Cluster Meeting Update

In preparation for the forthcoming conference call (replacing the planned cluster meeting), Natalie Parish has prepared an agenda and a quick summary of the work done in each school so far.  For the sake of completeness, I have copied this below.  There are clearly some really interesting things happening in all of the participating schools and strong links emerging already.

Wave 1 – Leadership of great pedagogy action research cluster meeting, 25 February 2013




Progress update from each cluster to cover:


a)     Activity undertaken this term

b)     Key successes

c)     Any challenges

d)     How you have measured the impact of your activity and emerging findings


12.30 – 13.10

Reflections on leadership of pedagogy across an alliance arising from the action research


13.10 – 13.30

Plans for next terms activity


13.30 – 13.50

Agreeing when to meet next and future facilitation arrangements


13.50 – 13.55

Completing the documentation needed for the research


13.55 – 14.00


Woodroffe School –Teaching School Alliance


  • Has created a network of “Trios” across the alliance
  • There are two SLEs leading two trios, with 6 people across 5 schools
  • The idea is that the teachers involved then cascade the model and lead a further trio themselves
  • Learning from the action research and key tools and processes are being  captured in an online forum / blog
  • Has focused particularly on the leadership needed to set up the trios model and create the culture in which staff are confident to work with and learn from each other.
  • Have been encouraging middle leaders to see their role as learning learning in the classroom


  • Did not find the maturity model exercise very helpful – just “beginning” on all aspects.
  • Getting teachers to think beyond their departmental boundary (and seeing the value in learning with and from a colleague from another department / subject area) has not been easy.

Next steps

  • Considering how to baseline the current situation and then measure progress – for example through surveying teachers and leaders and looking for impact in the classroom by asking pupils to evaluate impact and carrying out learning walks etc


Pool Academy – Teaching School Alliance


  • The purpose of this stage of the action research was to test whether there was a cleared and shared understanding of what outstanding teaching and learning looks like between schools in the alliance.
  • 8 joint observations of lessons were carried with either headteachers or senior leaders with responsibility for T&L across 4 schools in the alliance all of which are judged outstanding for teaching and learning.
  • All lesson observations were carried out ‘blind’ (ie with no discussion between observers and each with their own paperwork).
  • Judgements were compared after the lesson, after judgement having been made in isolation
  • The research found that although schools have very different systems for lesson observation, there was generally strong agreement between schools of what constituted an outstanding lesson – in 6 out of the 8 lessons observed the two observers came up with the same judgement independently.
  • Initial findings suggest that there are commonalities underlying the judgements in outstanding schools.  The main focus that is worked on, and the main way in which the basis for judgements are made is  progress  (evidenced differently as students on task, students meeting different levels of outcome, student enjoyment and focus, teachers using AfL techniques and effective questioning to monitor student comprehension) challenge (relative – to previously understood- student levels).  Other issues (use of TAs, teacher knowledge, homework, resources etc) were less important and really used a supplementary evidence to guide a grade boundary choice.
  • However, the research also found that where there were disagreements in lesson observations it tended to be because one observer was applying “strongly framed” criteria to the lesson observation whereas the other used a more inductive approach. A particular example from the research was one school applied a rule that any lesson in which the teacher spent more than 20% of the lesson teaching from the front of the class would be judged satisfactory. When this rule was applied to lesson observations to teaching in another school it led to the two observers coming to very different judgements (one satisfactory, one inadequate)
  • This finding raises interesting questions about different approaches to spreading outstanding practice in teaching – ie whether leaders seek to achieve it through sharp criteria and “rules” for an outstanding lesson that must be followed or whether it is more about sharing the principles and the skills.
  • A tentative conclusion could be that some schools using ‘strongly framed’ rules for classification of lessons are less transferable in their judgements. This might be explored further in subsequent phases of the action research.


  • It took a very long time to set up the 8 lesson observations.
  • For the next phase of work it will be necessary to focus on something that can demonstrate impact and can be “sold” to the other schools involved.
  • The process of carrying out the shared lesson observations highlighted the fact that staff (and to some extent leaders) are not yet confident about opening up their practice to others. There was a real anxiety about being observed by others from outside the school even though these were all outstanding schools, which demonstrated that the alliance still has some way to go in developing the trust / high social capital needed to really transfer good practice in teaching and learning.

Next steps

  • The next phase of the research will focus on how you can “move outstanding teaching around” between schools.
  • Could use the ITP and OTP programmes with a hub f schools as a vehicle for investigating this.
  • But it is important that the second phase of the action research builds on the first so that the learning is captured and moved forward, rather than the two phases being seen as distinct.


Saltford Teaching School Alliance


  • A small-scale action research project is underway between 2 teachers and an entertainer from Story Box Theatre company to look at ways in which children’s focus and attention can be manipulated to achieve positive teaching and learning outcomes.
  • The plan is to create more opportunities to for this kind of deep collaborative work between schools in the alliance to both spread understanding of outstanding pedagogy, but also build up the social capital / trust needed to make the alliance really effective.
  • Already seeing greater attendance at conferences and other cross-alliance events.


  • The Ofsted framework is proving a huge blocker to developing trust and collaboration – teachers and leaders are more likely to retrench into their schools rather than engage with others when they feel under pressure

Next steps

  • To develop concrete proposals for how to spread the culture of deep collaboration and joint action research into teaching and learning – for example how to bring together teachers across schools, how to generate interesting research questions / topics, how to capture the learning.
  • To baseline the current position and to agree measures for tracking progress in developing high social capital over time.