In a bit of a stew

A customer walks into a cafe, sits down, expects soup. They always have soup here. There is no description given of the soup. The soup here is usually OK, and anyway, they’re used to it. A chef makes the soup based on their previous experience of making soup here, and hopes it suits the customer and the boss. It usually does. A new chef starts at this cafe. The customer is expecting their soup, the boss is expecting things to go well. What are the chances – even though they’ve been making soup for years – that the soup in the new chef’s head will match the soup the customer expects and the soup the boss approves of?

A teacher moving schools faces exactly this uncertainty. Changing jobs and changing schools means changing expectations, often without awareness of what these are until after the decisions and commitments have been made. ‘What do you mean, you don’t like pasta in minestrone? There’s always pasts in our minestrone.’ Fair enough if you ordered minestrone but not so great if you thought you’d be getting creamy mushroom. 

The parallel in teaching is to start from scratch, stepping into the unknown of a new school, new classes, unfamiliar texts or topics to teach and a new culture to learn, each of these ingredients unknown in advance, with different chefs’ methods undisclosed until you’re judged on how well you’ve guessed them by both the ‘customers’ and the bosses?

For a teacher with years of experience behind them, the ingredients for all the soups are available, the methods are known, but they won’t all work together in one pot and you don’t know anyone’s order or preferences.

Assuming there was a cupboard big enough to store the baggage of your career so far, what would you take forward with you, and what would you discard?

The soup in your head at this stage might be simmering some of the following – 

Planning by exam mark scheme statements or assessment objectives 

Planning by curriculum coverage

Planning with differentiated objectives

Planning with a central question

Planning with a main Blooms-derives objective 

Planning with WALTs and WILFs

Planning with a simple title

Planned, differentiated questions

Individual questions, pair questions, group questions 

3 part lessons…

4 part lessons…

6 part lessons…

3 part lessons, differentiated 3 ways each

4 part lessons, differentiated 4 ways with self- peer- and teacher- assessment

Mini-plenaries, ‘pace’ and progress checks at 20 minute intervals

Models, scaffolds, visualisers, WAGOLLs and WABOLLs

3 pen marking

Whole class marking


Hands up

No hands up

SLANTs and 54321s

You might get to see a fellow chef at their work, maybe taste their dishes. You might get some quick customer feedback. You might get some knowing looks or disparaging glances or comments, ‘Oh, you do it like that, do you?’ You might manage to give everyone exactly what they want, even though they didn’t tell you or you didn’t explain what you could offer. Of course you might also make someone ill. Or they really might not like what you have. 

But there’s still a chance that your soup is the best soup in the world for someone out there. 


Timetable Complexities

*transferred from Staffrm


Increasing pressures on the curriculum are causing timetablers to find ever-more inventive solutions. Timetabler Joe Bradford, of the Sunshine and Starburst Academy in North Yorkshire, explains his most recent predicament: “We are extending the school day every other Thursday, implementing Saturday remote home-study supervision and we teach all the way through the holidays for exam revision. We just have to.”

The Sunshine and Starburst Academy is not alone in feeling stretched to deliver everything that needs to be taught.

Tracey Ullswater, a timetabler for academy chain We Are The World in North Yorkshire, has devised a particularly creative scheme: “We operate an eight-and-a-half day timetable rotation,” she outlines, “and on day 6 we run from 7am to 12, where we break for Community Charity Challenge until 4, then we come back to school for flipped learning algebra exploration in KS4 and SOLO exploration PE in KS3.”

Billy Rochester, an explorer in Year 10, told us: “We get to do all sorts at this school. It’s not like my old school where you just did subjects. I used to do English, now I do Communicate in the Community and I used to do Geography but now we do All Around The World. It’s mega.”

Mrs Ullswater continued: “Our We Are The World academy chain follows the Embrace curriculum. That means we don’t leave anything out. A typical Day 3 might include Gardening for Engineers, followed by Pornography awareness for Organic Farmers, followed by Religious Education in our Computer Literate World. It’s very varied, very ‘real-world’ and applied.”

When asked about exam courses, Mrs Ullswater explained: “We need to keep the stu…I mean explorers in schoo..I mean the academy until 7 most evenings so that we can actually tea…I mean facilitate their exam subjects. Some times I think the exams get in the way of the real learning! But hey! This is the modern world!”

Head Facilitator, Barry Doncaster of the neighbouring academy, The Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better Trust, says it’s the same situation there. “We follow the Nothing Left Out curriculum plan. There’s really ‘nothing left out’! We have to extend Citizenship every week to include whatever new idea has been thought of this time! Oh my days! So there’s hardly any time for traditional subjects. We’re preparing the younger people for a more demanding world…’s all relationships and erm..learning to do things..erm..not just learning about them.”

All students go on to further study. “Most of our students go on to the local college to retake GCSEs” Mr Doncaster told us.

Northern Education Forum

Northern education is talked about frequently. Northern educators, on the other hand, are talked to rather less frequently. We are regularly told about the deficiencies of the education we offer; we are less regularly listened to about the challenges that shape the education we offer.

This is unjust.

We do not deny there are improvements to be made. We do not deny that change needs to happen. But we reasonably expect to have a voice of our own when discussing how these things might be achieved.

We are as skilled, as passionate, as well-informed as our colleagues in other areas of the country – we deserve to have our voice heard. And too often it feels as if it is not, with discussion and access always based far away from the villages, town and cities that we teach in.

This needs to change.

And so, we propose the creation of a Northern Education Forum. We’ve put together a Google Form [sign up here] for those who may wish to register their interest in being involved. The details of its remit, its membership, and its role will be fleshed out over the coming weeks.

But in the meantime, we have one simple question:

You in?

Sarah Ledger

Amy Forrester

Rebecca Stacey

Lisa Pettifer

Michael Merrick





This short post in support of the Chartered College of Teaching and #teacher5aday is built around a number of premises

No teacher wants to be doing the wrong thing.
We want to #notice and #learn throughout our careers
No teacher has all the time in the world to find out what the ‘right’ things might be.
We need time and space to #connect with others through ongoing career development and learning
No teacher enjoys uncertainty regarding their role in the life chances of children.
Being able to #volunteer to support one another in professional learning, through Chartered College of Teaching mentoring or regional hubs will be beneficial for all.

We often hear about how teachers in other countries can enjoy more non-contact time, more CPD time and more time to plan, mark and review – and of course we become misty-eyed (with desperate envy) at the thought. And we often think back to the days at the start of our careers when we were full of energy – even if quickly exhausted – and enthusiasm and crazy commitment and determination to make the world a better place just through the power of our lessons on apostrophes and semi-colons.

What these situations have in common is the feeling, the fear, that we might not be doing as well as we could, or should or would if the conditions were all in our favour. But let’s face facts: the conditions are what they are, and they are beyond our control.

As members of the teaching profession we have to come to terms with feelings of failure and inadequacy as well as the joys of our successes and our pupils’ achievements. We have to balance work and life. We have to keep up with developing professional knowledge. We have to constantly refresh our own studies and develop our skills.

The Chartered College of Teaching will strive to help us – and create the conditions for us to help ourselves and each other. One of its main aims in these early days is to enable our professional development through access to on-going learning. None of us wants to be doing the wrong thing, or has all the time in the world to check out the latest thinking on the ‘right’ thing – but what if the Chartered College can help us with that?

There is a number of ways that the CCT can support us in this learning that needn’t be too burdensome in terms of time and energy given the demands of workload and the ever-changing needs of different contexts:
Members now have access to a number of academic journals
The CCT is also planning a series of research digests, shorter summaries of research giving the ‘cut to the chase’ essentials
The College is establishing links with organisations like the Education Endowment Foundation which offers opportunities for schools to take part in and receive the results of educational research projects
Through the website, blogs, newsletters and events, the College will also enable our access to leading educational debaters, academics and organisations.

At the launch conferences earlier in the spring, College members debated a number of topics relating to the uses of ‘research’ and ‘evidence’ including-
Why should teachers be evidence informed?
What is the relevance of evidence to classroom practice?
What advice do you have for teachers engaging with evidence?
How can the Chartered College of Teaching help?

More importantly, though, the CCT will create a community of connected professionals, organise regional hubs and events and develop teachers’ ownership of the profession, so please #builditwithus

That Was Then

I wouldn’t be where I am today without the College of Teaching. I wouldn’t have received the mentoring, support, stimulation to develop my teaching, or the confidence to engage with others on a broader platform had I not committed to the College all those years ago, when I became an NQT. I’m now part of a profession which has grown and grown in status and professionalism since the early days of the College. Teachers voices are heard and respected, of course they are. Views are sought about professional development, examinations and assessment and curriculum. Of course they are.

Teaching has changed a lot since 2015.

Before then, once you qualified and did your NQT year, you were pretty much at the mercy of your school for the rest of your development. Some were great with CPD, others not so. Teacher Standards were pretty fixed, either you did something or you didn’t and schools didn’t always know the best way to engage you, or the best experiences to offer in support of you, if you weren’t quite there yet. You got your annual appraisal and a set of targets, but there wasn’t as much joined-up thinking as there is now about how one year’s experience can form the basis of the next year’s progression.

And it seemed to change in 2015.

That was when the momentum began to build for the College of Teaching, when its core purposes, membership, structure and reach began to be debated. Teachers began to get together to plan a long term strategy for the profession as a whole – the profession I now belong to and benefit from. Those teachers were careful to build slowly, to develop the College from some central principles about keeping teachers at the helm, drawing in advice and support from wider professional influences and making sure that teachers developed research literacy so that they could look objectively and systematically at classroom practices.

Since those early days in 2015, teaching has developed a long-term career structure, so that once you find your feet in your first job, you have a clear view of your next stages of development. You’re encouraged to network, read and research, carry on with the enthusiasms that brought you into teaching in the first place. If I want to stretch myself further, I now know that the College can connect me with mentors, offer me guidance on what to study, recommend appropriate CPD a or put me in touch with another teacher who has structured some research on an issue I want to look into. At least I know that my intentions as a teacher are matched and supported by a professional body which, like me, wants to ensure that all pupils are enabled, challenged, supported and valued.

Having been a teacher for over 10 years now, I’m considering applying to be a Fellow of the College of Teaching. It’ll take a while. I’ll need to take on some new projects and extend my role and influence as a teacher. But I’m ready for this and I know that the College will guide me to structure a programme that meets the needs of my pupils and school, local teacher partnerships and local community. And I know I can continue to develop as a teacher – I don’t want the next 10 years to be the same as the last. And in that time, I know I’ll have lots of expertise to ‘pay back ‘ into teaching, and the College, of course, makes sure that I’ll do that in order to support the next generation of teachers.

A teacher, 2028
Currently a pupil, in 2015

A-Z of NQT induction

This September, our NQTs are arriving full of trepidation, yes, but also full of up-to-date subject knowledge, recent experience of other settings and a new, but possibly fragile, commitment to teaching— let’s make sure our school provision and induction arrangements value these new starters and their qualities.

Time and again we hear of widely varying NQT experiences, from those who have joined departments or schools with active and effective support protocols and CPD practices, to those who have been treated neglectfully by the people or systems around them. What can we do to make sure we don’t throw away all the potential NQTs offer?

The A – Z of NQT induction

A address issues as they arise – a little guidance and advice, offered regularly from the sidelines, is more likely to be accepted as a normal and constructive part of the relationship between NQT and team leader, than a once in a while focus on a serious problem which might have more emotional strain attached. Also, allow time for messages to sink in, and review regularly through informal chats as well as formal meetings.

B book appointments in advance – make regular discussions part of the mentoring process. Doing this allows time to talk and for the NQT to mull over some ideas, raise an issue, or respond to a target, before the scheduled appointment. Committing to a time and place sends a message that this time is important. Also, in your own ‘schedule’, build in time to allow for the unexpected.

C class management induction – support and guidance, and clarity of expectations for all parties, will never be wasted here. With each new recruit, you’ll need a different balance of each. Beware the honeymoon period. Keep an ear to the ground and check with your NQT and other colleagues – is your new recruit coping OK after the start of term dust has settled? Were you aware of any issues from the training period? Better to follow up sooner rather than later. Chat to key form tutors to see if any informal feedback has been offered by pupils.  Make sure the NQT is fully aware of the school’s systems as well as the extent of their own responsibility.

D departmental routines might be second nature to you, but can seem overwhelming to the new starter. Make sure key events, are flagged well in advance. When the NQT doesn’t know what they don’t know, they may easily miss an event on the calendar that seems really clearly signalled to you – repeat key dates and messages: details are easily lost in discussion.

E ebb and flow – the workload of a teacher is often irregular. Encourage your mentee to plan ahead for the busy times so as not to overload themselves.

F follow up any niggles, from your NQT, pupils, other staff, parents – misunderstandings need to be unraveled and a relationship built on finding solutions sets the tone for future development.

G go the extra mile for your NQT, if it seems appropriate. You won’t want to hold their hand and encourage them to be dependent on you – but at the same time, they are looking to you to assist them in completing their professional training – and they are entitled to your support. Part of your position is to develop others, remember.

H home life is important to all of us – be aware of any particular issues that might affect a new starter’s settling-in.

I information – make sure data, important internal documents, online forum membership details, usernames and passwords are shared. Leaving your NQT in a position of ignorance is unfair.

J jointly prepare and plan – if you’re not sure about an NQT’s confidence in the classroom, build some shared planning into your meetings. You’ll want to keep an eye on the ’quality control’ within your department/phase anyway. I’ve known Heads of Department meet NQTs each day after the last lesson to discuss outlines for the following lessons – in so doing, you’re scaffolding and modelling your expectations, and you’ll soon see when you can reduce the time needed to oversee.

K knowledge development is so important to teacher development and an expectation that the newcomer will continue to work on their subject knowledge and signature pedagogies is essential. Even in the early days, you might be discussing what the NQT might be teaching the next term or next year, and what they will need to develop in the meantime.

L listen to what the NQT doesn’t say, as much as to what they do. Did you notice that when discussing their classes, they avoided mentioning that year 10 class? Did you wonder why..?

M merge, match and mentor – coordinating a team is about finding the right combinations of individuals for specific projects. Try to match up your NQT with a suitable buddy for part of a key project.

N new developments happen all the time but NQTs don’t yet realise this. Being able to support the team through change from whatever starting point or focus they currently have is all part of steering the team in the long-term.

O observations need to be arranged, in as many forms as possible. Enable the NQT to observe other teachers in the department and around the school – they need to see what the standards and routines are. It would be unfair to judge them on these expectations without giving them these opportunities first.

P pressures come from all angles – and the newcomer can’t always separate the major from the minor – encourage some perspective through humour, shared experiences and discussion with a range of mentor figures.

Q question your NQT all the time – you’re the leader and there’s a lot about the day to day work of your team that you need to know about. Set the expectation that you’ll be asking about homework, test results, behaviour, etc – from here, it’s easier to mould and shape rather than acting retrospectively after a formal review, observation or intervention.

R reporting to your Local Authority or other senior body needs to be timely and accurate. Ensure that you’ve planned your own time in terms of observation, feedback, review, data collection, etc, so that you’re properly informed at the appropriate points in the year. Give your NQT the opportunity to address any areas of weakness in good time for new practice to become properly established and embedded, rather than just featuring as a tick-box exercise.

S share your anecdotes, disaster stories and worries – your whole team, and your NQTs in particular, need to see that mistakes can be rectified and barriers overcome.

T timing – gradually aim to increase the challenge and independence experienced by the NQT. Share your thoughts with them, and encourage them to plan their stages of development with you.

U understand that the NQT’s field of vision is not the same as yours – some NQTs can barely see to the end of the lesson, never mind the end of the day, week or term – if there are worries about their performance, you’d hope to have been alerted to this by the ITT tutors, but if this isn’t the case, you might need to contact them to ask for more information about how to support your NQT.

V variety of input – experienced mentors draw on a broad range of strategies to help the development of NQTs: other colleagues, internal INSET, external training such as through the LA, your academy group, Teaching School or other partnerships; printed materials, podcasts, videos and internet sources – knowing which to offer when is part of your getting to know your mentee.

W wishing they were different ain’t gonna make it so – once appointed, this teacher is in charge of the education of children. Make sure your interventions and supports keep this as the main focus.

X x-ray vision, 6th sense, 2nd sight, intuition, radar, call it what you will – if you get ‘that feeling’ that something’s not right, it’s best to check it out.

Y you – mentoring an NQT can be a great pleasure and privilege. It can also be draining, frustrating and time-consuming. Pass any serious concerns to your line manager and look after yourself when it comes to work-life balance and how you show your team that you’re coping.

Z zoo, zither, zinnia and zumba – we all love our treats, so a little gesture of appreciation once in a while, a little act of kindness, even something as simple as stepping in with photocopying on a really busy morning, making the coffees or leaving a Ferrero Rocher on the desk just says ‘I know what it’s like’ – and that might be all it takes to give a boost to a new starter looking for a little reassurance.

There is talk of a recruitment crisis in teaching. ‘Surely not?’ I hear you chorus… Just in case we are running short of new teachers, though, it’s best that we make the most of the ones we’ve got. Remember that an NQT is not the finished article and we owe our new colleagues a duty of care. Strong NQT provision creates the best foundation for a fulfilling and valuable career as a teacher – and isn’t that what we all want?


New year, new CEO, new College of Teaching

Ross McGill, known on his blog as Teacher Toolkit, produced this blog about the College of Teaching and the recent announcement of Dame Alison Peacock as CEO of the organisation.

This is the comment I added

I am a supporter of the CoT – I think there is a real need for it. I realise that not everyone thinks this, and, well, that’s fine…you don’t have to join or have anything to do with it if you don’t want to.

Ross has pointed out a lot of positives, as well as some concerns and recommendations of his own. Here are some of my thoughts.

Teachers need a voice within the media and when dealing with policy makers when those Sunday morning pronouncements and unanticipated policy changes are made. How many times do we hear of a new policy via the Sunday papers, see it commented on, recommended or rejected before we ever hear from anyone who’s spent or is spending their career in the classroom? Yes, we have the unions…we wouldn’t want to be without them in their extremely valuable role in protecting and promoting our pay and working conditions. But the profession itself should be in charge of pedagogical discussions and should have representation in policy development.

The broader the teacher base here, the better. If the CoT develops by recommending one style of teaching over another, or by closing down debate on the validity of different methods, then it’s not going to develop teaching or the teaching profession at all. But my understanding is that that’s not going to happen – one of the key aims of the CoT, as with other chartered professional bodies – is to develop, not inhibit, the knowledge base of the profession and to further career long teacher learning through improved access to research and validated experts. When I spoke to newly appointed CEO Alison Peacock last week, she made the point that teacher expertise must also be recognised and that rather than only importing ‘expert’ views into teaching practice, often seen as a ‘top down’ judgement on teachers, we should also be developing teachers’ opportunities to share their expertise and successes in rigorous ways. Regional CoT hubs and national discussion groups can enable this, and can form a reliable knowledge base from which teachers can draw in developing methods and resources.

You might not feel that you need any of this. Perhaps you work within a big MAT who really have developed extensive CPD systems, career development channels or networks of advisers? Ark and Harris, among others, have developed excellent practice. Dixons have developed training that supports and challenges teachers to develop practices that focus almost forensically on learner development. And while 60% of secondary schools are academies, not even all of these are well connected and well developed in terms of mature CPD provision. Many stand alone schools offer brilliant CPD but don’t have much chance to share their models with others. Most importantly though, and always my main focus when I think about the TEACHER at the heart of the profession, is the issue of recognition. If I’ve been a lead practitioner, or worked in an SSAT school, or undertaken TEEP, or a recognised leadership course, these are externally accredited and therefore portable qualifications.

Part of the CoT’s membership offer and chartered structure will enable a teacher to develop skills and learning in ways that their current employer might not be able to offer. It can provide access to knowledge and an academic world that many of us in rural or outlying districts find difficult. Yes, researchEd provide great events – the sort of events I personally feel teachers should be accessing – but it’s not easy for us all to get to these. They did a Leeds event, yes. That’s three hours away from me. A York event, likewise. A London event means a £113 train ticket, a 5am start, and often an overnight stay as well. We need an organisation that can bring similar events to our doorsteps, organised by local teachers, partnered with local teaching school alliances and HE institutions.

The CoT’s charter means that it can exist “in perpetuity”. It can exist beyond the lifetime of the current government, and the next and the next… It can provide a steady path for the profession whatever political changes might come. It’ll take a long time to get it fully up and running as a mature professional organisation and there’s a danger of expecting too much too soon. In reality, the CoT doesn’t really exist ‘yet’. It’s in development. It’s just moved into a new stage with the announcement of Dame Alison Peacock as CEO, with her role to commence in January 2017. It’s like announcing your pregnancy as you move into the second trimester. There’s still a long way to go and a lot of growth needs to happen.

Teachers, if they want to see this organisation succeed, need to get involved in shaping it. They need to discuss membership proposals, CPD ideas or regional needs. Chase up the links Ross has suggested here and look at the site, the @CollofTeaching Twitter feed or the College of Teaching Facebook page. Sign up for newsletters and consultations. Think of where this could take us in years to come.