R&D, Trios and School Improvement Planning

Almost without realising it, the research work we have been doing in the alliance this year has had a significant impact on the way we construct our school improvement plan at Woodroffe.  The effectiveness of the Trios, whether cross-alliance, primary-secondary, or in school, has led to considerable enthusiasm for focused research as a powerful CPD tool. We were moving in this direction anyway but the focus is changing and sharpening.

The improvement plan is now the Learning plan, and anything extraneous to the improvement of learning has been stripped out.  As a result the key issues for the school for next year are intensely focused on learning and classroom practice.  Here is an extract:

 We aim to Improve the Quality of Learning by:

  1. Developing staff skills as researchers so we have ever more robust methods that enable us to determine which teaching strategies are most effective at closing gaps in student learning and also which methods are not
  2. Promoting strategies in lessons that develop student meta-cognition so they become more effective learners and thus make greater progress
  3. Refining further our use of formative feedback so more students can make better progress and have a more secure understanding of their next steps to improvement
  4. Building a more consistent understanding of ways that we can help students to improve their basic skills (reading, writing, oral communication and numeracy)
  5. Strengthening leadership at all levels through a cohesive programme of CPD and self evaluation activities
  6. Better using other adults/ TAs in our classrooms so that they more readily secure progress for those students targeted in lessons
  7. Extending the use of collaborative learning to enhance the practice of staff and the progress made by students
  8. Developing a culture which recognises that outstanding lessons are often characterised by risk-taking and innovation and underpinned by reflection
  9. Embedding effective differentiation in lessons that challenge every student

By encouraging staff to explore the learning taking place in their own classrooms and to make comparisons with the work of colleagues, we are drilling down into the fundamentals of learning.  We are also creating an atmosphere where pedagogy is regularly discussed not just in formal meetings but in the staffroom over coffee.

There is also a keener awareness of learning evident among students too.  In a recent school council discussion, the following key points were agreed upon as the basis for an outstanding school:

—It feels very safe
—There are few behaviour problems
—Relationships between teachers and students are excellent – teachers are human and know us as individuals
—Extra-curricular activities – not just the usual stuff
—Trying hard is cool
—Students are not afraid to help each other
—The environment
It is significant that one of the students’ key points is about learning (Trying hard is cool) and one is about classroom practice (Students are not afraid to help each other).  It is also important that ‘Teachers know us as individuals’.
It may be that a research based approach to CPD and classroom practice is the key to creating an outstanding ethos.