Picking your battles

This is what our department meetings (battle strategy meetings) look like. In my mind.


Two years ago I decided that my department should have one particular focus for improvement. I work at a wonderful school, where results are very good and our kids generally want to do well. I was concerned though that there was a risk of complacency  and the data seemed to bear this out. Results were inline with national average but progress was disappointing, some pupils seemed to be coasting and others falling through the cracks. Our focus was to “Expect Excellence”. We drew up an action plan that set out what we would do, why we were doing it and what the success criteria would be. My presentation at last week’s Durrington TeachMeet covered what we did (you can see the presentation here) but in brief:

  • Agreed as a department what excellence looked like. 
  • Created an Excel Group who were targeting A/A*. We knew who to push.
  • Used a blog to encourage pupils to read around the subject.
  • Logged excellent work – contact parents to share praise.
  • Displayed excellent work – and the reasons why it was excellent. 
  • Displayed this at parents’ evenings to show the standard we expected.
  • Told pupils that work wasn’t “finished” just because it was done. We made redrafting part of the expectation.
  • We used live modelling to show how to create excellent work. 
  • We used exemplars and picked them apart to show the process. 

This was all very successful. Results soared and uptake at A level increased dramatically. I think the reason for success was that we picked our battle. We focused on this one issue relentlessly. #ExpectExcellence appeared everywhere: on agendas, CPD sessions, posters. It also fitted in well with the culture being created at a school level. The message from our Head over the last two years has been the same – have high expectations. This quote appeared one night in the entrance to the school – passed several times a day by every teacher and pupil alike.


Now it is time to move on. We need to keep this plate spinning but as a department I think these developments have been embedded. Our next battle…

Excellent Geography

I want us to focus not just on how we teach but on what we teach. It has been weighing on my mind a lot recently that this focus on subject pedagogy has been ignored for too long. We have a department planning day this week and we will come up with our action plan then but some initial thoughts include:

  • Reviewing the KS3 curriculum. What should an excellent Geographer know by the end of this key stage?
  • Ensuring our assessment model does its job and tells us what they have learnt. 
  • Identify liminal concepts that they must master to move on successfully. 
  • Make sure we know as a department what the best of our subject looks like.
  • Make the purpose of Geography clear from the start so that all know where they are heading.

Back into battle comrades!

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