Monday, 26 September 2016

What shall we do about behaviour?

I attended Chester university last week to work in collaboration on designing the BA QTS year 1 programme
The lecturers were fantastic, knew their effect sizes and research and were determined not to send out 'compliant' trainees

We got into the tricky area of behaviour management
The students are required, on their first day to collect the behaviour policy

'Why?' I asked 


'Well", said another member of the group (not Chester uni staff to be clear) "these children have to know the rules and if they break the rules, what the consequences are"

She then turned to me and said "and it's obvious by your face that you disagree!"

People who know me either in real life of virtually know I'm a bit obsessed with education, and particularly about research, evidence, impact and really making sure we are working with our learners and families to ensure success, whatever success looks like to them
This has led me to reading tonnes of stuff on Twitter. I did a quick trawl yesterday of school websites, particularly looking at trips (very much influenced by the fantastic trip to Poland by the wonderful Bader Primary)
It was so interesting that in nearly all schools, the first thing that was commented on was behaviour
Eg, class 1 had a great time at the zoo and were all so well behaved
Class 3 were very well behaved on the trip to the museum
Year 6 were very well behaved for our visitors today

When did we become so obsessed with producing 'well behaved' pupils?

At Ysgol Merllyn, we actively encourage challenge, debate, philosophical thinking, self regulation, self efficacy, independence, feistiness..., I could go on

We encourage spirit not crush it!

What are we doing to our kids? 

Sunday, 18 September 2016

A new year, time to cut the apron strings 🤔

Craig Parkinson has been as much part of our school improvement as any of the staff.

During Visible Learning training and meeting him at conferences, he has always been such a source of support, challenge and professionalism.
We were lucky, when dipping our toes into Singapore Maths, that Craig was also on hand as a new trainer for the fabulous @mathsnoproblem and on the 1st September he trained us all at Ysgol Merllyn how to begin delivering the programme. 

When we surveyed the children last year, we thought they enjoyed maths and had confidence- we were wrong, the higher up the school, the more the lack of confidence became evident.  They like it in the early years why then does that decrease as they get older? I think the answer is because we take their concrete objects away and expect them to do it abstract and ' in their heads' They then panic and they lose the pleasure of manipulating objects, shapes etc and increasing their understanding of maths concepts.

So we've gone Singapore which is really just using Bruner et al's model of concrete, pictorial, abstract.  So far so good- the first few days, the children played with the Dienes, multi link, counters, blocks, paper rectangles etc but slowly they have come to realise these objects mean something.  I also remind the teachers that we have upped the game because it's based on the English national curriculum which is pretty much a year ahead of the Welsh maths curriculum.  (Teacher estimates of achievement Effect Size 1.62 Hattie 2015) It'll be interesting in March time to see the impact when we survey the children again on their attitudes to maths.

I also accidentally stumbled on a precision learning and teaching and direct instruction training from Bangor University. It hooked me in immediately and a quick check on the effect size (feedback ES 0.73, direct instruction ES 0.59) made us think how we could use it to support learning.  We have now set up a Precision Learning Team (PLT) of year 6 pupils to help support with year 2 pupils. (Peer tutoring ES 0.55) We also discovered SAFMEDS (Same activity for a minute every day shuffle). It's worth googling

This year we've gone a bit Google mad.  We've been very lucky to work with JTRS to support our learners with Google Classroom.  The pupils absolutely love it.  They've gone collaboration mad (Classroom discussion ES 0.82) it's made my life so much easier.  Management was never my stronger skill set so all good.

So I think the direction we're now taking, after we leave the safety net of Craig Parkinson and Osiris Educational and have to do this ourselves, is to look to research.

We'll ask ourselves.....

What does the research say?
What will be the impact?
How will we measure OUR impact?
What will be our learners' needs?
What will be our teachers' needs?
Who is out there that has the expertise and experience to help us?
How will we celebrate success?
What will we do when we struggle?

Interesting times ahead at Ysgol Merllyn but we live by our motto

Making a Difference Every Day 😊

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Reflections on our second year towards Visible Learning

Last week, I thought I need to blog as our second year implementing Visible Learning was coming to an end.

I had a walk round school and mild panic set it. The environment was changing, the learning pits had come down, the progression ladders were being slimmed down, etc. But what I realised when I spoke to the children that some things had become so embedded they didn't need visual reminders.  All our children can talk about the pit and what to do when stuck, nearly all children can use strategies for learning, respond effectively to feedback, and know what their next steps are.  
The culture change has taken place.  The children are taking much more responsibility for their own learning.

Two teachers attended Shirley Clarke's training in June. All classes from year 2 to year 6 changed the classroom layout to Talk Partners.  It was interesting at first, some children resisted working with certain other children, you know what they are like.  After a couple of weeks, it has become the norm that on Monday morning, they have a new Talk Partner.  


We have moved completely away from ability grouping, we will do an impact cycle in September asking the children's attitudes and perceptions about themselves as learners.  This has been a great start.

Solo taxonomy now forms the foundations of all our learning and teaching. This has really passed the baton to the children.  This is a year one assessing his learning about Florence nightingale


Our VL network has grown this year, for me the network has been very useful in moving us forward.  Particular thanks go to Michelle at Pembroke Dock, Sarah from Midlothian EPS and Simon from Bader.  They have inspired me which in turn has improved outcomes for our learners.
I am really looking forward to visiting Bader primary next term to see how their visits to New Zealand has impacted classroom practice.

So for September
We are starting with Singapore Maths, which we are calling Merllyn Maths.  Our training is on 1st September with Craig Parkinson (would I trust anyone else with our CPD?). Again, it's a whole school approach, fits into an impact cycle, is well researched and supports the teachers.


We've also gone Google- I love google classroom and apps for education. We're going to trial different methods at feedback, particularly voice feedback, should be interesting and worth an impact cycle.  Many thanks to JTRS for help us get set up and their advice and support.

We are also developing our P4C.  We have gathered our baseline evidence, it's a whole school approach, it's impact is well researched and the teachers will be well supported.  

Can you see a theme here?  After doing the impact coach training, these principles are essential before we do anything.


And we are going to relooked at our learning dispositions to see if we can make them more effective. We have had ours for two years and we do feel they need refreshing. We are change agents after all 

I think the last word needs to go one of our year 1 Polish boys who was going off to Poland the week before we broke up.
"Oh no!" He said, "when I go to Poland, I will miss out on my learning, it's not fair, they will be learning and I won't!"

I love it!! 

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Visible learning- two years on

It has been an interesting and extremely busy half term any Ysgol Merllyn .  There have been so many highlights, particularly presenting our work at the World Visible Learning conference.  What an amazing time.  Not just meeting up with the #vlnetworkuk colleagues, presenting our work and listening to amazing speakers, but being in the presence of some educational Giants- John Hattie, Shirley Clarke, Guy Claxton and particularly Andy Hargreaves.  We took so much of his thoughts and musings back to school.  I'm really looking forward to hearing him again at the Incerts conference in June.
 However, for me it's always been how much Visible Learning has impacted on our pupils and how different our school is now.  We had colleagues visit from a local school visit us last week.  It's hard to explain Visible Learning but I can only describe it as forgetting everything we thought we knew about education ( being focused on curriculum and teaching) or as a time a colleague described as 'before we knew anything'

On a daily basis I'm in awe of the impact on our pupils.  A yr 3 girl was stuck last week and asked her teacher if she should find someone to collaborate with, year 1 pupils being able to describe how much progress they had made, year 6 using their own feedforward to set their own success criteria the next day, reception children understanding they knew many things about bonfire night and they were now ready to relate....

We also had 15 schools visit on our Visible Learning open day.  I was so proud at how well the children did on the panel Q and A session with the visitors asking them some tricky questions (we like tricky questions, they are the best type!)

So like good learners we need to know our next steps.
For at least the rest of this term we're focusing on the following
Continue to plan and embed Solo Taxonomy
Begin an impact cycle on the learning process
Begin assessing the pupils against our assessment capable rubric
Use Google apps for education for collaborating 

And continue to develop our pupils so they know what to do when they don't know what to do

Finally, I'm putting my money where my mouth is.  
The teachers are really happy to get feedback from their learners on how to be better teachers.  I'm going to ask the teachers for feedback and feedforward on my leadership!! Should be interesting 🤔

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Success criteria success and the importance of impact cycles

Our current focus is on Solo Taxonomy.  It's been brilliant seeing all the children, nursery included, understanding if learning is surface or deep.  Meta cognition has such a high effect size and our teachers are now becoming expert at delivering it

For example 

The year 1 staff wanted to know what the children knew and what Solo level they were before planning the learning.  After teaching they'll then go back to see if they've moved Solo levels to measure the impact of their teaching.

Exciting times

We have also done some work on success criteria this week.  We're definitely not there YET
Our Ministry of Education interviewed pupils and monitored books this week. 
This is a snapshot of what they found out

Unfortunately we didn't get it all but they found inconsistencies that we missed!

When I met John Hattie in Cardiff he asked me what had been the most difficult aspect of VL implementation
I said pace.  He said that was quite common
This got me thinking about change and supporting staff through it,

I hadn't realised the importance of impact cycles really until last week when the staff are trying to implement Solo and feedback as well as the million other things we've introduced and adapted.
I feel after the Inside Series training that things are really happening with regards to building expert teachers
So we've relooked at impact cycles as a means of slowing down a bit and focusing on one thing properly at a time, were in the middle of a Solo impact cycle at the moment.
After Christmas it will be building in the changes we've made to success criteria then after Easter feedback.  Change is happening but the management of change against the backdrop of changes to the Welsh curriculum and me applying relentless pressure gently can I imagine becoming a bit overwhelming
I suppose Rome wasn't built in a day! 
Maybe two days though 😏

Sunday, 15 November 2015

A grand day out

We were asked to present our Visible Learning intervention at the Welsh Leadership Conference last week
What an absolute privilege not just to share our practice but to meet the man responsible

The conference was brilliant.
Miss Coppack and I presented where we were up to looking at the matrix before and after

And we shared the stage with some amazing practitioners who we have learned so much from and as a result impacted enormously on our learners

I love my job
I love working in Wales and am so excited for the future of education
I love working with educationalists who are focused on our learners
I love collaborating with and learning from the best

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Now that's what I call progress

This has been a fantastic term at Ysgol Merllyn.
We started the school year by having Solo Taxonomy training with Craig Parkinson.  The day was amazing and really got us thinking about how we teach our children to think.  We have been planning for deep thinking forever but the structure that Solo offers makes teaching meta cognition really easy. I've been very grateful to Pam Hook for offering support and advice these last couple of weeks as we plan to use Solo across all curriculum areas hopefully by January.  Her Rubric Makers on has massively reduced workload.
We've had One World Week in school this week and it was brilliant to go into year 1 today and here them saying ' I'm relating' when comparing Senegal to Tanzania.

Also this half term, I've been asked to present at the Welsh Leadership Conference next month in Cardiff.  I'm so excited and I'm taking Miss Coppack with me so she can talk about the impact as a class teacher.  However the line up is as follows... Professor John Hattie, Professor Donaldson... Then me (definitely not a professor).  no pressure there then 😐

Promoting our four Visible Learning strands has also been a very positive feature.  Team time has really helped focus us in on where we are and what our next steps are.  We visited the inspirational Bader Primary last month.  The #vlnetworkuk collaboration has definitely helped us all.  This alongside our own training has been so effective in raising all our games.

What I find fascinating is how social media has really had an impact on our school improvement.  Yes, we bought into the Visible Learning intervention but being able to share with people on Twitter, for example Michelle at Pembroke Dock, Simon at Bader, all the Scottish VL family, Sarah Martin in NZ, Pam Hook, Craig Parkinson James Nottingham.........sorry if I've missed anyone
This is sounding like an Oscar acceptance speech

Happy half term everyone, we've got one more day with Craig tomorrow on Feedback.