Getting to the heart of teacher led CPD


Over the last few years at Durrington we have developed a range of approaches to CPD – you can get an overview of them here and in my book ‘Perfect Teacher Led CPD’.   As the title of the book suggests, all of these strategies have been focused on adopting a ‘teacher-led’ approach to CPD – using the expertise of teachers to support the professional learning of their peers.  This has been great and has got us to a strong position as a school.  We talk about teaching a great deal, share ideas and have a common language when we talk about great teaching. It has limitations though – because most of the CPD has focused around general pedagogy.  Whilst there is nothing wrong with talking about general pedagogy, in order to spark ideas and discussion about teaching (and we do this a great deal around our six principles), I think we need to be putting CPD back into the context of subject areas.  Only when we do this, can we really start to develop highly effective CPD.  Whilst it’s useful to talk about the importance of modelling as a teaching strategy, how a PE teacher models throwing the javelin, will be very different to how a history teacher models writing an essay.  Great teachers are great at teaching their subject – something confirmed by the Sutton Trust Report of 2014, ‘What makes great teaching?‘   It places subject knowledge as the number 1 factor that has an impact on effective teaching:


This year we have focused our CPD back into subjects, by having ‘Subject Pedagogy Development Sessions’ during INSET days.  This has involved a topic being introduced to the whole staff e.g. how do we improve memory? Following this, staff have gone back into their subject teams to discuss how the initial input can be implemented in their own subject – see here.  These have been great, but we want to take it a stage further.  So next year, inspired by Katie Ashford’s blog about how they approach this at Michaela School, we are introducing ‘Subject Planning & Development Sessions’.


Subject Planning & Development Sessions

These sessions have been calendared once a fortnight, in subject teams.  They will provide the opportunity for subject teams to meet and work together to plan high quality teaching, through regular, subject specific collaborative planning & CPD – placing the focus very much on our core purpose….great subject teaching.

The discussions during the sessions will be based around the 6 principles of teaching which are used at Durrington, but allow subject teams the autonomy to focus on implementing each principle within the context of their subject.  Basically, each subject team will be talking about what they are teaching over the next fortnight, and then sharing ideas about how they can teach it well.


Some key questions that will be considered during each session:

  • What are the key topics/concepts/ideas that we are teaching over the next fortnight?
    • How do we teach these concepts/ideas well?
    • What are the key learning points that students need to master in these topics?
    • Who teaches this topic well? How?
    • Who is ‘worried’ about teaching this topic? Why?
    • What resources can we share to help teach these concepts/ideas
  • What is the key knowledge/skills that students need to be secure with in order to tackle these new topics?
  • What are the opportunities for repetition and review?
  • What are the ‘hinge questions’ to help students understand each topic/concept?       How might we reframe questions to support students who are struggling?
  • What are the possible misconceptions that students could have? How will we address these?
  • How can we ensure high quality explanations are supported through effective modelling?
  • What are the really hard bits of this topic? How can we explain these well – particularly to students with a low starting point?
  • What opportunities are there to stretch the students with a high starting point? What ‘Think Hard’ questions can we use?
  • What strategies/scaffolding can be used to support students who are ‘stuck’?
  • What opportunities are there for ‘deliberate practice’? What will we use to provide this – exam questions, assessments?
  • What opportunities are there for focused feedback over the next fortnight e.g. tasks that lend themselves to live marking, peer critique, self-checking, WWW/EBI statement banks?

Clearly there will be no requirement to cover all of the questions above in one session. Furthermore, the Subject Leader will  not have to lead each session – departmental staff will take the lead where specific strengths are identified and known about.  A number of departments are also planning to meet for half an hour every week to do this process – so making the sessions even more regular.

collaborationI am really excited about this – as are a number of teachers/ leaders who I have spoken to about it.  To me, this is the purest form of CPD – teachers meeting regularly to discuss and share ideas about how they best teach their subject.  What could be better in terms of teacher-led CPD?  Regular, collaborative, supportive and subject specific.

Have a great summer




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Making every lesson count – how it came about, why it matters and how we do it


Today we hosted the inaugural ‘Making every lesson count conference’ at Durrington.  I started my presentation by outlining three things that were instrumental in the development of the book:

This, alongside much between discussion between myself and Andy about the day to day practice of some of the best teachers we have worked with, resulted in the development of the six principles that are the focus of the book:


This has become our teaching and learning policy at Durrington – it seems to work for a number of reasons.

“Tight but loose”



Robert Plant once attributed the success of Led Zeppelin to their ‘tight but loose’ approach.  Tight, because they were all fantastic musicians in their own right, with a shared idea about the sound they wanted to create.  Loose, because they were allowed to express themselves creatively as individuals.

We take the same approach with our teachers – the message is clear.  Embed the 6 principles into your teaching, but do it in a way that suits your teaching style.  Giving teachers this creativity and freedom has been liberating for them.

“Common Language”


It has given us a common language when we talk about teaching.  We know what we are talking about, when we talk about modelling, practice etc.  This creates a rich discussion about pedagogy within and between subjects.

“Meaningful for all”


The principles apply to all subjects – so have meaning and purpose across the school.  Whilst we will of course implement them differently across different subjects, the ideas and the thinking underlying them is the same.  This means that we are all pulling in the same direction as teachers and because of this, students are getting a consistent approach across their lessons e.g. high levels of challenge; probing questions; time to engage with deliberate practice etc.

“Less is more”


I’ve written before about why Brazil is such a great footballing nation.  One factor is that they play ‘futsal’.  This is a much smaller version of the game – the ball is smaller, as is the pitch, goals etc.  This requires the players to refine the basic skills of the game – so they focus on what matters.  The six principles do the same i.e. they focus the professional learning of teachers on the things that contribute to great teaching.  So during appraisal meetings for example, all teachers discuss which of the principles they want to focus on and develop.

This leads on to the next aspect of the presentation.  How do we structure the professional learning at Durrington, to allow teachers to grow and develop?  What we try to achieve is a professional learning ‘menu’ that allows a culture like the one often described by Tim Brighouse to flourish:

tm16brig4We do this by offering a layered approach to professional learning.


There are a range of optional and regular activities, that staff can engage with at a level that suits them.  This encourages staff to talk about teaching in an informal and collaborative way.  Many of the activities e.g. 15 minute forums, blog of the week, research bulletins etc, will be based around the six principles.


Recently have been placing the focus of our professional learning, much more within the context of subjects – great teachers are great at teaching their subject.  We have done this, this year during INSET days with the ‘Subject Pedagogy Development Sessions’, which have been successful – we talk about a particular aspect of pedagogy, to the whole staff and then they go back into their subject teams, to discuss how it applies to their subject context.  However, next year we are planning to take this a stage further with the ‘Subject Planning & Development Sessions’. This will facilitate regular, subject focused CPD that will have a direct impact in the classroom throughout the year.  Every 2 weeks, subject teams will meet and discuss – what are we teaching over the next fortnight?  How do we teach it best?  Who has some great resources to share?  What are the possible misconceptions and how can we overcome them?  What are the challenging bits and how can we support students with this?  Where are the opportunities to really stretch and challenge students?  We think this is going to be a key step in the next stage of our teaching and learning development work.  This is what CPD should be about.


Teachers are busy people, so need some support with organising personalised professional learning that is specific to their needs.  Furthermore in a big school, if they want to develop an aspect of their teaching e.g. questioning, by observing a colleague, they might not know who to observe to see best practice in this area.  So every term, they are given a form to complete to request support with planning a particular CPD activity.  We then help them to organise this.  The form looks like this:






Finally we try to ensure that there is a range of support/development programmes in place for colleagues in different stages of their career.


We are often asked how we know the ‘6 principle approach to teaching’ and our professional learning programme is making a difference?  Like all things in education, it is very difficult to claim a direct link, as there are so many variables involved.  However, the following suggests that something must be working:

  • A sustained improvement in exam outcomes – suggests students are learning well:


  • Our whole school attendance is strong – suggests that students feel happy and safe at school.
  • We have been regularly oversubscribed in recent years – with cohorts of 330 – suggests that our local community trust us.
  • We retain our new staff – suggests that staff feel that it is a place where they will be supported to grow and develop.
  • Most importantly, our students show us in so many ways that they are confident, resilient, hard-working and very nice young people.


Andy then went on to discuss each of the six principles in detail:

And finally, a new review on Amazon today sums up the spirit of the book perfectly!








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Boxing up

boxing1Tonight’s 15 minute forum was led by maths teacher Natasha Bedford.  Natasha described that moment we have all experienced, when marking a set of exam papers and it becomes clear that students just haven’t got a particular question – the ‘face palm’ moment!  This is especially true of the long-response questions, where marks are there to be lost.

boxing2There can be a number of reasons for this.  It might be that the student hasn’t really understood the question, or used the information that they have been given in the question, to help them answer it.  They may not be able to recall the knowledge they will need in order to answer the question, or even misunderstand what form the answer is required in.  And finally, they may have made a silly mistake, but haven’t checked their work and so lost marks.  Natasha has been working on a strategy to help her students avoid these pitfalls.

When her students are working on exam questions, she gives them a ‘boxing up’ sheet to help them plan their thinking.  See below:



A word version created by Natasha, based on the idea by Julia Strong (see credit below) of this can be downloaded here.

So, when working on an exam question, the students have this on a laminated A5 card in front of them.  The green box gets them to think about and write down, what the question is asking them to do.  Furthermore, they should also focus in on the information that they are given, in the question – as they often forget to use this, when formulating their response.  Secondly, in the blue box, they recall the knowledge they will need, in order to answer this question, using the information they have already been given.  Thirdly, they consider, exactly what is required in the answer e.g. calculation, answer, units etc.  Finally, and most importantly, they think about their thinking – how can they check their thinking and ensure that the answer they have come up doesn’t contain any silly mistakes?  This ‘self-checking’ is an essential habit that is often forgotten about.  Consider the following exam question:












The ‘boxing up’ for this, might look something like this:



What’s great about this strategy is that it makes students slow down and think about the component parts of successfully answering a long-response question.  It’s also a nice, easy and sustainable strategy, as once you have the card laminated, you can just, get them out each lesson.  Although Natasha has used this in maths, it’s easy to see how the principle could be extended to other subjects.

Care needs to be taken, with making sure that students don’t get dependent on them and spend an unrealistic amount of time on the questions, due to using the sheet.  Natasha overcomes this by getting them to write the notes in the boxes to start with.  She then encourages them to use the boxes, just as prompts, without writing any notes down, until they are confident enough to tackle questions without it.

Credit:  Talk for Writing in Secondary Schools’ by Julia Strong, published by Open University Press, c Julia Strong 2013


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2015-16 Practitioner Research Projects


During our INSET day today, RQTs who have been carrying out a ‘Practitioner Research Project’ this year, presented their findings to the staff.  They have been supported with these small scale projects throughout the year by Andy Tharby and Dr Brian Marsh from the University of Brighton.  A summary of each of the presentations follows.

Research Question:  Can exploiting the link between tier 2 words and cognates in MFL help to develop an understanding of tier 2 vocabulary in English?

Carried out by: Danielle Walters & Emma Bilbrough (MFL)

Overview:  Students were tested on their understanding of tier 2 words in English.  An experiment group was then explicitly taught the links between these tier 2 words and cognates in French e.g. cultivar – to grow > cultivate.  When retested with the tier 2 words, the experimental group performed better than the control group (between 25-30% more students improved their score).

Teacher Takeaway: Tier 2 words are essential for students to successfully access and understand  GCSE exam questions, across a range of subjects.  The MFL department can support this particular literacy strategy, by getting students to use their knowledge of cognates, to work out the meaning of tier 2 words.

Presentation for download here.


Research Question:  Flashcards – how can we maximise their potential as a memory tool?

Carried out by: Phoebe Bence (Science)

Outline:  Students were tested on a range of knowledge recall questions as a baseline.  They were then introduced to the flashcard software ‘Anki’ (Ankiapp) and encouraged to use it, for memorising content used in the original test at home – by regular reminders in lessons, parental contact etc.  Initially only 39% of the students used the app.  Phoebe then retested them and ones who had used the app, all made a marked improvement in their scores – demonstrating to the students that it worked.  This motivated more students to use the app, and by the end of the study period (2 months) 69% of the students were using the app and they scored on average 9.5 marks higher.

Teacher Takeaway:  Flashcards work for memory retention – but to get the full use out of them, students need to be shown that they work.  This will hen motivate to use them more and so get the maximum impact out of them.

Presentation for download here


Research Question:  How can we get better at getting students to evaluate their work?

Carried out by: Jack Griffiths (Computing)

Outline:  Students were provided with a checklist of assessment criteria and then put in pairs to discuss each others work and suggest improvements, based on this.  Following this process, students were re-assessed.  No improvement was seen in their scores.  They were then asked to then simply go through the checklist to assess the work of their peers and simply tick off what they had done, without discussing it.  Following this they did the same for their own work too.  They then used the completed checklists, to evaluate and improve their own work.  This resulted in significant gains in the next assessment, for students of all abilities, but markedly so for students with a low starting point.

Teacher Takeaway:  When it comes to peer assessment, very clear and specific checklists are more effective than students simply discussing their work.

Presentation for download here


Research Question: How can the difference in a teacher’s voice volume and positioning in relation to the student, affect the student behaviour?

Carried out by: Andy Paul (Computing)

Outline:  A number of teachers were observed using IRIS and their behaviours such as position relative to student, tone of voice, what was being said were all noted.  At the same time, so was the focus, mood and task engagement of the student.

Teacher Takeaway: It was noted that teachers who had most success in de-escalating challenging behaviour and maintaining a calm environment exhibited the following behaviours – moved closer to the student i.e. within 2 metres; dropped the tone of their voice; moved down to their level i.e. crouched down.

Presentation for download here



Finally Andy Tharby discussed the findings of our first Student Research Council – a group of four Y11 students who, under Andy’s supervision, carried out a small scale research project.

Research Question: Is there a correlation between how extroverted a student is and how much feedback they receive?

Outline:  113 Y10 students completed a questionnaire that examined 2 things.  Firstly, whether a student was introvert or extrovert.  Secondly, how much and what type of feedback did they receive in lessons and how useful was this feedback?  The results showed that there was no perceived difference from the students, introvert or extrovert, about the amount/quality of feedback they received from teachers.  Furthermore:

  1. 65% of students agreed/strongly agreed with the statement ‘My teachers very rarely come back to check whether I have responded to their feedback about how to improve.’  This is the perception of the student – that’s not to say that the teacher, isn’t going back to quickly check that they have got it right and the student is unaware?
  2. 59% of students agreed/strongly agreed with the statement ‘My teachers notice when I’m stuck and help me to move on in the majority of my subjects.’
  3. 54% of students disagree/strongly disagreed with the statement ‘I receive personal verbal feedback on how to improve from my teachers in the majority of my lessons.’  Probably a poorly phrased question – with up to 30 students in a class, it’s not surprising that not everybody gets personal verbal feedback every lesson!
  4. 71.6% of students disagree/strongly disagree with the statement ‘I am rarely chosen to answer a question in lessons.’

Teacher Takeaway: Continue to ensure that introverted and extroverted students receive similar amounts of feedback.

Think about whether all your students receive personal verbal feedback and how you can come back to see whether they have acted upon it.


Like all small scale research projects, there will obviously be limitations to the conclusions that can be drawn from them, due to:

  • By their nature, they are using a small sample size.
  • There are many factors involved that cannot be controlled.
  • As they are carried out by individuals, it’s hard to be objective

However, what’s great about the projects is that they:

  • Suggest things that seem to have had an impact in the context of that teacher and the students being taught.
  • Gives other teachers ideas to try out in their lessons
  • Encourage teachers to reflect on their teaching and try things out.
  • Encourage teachers to talk about their practice.
  • Get teachers thinking about and evaluating educational research methodology.

In short, going back to Sir Tim Brighouse, it supports this:



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Making every lesson count at Wellington

telegraph festival

Today, Andy Tharby and I talked about our book ‘Making every lesson count’ at the Wellington festival of education.  As always, it was a fantastic day

The book can be bought here and the slides from our presentation follow:

If you would like to hear more about how the book has influenced the practice of a range of teachers, come along to the ‘Making every lesson count conference’ at Durrington High School on 7th July:





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DHS TeachMeet 2016


Last Thursday we hosted our fifth annual TeachMeet.  We were delighted to welcome Tim Brighouse as our key note speaker – his wit and wisdom got the event off to a brilliant start


Tim’s key messages:


Teachers really matter – they make a difference to young people, day in and day out.


The variation in terms of the difference teachers make is much greater within schools, than it is between different schools.  So we need to be focusing our efforts on developing all of our teachers, with a view to reducing any variation in teacher quality within our schools.


This data suggests that a large number of teachers are reluctant to change, in order to be more efficient.  Leaders need to grow a culture within their schools, where teachers feel safe to try new things and there is the opportunity to learn new teaching strategies.  That said, it’s easy to understand why teachers with a track record of success will be reluctant to change what works for them – so don’t try to make them.


Does this describe your school?  If not, why not?  What are you going to do to grow a culture like this in your school?


Use this to plan the changes you are going to make in your school – with a particular focus on the changes that are low effort and high impact i.e. changes that can be easily put into place, but will make a significant difference to the professional growth, quality of teaching and therefore the progress of students in your school.

Tim finished by encouraging all of us to download this powerpoint, print off the quotes and put them on the wall in our staffroom.

The Presentations

tm16tharbyPresentations can be downloaded, using the links below.

  1. Andy Tharby, DHS5 habits to create and sustain a culture of practice’
  2. Martha Boyne and Emily Clements, The Angmering School New teachers: don’t just survive, thrive!”
  3. Pauline Gaston, Oathall CC  Warm Welcomes, Engaging Exits
  4. James Walton, Hazelwood School, “The power of Yeti learning
  5. Matt Perks, University of Southampton “Venn and the art of categorisation maintenance
  6. Mike Allen, Chamberlayne College  “15 Minute Forum – The Marginal Gains Approach To CPD
  7. Martyn Simmonds, DHS  “The importance of Thinking Hard’


During the interval the ‘Proto Restaurant Group’ served up a magnificent paella.  Colleagues gave a donation to the ‘Love your hospital’ charity.


  1. Emma Modder, Rydon Community College “Using Office Mix to film lessons to use in class, homework and flipped learning”
  2. Jason Ramasami, Sion School “Felix baumgartner’s Jump”
  3. David Rogers, Patcham High School, ‘Great geography teachers change the world’
  4. Ben Crockett, DHS “Case Study Diagrams: Knowledge Retention
  5. Chris Misselbrook, Shoreham Academy “STEP questioning model – Improve students’ verbal and written responses
  6. James Gardner, Gildredge House,  “Starting from Scratch, or How to Reinvent Your Department Without Getting Sacked.”
  7. Jack Griffiths, Durrington High School ‘How can we get students to be better at evaluating their work?’

Graham Newell closed the evening, talking about the importance of teacher efficacy i.e. teachers’ confidence in their ability to improve student learning.  This grows when teachers  take control of their own professional development, reflect on their own practice, try things out in the classroom and then see the fruits of their efforts, when their students achieve well. How are teachers doing this?

  • Attending teachmeets.
  •  Engaging with colleagues from around the world on twitter and through blogs.
  • Watching their peers and themselves teach, with the use of IRIS – and then talking about it…lots!


Thank you to all attendees and presenters for making this such a special evening.  See you all again next year.




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Lessons from great footballing nations


I’m sat watching Germany play football.  They’ve just scored – as they often do.  What is it about certain countries, like Germany, that make them successful at football?  Germany have won the World Cup four times and the European Championship three times.  They have been a formidable force in world football for decades.  Similarly, Brazil have won the world cup a record five times. What is it about the ‘DNA’ of these countries that makes them so successful at football?  Are there parallels with successful schools?  Is there something about the ‘DNA’ of successful schools, that others can learn from?  I think the answer is probably yes.

A national obsession

Carlos Alberto Torres, captain of the Brazil football team that won the 1970 World Cup, says this about football in Brazil:

“Football in Brazil is like a religion.  Everybody talks about it all the time”

Former Brazil manager, Carlos Alberto Parreira, tries to explain why this is:

“Sociologists and psychologists have tried to explain, but nobody can find one reason. Maybe because we didn’t have to fight for independence, we don’t have earthquakes or things like that. We didn’t go to war.”

There are definitely some parallels her with schools.  Sir Tim Brighouse says this about successful schools:

“You know you are in a good school when:

  • Teachers TALK about teaching
  • Teachers OBSERVE each other teach
  • Teachers plan, organise and evaluate TOGETHER
  • Teachers teach each other”

So, successful schools create a culture where teachers talk about teaching  – a lot.  At Durrington, we try to do this by our weekly 15 minute forums, where teachers meet and talk about the successes they have had in their classrooms.  We also provide time during INSET days for subject teams to talk about teaching.  We also have ‘Journal Club’ and have had ‘EduBook Club’ where teachers meet and talk about teaching journals/books. Next year we are looking to take this a stage further.  Inspired by Katie Ashford’s post about how they do subject focused CPD at Michaela, we are looking to calendar regular ‘Subject Development & Planning’ sessions next year, where subject teams will meet up and talk about what they are teaching and how to do it well.  This is a really exciting development.

The quote from Carlos Alberto Parreira is an interesting one.  As schools become more successful, they are less under the gaze of OFSTED, local authorities and academy chain sponsors.  They’re not ‘at war’ or ‘fighting earthquakes’, so are free to talk about the things that really make a difference – quality teaching.  Schools need to be allowed to focus on the right things.  This takes strong leadership.  Leaders who are prepared to say “We are not going to do that, because this is what we need to focus on”.

A different game

In Brazil children learn football in a very different way from their European counterparts. There are no leagues or competitive matches for young children – such a concept is seen as likely to hinder a player’s creative impulses.

“The children play a lot but it’s always very free” says Leonardo, Brazillian World Cup Winner in 1994.

Parreira agrees with this:

“We don’t tell eight-year-olds you have to play right-back. We don’t put them in a cage, say ‘you have to be like this’. We give them some freedom until they are ready to be coached.”

How many teachers have had their teaching style stifled, by having to conform to a school imposed formulaic approach to teaching?  Think about the ‘3 part lesson’ or the ‘OFSTED outstanding lesson’.  Like many schools, we’ve moved away from this at Durrington.  We go for a ‘tight but loose’ approach to teaching, based around six principles.  Andy Tharby and I have also written about this in ‘Making every lesson count’.


Our approach to teaching is simple.  Evidence suggests that these principles contribute to effective teaching.  So do them well, in your classroom, in a way that suits you.  We will then provide a range of personalised CPD, to help teachers refine and practice these principles – to help them get better and better.  More on the CPD here.

perfect practice

In Brazil, young footballers play ‘futebol de salao,’ or hall soccer.  In this, 10 players face off on a small, indoor court. They also use a smaller ball that has roughly a quarter of the bounce that a regular soccer ball has. The result is that while youth soccer players elsewhere can succeed through strategies like long runs and may have only a dozen touches during a 40 minute match, in countries like Brazil where futebol de salao is extremely popular and played by every young player, those youths get many, many more touches and need to specialize in creative attacks and short, controlled passes to succeed.   They understand the need to focus on specific aspects of the game that will make them successful and practice this over and over again.

We need to support each other as teachers to do the same.  Identify a specific aspect of your teaching that you want to develop, look at ways in which you can develop it and then engage in deliberate practice to embed these improvements into your day to day teaching, until it becomes second nature.  If it’s working well, this is what appraisal should be supporting.  Chris Moyse does this brilliantly at his school.  More here.

To summarise

  • Talk about the stuff that matters (quality of teaching and student well-being) and ditch the stuff that doesn’t.
  • Provide opportunities for teachers to talk about teaching and share what works – within the context of their subject.
  • Adopt a ‘tight but loose’ approach to teaching – know what works but then give teachers the freedom to implement this in their classroom, in a way that suits them.
  • Support and encourage teachers to engage with ‘focused deliberate practice’ through your CPD programme.

The Germany v Ukraine game has just finished…Germany won 2-0.

Thierry Henry on why the Germans are so successful

They always think ‘we are going to win’, whatever.”

Successful, confident teachers think the same way.   School leaders, take note!

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