Leadership approaches, support and ideas from Bristol Brunel Academy

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‘Quick wins’ #7 – Differentiated SMART objectives

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Why? To raise achievement in my Year 12 and Year 13 classes, I knew that this year I needed to have an embedded exam focus in all my lessons and not just at the end of topics. At the same time, I also felt that the trend for differentiated learning objectives that are leveled or graded in every lesson was becoming meaningless for my students who knew full well that the learning that we were going to cover in a singular lesson would not mean that they were going to achieve a ‘C’ or ‘B’ grade by the end of that lesson. My objectives needed to become SMART: measurable and achievable steps to success with a focus on practicing exam skills and demonstrating exam knowledge in every lesson.
Possible solution. SMART objectives: differentiated objectives that are set within an achievable context of progress towards full marks in a specific exam…

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‘Quick wins’ #10 – Formative feedback marginal gain.

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Image by @gapingvoid - Image by @gapingvoid –

Why? Returning formative feedback often has a demotivating impact, despite any positive comments. This is a particular issue for Key stage 4  C/D borderline students who find the leap to the next grade quite daunting, and able students attempting to bridge the gap between A-A*.

Possible solution. To direct student focus to improving I have added an extra comment to assessment sheets. When students receive their assessments they now see not only their target grade and current grade but the marks required to get to the next grade,

Here are a couple examples of this marginal gain being implemented…

Example from a KS5 Art progress booklet. Example from a KS5 Art progress booklet.

Example from a KS4 Computing class. Example from a KS4 Computing class.

Outcome. The effect was immediate as students focused on the marks required to achieve the next grade rather than their current grade.A year 10  student commented on the fact that he was…

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‘Quick wins’ #9 – Developing oracy: Getting students to respond in full sentences.

Raising expectations of oracy = key to raising standards of literacy!

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Image from: Image from:

Why? Students, due to apathy or due to the state school pandemic of not wanting to sound clever, often avoid giving a thorough explanation to reveal the depth of their learning; rather, given the chance, they will utter a barely audible ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and quickly retreat back into their protective shells. Sound familiar?

Possible solution. To combat this – a simple solution: have high expectations of students’ oracy so that they respond in full sentences.

a) To achieve this, get students to rephrase your question as part of their answer.

For example: Why does Dickens open his novel, Bleak House, with pathetic fallacy?

Student answer: Dickens opens his novel, Bleak House, with pathetic fallacy because…

b) When posing an open-ended question, provide an oral scaffold to extend students’ thinking.

An example slide scaffolding oracy.

Example oracy scaffold. Example oracy scaffold.

Outcome. Having high expectations around students’ oracy…

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Marking: Experiments and Adventures.

Pedagogical gold!


Apple on files

Marking has a certain quality about it, whereby however much you do, there always seems to be some left. For me, it’s a project never finished. There’s always another set of books, a few scraps of homework, some mock exam questions that I could be marking. There’s even marking in this room, neglected, making each further procrastination seem like a crime against  education.

The familiar problem is that even though marking is potentially limitless, teacher time is verbal feedbackvery limited. I need to find the best ways to mark, which have the most impact on my student’s learning, in the most efficient way. And this probably isn’t slaving away for 3-4 hours marking one class of books.

Another consideration I face is that marking needs to be ‘seen’ to be done, either through book scrutinies or lesson observations. I suspect this need to be seen giving feedback helps explain the proliferation of…

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Begin with the end in mind.

Fascinating insights on exam and learning success from @DominiChoudhury

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Begin with the end in mind. Begin with the end in mind.

Recently I rediscovered a strategy that has revolutionised my teaching; a fundamental shift in mindset resulting in enormously simplifying my planning, consistently producing lessons graded as ‘Outstanding’ and receiving overwhelmingly positive feedback from student voice in my classes. It’s not new. It’s not difficult. It is simple.

The strategy (taken from Stephen Covey’s ‘7 Habits of highly effective people’): beginning with the end in mind.

I have now begun to structure the teaching of every topic/unit of work by starting with the end i.e. at KS4 and KS5, starting with sharing a possible exam question for that topic; or at KS3, starting with sharing the end of unit assessment, using these to create just one set of learning objectives for a sequence of lessons (differentiated by bands of marks in an exam question or success criteria for levelled skills and content in a…

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What does ‘showing’ progress mean anyway?


It is little wonder that with all the regulation within the teaching profession, teachers sometimes feel they need to justify or prove the work they are doing in the classroom. Regular observations, performance management and the need to be ‘Ofsted ready’ all contribute to pressures on teachers to find ways to demonstrate their effectiveness. Now, with the introduction of performance related pay, many teachers will feel a heightened pressure to justify their work, to demonstrate the quality of their teaching, to ‘show’ that their students are making progress.

With all this pressure, it is understandable that so many conversations and resources shared on twitter revolve around ‘showing progress’. And, despite some pretty convincing arguments that attempting to show progress in a lesson is futile,  it still seems to be a very common idea. A google search for ‘how do you show progress in lessons’ yields approximately one hundred and…

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English Intervention: The Year 9 Masterclass



At the start of the year, I found myself in the unenviable position of overseeing progress in English for our KS3 students. As well as careful tracking of each student, I also meet fortnightly with other members of the unfortunately named ‘R.A.T’ (Raising Attainment Team), to discuss the progress of our students at KS3. There’s only 4 of us in this meeting. We’re a small team and, thankfully, tend to avoid too much scrutiny from the powers that be – our bigger, uglier brothers in the KS4 team manage to soak up the attention. But, we meet nonetheless, discussing how to secure the best progress for our budding scholars, before the pressure cooker KS4.

One of the key focuses for us is how we will ‘intervene’ to help ensure as many students as possible fulfill their potential. I was immediately quite nervous at the thought of intervention, not least because…

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