Reflections from researchED: Durrington 2019

It was great to see rED: Durrington back for a second year. This year six members of my school took time out of their Saturday to further their teaching expertise. It was a good illustration of how far a desire for evidence-informed approaches has increased over the last year. Below is just a quick recap of some of my takeaways from the day, for those who couldn’t make it.

Keynote: Prof. Daniel Muijs.

As the deputy director of research and evaluation for Ofsted, Prof. Muijs is uniquely classified to provide clarity on the evidence-informed approaches the inspectorate is adopting in its new inspection framework.

He was clear that the main purpose of the inspectorate was to be a force for improvement and that their current changes were driven by a need to address the unintended consequences of the current and prior ones. He acknowledged that the focus on progress in books and lesson grading combined with high stake accountability moved schools away from the substance of education and affected choices made by school leaders.

He explained that initially schools standards were upheld by two pillars: one was school inspection and the other was outcomes and data measures. Recently these had become blurred and this has caused increasing amount of assessment and narrowing of the curriculum – both of which disproportionally affect the economically disadvantaged. I was really reassured how aware Ofsted seems both of the limitations of inspection and of the way their actions have a ripple effect through the whole of education, both intentionally and unintentionally.

A few key points:

  1. No graded lesson obs as the sequence of lessons is being inspected, not the individual lesson
  2. Context of school is key lens to view all decisions and outcomes
  3. Looking at curriculum intent vs implementation and trying to triangulate through multiple sources of evidence
  4. Work scrutiny will be used to explore how the curriculum is enacted, not how much ‘progress’ is visible
  5. Still not confirmed if internal data will be used, but will be once consultation is finished.

So if you hear any talk of bogeyman book looks in your school based on the new framework then please correct them.

I repeat: If your school leaders hear rumours of book looks and think they need to go back to high stakes frequent written marking, recording all activities in books and regular scrutiny to determine of books to the quality of teaching THEN THEY ARE WRONG. 

The Deep Dive:

This is an approach being piloted currently by Ofsted. It is not confirmed as the preferred approach but Prof. Muijs went into detail about how it works.

  • The inspection starts with a conversation with the head (an insight visit), perhaps by telephone. Aim is for inspector to understand the context of the school and decide priorities/subjects to focus on.
  • During the inspection initial conversations about curriculum intent at all levels from whole school, down to lessons.
  • Lesson obs in 3-6 subjects (depending on size) with about 20 obs maximum in total.
  • Student voice is taken and those students form part of the work scrutiny.
  • At each stage the current plan is for inspectors to be side by side with middle leaders to provide the all important context.
  • This is then all triangulated together to generate the judgement of the school.


Claire Stoneman

Senior Leadership: How can we help novice senior leaders learn?

Claire was willing to talk to us about an emerging line of thinking her and Tom Rees have been discussing. With my new role in September I was keen to learn from Claire’s approach in developing her new leaders. Her approach was informative and engaging, using her Amazon order history from the noughties to explore the change from ‘the magic of teaching’ to a more evidence-informed and explicit approach. Her idea was then expanded to include the idea of magical leadership qualities and how nebulous they are. This leads to a set of indescribable ‘leadership skills’ that, as they can’t be accurately described, are hard to learn. This might explain why the evidence on leadership is hard to define and characterise.

She then took the approaches of the learning scientists and applied them to the staff. This was an act of genius in my opinion. It’s a classic situation that often happens where we know what works for students but we treat teachers differently. I think sometimes we worry more about patronising adults than providing effective strategies to learn from.

Some of the best included:

  • Paying attention: Specific modelled instructions for key day-to-day tasks. E.g. What does being on duty look like? Assumptions are the Achilles heel of all large organisations. This needs a culture of low stakes so staff are safe to make mistakes.
  • Elaboration interrogation: Getting pairs of SLT to discuss the fine details of the school’s behaviour policy (like how does assembly entry work?) then being able to verbalise the reason why. This would benefit a novice to buddy up with an experienced leader.
  • Concrete examples: Leadership often prioritises these nebulous values and visions. But being explicit about what these look like in our context can provide great clarity to a new leader. In the same way that a novice learner recognises surface details, a novice leader will suffer from the same problem. Worked examples of how to deal with a parent, sequence curriculum or run a managed move would all be a benefit for a novice leader.

This really resonated in my own experience at interviews. When you do an ‘inbox activity’ I think it is often overlooked just how little knowledge or experience the middle leader might have in those whole school issues. It can become a game of ‘guess what’s in my head’ as they are ignorant to those aspects of the policy.

Pritesh Raichura

Dual Coding in science

In the course of 40 minutes Pritesh managed to expertly explain and model how dual coding can be used. I saw this presentation with two other members of my department and I think it was probably the most influential 40 mins of CPD they had received in their career. He also managed to illustrate effective use of the visualiser, Afl and classroom routines. I know that when we left we were all buzzing about his ideas and examples. I think when we look back in a year’s time we will find this session has had lasting impact on our teaching.


Some of the things I took away were:

  • Simple diagrams allow for easy comparison, a skill the brain is good at.
  • A diagram can be used to store multiple facts more easily and their respective links can be emphasised.
  • A good diagram as a ‘shopping bag’ is a great analogy for the working memory.
  • Simplifying is not dumbing down; needs to maintain appropriate scientific accuracy.
  • Narrate the values of the diagram to sell the idea to the students. “This is a lot easier to remember than a page of notes!”
  • Always go from concrete to abstract and in chunks.

If you get a chance to see Pritesh talk I highly recommend it. I think he is at rED Surrey.

Martin Robinson

Is knowledge enough?

As I write this the morning after I still don’t quite know how to summarise Martin’s presentation. The man is a force of nature and his expertise is wide-ranging. His talk was very funny and really made me think. I think it was the kind of food for thought that will stay with me for a long time.

His ideas of the learner’s perspective affecting the way knowledge is perceived were illustrated by well-chosen examples. He made me think about things in a completely different way. As a science teacher I think I view knowledge very much objectively but his illustration of how the liberal arts’ subjectivity can be altered by the learner was fascinating to me.

Overall it was a great day: it was great to meet the Mark and Zoe Enser in person and it was interesting to see how DHS maths classrooms had removed the keyword washing lines etc.. in favour of less distracting displays. A good example of how even at schools leading the way it takes time for ideas to trickle down and become ingrained fully.

Yesterday essentially marks the one-year anniversary of my blog. It’s been an amazing journey so far. When I started I just wanted a space to think aloud and find my own way through a difficult time in my career. I never expected to have my thoughts read by nearly 7000 people from over 60 countries. Writing the blog has forced me to become more informed and have a deeper understanding of issues that I feel strongly about. It has also given me opportunities and a level of confidence in my understanding that has allowed me to progress professionally.

I’ve met so many amazing teachers and thinkers through Twitter and my understanding of education has increased exponentially. It never ceases to amaze me how willing people are to collaborate, support and challenge ideas on edutwitter. We need all three of those to develop into the best teachers we can be. So thanks for reading this.


** Note: All the content written here is from my notes on people’s talks. If you feel I have misrepresented anything please get in touch.**


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