsett (speaker at the WSDN Annual Conference 2013) at Huntingdon School and was themed around the relationship between research and education. I followed the twitter feed and the live streamed talks. There was much to take away and in blatant “confirmation bias” mode I felt there was much that was congruent with a wide range of practice across West Sussex. The blogs of the key participants and the link to the live stream feed are listed below so I will try not to repeat or misquote, I will seek instead to reflect on the themes as they appeared to me and how they may relate to the work of colleagues across the county, with specific reference to the WSDN JPD projects but also to those working in other collaborative partnerships on a range of topical developments.

It was topical, or at least timely I felt that John Tompsett’s opening comments included a reminder of the ‘golden thread’ that runs from what we do in the classroom to student outcomes. Along with a keen pursuit to become more “deliberate, reflective practitioners”, we must monitor the impact of research on student performance. Our questioning and challenge must allow us to be clear on the efficacy of research we utilise in education. This sense of challenge, for the profession to lead the direction and application of research was a common theme. Sue Williamson referenced the history of the partnership between education and academia. She emphasised the importance of leading with confidence, engaging with and reflecting on both research and case study to shape our own direction.

Author of Trivium 21c, Martin Robinson, urged us to be research informed not research led. Education, he reminded, is after all human led. Tom Bennett guarded against top down models of research, instead asserting it should be led by the profession not vested interest. Echoing the importance of questioning why we’re doing what we’re doing. Can we show it works in our context and if not, be prepared to question the received wisdom? We can be the drivers of the research. Mary Myatt was quoted as advising colleagues to pursue “counter intuitive lines of inquiry” which for me emphasised that we must be willing and open to test out ideas in our context and adapt our thinking, not simply look to affirm what we think we know. Research undoubtedly has a role to inform much of the current work of colleagues; Alex Quigley asserted its importance in allowing us to question more, know more and become better. He developed the correlation between tacit knowledge and research evidence to increase our “reflective competence”. It was great to hear him discuss this process as requiring time, often being messy and not a uniform package to be adopted en masse as a route to outstanding.  It underlined for me the importance of giving time to the process, time to ask the questions and time to reflect.

These themes both reassured and challenged me as they converged in my thinking.  I am reassured that our collaborative, research informed JPD work is both relevant and interesting. We have 9 schools across the county working with each other to source research and case studies to inform 4 projects: boys’ achievement, mastery approaches to assessment without levels, feedback and measuring impact of CPD.  All have met and shared ideas, formed partnerships. One of the challenges now is to ensure these are indeed research informed to their own context. Further, we must be willing to question each other and ourselves if we are to genuinely increase our “reflective competence”. As a network we will work with colleagues to find the time, access examples of research and structure their own direction.  These projects will inevitably run over the academic year, they will not always fit neatly into packages we find comfortable, they may not always produce the outcomes we want in a timescale that is convenient.

We welcome the input from the SSAT and Expansive Education in helping us find our way in this particular project but there are colleagues working to develop great new ideas and approaches in all corners of our county. We are all committed to improving student outcomes and seeking out research to inform the process.  If we can genuinely support each other, challenge each other, share findings and experiences then the impact on both student outcomes and professional understanding will be magnified.  Perhaps then not just in our schools but across our networks and all-round the county we can fulfill the Roland S Barth quote that John Tomsett shares, to work in an environment: “characterised by a high level of collegiality, a place teeming with frequent, helpful personal and professional interactions”. That really would be “seizing back our professionalism”.

The link to the live stream: here

The summary of the blogs following the event (via Tom Bennett): here

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All Change! Curriculum and Performance Measures.

Friday 14th March saw a large number of the county’s deputies gather to discuss the current issues of curriculum design, assessment and performance measures. A high quality day with intense discussion and challenge ensued from the outset.

Mark Wignall and Matt Ashdown started by presenting Downlands’ account of the highs and lows of their journey to a A World Without Levels. This allowed us all to understand their experience of a model of assessment using GCSE grades from Year 7-11.  Students’ 5 year journey to their FFT generated target grade is tracked on a flight path focused on progress rather than attainment. Insightful questions from the room drilled down into this approach, appreciating the power of a focus on progress over attainment. Others had also found the flight path approach or journey towards target was very powerful with both students and parents. There was however, a universal agreement that whatever system we implement there is a fundamental need to be able to trust the professional judgements on progress being made.

Across the county other “no levels” models are emerging. East Worthing secondary’s are working with primary colleagues cross stage, to see if they can work backwards, looking at transferable skills which might develop into a language of assessment. In the north of the county, The Weald are developing a mastery curriculum with primaries, working on key concepts in each subject, exploring opportunities for statements summarising core skills and an assessment language leading to mastery. Both models are clear that this will take time but clearly West Sussex schools are not afraid to be creative, innovative and work collaboratively with a range of stakeholders to achieve the right outcome for our students.

Tom Middlehurst (Head of Research SSAT) then led a discussion on Principled Curriculum Design based on Dylan Wiliam’s Redesigning Schooling presentation. A vital consideration for all schools, as by September we have a statutory need to detail our school curriculum on websites by September. Tom reminded us that by curriculum we do not mean the ring binders of a prescribed national curriculum but the reality of the everyday experience lived by students and created by teachers.  In the words of Dylan “Pedagogy trumps Curriculum” every time. Overall, he suggests a curriculum approached through 7 principles

  1. Balanced.
  2. Rigorous
  3. Coherent
  4. Vertically integrated.
  5. Appropriate.
  6. Focused.
  7. Relevant.

Therefore, when designing our curriculum there is an equal challenge to ensure it reflects core purpose and principles as well as meeting the needs of new performance measures (Update for Heads on Curriculum Update from 15.3.14)

Performance measures were the topic of the afternoon with Tim Leunig. Tim is an economist at the London School of Economics, currently working as Ministerial Policy Adviser at the Department for Education and one of the architects behind Progress 8 and the new performance measures. Apart from an obvious serious intellect, Tim showed both wit and warmth underpinning a genuine interest in schools and creating a system that is equitable and promotes the highest outcomes for all students.

From 2016 those outcomes will be measured in a fundamental shift from threshold achievement A*-C to being a clear judgement on progress, for all children in all grades. Progress will be benched against a KS2 score English and Maths. In the medium term, schools will know in Yr7 what is expected by end of KS4 (as an average across all subjects) with final expectations confirmed in Yr9. In the short run it will not be able to do this, so pupils’ progress will be compared to the national average for their cohort. FFT are drawing up models for individual schools that we will have sent to us. These will tell schools how well they are doing on the new measure.

The measures will be published on the front page of a schools website.  This will be done by the DFE filling a “widget” based on validated data including:

  • Progress 8 (as a plus or minus grade – e.g. “+0.2 grades” or “-0.1 grades”)
  • Average grade (to sub levels e.g. B-)
  • %C in English and Maths
  • %EBacc
  • Destination measure tracked by ULN (retrospective year’s destinations yet to be finalised).

The eight subjects are partially constrained: Maths and English are doubled to reflect their importance. As English Literature and Language now hold parity and can be used in different sections of the 8, the reality is that English and Maths can count for 50% of the Progress 8 figure. In addition any 3 of the Ebacc subjects and then 3 open slots, (including the other English if appropriate a selection from other approved subjects) make up the eight.

Positive progress will be clear regardless of attainment outcomes. Progress will be below floor if it is half a grade down across the cohort. Significant numbers of students not taking the right number of subjects in each basket is clearly one way schools could end up in that position. The connection to curriculum could not be clearer.

Schools who like the new system can opt in a year early.

Issues raised by colleagues:
1. Schools with a 3 year KS4 will experience a year where this potentially has an unavoidable impact and risk falling below floor standard if the options don’t pan out to match the different baskets.

2. Should all students do EBacc? The view discussed around the room was that for those students whose on prior data suggest they are capable of achieving EBacc it is better in the long run for them to be encouraged to do it, with agreed exceptions. The value of Ebacc going forward depends on what employers and universities/colleges make of it. Currently no Russell Group University requests it.

3. In the interim year when Maths and English are on new points and others are not, they will use 1-9 scale and stretch 1-8 to match

4. The point was made that teachers are often accused of playing games. In this instance then, what’s the game? 1. Think of every student, treat them all equally. 2. Think about all grades equally. For some schools will be a big mind shift.

This quite useful recent post also summarises the key changes and makes the links to curriculum that we discussed: Finding the Gaps

There is a reality that all political parties have committed to this route; it seems unlikely to change and is supported by many of the unions and professional bodies.  Every school will want to consider its own context in preparation for these measures. They will apply to students who are currently opting. Their performance, how it is measured and published will have a significant impact on all schools. Few would doubt the importance of English and Maths, but there are some clear messages about the curriculum construction, pathways and number of examinations suitable for our students.   In addressing the questions raised for each of our schools by these changes, there is a greater need for clarity about the principles we hold dear. If schools are to realise the autonomy that is suggested, they will surely need values-led, strong positive leadership. One can only think that ultimately has to be a good thing for all involved, most of all the students.

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To Grade or not to Grade….

As many of you will be aware there has been something of a “Twitter explosion” regarding lesson observation grading over half term involving vociferous arguments on all sides, a meeting between some bloggers and Ofsted and a release of “clarification” from Ofsted this week. This potentially has impact for schools on PRP, PM and preparation for inspection regardless of any ongoing questions about how to track, self-evaluate and really understand the quality of T&L in our schools. This blog is not a personal view, but instead an attempt to summarise the main points debated in order to allow colleagues in schools to debate their own way forward.

There are those who have long campaigned for the removal of lesson observation grading arguing they are meaningless and not representative of an individual teacher’s work over time.  Joe Kirby’s argument here from August and a presentation here from David Didau in  early February.

The debate became more heated in the last few weeks following a meeting of invited bloggers at Ofsted: Ross McGill (@teachertoolkit), David Didau (@LearningSpy), Tom Sherrington (@headguruteacher), Tom Bennett (@TomBennett71) and Shena Lewington (@clerktogovernor). Each of them has respectively given their version of the meeting so I link here for you to sample each for yourself.

Following this meeting and the discussions arising came  clarification from Ofsted and Lead Inspectors that they will not be grading individual lessons and teachers should not expect to receive a grade for an observation during and inspection. Inspection is about evaluating the quality of education provided by the school, by considering a range of evidence, and not about evaluating, individually or collectively, the performance of teachers through short lesson observations  as explained in guidance here. A couple of Lead Inspectors, one of whom has a close association with inspecting schools recently in West Sussex also offered their explanation of Ofsted’s guidance and a helpful summary of Mike Cladingbowl’s points to boot:

Heather Leatt Summary

In terms of how schools respond to this change Tom Sherrington in his post: Keeping up with Ofsted’s Goalposts shared what he felt SLT’s should do now.  He challenges schools to:

  • Stop grading lessons; at the very least, stop using ‘OfSTED Criteria’ for lesson grades.
  • Remove references to lesson grades in all Performance Management protocols
  • Remove references to lesson grades in any Performance Related Pay policies

But there are also other views and considerations, they often highlight the need to be able understand  and make sense of the data we collect, the need to be able to see whole school patterns and be able to understand  and have a shared language for the T&L we are seeing and setting as our expectations.  James Bowkett here identifies the risk that without careful thought, when we remove grades we simply replace them with words which are effectively grades in another form.

Others raise questions around how school leaders will be able to know the overall quality of Teaching and Learning across their school if they do not have a quantitative way of analysing it. @Mike_Bostock is very clear that there cannot be outstanding school leadership without it. Whilst inspectors are not supposed to ask for a percentage of lessons that are Good or Outstanding, it is understood and confirmed by inspectors they will ask what the leadership view of the quality of T&L is and how they know. That will still need to be shown in a SEF.   Indeed the existing challenge remains that whilst a grade for teaching still exists on the EF used by inspectors then it is hard to understand how that is not a reflection on the teaching seen.

As school leaders we will need to discuss and decide on our own individual response that is right for our context and setting. It is understandable that some commentators are demanding that school leaders “stand up to” and “report” inspectors and inspections where proportions of the Quality of Teaching are asked for, when individual grades given or even styles of teaching preferred. However I suspect one’s ability to do so and confidence in challenging an inspection team may very well depend on the context of the inspection and position of the individual school. ASCL are advising that this is something agreed and clarified at the start of an inspection with the team.

What is clear is that at last formal observations graded or not, are being confirmed as just one piece of the jigsaw. A leadership ability to understand the typical experiences in their school, the learning over time and the breadth of evidence required to demonstrate that is being more openly explored. Tom Sherrington’s post above gives his perspective on the importance of bringing in a wider range of evidence to a judgement on teaching and learning and there are others here (missdcox)and here (John Tomsett) plus we know there are excellent models locally within West Sussex that can be shared.

The WSDN Curriculum Forum on 14th March (see @WSDN3 for details) has a main focus on Curriculum Design and Progress 8 measures but no doubt the debate on Lesson Grading and Observations will be a topic of conversation now and into the future. If colleagues have ideas about how we can best assist understanding and circulation of ideas then we are very happy to discuss. For now please feel free to leave your thoughts on this blog giving your own schools thoughts and plans or indicate a willingness to share your models.

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We take the work of the WSDN a step further this year as promised with our own take on collaborative research.  It is clear that there is much to be gained and much work being done on both research powered development in schools and also the opportunities presented for growth when schools work collaboratively together

We intend to build on the discussions last year around the Redesigning School agenda and use our network to allow schools in West Sussex to work collaboratively, share experience and develop ideas together. We believe ours is a network based on mutual trust and professional respect, despite many different settings and contexts, we still have much to benefit from working together and there is a sense of a real willingness to do so across the county.

Working under the umbrella of the headings from Redesigning Schools: Teaching and Learning and Curriculum predominantly the link  below gives some examples of what the submissions for research projects could be but all suggestions are welcome

What might the research areas be?

We are already receiving submissions of  projects that colleagues are working on or are developing which they would be interested in sharing with colleagues, so do make sure you get yours in if interested.

  • These will be matched with other colleagues who are interested in a similar area
  • We will then signpost research that might inform that process or project
  • Colleagues will be supported in working together to enhance or develop the project/s mutually

In constructing this we will be supported by Tom Middlehurst (@Tom_Middlehurst)from the SSAT and following conversations at the National Conference, we also have the interest of Expansive Education (Guy Claxton and Bill Lucas, @eed_net) who would like to help us and support the research side of the development, they will come on board once the partnerships are set up to look at how this will best work and move forward.

Dates and Details

  • The first step would be to complete the form of interest (above) and return by the close of February 7th (send to cbarlow@theweald.org.uk).
  •  The Research Forum will then take place on February 13th at Midhurst Rother College, Midhurst.
  • For all other details and information about other forthcoming WSDN events, including the “can’t miss” Curriculum Forum continue following us via @WSDN3 or this blog.
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Leadership and Accountability: December 2013

The Accountability Forum last week was clearly popular topic, we are very grateful to the many that were able to attend. There are others who wanted to but are awaiting the slides that accompany this blog.  This will be a longer than usual blog but feel free to be selective and scroll down to the highlighted section that interests you most.  Our main speaker, Graham Tuck who will finish his current commitments this term to take up a new challenge as Executive Head of a series of academy schools across the country, has 30 years experience including two secondary headships, School Improvement Partner and National Challenge Advisory work across the country. As an additional inspector for Tribal (not directly for Ofsted) Graham has a wealth of experience he could share with us and which I summarise here.

Graham started by sharing the recent changes to the evaluation framework .

  • He reminded us of the very clear focus on Pupil Premium. Both the progress (from starting point) of all PPG students and also evidence of the impact of the different strategies the school has used the grant to provide. He made clear there should also be an ability to discuss the progress of SEND and Upper Ability pupils in a similar depth. Transition matrices for PPG students feature in Raise for the first time this year but many schools are also using subject specific matrices to be able to evaluate progress in all subjects. Teachers need to be able to explain how they plan for the progress of these groups of students.
  • Graham highlighted two very useful documents which show the current thinking based on inspections last year for making progress in Maths and English.
  • The focus on behaviour linked closely to teaching. As well as behaviour around school and between lessons it particularly focused on engagement for learning and that as such the two judgements would be inevitably linked.
  • Graham was very clear to make clear Wilshaw’s point that no particular type of lesson was expected was being upheld by inspectors. He suggested if schools experience individual inspectors who do show a preference for style in the judgements they are reaching that this would be appropriate to take up with the lead inspector.
  • Governance has been given new status and gains a lengthy paragraph in the new style reports. Governors have to be able to show they have not “been told”, but that they “genuinely know” how the school is doing. They need to be able to show how they contribute to strategic direction, their understanding of finance (value for money) and how they ensure high quality teaching. Their knowledge of performance related pay structures, safeguarding and engagement with the community will also be assessed.

Graham then described how an inspector might prepare for an inspection, what they have access to before they make the call. He explained this may happen 4 weeks before the date of the inspection. They will have:

  • Two years’ worth of Raise (If a school has recently converted to an academy the “new school” must be treated as such and any previous Raise reports from before then will be treated as for a different school.)
  • VI form data from the Panda, the previous requirement for retention and completion rates has not been explicitly taken away but is not mentioned in new guidance. The focus will be on progress from KS4-5.
  • The previous inspection and any focused inspection reports. Schools must be clear on the areas for improvement and what has been done about them (even if 5 years ago), as must governors.
  • Data dashboard. Again the governors will need knowledge of this and Raise.
  • The amount of Year 7 catch up funding awarded to the school (be prepared to talk about how this has been used and its impact)
  • The school website will show details of the Pupil Premium and exam data. It is useful to also show the structure of the school day (to help the Lead Inspector plan meetings and timings).
  • Parent View, in some schools this does not lead to large numbers so if you have other examples of parent feedback over time this can be also be used with inspectors.

The Phone Call is a scripted event lasting up to 40 minutes. It is highly beneficial to train the reception staff to expect a call from “Tribal” (or other inspecting bodies) as they will not announce themselves as “Ofsted”. Getting this call received in the right, positive and proactive manner is a great starting point. If the Headteacher is not available they will ask to speak to the Deputy. It will not be acceptable for the Head to ring them back later. This phone call is for the purposes of organisation only, there will be no PIB. The information requested may include:

  • the requirement of meetings to be set up,
  • a request for the summary SEF to be sent,
  • the letter to parents to be sent out and requirement for a notice on the school website,
  • a timetable for the 2 days that is easily accessible for inspectors to understand (staff codes, class codes etc. can be confusing and they have about 10 minutes in the morning of Day 1 to organise who is going where),
  • anonymised performance management details,
  • behaviour logs and SEN numbers,
  • Governors’ minutes.

The Lead Inspector has to get the key information to the team by the afternoon of the day of the phone call, so knowing what is expected is crucial. The meeting discussed how many schools have detailed OFSTED check-lists to allocate tasks for this information and other necessary tasks once the call has come through so that it is all dealt with calmly and efficiently.

Graham then took us through some useful slides on the Achievement Judgement which showed examples from a school which had made the journey to outstanding to show what that looks like and what goes into the judgement.  Because a school judged Good or Outstanding can be left for 5 years it is crucial for inspectors to understand the achievement past, present and into the future. It has to be shown as consistent improvement over time. Being able to show current attainment levels and how robust they are will be important as well, it is the comparison between attainment on entry and attainment on leaving that makes up the big picture behind the judgement.  For Pupil Premium students the achievement from starting point is critical and APS comparison to all students will be used. As ever it is useful to have case studies to show the students whose achievement was significantly above and below “the line”. For SEN students it is all about progress from their individual starting point rather than pure outcomes.

In terms of Teaching and Learning, Graham was clear the documents on Maths and English are interesting pointers in these subjects. Depth of understanding in Maths is paramount, securing conceptual understanding not the surface ability to pass a test. Strong Literacy with students showing a love of reading is well received. Graham was clear that inspectors will not be looking for a type of lesson but will be clear to see the relevance and purpose of activities. The learning should be planned, not a sequence of tasks. There is an ability to see progress over time through books and talking to students not necessarily in just a 20 minute observation. Teachers should show an ability to adapt learning from questioning; marking must be evident and show response to feedback. Schools who have moved away from exercise books will want to think about how they can enable inspectors to see this.

Peter Woodman, Head of The Weald (judged outstanding in October) took us through a series of exercises and discussion topics which clearly reminded us that a good or outstanding judgement is not acquired by a “performance” over 2 days, it is the product of hard work and clear school improvement. He reminded us that accountability is often not an easy path to tread but one we cannot afford to avoid for the genuine benefit of all staff and students. His tasks on leadership and delegation made us reflect on why it sometimes goes wrong and how. Are we clear about this with the staff who work with us? How often do we check? How do we know?

Eddie Rodriguez, Head of Oathall (judged good in October) showed us how he had clearly managed the planning required. His Required Docs summary document emphasised the set of data required. Clear checklists allowed staff to be ready and able to show the school to it’s best when the call and Inspection notification letter finally came. In talking us through his experience of the Ofsted visit, Eddie spoke of a clear difference in tone between Day 1 and Day 2. Engaging with the Lead Inspector as positively as possible, to provide the data or case that will allow the dialogue to take place is vital.  It is possible for the school to present a different perspective to that which the inspectors may arrive with but it is something the school must be willing and ready to be proactive about, and they must be able to see evidence of it around the school.

This was a Forum which delivered information schools need to be able to prepare for when that call finally comes. Graham did not avoid the challenge that inspections are reportedly presenting inconsistently at times but was clear on how schools can take the discussion to the inspectors and be clear on what inspectors have been advised to base their judgements on. The Forum also posed some thought-provoking questions about leadership and accountability in its widest sense. We are very grateful to Graham, Peter and Eddie for their presentations as well as the delegates who came along, many who stayed far longer than intended!

For all I hope it will be a happy and restful break. The New Year will see the start of the Joint Practise Development Project and a Curriculum Forum but for now we wish you a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Caroline Barlow (on behalf of The WSDN)

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WSDN Annual Conference 2013: Going from strength to strength

We are very grateful to all those who attended last week the 3rd WSDN Annual Conference. This was the highest attended and best represented across the county to date, we hope to continue to grow over the course of the year.  We are as ever very grateful for all delegates’ input and ideas, these keep the network alive and ensure it fulfils its commitment. Your engagement is a vital part of the success. As promised this is a brief blog which will give you all the materials you are after. We are under no illusion that any words of wisdom here will be more than glanced over before diving straight into the details from the conference…. and quite right too!

We are very grateful to Bill Watkin for his sage words and irreverent tone which somehow makes the news more palatable. Thank goodness for Bill who brilliantly sifts the most relevant and pertinent pieces of information for us into a clear picture of what is urgent and relevant for us to engage with. All the details from his presentation can be found in this link: Making sense of change 13 November 2013

John Tomsett was also really well received and provided a much-needed dose of humour, honesty and humility into the day.  A genuine inspiration and standard-bearer for headship, John reminded us that values led leadership keeps the core purpose at the forefront at all times. His key phrases, inspirations and thought-provoking ideas can be found here: Successful School Leadership

The afternoon session provided intellectual rigour and thought-provoking challenge from Professor Guy Claxton. He maintained that it is not only possible but vital that we place at the heart of a school curriculum the habits, values and attitudes we wish our students to develop. That this is not instead of the National Curriculum, not on top of what we currently do but at the core of everything a school does; how and why it does it. Do we know what’s going on below the line….? Guy Claxton BLP Secondary principals July13

Remember to sign up to follow @WSDN3 for the thread of great ideas that is currently running every day, providing opportunities to network on-line and to hear things you might have missed on conference day. Plus…

  • Details of the Accountability Forum will be out very shortly and due to happen before Christmas.
  • We are very excited by the prospect of the new JPD project and will be offering places shortly for the Research Forum to launch it….

Watch this space. …….West Sussex building professional capacity together! Thanks again for a great conference, we hope you all have a great rest of the term.

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WSDN Leadership Conference 2013

Welcome back everyone! Hope your summer was exactly what you needed it to be…..! As you start to adjust to the new term we bring you the exciting news that booking is now open for the 2013 West Sussex Deputies Network Leadership Conference. To be held at Hilton Avisford Park on Wednesday 13th November (8.30am registration for 9.00am start. Finish at 4.15pm). Look out for the emails from those helpful people at SSAT to make your booking, but I would hurry as with a line up like this one places will go fast!


We are delighted to be joined again by SSAT’s Bill Watkin for comment on the latest developments in the world of education. We (the committee) will also be updating you on how these national changes have impacted on our corners of West Sussex so we have an awareness of each others context across the county, as well as providing an update on the work of the Network and asking how you would like to see it develop.  

As always knowing you value the time to spend networking with colleagues there is built in area time and also some speed learning activities to share the great work we know is out there across the county

We will also be launching a very exciting new development and opportunity for members of the WSDN to take part in some Joint Practice Research… no details now, all will be revealed on conference day!


Continuing the theme of hosting current and influential headteachers from recent conferences, this year we will be joined by Headteacher and popular blogger, John Tomsett.  For a taste of his work just follow the link on the side of this blog.


However the climax of the day will undoubtedly be a very guy claxtonspecial afternoon. Professor Guy Claxton will lead a session of interactive learning around the theme of the role of leadership and accountability in building learning power. For all of us, we know, this is at the heart of our core purpose and we are delighted to be able to spend such quality time exploring learning from our leadership perspective. We know many of you are familiar with the work of Professor Claxton and so will appreciate this is a real treat!

Do not hesitate to book, we will be broadening our base this year and widening the invites to the conference, which means places will go fast. As the county changes and the number of different types of schools increases, we believe that if we are to remain truly open-minded and collective in our approach then we must all continue to talk to each other and share experiences. It may make for lively discussions but isn’t that part of what we turn up for?!

Don’t forget, signing up for conference secures you membership to the network for the year and access to all those extra events and opportunities. Last year WSDN members were able to attend an exclusive forum with Sue Williamson (Chief Exec of the SSAT). We were able to secure WSDN places at the Redesigning Schooling symposium and members there had an exclusive meeting with Dylan Wiliam. Plus the additional forums…… those planned for this year will include one on Accountability with an Ofsted Lead Inspector,  a Curriculum Forum and of course, a follow up from this years conference on Learning and Teaching.

Have a great half term, look forward to seeing you there.

WSDN Booking Form 2013-14

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Redesigning West Sussex Schools?

Apologies for the delay in updating everyone on the Redesigning Schooling Forum we held at the end of May. The reason is below……


We did write a blog all about it at the time and were all set to release to everyone however the SSAT liked what everyone had done so much they wanted to publish it! This meant we had to delay the blog until it was published – which happened yesterday! Many thanks to everyone for their input into a great event and I hope you all managed to take something away from it that has helped form thinking or planning in some way.

I am reliably informed that this means great profile for the WSDN: “SecEd send 9000 copies into schools 3 per school – to the head, a deputy and one other, average e bulletin recipients is 8,023, and of the 16,000 twitter the articles get a 745 click-through per day so this is massive, massive profile for the network and should be celebrated.”  Hopefully this will mean good profiling for all the schools who contributed and continue to work so well together.

We are aware this work goes on across the county through a variety of ways, please feel free to use this blog or our twitter feed (@WSDN3) as a way of reaching a wider audience if you feel it is needed. We know Durrington High School put on a great TeachMeet recently with a certain celebrity presence (@StephenDrew72), the Teaching Alliances continue to develop developmental collaborative approaches and we all seek to develop ways to share and transform practice in our areas.

Please confirm in your diaries now the date for the Annual Conference the 13th November at Avisford Park. We are just seeking final confirmation but are very excited by the prospect of some of our key speakers this year. As soon as we have everything confirmed we will be sending out booking details but be assured this will not be one to miss!

Many thanks to all for a great year, have a brilliant end of term and good luck everyone for the summer!


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“The future is a race; a race between education and catastrophe” H.G.Wells

If we didn’t know before today, the recent WSDN Curriculum Forum (1st March 2013, Downlands School) certainly confirmed that we face some of our most challenging times yet also with some unique opportunities. We were also starkly reminded though of our obvious motivation and responsibility to accept the challenge and grasp the opportunity, with the presence of some outstanding West Sussex students.

During a morning with Sue Williamson CEO of the SSAT, on the eve of the Redesigning Schooling campaign events in London, we were taken through the current “state of the nation” for curriculum, qualifications and teaching and learning. It became clear that this is still an ever-changing picture, with important challenges and opportunities for us as a profession. We explored the extent to which Michael Gove actually did complete a U-Turn on 7th February: how far is the EBacc still here, will the KS5 reforms be consulted upon, what measures of accountability will we experience and on what will we be measured? The core details of the information delivered through Sue’s slides will be sent to delegates individually by email but can also be found here:2013 03 01 West Sussex Deputies Network

We then clearly heard the “Call for Change”. Sue asked the difficult questions of how as a profession we have become regarded by government and external forces, challenged us to consider whether as  a profession we are reactive or pro-active about change, have we become disempowered, seen as operating in isolation, out of touch with the world of work and change? To what extent are our students spending time in our schools with a lack of engagement and challenge? If they are; why? More importantly to what extent can we take the initiative, redesign schools for the future that build on our expertise and understanding. Schooling that develops skills and knowledge that will equip students for the unknown future and provide industry and work with what is needed…. or do we wait to respond to the next initiative from politicians?

Sue referenced a broad range of sources that have influenced the debate as a context for us:

  • The Finland Phenomenon  summary clip here,
  • The report from the CBI First Steps: a new approach for our schools (read the report online)
  • A snippet from the interesting film www.wearethepeoplemovie.com (see the film) which provided the title for this blog and pronounced “Education is the most fundamental challenge facing human beings”
  • The very compelling Dylan Wiliam at the SSAT National conference (slides here) and speech here who asked how can we prepare our students for a world we cannot possibly imagine?
  • The need to recognise our students as the “net generation” and consider how this can influence learning and teaching
  • Tony Wagner’s 7 Survival Skills, which for many at the forum invoked the PELTS (slide 42)

The journey to Redesigning Schools became through the development that we have experienced alongside the SSAT of increasing personalisation, the Nine Gateways, the Deeps; to what extent System Redesign for institutions, roles and leadership has taken effect. Redesigning Schools takes does not attempt to do this stage of the journey alone; the importance became abundantly clear of working alongside a range of stakeholders to agree what is required of education, learning and teaching for the future.   As a network we are in a privileged position to be able to take part in Redesigning Schools in a unique way.

Already on 12th March we will take our concerns and questions to an exclusive meeting with Dylan Wiliam as part of attending the Curriculum Symposium, these questions were discussed and debated at the forum and will largely focus around:

  1. How can we ensure that the development of the skills and understandings (a competency based curriculum) can be measured in a way that is valued by all stakeholders? Or how can we address the issue that unless something is measured it is seen to have no value?
  2. When in a secondary education do you think is the most valuable assessment point. How many “GCSEs” do you think it would be optimum for students to achieve?
  3. How can we help teachers to reach their peak performance and what funding implications are there in these ideas?
  4. Is there anywhere in the world where AfL is working in an embedded way? Is one style of assessment/examination really the best route forward or could it include a variety of ways?
  5. What is the strategy for creating a voice or a body representing all stakeholders in order to separate policy making from the transitory nature of politics (in the same way interest rates were removed and given to the Bank of England)? Can we create a broad college of politicians, parents, teachers, academics and students to drive and approve policy?
  6. Have any studies been done on the impact of consistent change of education policy on the students of the past two decades.

We also have places we can offer to members for the Learning and Teaching Symposium on Thursday 7th March with Guy Claxton and Bill Lucas and the Accountability and Intelligent Inspection Symposium on 22nd March with Christine Gilbert, a chance to discuss how schools should be measured and inspected in the future.

As if we needed further motivation to get involved, at the end of the forum the 30 plus students who had been working with SSAT leader Tom Middlehurst in their “Class of 2040”, presented their findings. It was clear they valued skills and knowledge; they want a meaningful education that has relevance to their world and their future. They agreed on a core curriculum based on the existing core subjects but wanted flexibility to tailor their learning to the needs of the future. They either mentioned by name or alluded to the skills we would all recognise as the PELTs. The confidence and eloquence of these students was impressive and the range of ideas provided inspiration to get involved. Many thanks to those schools who allowed their students to get involved, all spoke very highly of their experience, the ability to work together and valued having their voice heard.

So, over to you all ……by way of engagement can you do one of two things?

a)      Either volunteer to attend one of the symposium in London. It will not cost your school anything as a member of the network you will simply be ask to attend the next event –  a LEADMEET in April/May to feed back what you have learnt and discussed.

b)      Post a comment to this blog to answer the questions below: If we can share ideas and thoughts at this stage then we can build on them when we meet next time.

  • How are you responding to the curriculum and qualifications changes?
  • Have you adopted EBacc or gone your own way?
  • What have you done with Vocational qualifications in your options structure?

Please do either or both of these, it is clear this network appears to be serving a need. Working together does not mean doing the same things, but sharing ideas and examples of best practise inevitably means we become stronger, better informed for the benefit of our students.  Whatever your school background and context it would surely be paradoxical to think we can move forward in this national climate on our own.

So please, post and tell us what you are up to!?


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