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