Now! That’s Primary Blogging Volume Ten

This week’s movers and climbers:
1. Seven questions to ask of any new assessment system, via @michaelt1979:

2. The problem with looking at outcomes in the EYFS, via @Sue_Cowley:

3. Don’t give up when the job gets tough, via @theprimaryhead:

4. Using selfies to celebrate learning in school, via @OhLottie:

5. What is teaching really like? Via @secretteacher6:

6. How learning in the EYFS really works, via @Sue_Cowley:

7. The importance of relationships in teaching, via @quiet_voices:

8. In support of teachers, via @UgglyMuggly:

9. The importance of being trusted by children, via @cherrylkd:

10. Getting children to do without forcing compliance on them, via @nancygedge:

11. Replacing levels, via @ChrisChivers2:

12. Motivating children to write, via @secretteacher6:

13. Accountability and what it has done for teaching, via @chemistrypoet:

14. Assessing without levels, via @daisychristo:

15. Does baseline testing in Reception have to be a negative, courtesy of @SimonKnight100:

16. The importance of a caring Head, via @cherrylykd:

17. More on baseline testing in Reception, via @szdar:


Now! That’s Primary Blogging Volume Nine

The week’s compendium of primary and primary-related posts:

1. Maths marking and feedback, via @MrNickHart:

2. Trying to get transitionright, via @prawnseye:

3. Assessment in the primary school, via @michaelt1979:

4. The end of ASTs and the implications for teachers’ professional learning, via @anhalf:

5. Simplfying planning, via @ HTBruce:

6. More than schools, via @ nancygedge:

7. The new primary maths curriculum- good or bad? Via @ShrekTheTeacher:

8. iPads in the classroom, via @Chriswaterworth:

9. @AlisonMPeacock and learning without limits, via @tim_jumpclarke:

10. Somebody’s child, courtesy of @Sue_Cowley:

11. Via @SimonKnight100, how should the Pupil Premium be used in special schools?

12. Why experience counts, via @diankenny:

13. Reasons for striking, via @secretteacher6:

14. If Alan Partridge was an education guru, via @ChrisChivers2:

15. The power of praise, via @teacher_mummy:

16. Learning to read, reading to learn, via @prawnseye:

17. Alternative approaches to guided reading, via @TemplarWilson:

18. Making guided reading work, via @anhalf:

19. The flipped classroom and what OFSTED made of it, courtesy of @ChrisWaterworth:

20. Whiteboard walls, via @wellylearning:

Trying to get Transition Right


Transition:a passage from one state, stage, subject or place to another.

As the corner that leads towards the summer term is slowly rounded, now seems an apposite time to blog on the subject of transition. For some, this may well be a notion yet to even have appeared on the horizon; for others, it is hopefully an ongoing aspect of their work and one which underpins the success and happiness of the children in their charge.

I do not profess to be an expert in transition; I am not seeking to hold my own school’s work up as a model of exemplary practice; but I have seen sufficient cases of transition being poorly planned and managed to be able to highlight some practices that do work.

I currently work in a junior school. We have between three and five feeder infant schools but 97% of our intake come from one of them. We are fortunate to have a very close working relationship with that school and together have developed and refined our KS1 to KS2 transition arrangements over a number of years.

For the Year Two cohort who will join us this September, transition planning is already well underway. Following is an attempt to briefly summarise the work done so far and that which is scheduled for the summer term.

Headteachers have met to discuss the development of a joint ‘leveless’ assessment system.

All subject leaders across the two schools have met to map cross-phase curriculum coverage and the implications of the new National Curriculum.

Year Two and Year Three teachers have all spent two days in each other’s classrooms observing learning behaviour, environments, routines etc. (but NOT the quality of teaching).

Accompanied by the Headteachers, transition governors have carried out learning walks in Year Two and Three classrooms, familiarising themselves with the similarities and differences that exist between the two schools. In addition to this, those governors have met with Year Three teachers and teaching assistants to talk about the transition process; they have also spent time with small groups of children to gain their perspective as the people at the centre of our work.

Year Three teachers and the INCO have met to identify areas of the infant school’s practice that could be adopted in Year Three in order to create greater parity of provision between the two settings; we are aiming to create a learning environment which is familiar and safe yet which also allows for development and growth.


As the summer term progresses, so increases the focus on involving children and their families in transition.

At the end of April, Year Two and Three Teachers and both schools’ INCOs are given a day to plan fully a transition ‘unit’. This includes scheduling dates for Year Two children to spend time at our school at different times of the day: mornings, afternoons, assemblies, lunchtimes. For particularly vulnerable children, extra visits are planned.

In July, an informal open evening is held. New parents have the opportunity to visit our school and, just as their children have, acquaint themselves with new teachers and a different environment.

In the final two weeks of the summer term, the first half of our transition unit is taught in Year Two. Some of this teaching is done by the Year Three teachers who then provide a ‘bridging’ project for children to work on during the summer holidays. During the first two weeks of the autumn term, the second half of the transition unit is delivered and parts of this are taught by the Year Two teachers.

At the end of September, our transition work is rounded off. The parents of our new intake are poised with a short transition ‘report’. In effect, this is a simple tick-list but it provides helpful information on how children have copied, and are coping, with an often difficult period.

So, our transition work- not a how to do it, just a this is how we do it. Our experiences have taught us that socially, emotionally and academically, the move from infant to junior school, from KS1 to KS2, can be enormously difficult for children (and their parents): get it wrong and you can pay for it for a long time; get it right and the payback can be huge.

Learning to Read, Reading to Learn

After a few Twitter exchanges on the subject of Guided Reading earlier today, these are my thoughts on one possible model of teaching reading in primary schools.

In many of the schools that I have worked in, children have improved as readers despite the teaching they have received and not because of it; unlike the teaching of writing, the teaching of reading has frequently lacked direction and purpose.

Clearly, it is not good enough to just expect children to get better with age, we must carefully design and provide the opportunities that will help them to do so.

As detailed below, I believe that all children should receive the opportunity to read in three different contexts during a normal school week:

1. Guided Reading which is objective
led. It is vital that this does not become a session where a teacher or TA merely listens to a group of children reading. From decoding strategies to higher-order inference, Guided Reading can be used to develop skills that children do not yet possess.

2. Shared Reading. Just as writing needs to he modelled to children, so does reading. Shared Reading presents the opportunity for teachers to demonstrate the skills they want children to develop themselves. Further, it gives us the chance to introduce children to books and authors that they might not necessarily encounter themselves.

3. Independent Reading. Free of intervention, free of assessment, free of feedback, children need time to read for the fun of it; give them time to share books, talk about books, to explore and discover them for and by themselves.

In addition to their in-school reading, I also make sure that children have two reading books at home: one matched to their current level and another, for challenge, pitched slightly higher.

And so, the briefest collection of thoughts on what reading provision in a primary classroom might look like: teach reading; model reading; and allow children to read independently. We teach children to read so that they can then read to learn; perhaps no part of our job is of greater importance than this- let’s not leave it to chance that it will just happen.

Now! That’s Primary Blogging Volume Eight

This week’s mix tape of primary and primary-related blogs.
1. Cut down on workload with Live Planning, via @prawnseye:
2. Why every child has the capacity to be a mathematician, via @emmaannhardy:
3. How best do we manage other adults in the classroom, via @teacher_mummy:
4. Standing up for education so that teachers are taught well and teachers are treated fairly, via @diankenny:
5. Three posts via @ChrisChivers2:
Schools’ responsibilty to make quality first SEND provision:
How SEN reform alone will not change outcomes for children:
Background reading to SEN reforms:
6. Alternatives to standard practices in primary assessment, via @ChrisWaterworth:
7. Planning your school offer in readiness for the 2014 SEN reforms, via @Mishwood1:
8. Taking the art of lesson observations further by taking away judgements, via @primaryhead1:
9. Accountability: driving improvement or driving teachers away from the profession? Via @secretteacher6:
10. Getting it right with parents as a head, via @moorelynne1:
11. Addressing new curriculum anxiety, via @michaelt1979:
12. The transition from primary to secondary, mainstream to special school, via @nancygedge:

13. Via @tim_jumpclarke, Dr Steve Peters and the chimp paradox:

14. Providing genuine contexts in which to set children’s learning, via MrsPTeach:

15. Dealing with bullying when the bullies aren’t children, via @theheadsoffice:

16. What is inclusion and who does it benefit? Via @nancygedge:

Improving Teaching through Live Planning

In each of my two previous schools, the emphasis placed on writing detailed lesson plans was great. In one, five-way differentiation had to be made clear in all lessons in every subject; in the second, it was expected that differentiation for groups of children would be denoted by the use of different font styles and colours. In both cases, the intentions for requesting such precise work were good, but in both cases the effort required to produce the planning also rendered them counterproductive; once they were written, there was very little time to prepare the resources needed to deliver the lessons they promised to deliver.

Common to both schools was the expectation that all planning should be done a week in advance. This is a concept I have struggled with from both teaching and leadership perspectives. As a teacher I know my starting point on a Monday morning; beyond that I can speculate about what learning might happen over the ensuing week but no more than that. As such, a five day plan is no better than a five day weather forecast; it is likely to change or even become irrelevant as each day passes. As a leader, a five day plan informs me of the learning a teacher intends to facilitate over a week but no more than that.

In my current school, I am developing an interest in what I am calling visual or ‘live’ planning. I believe that the process will help to reduce teacher workload (and therefore improve efficiency); that it will allow school leaders to monitor planing which shows what is actually taught; and that most of all, children will benefit because their teachers will have more time to prepare high quality learning experiences instead of pristine paper-based planning.

The premise for live planning is very simple; I hope that many teachers already use it. On a Monday, a Notebook (in my case) document is opened; pages are added to support learning through each stage of a lesson: objective, success criteria, models, key vocabulary, a timer, plenary questions etc. On Tuesday, that document is added too and on Wedneday, Thursday and Friday also. At the end of the week, the file is printed and any additional notes are made on it; if anybody needs to see it, the step-by-step, lesson-by-lesson teaching and learning that has taken place in my class is immediately clear. I don’t have a speculative document about what might happen, I have a concrete document showing what did happen.

So, ‘live’ or ‘visual’ planning; reduce the amount of time you spend creating paper trails; make planning real; and give the time taken away from children’s learning back to them.

Now! That’s Primary Blogging Volume Seven

This week’s roundup of primary and primary-related posts. Please let us know on @prawnseye of any you would like included in future volumes.
1. The value of judging individual lessons, via @theprimaryhead:
2. The human costs of being a teacher, via @teacher_mummy:
3. The player of games, via @nancygedge:
4. Framing writing, courtesy of @ChrisChivers2:
and also Children and the language of improvement:
5. Improving teaching through varying models of lesson observation, via @prawnseye:
6. The importance of true professional learning and development, via @informed_edu:
7. The farcical nature of lesson observations, via @cazzypot:
8. The importance of valuing people, via @HTBruce:
9. Resources to support the teaching of reading, courtesy of @MrsPTeach:
10. The myriad pressures of a teacher’s workload, via @Sue_Cowley:
11. Guide to iPads in the classrom, via @Ideas_Factory:
12. Thoughts on lesson observations, courtesy of @anhalf:
13. Are SLT and Ofsted joined at the hip? Courtesy of @cherrylkd:

Three Steps to Heaven (or at least making observations more meaningful).

This academic year, I have observed, and been observed in, an enormous number of lessons. Some of these observations have been useful, informative and helpful to those involved; most have not; and most of those that were not were ones where a judgement on the quality of teaching was made.

The following three practices are far from revolutionary, but they all offer opportunities for teachers to develop, both on their own terms and when working with others. Perhaps because of this, I have seen each of these processes going a significant way towards restoring (if it originally existed!) faith in lesson observations and, more importantly, increasing professional trust and respect between colleaugues.

1. Observing the observer- For every lesson that was observed by a senior teacher, the teacher observed had the opportunity (not always taken up) to watch a follow-up taught by their observer. Follow-up lessons focused on modelling / demonstrating pedagogical points discussed during the original feedback. The impact of this on professional trust was enormous.

2. Reducing formal, graded observations but increasing ‘drop-in’ developmental visits- In my current school this is an accepted and welcomed practice. Drop-in visits are unannounced, short, focused and regular. No judgement is made but two positives and one point for development are discussed in a very brief feedback session.

3. Increasing opportunities for peer-observations- Is this an underused means of professional learning? Although the logistics can be difficult, we have worked in pairs to identify and develop pedagogies and strategies which will improve our teaching. The simple opportunity to spend the occasional hour in somebody else’s classroom is enormously beneficial: gains have been made in marking techniques, behaviour management strategies, inclusion and the use of learning walls to reference just some of the positives.

And so a final thought: ought not the ultimate purpose of a lesson observation be to improve learning? Through using a variety of non-judgemental, development-led models, we can begin to dismantle the fear and mistrust that surround lesson observation; we can begin to help each other learn professionally; and we can use our own learning to improve children’s learning.

Now That’s Primary Blogging Volume Six

The weekly mix tape of primary and primary-related posts. Please retweet / blog and help to share much of what is current and brilliant in primary education:

1. To Grade or Not to Grade, via @Mishwood1:

2. The need for a coherent narrative in topic planning, via @ethinking:

3. Flipped planning, also courtesy of @ethinking:

4. Curriculum Design, courtesy of @michaelt1979: and hidden feedback:

5. Breaking out of boxes through topic-based learning, via @ChrisChivers2:

6. Teaching the concept of a sentence, courtesy of @MrsPTeach:

7. Some of the problems associated with topic planning, courtesy of @imagineinquiry:

8. More on cross-curricular / topic teaching from @misshorsfall:

9. @nancygedge on not making or accepting excuses:

10. In praise of TAs, courtesy of @diankenny:

11. Spacing, interleaving and retrieval practice in primary maths, from @MrNickHart:

Pity the Poor Parsnip Packer

Soon we will be held tight in the five-fingered clutch of a whole working week. As much as that is dreaded, my gloom at the thought of an impending return to work is always tempered by the thoughts of what could have been.

When first I graduated, I meandered through a succession of truly awful jobs: accidental death insurance salesman; city-centre sandwich-board wearer; and a rock-bottom pre-Christmas parsnip-packing stint. None allowed me to be creative; none gave any satisfaction; none created any sense of identity or belonging.

Teaching has brought with it all of those things and more. That is why, despite OFSTED, despite the workload, despite everything else we all sometimes moan about, I am not complaining about going back to school next week; it could be far worse, I could be packing parsnips.