Category Archives: CPD

SWAT Conference 2016

We made our way by train which always makes for an optimistic and exciting start to the day and this along with the prospect of meeting people and having time for focussed discussion and likely a yummy lunch in the forum at the university was truly a positive prospect!File_000 (1)In the last 4 years, more than ever before, I have come to love the opportunities to learn specifically about teaching and learning from my peers as very ‘real’ experts. I love the buzz of being around people as excited about learning as I am. Teachmeets, SWAT events and Learning walks in our school , are accessible opportunities.The keynote started with this information on Generation K:

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After 25 years of teaching my subject, I am keen to revive and refresh and develop the quality of learning happening in my classroom more than the content of what I should know about Biology. I remember looking at experienced teachers when I was about 4 years into my career, and wishing that I had the luxury that they had, of experimenting with delivery and practice rather than worrying about behaviour and subject knowledge and here I am. It’s not surprising then that it’s part of my role now in a mixed experience school team.File_000 (5)
To be at SWAT, accompanied by DHSB colleagues and others; all there to make teaching and learning more enjoyable and accessible, was pretty special. I didn’t contribute a thing at the conference other than friendly chatter but I walked, sat chatted and listened. I thought and reflected. As the day went on ideas started to form in my mind. I thought about my teaching, how I assess and the quality of my students learning and also the experience of students coming to the ‘ 5th lesson in a day where the teacher emphasises the importance of the work’ ! I feel compelled to act, having listened to the enthusiastic PHS students as they spoke of the need for variety, “ditch the textbook to independent study” they said, and as they shared their 10 Tips for teachers. See here:File_000 (3)

Following a great presentation from Jill Clayton and John Steiner at Torrington school, I know that I will execute a plan now to embed an ethic of excellence in my lessons too.My outgoing year 13 class were a stunning group who celebrated effort (not achievement ). Together we had built a climate of trust. Following a previously disparate sixth form group, I wanted to grow a more ‘in it together’ and positive culture in my new class in 2014. I wanted them to be united and feel responsible for their own progress. We developed a sense of team and they had definitely developed a sense of autonomy in their learning. We explored their mastery through me helping them to evaluating their answers in past papers (every single one there ever had been too!) The next step in taking this culture forward will be to tie their work with a sense of ‘purpose’ sooner.

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I wholly recommend that you too read : The Ethic of excellence by Ron Berger.It’s about much more than drawing butterflies!


Red Hot Lesson Blog post 1

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Well that was (not so) pointless!!

I have stacks to do at this time of year with all the marking, report writing, parents evenings and now CPD. Isn’t strange, yet a testimony to how seriously we take our jobs, that we put ourselves last in all of this?  CPD? What? In February?

It came to my attention during Tuesday’s Bluesky sesh, that one of the ways I was going to achieve my objectives was to improve my starters and plenaries. Basic stuff I know, but easy to let go when you’ve been teaching for a few years.

Sharon demonstrated 4 different plenaries during her Y13 biology lesson of approx 20 students. Here are my thoughts:


Concept: Each square is given the first letter of a key word. Students pick a letter, teacher reads out the definition, student guesses the word.

Evaluation: If you put a cartoon underneath the squares it gives the students more of an incentive to guess the letters and speeds up the game. Works in subjects where the definitions are quite tricky. Would take a bit of time to set up but could last for years.

Original definition, Think, Pair, Share answer box:Capture

Concept: students are given a definition or a question (of around 6 marks at A-level). They put their original definition in next, then think what keywords they could add to improve, pair swop with partner to see if they can improve, share check with the model answer.

Evaluation: Easy to setup, easy to administer, gets the students thinking, revises key terms, good for level one stuff, however not so good at level 2,3 and 4 if you want to develop them a bit further.


Concept: Each student is given a unique answer card so they can confidently submit their answer without fear of being wrong. Question is up on the board. Student holds up the card with answer A, B, C or D, teacher goes round scanning cards with phone.Plicker feedback

Evaluation: Takes ages to scan a large class of answers so in this respect Kahoot would be much more effective. It doesn’t however require any of the students to use their devices, so would work with small groups and you get a cute little spreadsheet to show how you’ve assessed their A01 skills. 


Concept: 3 circles are drawn one inside another like an archery board. Each section scores different marks and first letter of keywords is inserted into the section according to its level of difficulty. Students pick a letter, teacher reads out definition, student guesses word, points scored. (I might get one of those velcro dart boards, so much more fun!)

Evaluation: Fun, easy to set up, good for competition, even better with a real board.

So, it was worth leaving my Y12’s with work to get on with whilst I dashed out for some CPD. Brightened up my Friday afternoon anyway!                                                  Nicola Lilley


So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson (Review)

We will be reviewing reading from our CPD library over the course of this year. Our 1st review is from the recent book So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson. Don’t forget you can view the current list of books available on Google Drive.

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You are what you tweet

Journalist Jon Ronson sets out to make his audience think twice about their use of social media by sharing the stories of those who have been publicly shamed for their inappropriate or fraudulent posts on Twitter or other channels.

Posts may include words or images which would have remained private or in very limited circulation in pre-internet days.

He travels the world interviewing men and women who have been publicly shamed for a variety of reasons (an experience made all too easy by the way a story can be spread beyond all reasonable measure on social media).

I thought his early example (Justine Sacco, a New York publicist who in 2013 tweeted a joke intended to be read as a satire of Western ignorance) was too extreme to be considered relevant to most of his readers.

However, a later chapter tells of a man who was sacked from his post after making inappropriate comments at a conference and this example could be ‘closer to home’ for many of us.

In his book Ronson also intends to challenge those who are passing judgement on others and says, ‘we don’t feel accountable during a shaming because a snowflake never feels responsible for the avalanche’.

He concludes, ‘when we jump on a shaming bandwagon we should feel terrible too’.

His message must be firstly to always think seriously about content and accuracy before posting or blogging and secondly to stand back from judging others.

By Sarah Nicholson @DHSBoys

The Times review puts this very succinctly.

‘Certainly, no reader could finish [the book] without feeling a need to be gentler online, to defer judgment, not to press the retweet button, to resist that primal impulse to stoke the fires of shame.’ (The Times)

Building the school community

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Last Thursday saw me travelling to the University of Exeter with staff and students from DHSB to attend the annual South West Academic Trust Teaching and Learning Conference (SWAT).

Travelling by rail gave plenty of time for extended conversations with colleagues, definitely one of the benefits of a day out of school.With over 24 seminars to choose from there really was something for everyone but with a new Headteacher taking up post in September I decided to focus on whole-school issues, hoping to spend some time reflecting and then looking ahead to the new academic year.

A highlight for me was the session led by Paul Mckeown, Headteacher at The Bishop of Winchester Academy, who led us through his school journey from special measures to inspirational.

Although DHSB is judged by Ofsted to be an outstanding school I was able to bring back several ideas from Paul, mainly common-sense approaches, which we will be able to use and develop here. 

Many of these involve building the school community and ensuring the wellbeing and success of staff and students.

This school already has initiatives put in place by Kieran Earley, current Headteacher, including the celebration of student success in our Head’s Blog (a digital blog which receives over 1,000 views each week). Also, food is often on the menu with students receiving invitations to a weekly fish and chips ‘Lunch with the Head’ while new staff enjoy an evening meal with colleagues as part of their induction, followed by ‘Christmas Cheer’ with the Headteacher later in the term. 

I’m sure there is more we can put in place to ensure ‘Everyone Succeeds’.

Wellbeing became one of the themes of the day and I was impressed with the way in which two university students spoke honestly about their transition to Higher Education.

I should also mention Dan Roberts, DHSB Headteacher Designate, who delivered the conference keynote on ‘Being brave in a climate of change’ in style, and Vikram and Cian, Year 12 students who introduced their research project on ‘Challenging the Most Able’. They spoke eloquently and ably fielded some difficult questions from the teacher audience.SWAT 2

I felt incredibly proud to be part of a school which had such a strong and purposeful presence at the conference.



Nicky Morgan @Nickymorgan01 Education the Conservative way

One of the main questions she is asked in her focus groups with teachers is about assessment without levels.

As a result she has commissioned an independent committee to help develop good practice with this.

In the next 5 years there won’t be big changes but time spend on establishing and allowing the recent changes to take root and develop.

Want to increase the number of children taking the ebacc

What we haven’t achieved is excellence everywhere:

Some coastal schools are not performing this is not acceptable and deeply unfair. The priority for the next conservative party is to ensure that the best teachers work everywhere and that young people will compete with all globally.

No system can be better than the teachers that teach in it and the leaders that lead it

We want to grow teaching schools and NLE’s

We want to establish the new Headteacher standards focused on exceptional not acceptable

We want to remove bureaucracy for teachers and Headteachers, that is why we developed the workload challenge survey.

We still need to improve the accountability systems such as Ofsted

We want to empower parents and the community more than we currently do, we want to unlock the data from Ofsted

We have given £5 million to CPD recently and will support the claim your college campaign

We will support the national fair funding agreement

Every time I visit a school I am inspired by everyone, we will always be grateful of what you do day to day but also delivering our plan for education.

Question: How will you improve funding?

We want to get on with this as soon as possible, the £390 million pounds investment is a start. We still live in economically challenging times. We need to eliminate our debt as a country, we have a spending review in the summer and I will make the case to make progress on the national fair funding formula.

Question: Would you support an independent curriculum review?

We don’t necessarily want to see more changes to the curriculum, it will take around 9 years for these changes to work through. Not convinced, good to have independent advice but they should be elected etc to this.

Question: There are severe problems with the recruitment of teachers, what steps will you take to solve this recruitment crisis?

I understand these concerns, part of this is about the recovering economy. We need to develop several strategies, start earlier when people are in school and university. We need to make it easier for those on a break to more easily return to work, school direct, incentivising with better pay.

Question: How will you ensure that more women become Headteachers?

Often it is usually women who take time out of work for children etc, how can we support them to return and develop at leadership level. Identifying talented candidates etc.

David Laws @DavidlawsMP – Education the Liberal Democrats way

David gave high praise to John Dunford in his role as Pupil Premium Champion

Liberal democrats are proud of the protection of school budgets, pupil premium, universal free school meals, progress 8 etc.

Still the biggest challenge is breaking link between attainment and disadvantaged background

The attainment gap in English and Maths is narrowing

Two thirds of disadvantaged children are still failing to achieve the benchmarks

5 key priorities for the liberal democrats are:

  1. Money – we will protect the education budget. The 16-19 cuts have hit schools so we will extend 16-19 budgets and protect them. They also promise to deliver the fair funding formula.
  2. Investment in the Early Years – Extend early years to 2 year olds as they have started. They will triple the pupil premium in Early years. Extend QTS to early years.
  3. Teachers – Develop, reward and attract high quality teachers. Reduce workload of teachers. For example supporting the development of a Royal College of Teaching.
  4. Develop a school led system – We believe it is the best way to improve outcomes. We need a middle tier to support and challenge schools. Many LA’s don’t have the skills to do this. We would give Ofsted the power to inspect academy chains. The school led system must work in every area of the country and this is a struggle in the areas that most need it. They propose to develop a national level of leadership to develop system leadership everywhere.
  5. Getting politics out of education – It will always have a role however David said that his experience of government is that too much change effects schools and students. Politically driven change should be underpinned with research not on the whim of a politician.

Sean Harford @harfordsean – National Director of School Policy Ofsted

Sean Talked about the declining number of trainees entering the profession, provide a real challenge to school improvement.

Continual policy shifts are destabilising the education system, Ofsted would support an independent body to advise the DfE.

Headship is a great job but often tough especially with personnel issues, Sean likened it to the role of an Ofsted inspector, this was met with some groans from the audience.

He then Talked about the need for consistency in inspections

Inspections will never be an exact science nor should they but we need to get it right.

A new report states that 8/10 leaders surveyed say that inspections have helped the school improve

How will they achieve this? In two ways

Increase additional inspectors from serving practitioners – 70% from September will be existing practitioners from good and outstanding schools.

Introducing a new common inspection framework from September 2015

3 key factors will ensure a school remains Good:

1. Do they have firm grasp of strengths
2. Do they have a good improvement plan
3. Does the school have the right culture to improve?