2016-17 Reasons to be cheerful

Well that’s 2016-17 pretty much done – and what a year it has been.  Tough at times and very tough at others, but because we work in such an amazing team at Durrington, we get through and get stronger.  This post is a celebration – some of the reasons to be cheerful and excited about 2017-18.

Subject Planning & Development Sessions

Over the years we have tried a number of different CPD activities at Durrington (see here). Little did I know that the most effective form of CPD, was also the simplest – Subject Planning & Development Sessions, affectionately know as SPuDS.  Started this year, they are fortnightly meetings of subject teams, where they discuss ‘what are we teaching over the next fortnight and how do we teach it well?’   They have been successful for a number of reasons:

  • They are subject specific.
  • They are sustained.
  • They relate directly to what teachers are teaching at that time.

When they are done well, they are really effective.  This blog describes how our Director of science Steph Temple leads these with her team.  In a recent staff survey (75 respondents) 92% of staff said that they had made a difference to their teaching, with 60% claiming this was a significant difference.  Here are some of the comments staff made about these sessions:

“Sessions have been very focused and relevant on upcoming topics/activities/areas of staff weakness. Sessions have been shorter at times but much more T&L focused. All staff should take something away from every meeting that they will be able to put into practice over the upcoming weeks.”

“More emphasis on co-planning and a focus on how to specifically challenge different targeted groups.”

“Regular meetings ensure we can look ahead. Subject specific and year group focussed; particularly with regard to the new GCSE specification and discussing changes that have been made since its initial teaching last year.

“Allowed more time to think about planning and delivery.”

“More teaching and learning based as opposed to day to day admin.”

“Due to the frequent nature of these sessions they have had a tighter focus and felt very purposeful.”

“More purposeful because you feel that you are learning relevant material that is applicable to lessons.”

I am convinced that this is the best form of CPD we have done in years.  The challenge for next year will be to make them consistently strong and effective across all teams.

The ‘Making every lesson count’ family has grown

In 2015 when Andy Tharby and I wrote ‘Making every lesson count’ we couldn’t have imagined how successful it was going to be.   It has surpassed all of our expectations and we are so grateful to everybody who has bought it, enjoyed it and said nice things about it.  This year, it has been amazing to see the MELC family grow even further – with the publication of the English version by Andy, the science one by me and of course the brilliant primary one by the amazing Jo and Mel – and of course all illustrated by the very talented Jason Ramasami.  Huge thanks must go to David Bowman and everybody at Crown House publishing for their belief and support with this project.

The good news is that three further subject books are expected for 2018.  Watch this space!

Becoming a Research School

Over the last few years at Durrington, we have become more and more committed to developing an evidence informed approach to our teaching.  We have stripped away the gimmicks that have plagued teaching for years, and used the wisdom of great teachers and research evidence to support a ‘tight but loose’ approach to teaching (more here).

Being designated as a Research School for September 2017, was fantastic news for us as it will allow us to continue to develop this work further.  The Durrington Research School will act as a regional hub for the Research Schools Network.  We will share what we know about putting research into practice, and support schools to make better use of evidence to inform their teaching and learning, so that they really make a difference in the classroom.

We will do this through three strands:


We will use our Research School website , a monthly newsletter, email contact, conferences, workshops and twitter to communicate the most recent news about evidence informed practice to our network of schools.


We will offer a range of training programmes for our network of schools to take part in.  These training programmes will be focused on key issues that are relevant to the issues that are faced by schools within our network.  Further details on this will follow shortly.


We will support schools within our network to apply for Innovation Evaluation Grants.  Teachers within the network of schools can apply for one of these grants, with the support of our Research School, to develop innovative teaching and learning approaches they are implementing in their classroom or school

The Educational Twittersphere

What a remarkable place!  It can sometimes be dark and infuriating, often very amusing but more often than not, incredibly useful.  A very big thank you to all those educators who continue to tweet and blog.  You are so important, because you continue to make us all think, reflect and challenge ourselves.  Furthermore – you change policy at a national level.  I’m pretty convinced that many of the positive changes that have happened  at OFSTED and the DfE, have happened because of the tireless voices of some bloggers.  There is still more to be done – so keep those voices going!

You only have to look at the incredible ‘Blog of the week’ archive to see this.

A huge thank you to all of the amazing teachers out there who continue to do an incredible job.  Have a brilliant and restful summer.

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