Leadership approaches, support and ideas from Bristol Brunel Academy

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Brunel Teaching Year 3 | Progress Over Time – Part 3 of 3

Can you show ‘true’ progress within 25 minutes?  And, how much of a limiting factor should progress be?

Some of our thinking within leadership in this area has been discussed in the blog around the ‘catastophism of student progress’.  Suffice to say, progress certainly isn’t linear; you only have to look at our own careers to see that.  Progress loops and dips and staggers before it leaps and bounds:

Success really looks like

So, why should we ‘hang’ our observation grades on ‘progress’? Yes- because our students deserve success.  So, what’s wrong with this observation structure?  The answer is simple; it encourages a teacher to ‘shine’ for 25 minutes once a term.  Our students need us to ‘shine’ every single time we stand in front of them.

As Aristotle once said, ‘Excellence is a habit’ and, as discussed in the blog ‘Greatness isn’t born, it’s Grown’, Dan Coyle has stated that greatness isn’t something we’re born with; practising skills over and over again is the key as  ‘each time we reach and repeat we earn another layer’.  So, to become and great teacher, who will create great learners, we need to practise our skills day in, day out.  So, as a school leader, how do you encourage habits over performance?

Lesson Observation Evidence Change

You change the way you grade your teachers.

Is grading a teacher on a 25 minute slot fair?  Probably not.  Is the answer to ditch the grades as other bloggers have suggested?  Probably not.  Is research conducted on one source of information considered fair?  Probably  not.  You need to triangulate your data.

Progress over time


Rather than focus on progress shown in just 25 minutes, we need to focus on progress over time; following on from the conditions in the classroom we’ve just been in for 25 minutes, would students be able to show outstanding progress over time?


This approach should certainly be fairer- staff can point at progress over time through their book marking, achievement data, student voice and outcomes.  Not only that but they can signpost their future thinking/ planning in medium term plans as well as the individual lesson to show how they’re adapting and differentiating for the class.  Staff who make a habit of ‘shining’ for their students will be rewarded with Good or Outstanding grades:


As such, our observation form changed again to highlight the importance of progress over time (removing the need for staff to ‘perform’ and show progress no matter what stage of the year/ scheme of work/ curriculum.)

Current Lesson observatio


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Brunel Teaching Year 1 | Ofsted Readiness – Part 1 of 3

Evolving teaching and learning: how should the art form of teaching be ‘measured’?

 Matters measured

Brunel Teaching Year 1 | Ofsted Readiness

In my first year as an Assistant Principal, I have been on a real journey; leading on teaching and learning is an amazing opportunity and this blog highlights my key thoughts and how they are (sometimes rapidly) changing.

Within the last academic year, I was fortunate to be part of a team that was moving teaching and learning forward from 46% Good and Outstanding teaching in term 2 to 71% by term 6.  This ‘leap’ in progress was achieved by an unswerving focus on teaching and learning across the year.  Staff went from having perhaps one/ two noticed observations, without being given a grade to having one observation per term, at least one of which being no notice.  Grades were given.  The bar was raised.  Progress was essential.

Giving ‘grades’ on 25 minute observations can only be a useful tool when feedback is precise and useful; our lesson observation form was lifted from the Ofsted criteria.  Detail was essential as clarity around what makes a Good lesson was needed; staff confidence in recognising grades was low and needed to be improved.  The lesson observation form established went some way in doing this:

Lesson_Planning_and_Feedback_Form Version 1

The ‘Ofsted speak’ boxes were useful in outlining key pedagogy but, how to make it our own was still a concern- staff needed to be familiar with this criteria.  As such, all staff were involved in joint observations using this criteria in the first two terms; by Christmas, we had a wealth of data which was throwing up some common ‘missed opportunities’ within our lessons.  This could then shape the whole school CPD for teaching staff; we have an hour once a fortnight to develop our own skills in teaching and learning; as a leader of teaching and learning, this was a gift; we didn’t drift from one INSET day to another without discussing our professional pedagogy.  Non negotiables were established; these went with our, very prescriptive, lesson observation criteria, to make each skill easier to demonstrate in a 25 minute lesson observation.

 BBA Teaching Overview


Through CPD, teaching staff created their own Best Practice cards for each ‘section’ of our non negotiables.  Talking about teaching and learning was becoming more uniform; everyone began using the common language, for example, ‘green pen time’ for getting students to reflect on teacher marking.  Curriculum Leaders moved their teams forward; week long subject reviews were held so that Curriculum Leaders could share their knowledge about teaching and learning in their subject areas with SLT.   Confidence improved and teaching and learning was spoken about.  This led to some tentative re-phrasing of the Ofsted style criteria:

Rephrasing Obs Form

The bar was raised.  61% of staff were teaching Good lessons.  The ‘formula’ was working.

Impressive? Hell, yes!  The end of the journey? Absolutely not- more like the beginning!

Although 61% of staff were teaching good lessons, only 10% of staff were teaching the elusive outstanding. It felt like an unreachable holy grail; it felt like nothing was ever enough.  In 25 minutes, how can you possibly demonstrate the 17 non negotiables without doing everything so superficially that true learning just cannot happen?

Interestingly, our summer results did not reflect our journey in teaching and learning; rather than an upward trajectory, results weren’t moving.  Surely, good teaching should lead to good ‘learning’ or progress?

 Keep Calm

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Leading Through Others – The Power of 1.8


Leading Through Others – The Power of 1.8

At Bristol Brunel we talk widely and often about successful leadership being the ability of a leader to ‘lead through others’. We focus on the ability of an individual to influence beyond themselves, to inspire action in others and empower their peers to lead. We bring together a multitude of ideas, theories, common understandings and vision into a simple phrase of “1.8”. Senior Leaders have the highest expectation to lead beyond themselves, one Assistant Principal working diligently towards a set of outcomes is satisfactory, however, if they can build a team of colleagues who buy in to their vision and feel empowered to own part of the journey they can create an epidemic of positive change.

A few key aspects make this successful:

–          “People don’t buy what you do they buy why you do it”  – We talk widely and often about Simon Sinek’s Golden Circles and Leading with the ‘Why’ – (here is a link to this inspirational video If colleagues understand the moral purpose behind the change process or improvement journey we have found they will follow, take on aspects of leading the change and feel part of the journey.

–          We talk about “destinations” – This is taken from Dan and Chip Heath’s ideas around pointing towards a destination and a preferred future. As such we set up our academy improvement plan under 5 destinations (teaching, achievement etc) we describe what these look like in our preferred future and then allow people to develop the journey towards them through the actions they decide. Michael Fullan talks about this as “connecting peers with purpose” (

–          We promote opportunities for vertical influence – These destinations involve teams meeting fortnightly and are representative of colleagues from across the academy, anyone can join any team and be part of the change process and each team is chaired by a member of the SLT.


–          Nudges, Tipping points, levers and 80:20 (Gladwell) – We recognise that small changes can have a wide impact, a minor adjustment to how we present data, raise expectations or setup meeting structures to maximise output and most often looking to find simplicity (especially from complex situations) in all that we do. A great example being recently where our AP for Achievement converted our progress data into ‘months behind’, rather than just ‘target 5a’ ‘predicted 5c’ the students also reported “12 months behind”. This simple solution kick started the dialogue and urgency for students and staff thus widening the influence of our AP to inspire action.

–          Grow your Leaders – Coaching – Line management meetings provide opportunities to coach middle leaders. Offering solutions and ‘solving problems for the colleagues being line managed is all too easy as a more experienced leader, this builds the culture of dependency and disempowers colleagues from making decisions. I talk more about this in a recent Blog post: David Marquet has some fantastic ideas around Leader – Leader relationships that inspire this thinking –

And finally, Gladwell’s ‘The Tipping Point’ has ideas around different types of people within professional learning communities and analyses how these interactions take place, the diagram below summarises this nicely… well worth a read!