Growing Great Teachers: Improve not prove

Recently I got asked by my CEO to find a solution to the largely ineffective performance management processes that we currently have within our trust. This is my response; ‘Growing Great Teachers’ – a complete replacement for performance management.

I am hugely grateful to Gary Jones (@DrGaryJones), Gareth Alcott (@GalcottGareth), Chris Hunt (@chuculcethhigh) and Ian Frost (@Ianfrost28) for giving up their time to read through all the documents in order to provide me with such honest, insightful and thought-provoking feedback. Thank you. Your wisdom, encouragement and expertise is so appreciated and has helped me enormously to shape this policy.

I am also grateful to my CEO, Peter Elliott, for allowing me the freedom to create this policy and for all his feedback and reflections too.

So here is our policy for professional growth which comes into action in September 2019. Some bits will inevitably be tweaked as we go along but this is our starting point. I do hope that you find it thought-provoking and interesting. This is OUR solution not THE solution. The focus is on ‘getting better’ rather than ‘being good’; ‘Improving not proving’.

If you like a good spreadsheet or measuring stuff then this may not be for you. But if you want to create a professional learning environment where staff are trusted and valued then read on. Let me know your thoughts.



‘Growing great teachers’ is Bridgwater College Trust’s professional growth policy that puts improving and maintaining the highest quality of teaching at the very heart of the process. It focuses on genuinely continuous professional development.

The challenge to us all within the Bridgwater College Trust is to always improve, to always get better; to continually grow. We need to reinforce the status of our wonderful profession and promote teacher well-being in order to unlock the skill, passion and discretionary effort that undoubtedly exists within our teachers. The quality of our teaching is at the top of our agenda and we view our teachers as our greatest asset. Therefore, our professional growth processes exist to ensure that our teachers are able to be the very best they can be. This in turn leads to improved organisational performance as seen in improved outcomes for our students and our core purpose of ensuring that ‘Every Child Achieves’.

The Bridgwater College Trust has removed traditional ‘performance management’ and have replaced it with ‘professional growth’; a different perspective and a new direction designed to challenge thinking, promote deep reflection, collaboration and change for the better.

This policy sets out the framework for a clear and consistent approach to the development of our teachers and our expectations in terms of the high standards to which all our teachers aspire. It is a policy based on professional trust. It is assumed therefore, unless evidence suggests otherwise, that Bridgwater College Trust teachers are meeting the Teachers’ Standards.

Our ‘Professional Growth’ policy outlines the approach that we take to help our teachers to become the very best version of themselves; supporting them to make the next steps but also creating a culture that encourages them to stay and grow with us.

Professional growth within this trust has several purposes;

  • To build and enhance expertise, and secure continuous growth and improvement
  • To enable reflection on strengths and successes, and areas for further growth
  • To recognise and promote a culture of professionalism

Effective professional development is a core part of securing effective teaching. It requires a desire and willingness to continually improve with a shared commitment for teachers to support one another to develop so that our students benefit from the highest quality teaching. We cannot achieve this level of professional learning alone. This policy is designed to change the way we view accountability and professional development. It is a process that requires a commitment from all teachers to active practical and cognitive engagement in order to seek further growth in professional knowledge that provides solutions to the issues we face as teachers. Professional growth in the Bridgwater College Trust is ‘done by’ not ‘done to’ our teachers.

We have a sense of belief and pride that we can be the very best, driven by a sense of moral purpose and a desire to continuously improve. We regard professional development as a key driver not only of staff development, but also of recruitment, retention, well-being, and school improvement. There can be no improvement without the teacher.

Our ‘Professional Growth’ policy outlines the approach that we will take to help our teachers to become the very best version of themselves; supporting them to make the next steps in their careers but also creating a culture that encourages them to stay and grow with us in the Bridgwater College Trust.

Effective, and genuinely continuous, professional growth…

  • has a focus on improving student outcomes
  • builds and enhances knowledge and expertise to bring about changes in practice
  • has a narrow yet significant focus
  • acknowledges that knowledge and expertise is domain specific
  • recognises that novice and experts learn differently
  • focuses on what works, challenges existing assumptions and is, therefore, evidence-informed
  • involves collaboration with colleagues and peer support
  • is sustained over time and includes frequent opportunities for learning; experimentation and practice, reflection and evaluation, honest frequent feedback and solutions-focused coaching.

The education of our students is our first concern, and we are accountable for achieving the highest possible standards in work and conduct. The Teachers’ Standards define the minimum level of practice expected of teachers from the point of being awarded qualified teacher status (QTS). The Teachers’ Standards also set out a number of expectations about professional growth.

Teachers should:

  • keep their knowledge and skills as teachers up-to-date and be self-critical and reflective;
  • take responsibility for improving their teaching through appropriate professional development, responding to advice and feedback from colleagues;
  • demonstrate knowledge and understanding of how students learn and how this has an impact on their teaching;
  • have a secure knowledge of the relevant subject(s) and curriculum areas;
  • reflect systematically on the effectiveness of their teaching;
  • know and understand how to assess the relevant subject and curriculum areas.

Rather than starting with how to do professional development, we should be clear about what we hope to achieve and what teachers already know and do. Therefore professional growth involves effective reflection. Within this trust the Teachers’ Standards form our benchmark for reflection, review and evaluation in order to ensure that our teachers identify areas for further growth and continue to maintain the level of competence that qualified them at the start of their careers.

As a solutions-focused trust, we need to ensure our practices focus on solutions, not problems, on finding answers within our colleagues rather than having imposed, often superficial, targets which all too often become forgotten. We also need to ensure that we help our teachers build on their strengths first before they start fixing their weaknesses. The evidence we use to reflect on performance and development will not be solely based on student data or a small number of lesson observations.  The Trust, therefore, will have no high stakes observations and rejects the notion that our teaching staff should be held to account for data-driven targets that no one individual can be solely accountable for. Instead the Trust is committed to developing a professional culture which drives quality assurance from within; an enabling process rather than an imposed top down process.

The Trust wishes to encourage a culture in which all teachers take personal responsibility for improving their practice through appropriate professional development. Professional growth will be linked to Trust, subject or phase improvement priorities and to the on-going professional development needs and priorities of individual teachers and, of course, the students they teach.

As long as our teachers continue to meet the Teachers’ Standards and engage in the process of professional growth, pay progression will be automatic and not linked to any mechanism of traditional ‘performance management’. We expect teachers to progress up the pay scale as the norm.

In order for our process of professional growth to be successfully completed the following criteria need to be addressed:

  • Teachers will reflect on their successes, strengths and areas for further growth against the Teachers’ Standards (Appendix A). There is no RAG rating but a personal scaling exercise for each standard. 4ACDC30E-BC9C-4C78-97D7-9C5DB9A20E6BUse the scale after each standard to reflect on how well you are doing against each standard and, most importantly, what you might do next to become even better. This can then be shared as a prompt for the discussion and possible goal setting.
  • Reflection on the Teachers’ Standards at the start of the cycle will help to better establish an individual focus for professional growth which is then further detailed in the professional growth plan’ (Appendix B). Each teacher, therefore, needs to carefully reflect on their current context, standards and practice to ascertain the most impactful development focus. The focus will be then be discussed and established with the support of the teacher’s line manager.
  • To aid this discussion and the establishment of a challenging focus a script isscript recommended for use by line managers (Appendix C). This discussion will take place in October – see Professional Growth timeline (Appendix G). This focus is then sustained over a significant amount of time and all staff are required to engage in opportunities for learning and experimentation, reflection and evaluation, feedback and coaching. It is intended that professional growth and learning, rather than just being confined to meetings in specific times and places, will become embedded into teachers’ everyday work practices.
  • Teachers will regularly reflect on their progress of the ‘professional growth plan’ as they design lessons to purposely practise the focus of their ongoing learning and subsequently reflect on the effectiveness of any changes in practice.
  • This sustained development work will be presented to subject or age group 7CCAAA47-B244-411B-9510-7167DBB3E42Ccolleagues at the end of the cycle for the benefit of reflection, accountability and sharing effective practice. (Appendix D). See also Professional Growth timeline (Appendix G).
  • All staff are also required to engage fully with any whole school/trust professional growth priorities.
  • In addition, any Upper Pay Range teacher, TLR holder or member of staff on the leadership pay spine will have a goal linked to our Leadership Qualities Framework. This goal will be recorded on the leadership goal plan (Appendix E).

What knowledge and skills do we need to address the learning needs of our students?

pgpIn order for our teachers to answer this question, they are asked to take control of their own professional learning and plan for how they will meet the needs of their class or a specific class; ‘the professional growth plan’.

For professional growth to be truly continuous and sustained over time, each teacher formulates a ‘professional growth plan’ (Appendix B). This requires each teacher to reflect on current practice and subsequently build their expertise through sustained focused inquiry and frequent purposeful practice. Newly qualified teachers (NQTs) are not required to undertake this task as they have a separate programme of support and development.

This individual and unique plan will identify what we hope we will learn or do differently, and the approaches to achieve this; content and process. The professional growth plans also require our teachers to identify the possible impact of their work on students’ outcomes although it is recognised that in the complex process of teacher growth, impact on students’ outcomes is difficult to directly correlate. Nonetheless, this policy is built on the assumption that changing a teacher’s practice will change the students’ learning experiences and therefore impact their outcomes. Improvement in students’ learning is the central purpose of the process.

Therefore, the ‘professional growth plan’ requires the learning to be ongoing and in depth as this is more likely to have far more positive impact on practice and outcomes for students than brief and superficial ‘training’ that lacks focus and context.

In the ‘professional growth plan’ a clear goal is set by each teacher – a focus on what to change or develop further with intended impact. We value the importance of autonomy and choice in the focus of each individual’s development and we understand that providing staff with opportunities to substantially affect and direct their own goals, practice and inquiry is a powerful motivator. Our professional learning must be driven by an individual’s motivation to become even better rather than being told what to do. Those teachers who set and monitor their own goals are those who will continue to grow as professionals. We will, therefore, provide effective training, opportunities and time that will give our teachers the chance to work on a focus of their choosing that positively affects the students they teach.

This focus for this bespoke plan will, of course, be chosen within parameters and our teachers are expected to connect their work to the class(es) taught and subject, phase, school or trust priorities.

Knowledge and expertise is domain specific: expertise requires knowledge and skill in a specific area. Any professional learning must therefore be as specific as possible to the context in which it will be used: to the subject, topic or year group. With a clear goal and an assessment of what is needed to achieve it, support can be then focused on meeting those needs.

The ‘professional growth plan’ is a ‘live’ document and the expectation is that is reflected on and referred to frequently, adjusted where appropriate, but it always forms the basis of our continuous professional growth. A major part of our professional learning is trying out things in practice. Teachers are therefore expected and encouraged to purposefully practise; to design lessons that force them out of autopilot and ensure a deliberate focus on experimentation within their classroom. To ensure that growth is continuous and progress ensured, our teachers are expected to engage also with professional support.

Professional support will be available for all of our teachers so that they can continue to grow and develop. This support can take many forms; dialogue, conversations and co-planning, mentoring and coaching, analysis, feedback and observation.

Our teachers are therefore expected to create partnerships with others, including those with expertise, to support their professional learning and generate information about their progress so that they can monitor and adapt their learning. Teachers are expected to support and assist colleagues through structured opportunities to reflect by reviewing progress and helping the teacher to consider the effectiveness of their practice. The role of any member of staff when supporting a colleague is to push and challenge their thinking so that each teacher becomes an adaptive expert who is capable of continually growing; reflecting on, and expanding, the depth and breadth of their classroom expertise. Our teachers are encouraged to seek feedback from multiple viewpoints.

Providing people with feedback on how they are doing against their goals increases the chances of those goals being reached. Any feedback for the teacher should therefore focus on the agreed development area and should be provided as soon as possible after any support or visit has taken place. Feedback from classroom observation should be feedback as information and where possible, and appropriate, be non-judgemental. The subsequent conversation is where the learning and action should take place and this structured professional dialogue focuses on the further development of an area of need for the teacher and/or their students. These conversations will be challenging yet C7667FA9-7B7E-40BC-AA35-F4E5F5376808respectful dialogue about improvement. Therefore, during this conversation the teacher and the ‘coach’ will always identify a next step; as feedback without goal setting, is just information.

Appendix F shows a possible structure for any feedback conversation.

The Trust recognises that lesson observation is a poor method for judging the quality of teaching. Therefore, lesson observations will NOT be graded and will NOT be used as a single indicator of performance or as a single indicator for assessing whether the Teachers’ Standards have been met.

However, it also recognises that feedback from observing and being observed are essential to growing great teachers. Consequently lesson observation within the Trust has two main purposes:

  • To help the teacher you are observing become even better
  • To learn from the teacher you are observing

All staff are expected to engage with the available professional support as a means of further developing their own practice. If observation is the preferred method of professional support then the timing and focus for the observation will be determined by the teacher being observed. During the course of the year all teachers are required to receive feedback on their professional growth focus in order to build and enhance expertise, and secure continuous growth and improvement. (Timeline – Appendix G). Feedback enables reflection on strengths and successes, and planning of next steps necessary for further growth. Therefore, any professional support including observations of practice will be carried out in a supportive and developmental manner by a pre-designated colleague, usually the teacher’s line manager.

Newly qualified teachers (NQTs) and those teachers receiving additional support will receive more professional support to enable more rapid growth. An individual teacher is free to request additional support to receive further feedback in order to support their continuing growth.

All teachers are expected to support and learn from colleagues. Therefore, during the course of the year, each teacher is expected to observe a colleague with the sole focus of going to learn from them. This visit will enable each teacher to identify possible next steps in their development based on the learning gained from their colleague. Teachers should be the drivers of their own professional collaboration.

Those with responsibility for curriculum development will also use professional support including classroom observations as a means of evaluating curriculum design and implementation. The length and frequency of any professional support or progress check will vary depending on specific circumstances.

The Upper Pay Range is a salary range available to qualified teachers who have been assessed as being eligible to be paid at this level. Moving on to the Upper Pay Range is often referred to as ‘crossing the threshold’.

To move onto the Upper Pay Range our teachers must demonstrate that:

  • They are highly competent in all of the Teachers’ Standards and have an extensive knowledge and understanding of how to use and adapt a range of teaching, learning and behaviour management strategies.
  • They have fully engaged in the process of professional growth leading to an extensive knowledge of curriculum, assessment and pedagogical developments within their relevant phase or subject.
  • Their achievements and contribution to their school are ‘substantial and sustained’. We believe that as long as they have met the Teachers’ Standards that they have met the ‘substantial’ criterion. The ‘sustained’ criterion should be two years or more working at this level. Our teachers do not, therefore, have to be at the top of the main pay range to apply for the Upper Pay Range.
  • They have the potential and commitment to undertake professional duties which make a wider contribution to their school. This will often involve working beyond their own classroom and possibly their school to guide the professional growth of other teachers. This may include the sharing of good practice, mentoring and coaching, and providing demonstration lessons for less experienced colleagues. Upper Pay range teachers are expected to promote collaboration and work effectively as a team member.

Applying for Upper Pay Range
There is no formal application process to move to the Upper Pay Range and our teachers are not be required to maintain a portfolio of evidence to support their application. As it is a voluntary process, teachers should make their headteacher aware that they wish to be considered to progress on to the Upper Pay Range. Applications can be made at any time during the academic year but only once a year.

Maintaining the standard
When teachers move on to the Upper Pay Range they must maintain this standard. The Trust will provide the support they need to be able to do this so that they continue to make a substantial and sustained contribution to the school and the development of their colleagues’ skills for the benefit of all learners.

Progression within the Upper pay Range
Progression within the upper pay range will be automatic as long as our teachers continue to fully meet the Teachers’ Standards, engage in the process of professional growth, and sustain a substantial and wider contribution to the school. We expect teachers to progress up the pay scale as the norm.

The challenge to us all within the Bridgwater College Trust is to always improve, to always get better; to continually grow as ‘great teachers’.


Thank you for taking the time to read this policy. I hope you found it interesting, thought-provoking and useful.

If I can help your school, academy or college with your staff development processes then I would be delighted to hear from you. 


ios_homescreen_icon  @ChrisMoyse


RIP performance management

The challenge is to always improve, to always get better; to continually grow.

Professional growth within our trust will have two main purposes;

  • to build and enhance expertise, and secure continuous growth and improvement
  • to enable reflection on strengths and successes, and areas for further growth.

Professional development is a key driver not only of staff development, but also of recruitment, retention, wellbeing, and school improvement. Our ‘Professional Growth’ policy will outline the approach that we will take to help our teachers to become the very best version of themselves; supporting them to make the next steps but also creating a culture that encourages them to stay and grow with us.

Effective, and genuinely continuous, professional growth in our Trust will:
…have a focus on improving student outcomes
…build and enhance knowledge and expertise to bring about changes in practice
…have a narrow yet significant focus
…acknowledge that knowledge and expertise is domain specific
…recognise that novice and experts learn differently
…focus on what works, challenge existing assumptions and will be, therefore, evidence-informed
…involve collaboration with colleagues and peer support
…be sustained over time and include frequent opportunities for learning; experimentation and practice, reflection and evaluation, honest frequent feedback and solutions-focused coaching

As a solutions-focused trust, we will need to ensure our practices focus on solutions, not problems, on finding answers within our colleagues rather than imposing, often superficial, targets. The evidence we use to reflect on our performance and growth will not be solely based on student data or a small number of lesson observations. The Trust, therefore, will have no high stakes observations and rejects the notion that our teaching staff should be held to account for data-driven targets that no one individual can be solely accountable for. There is no performance related pay here. Instead the Trust will committed to developing a professional culture which drives quality assurance from within; an enabling process rather than an imposed top down process.

The Trust wishes to encourage a culture in which all teachers take responsibility for improving their practice through appropriate professional development. Professional growth will be linked to Teachers’ Standards, and/or Trust, subject or phase improvement priorities and to the on-going professional development needs and priorities of individual teachers and, of course, the students they teach. The Teachers’ Standards will form our benchmark for reflection, review and evaluation in order to ensure that our teaching staff identify areas for further growth and continue to maintain the level of competence that qualified them as teachers at the start of their careers.

So long as our teachers continue to meet the Teachers’ Standards and engage in the process of professional growth, pay progression will be automatic and not linked to any mechanism of performance management.

In subsequent posts I will outline the exact processes our teachers will be required to engage in over the course of the professional growth cycle.

Insanity was once described as ‘doing the same thing the same way and expecting a different result’.

RIP ‘Performance management’.

Welcome to our world ‘Professional Growth’.

LIVE coaching

Live coaching and how it helps new teachers get into good habits quickly

During a lesson a teacher wouldn’t look over a student’s shoulder and think ‘I can’t wait to mark that later!’ They would provide actionable feedback there and then in order to help that student improve. So why not provide this ‘live feedback’ to teachers too when you are supporting them in their classroom?

Several years ago I undertook a lesson observation of a science teacher who was doing her school placement at my school as part of her PGCE. Generally the lesson was fine although she hadn’t left an adequate amount of time for the students to fully write up their experiment. Part of the reason for this was that the opening activity was overly long and this had a knock on effect for the rest of the lesson. Later that day I met this PGCE student and provided her, in my role as her professional tutor, with some feedback. We discussed the timings of the lesson and she identified, with the help of the timeline I provided her, that she had left an inadequate amount of time to complete the experiment write up. Further examination of the timings and some feedback from me helped us to conclude that the opening activity had gone on too long. Her reaction to this was very thought provoking. She said to me ‘Why didn’t you tell me to speed up during the start of the lesson?’ Good point! I did think at the time that the opening activity was going on too long and time might be tight at the end. I even recorded this fact on my note pad. However, I didn’t share this feedback there and then; choosing only to record it and mention it at the later feedback meeting.

Had I provided this feedback ‘live’ would the lesson have been more effective and successful?

Had I done this student teacher a disservice by not pointing this out to her during the lesson?

So why wait? Why not provide feedback in the moment when it is really needed so that the teaching can be improved straight away?

What begins as a well-intentioned respect for the teacher’s ownership of their own classroom possibly ends by not prioritising the students’ learning.


If we are serious about developing teachers as quickly as possible so that they can have maximum impact on the student’s learning we must try to improve teaching as it happens.

John Hattie in his research tell us that feedback to students is particularly effective when provided immediately, during task acquisition, rather than deferred. So why not with teachers too. ‘Live coaching’ is where an experienced mentor or coach, skilled in providing immediate live feedback, works alongside a less experienced teacher while they are delivering a lesson. The coach provides the teacher with live feedback about their teaching so that the feedback is immediate and acted upon rather than being given after the lesson when it is essentially too late.

The method of ‘live feedback’ or ‘live coaching’ seems relatively rare in many schools. There seems to be an unwritten rule that once the lesson is underway the observer remains silent and unobtrusive; possibly sitting at the back, talking to the students and certainly not to the teacher. That is, you find out later how you did. I am, however, constantly striving to improve the way I support future or new teachers in order to help them establish a fast and effective start to their careers. Over several years now I have been developing ‘live’ and ‘hands on’ feedback/coaching so that the teaching can be improved or enhanced ‘in the moment’. As a result I have come to the conclusion that the more frequently I can coach my teachers, and the closer I can do this to the classroom, the better they become as they develop good habits that contribute to establishing a strong default position.


In undertaking ‘live coaching’ I have made some mistakes and learnt some very quick lessons. I have also, however, developed effective strategies to enhance this method of teacher development.

It is very important to follow some rules and protocols to undertake this effectively otherwise you run the risk of unduly stressing the teacher, undermining their authority or reducing their sense leadership in their own classroom.

  1. The more frequently you visit the teacher’s classroom the more the teacher (and students) will be comfortable with you being in the room. This helps establishing trust and ensures also that you get to see typicality. Why give feedback on anything else other than ‘typical’?
  2. Use any previous observations, reflections and discussions to ascertain the next required focus for improvement. This is the focus for any observation. Keep it relatively small to retain focus and increase the chances of being successful. The clearer the goal and focus is, the more likely improvement is going to happen. Deliberately work on addressing small changes at a time as this is both more guiseachievable and sustainable for a busy teacher. Stephen Guise in his book ‘Mini Habits’ talks about the need to get started and build momentum. A mini habit is a very small positive behaviour that you make yourself to do every day; a mini habit’s ‘too small to fail’ nature makes it achievable, deceptively powerful, and a superior habit-building strategy. The secret is to engineer situations where the success rate is relatively high in order to build consistent and effective habits. Build one habit at a time.
  3. Design lessons where there is plenty of opportunity for this focus to be used frequently. The focus becomes the purpose of the lesson. The more frequently and successfully a skill is practised the more likely it is to become automatic. For example, if you are working on transitions, design a lesson with several built in so that practice time is maximised and opportunities for feedback and subsequent improvement increased.
  4. Discuss the role of ‘live coaching’ before the lesson so everyone is clear about the expectations.
  5. In the classroom sit or stand close to the teacher so communication is easier and the students also get used to seeing you too. Be aware that another adult in the room may change the dynamic so a balance between being unobtrusive yet near the teacher is the aim.
  6. Do not attempt to teach something new to the teacher during the lesson or point out things that cannot be changed, such as material on a PowerPoint slide or the objective that is being shared. This will possibly throw them, creating distraction, uncertainty and stress. The focus is pre-agreed before the lesson – stick to it. Instead, reward, remind and reinforce.
  7. Reward: What your teachers do right is just as important in practice time as what they do wrong. If you see evidence of something going well, especially a strategy you had discussed together previously that they have been subsequently practising, praise them. This will boost their confidence. Remember they will be probably be nervous with you in the room. A quiet word, a thumbs up, a smile or even a word to the class about how you have noticed the class working well in a particular way will be affirming, reassuring and confidence boosting. Praise helps establish the right way encouraging them to do it again, the right way.IMG_0652
  8. Remind: Before they are about to undertake the agreed focus (e.g. Transition, explanation, modelling, class discussion and so on) remind them about the pre agreed elements of that focus. Possibly even jot these down on a mini whiteboard as a reminder and place them near the teacher. It may be prudent to have done this before the lesson so there are no surprises.
  9. Reinforce: Give the teacher some feedback and points to reinforce the strategy after it was done. This will prepare them for the next time they use that strategy in that lesson. Try to shorten the feedback loop and achieve correction and development as quickly as possible. Always correct privately obviously. Remember that you are not trying to rewire a skill just make small, simple changes.
  10. Providing small bite-sized bits of feedback makes it more likely to be acted upon right away. If they are unlikely to be able to act upon the feedback immediately and possibly not get it right ‘in the moment’ make a note and leave it to discuss in more detail in your follow up session. So limit yourself to the focus and limit the volume of feedback you give too. Clarity and brevity are key here.
  11. Pick the right moment. Don’t interrupt their teaching; pick a moment when the students are working such as during independent or group practice time or talk partner time. This way the students are not distracted by your interactions and the teacher is more able to focus on what you are saying. Say what you need to say before they have to do something (remind) or just after (reward or reinforce). What you say to the teacher must help student learning and make the lesson go more smoothly.
  12. Be as brief and concise as possible as not to interrupt the flow or the thought processes of the teacher. Remember that they will probably be scanning their class as you talk to them. Allow and expect them to be doing this.
  13. It may be possible to communicate with the teacher non-verbally. A hand gesture to encourage them to do something or a sign to remind. An athletics coach I had many years ago used to write brief reminders of things I had to remember on pieces of card that were left by the runway – a visual prompt to help me keep focused and remind me about what we had been trying to do in training. One or two words on a IMG_0651mini whiteboard (Scan, check, 3-2-1, stand still, talk partners) as a visual prompt can work well. I sometimes use an app on my iPad called ‘Make it Big’ to do this.You may also use other physical non-verbal cues. TPFor example, exaggerating your own stance and posture will remind your teacher to stand still and face the class.
  14. Model for the teacher, if appropriate. Sometimes words may not be enough and in order to fully understand the teacher may need to have the strategy modelled to them. Agree this beforehand so not to challenge their leadership and authority in their classroom. This can work really well with novice teachers who may not have a sufficiently developed mental model of excellence.

Practice doesn’t make perfect. It makes permanent. Therefore try to ensure that your teachers practise correctly otherwise poor habits will become quickly engrained and these are really hard to break. Frequent live feedback will help enormously here as it has the power to influence the lesson and therefore the learning in the moment, build great habits and also save time on lengthy feedback conversation too which is a real bonus.


Appraisal and Capability: A Coaching Approach

Appraisal and Capability: A coaching approach

Teachers should be treated as professionals, with the default assumption that everyone is committed and hard-working with their children’s best interests at heart in all that they do.

The intrinsic motivation of working in a supportive high-trust high-challenge culture outweighs any motivational effect that might come from outcome targets and performance pay.

Each teacher, at every career stage should be nurtured, challenged, supported and developed in a continual process, never judged through one-off lesson performances or datasets.

Find out more about my approach to coaching on one of my courses:

The appraisal and capability process should focus on successes, areas for personal growth, team priorities and career goals NOT on outcome targets.

Appraisal meetings are there to make people feel that they’ve had an opportunity to plan out their professional growth and map out their future progression. Of course, student outcomes will inevitably be a focus but not a simplistic measure of success.

Encourage staff to keep good records of their professional growth, peer observation and research to inform the appraisal discussion BUT the compilation of portfolios of evidence to show they’ve met the teachers’ standards is not the essence of the process – it is professional growth that manifests itself in impact on our children.

Building in an element of choice even within the parameters of school, college, academy priorities, helps preserve a sense of autonomy but also encourages responsibility and ownership.

Before the meeting:
Set the date and time, get yourself prepared, clear your diary. Allocate more time than you need.

Set up the room – Do not disturb sign up, no distractions such as phones, printers and children(!), choice of refreshments, chairs side by side. Set the room up to minimise the hierarchy that may exist between you both.

Send out any documentation well in advance including last year’s documentation. When you get it back – read it, know it, make notes on it and be ready to start with positive feedback, praise and thanks.

During the meeting:
Appraisal meetings are not coaching conversations yet adopting a ‘coaching approach’ and deploying elements of coaching can make these meetings more productive and effective. So therefore, appraisers are encouraged to:

  • Focus on growth
  • Provide support and challenge
  • Provide affirming feedback
  • Ask questions that encourage the teacher to talk and reflect – Appraisers should listen more than talk. Listen in a focused way and use the teacher’s words when reflecting back to help them clarify
  • Be confidential
  • Structure the meeting to ensure a positive outcome and that you stay on track

Structure the meeting using GROW
Outline the purpose of the meeting and what needs to be completed in the time frame allowed – reflection on last year and the creation of appropriate goals for future professional growth.  Start with praise and thanks and then ask a question that invites a positive response such as ‘In reflecting on last year, what are you most proud of?’
Discuss the Teachers’ Standards and how well they have been met. This should be led by the teacher. Reflect on last year’s goals and make reach a collective decision on whether they were successfully met. Do not shy away from difficult conversations though – this is, after all, an appraisal meeting.
Discuss possibilities for this year’s growth using teachers’ standards, data, subject/year group priorities, exam analysis, school, subject or phase development plans, personal reflections, discussion of this year’s class(es)…
What next:

Agree on priorities for the coming year and set goals to ‘now’ (what will you do now to say you’ve started, by next week, by the end of the month, by the end of term, by the end of the year). Focus on IMPACT on children rather than just changing teacher behaviour. Clarify what has been agreed and confirm any follow up arrangements.

After the meeting:
Complete all documentation as soon as possible, ensure it is accurate and ask for feedback on the process.

Before the meeting:

Reflect on last year, and think about the future in equal measures, using all available sources of inspiration such as teachers’ standards, data, subject/year group priorities, exam analysis, school, subject or phase development plans, personal reflections, this year’s class(es)…

Be thoroughly prepared and complete the appropriate documentation, returning to the reviewer anything required for the meeting.

Write some notes to prompt further discussion at the appraisal meeting so that you miss nothing.

Assemble all necessary documentation to support your meetings and discussion including last year’s appraisal documents.

Draft out some possible goals that you feel the children would benefit from you focusing on this year.

During the meeting:
Honestly reflect on and share your successes and areas for growth.

Refer to the notes you have made to ensure that you ‘sell yourself’ – miss nothing out. This is your chance to shine and talk about yourself!

Seek feedback on how you and your class(es) have done this year.

Expect to lead the discussion on last year’s work.

Propose your areas for growth this year and be prepared to state your case. Focus on the impact on the children. Be concise and precise.

Present a case for how the school, college, academy may be able to help you with these goals

Be prepared to set goals to ‘now’ (what will you do now to say you’ve started, by next week, by the end of the month, by the end of term, by the end of the year).

After the meeting:
Read carefully any documentation and sign it off


Coaching for schools

Coaching For Schools https-2F2Fcdn_evbuc__com2Fimages2F309290162F442396428262F12Foriginal-800x400

What does effective coaching look like, and how can coaching be introduced into schools?

On Friday 15th September 2017, Ross McGill and I will be piloting ‘Coaching For Schools’: a pragmatic training day for leaders of teaching and learning; for those interested in moving towards a coaching culture for observations.

Why Attend?

Some of the issues to be tackled on the day include: how can we use feedback more effectively in professional learning? Ideas for solution-focused approaches – scripting dialogue, as well as ideas how to kick-start coaching in your own school.

We will explore the most up-to-date ideas from research and practice to re-boot your thinking so you can return to school, equipped with strategies to use immediately. We will also give you the tools to deliver the training yourself so that you can share the resources with your colleagues and kick-start coaching in your school.


You can purchase a place at the event here for just £59.00. The location will be in Central London and the venue will be confirmed to ticket holders. Read draft details about the day.

If the event is a success, we hope to arrange more – once every half-term – around the U.K. So, if you can’t make this one, do let us know if you are interested in us organsing a similar event at a location near you.


To make the training day as useful as possible, we suggest that you focus on a particular area for personal development from your own teaching repertoire. If possible, a particular class and/or group of students.  It may help you to bring some information about the current observation framework you are using and information about the students to support your action planning. E.g, class data and a lesson observation proforma.


Led by:

Get in touch if you’d like more details or would like to sponsor the event or offer a venue.

Follow the hashtag, #Coaching4Schools and thank you for your interest. If you’d like us to lead this same event in another location, please leave your details below and location.

Lesson planning: the basics

Lesson planning: the basics

Here are 6 main questions to consider when planning your lessons. Included also are some hints and ideas to help and further questions to consider.

lesson plan

What do I want the children to learn or start to learn?

  • Begin with the end in mind. What do I want the children to leave with that they didn’t arrive with?
  • Am I going to share this purpose? Don’t waste time getting them to write the objective out in their books though!
  • Might the purpose be best articulated in the form of a question to answer?
  • Pitch it high – avoid ‘must-should-could’ as it signifies low expectation. A possible alternative is…‘We are learning… (objective) so that we can…’ (tangible outcome).
  • Base the purpose of the lesson on their precise need. What have they achieved recently that informs today or this series of lessons? What are they understanding less well?
  • The clearer you are about where you want them to get to in this lesson or in a series of lessons, the better you’ll be able to help them get there.

How will they show me they’ve learnt it?

  • Have a tangible outcome. Remember this may not be achieved within this lesson. An end task or exit ticket may work well here. Flag this up at the start so that they are aware of the direction of travel.

How will I explain and model it so that they have the best chance of getting it?

  • Understand how limitations in working memory may influence the manner of your explanation and modelling. Less is more so be clear, concise and ‘choose the shortest path’.
  • Consider the impact of dual coding (pairing words with graphics). Think about how you make the abstract more concrete and therefore make sense to them e.g. drawing diagrams, using manipulatives, providing demonstrations…
  • Find out what they already know and then build on this. Possibly through a ‘quick review’, ‘do now’ or ‘cold task’ at the start.
  • Use a worked example if they are novices moving onto problems if they are more proficient.
  • If you use a WAGOLL (what a good one looks like) deconstruct it, ensuring that you ‘call your shots’ and articulate your expert thinking out loud to the children. A visualiser may be helpful in some subjects.
  • Spend more time thinking about how you are going to explain and model than anything else.
  • The ‘I We You’ approach from Doud Lemov’s ‘Teach like a Champion’ is a helpful structure to consider here.

What practice will they need to do?

  • Plan in adequate time, during the lesson and over a series of lessons, for the children to practise using their new knowledge and skills.
  • Be clear about what you want the children to achieve / produce during independent practice time. What are the key tasks children need to do during independent time?
  • Relentlessly check their work. Prioritise who you visit – possibly monitor first fast starters and those who may need support.
  • Allow for at least 5 minutes struggle time – no input from teacher or TA so that any support is required rather than assumed. Ensure they start well before any intervention.
  • Align independent practice to the assessment – match the rigour of the upcoming assessment.
  • Consider how many children should receive feedback from you. How could you increase that number? Who might you prioritise?
  • During practice time constantly check all children for understanding – avoid traffic lights or thumbs but utilise instead observations, mini whiteboards, exit tickets and hinge questions.

What if they struggle and find it difficult to learn?

  • What strategies should we be teaching children so that they can better cope with struggling?
  • Some will need focused questioning; some might require a clear or different starting point; some might rush and have to redo the task.
  • Some might need you to re-explain but possibly not all. Use ‘drop in clinics’.
  • Who is most likely to struggle? Knowing your class well will help you to prioritise.

What if they find it easy?

  • How will you be ‘responsive’ if some children seem capable of working beyond the objective?
  • Some will reach the objective more easily and need to be challenged further – what constitutes a good challenge without just doing more of the same work? A ‘sideways stretch’?

Raising the bar

Incremental gains for professional growth

In my role as a senior leader, as a SLE and as a consultant I am constantly looking for more efficient, effective and realistic ways to help teachers be the best they can be. In order to fulfil this quest, I have frequently looked beyond education for inspiration, direction and solution.

Over the last few years these are just some of the books that have influenced my thinking.


Who has inspired or influenced you?

As a young child in 1969 I distinctly remember watching, on a small black and white TV with my family, an event that had a big impact on me. The first man on the moon. I Picture2.pngremember my mum putting me to bed that night and saying, as she pointed to the bright moon, “there’s a man up there!” This sparked in real interest in science for me; I wanted to be Neil Armstrong.

Over the years several people influenced and inspired me. They were mostly from the world of sport: Bobby Moore, Bruce Lee, Daley Thompson and Sergey Bubka.


In the dim and distant past I was, amongst other things, a pole vaulter. I learnt it at school, developed it at club level and successfully took part in several competitions. The first time I saw Sergey Bubka, a Ukrainian pole vaulter, was at Crystal Palace in 1984 where he broke the world record. He was still vaulting when all other athletes had gone home! A supreme athlete, Bubka went on to break the world record 35 times (17 outdoor and 18 indoor). An extraordinary statistic fuelled undoubtedly by incentives such as world record bonuses. As much as $100,000 each time has been mentioned. In less than two years between 1991 and 1993, he improved his previous mark an astonishing 14 times. Bubka’s final record of 6.15m stood for two decades. A consistently high and sustainable standard over a long career.

By the time I watched Bubka in action my vaulting days were over (PB 3.89m!). For me his influence wasn’t and isn’t one related to my own athletic performance but to how I approach working with teachers to help them to grow; training of the basic skills, specific practice, focused feedback and, most pertinently, small ‘1cm’ bar raises to ensure continuous and sustainable ‘performance’ and improvement.

The bar is higher now and raising it even further is harder.
Where does our next 1, 2, 3, 4cm bar raise come from?

Picture4There has been much talk over the years of ‘marginal gains’ (Sir Dave Brailsford), 1% gains (Sir Clive Woodward) and Critical Non Essentials (Australian dentist – Paddy Lund) but much of these approaches relates to small tweaks to every aspect of performance to bring about changes.

In my experience of working with teachers, they are too busy and do not have the capacity to address EVERY aspect of their ‘performance’. So, instead I take the approach of 1cm bar raises; the relentless pursuit of one aspect of practice that when habitual and routine is added to with another 1cm bar raise and another and another…over a substantial length of time. Usually in the same area of practice too; for example, explaining, questioning, formative assessment or modelling.

TSP-3D-Covers-1-UP-72dpi_LEFT_001Jack Canfield in ‘The Success Principles’ refers to +1s.

Over a substantial time these small, sustainable and manageable improvements add up to BIG changes and great habits.

In Japan they call this approach ‘kaizen’; change for the good, change for the better – continual improvement.Picture5.png

Using kaizen, great and lasting success is achieved through small, consistent steps. I have discovered that clear, slow and steady is the best way to overcome a resistance to change too.

One of the mantras of the All Blacks, New Zealand’s phenomenally successfully rugby union team, as outlined in James Kerr’s wonderful book, Legacy, is…

The challenge is to ALWAYS IMPROVE, to always get better, EVEN WHEN YOU ARE THE BEST. Especially when you are the best.

Change for the good is for everyone, every teacher.Picture6.png

These changes may even be daily! The legendary basketball coach, John Wooden, used to extol the virtues of becoming a little better every day.

“When you improve a little each day, eventually big things occur. When you improve conditioning a little each day, eventually you have a big improvement in conditioning. Not tomorrow, not the next day, but eventually a big gain is made. Don’t look for the big, quick improvement. Seek the small improvement one day at a time. That’s the only way it happens—and when it happens, it lasts.”

John Wooden was also a fan of FOCUS and DETAIL.

One of his basic principles for success was the focus on basics. At the first practice new players were taught how to tie their shoe laces! He actually taught them how to put on their socks first. Wooden had a reason for this; if you don’t put on socks and tie your shoe laces properly, it will affect your performance. Improperly put on socks can cause blisters and untied shoes can cause injuries or problems during games. Court time is lost, team performance is affected, as ultimately is league position.

The same principles hold true for teaching. Focus on the basics. Focus on the detail. Don’t get caught in the flash of social media, or the next shiny object. While many of these tools may be valuable and may help contribute to your goal, you can’t ignore the basics of teaching.

Little changes lead to BIG changes.compoundeffectbook

In Darren Hardy’s book ‘The Compound Effect’ he suggests that the formula is simple:
“Small, smart choices + consistency + time = radical difference.”

Focus on the daily disciplines. The magic is not in the complexity of the task; the magic is in doing simple things repeatedly and over a sustained period to instigate this ‘compound effect.

Jeff Olson, in his book, ‘The Slight Edge’ urges us to focus on…
…the things that are EASY TO DO but also EASY NOT TO DO.

Charles Duhigg in ‘The Power of Habit’ refers to a ‘keystone habit’; a habit that, when we change it, will have the greatest positive impact on our lives.

Designer Ray Eames said:
“What works good is better than what looks good, because what works good lasts.”

41baXFvN4UL__SX332_BO1,204,203,200_So focus not on the flash but on the stuff that works: the basic skills of teaching. The things you do in your classroom when no one is looking. The kind of skills that Shaun Allison (@shaun_allison) and Andy Tharby (@atharby) so deftly describe in their book ‘Making every lesson count’; explaining, modelling, questioning, feedback, challenge and so on.

Choose well – focusing not on just changing your practice but on having an impact on the children you teach. Choose what works therefore – cognitive science is now helping us hugely with making this choice.

Break these well-chosen strategies down into small achievable bits and practise them until they become routine, habitual and efficient.

However, we aren’t musicians or pole vaulters who perform occasionally and practise in the interim – we are always performing! So to counter this issue, book in time to practise. Plan for specific practice with a particular group. Seek the honest feedback from a colleague – ask them to focus on the impact on the children of the strategies you are practising.

IMG_1520Visual prompts
A pole vault coach I had many years ago used to write brief reminders of things I had to remember on pieces of card that were left by the runway – a visual prompt to help me keep focused and remind me about what we had been trying to do in training. I use this idea in my own school and all staff have these on their walls as a reminder of what they need to focus on. Teachers are also learners!

link-back2.pngIt doesn’t have to take this form of course and recently I read about a post it in a teacher’s classroom at Shaun Allison’s school which was used as a visual prompt.

Equally as effective!

The important thing here is to have a FOCUS.

Herbert Alexander Simon said ‘a wealth of information leads to a poverty of attention’. So narrow it down.

Look for the better you. The believable possible: the slightly better version of yourself. Focus on getting better rather than being good.

Reflect on your practice and on the children you teach.
Choose a focus. Choose well. Choose what works rather than what looks good.
Choose a challenge. The comfort zone is a lovely place but nothing grows there. Work just out of your comfort zone.
Be realistic – B is your aspiration, yet A is a realistic 1cm bar raise.
Book in time to practise.
Seek honest feedback and act upon it.

When embedded seek the next marginal gain, the next 1% gain, the next +1,

“Success is…
modest improvement consistently done”.

Sean Fitzpatrick
Former All Blacks captain


Chris is an education consultant with over 30 years of experience. He has worked with over 275 schools. Please get into contact if you would like to work with Chris.