Outstanding – It’s not a bag of tricks

I work regularly with groups of teachers on how to move “from Good to Outstanding” teaching and really enjoy the experience. I am sometimes, however, concerned there is an expectation from some of these teachers at the first session that you can become an outstanding teacher by employing strategies from a “magic bag of tricks.” These teachers arrive wanting me to show them these tricks; to initiate them quickly into the secrets of the “mystical world of being outstanding.”   As you would expect I point out to them that there is no mystical world and no bag of tricks, just a lot of hard work! Being outstanding is not just about an Ofsted or Performance Management badge to collect, it is about being consistently, the best you can be, in order to help improve the learning, achievement and school experience of the children in your care. From my experience, some important features of outstanding teaching (not just for the Ofsted), are:

  • A set of values of what is important in learning and teaching – values such as care, support, fairness, social equality, tolerance, educating the whole child, achievement, improvement, fun, enjoyment, challenge, active engagement, relevance to name but a few – values I would like to think most teacher hold.
  • A mindset around “growth”, improvement, self- evaluation, self- improvement and relentless optimism.
  • Positive relationships with pupils with a clear focus on high expectations, how to improve and how to enjoy, value and relish learning.
  • A set of high quality pedagogical skills that allow the teacher to transit easily, depending on context, between Performance and Learning Orientations in the classroom – between largely teacher led and learner led strategies.
  • A flexibility of approach that allows the teacher to sensitively respond, in terms of teaching strategies, to regular checks in the “learning temperature” of the classroom
  • Making the implicit features, knowledge and skills of great learning in the classroom, explicit.
  • Taking learning risks- experimenting, innovating, then reflecting, evaluating and sharing.
  • Collaborative relationships with other staff – sharing great practice, peer observing, joint planning, coaching and positively encouraging feedback on how you can improve as a teacher.
  • Keeping up to date and not just about curriculum and syllabus changes. Outstanding teachers know what strategies have most impact on learning and achievement and focus on these in the classroom. They concentrate on the things that matter and leave the rest.
  • Researching best practice by visiting other schools and teachers
  • Working really hard on the things that matter and having a consistency of approach that reinforces, models and develops all the above features.

I appreciate this is a daunting list but when I visit schools up and down the country, I see teachers doing these things in the classroom day in and day out and it makes my heart glad!

In visits to many outstanding schools, we have “distilled” and identified a process for schools to help develop outstanding teaching and learning. This process is based around the 5C’s of Core Purpose, Clarity, Coherence, Consistency and Community.  Core Purpose – the school has to identify high quality teaching and learning and maximising pupil achievement as […]

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Friday was spent being Forthright with Formby. John Turner and I worked on our first day with the Secondary and Primary schools in the in the Forthright Learning Community as they further their journey to develop independent learners and independent learning across the community. The schools are embarking together on an ambitious, self-funded project over […]

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