Bringing teaching and learning back into the classroom

July 1, 2015
Amos Turner-Wardell

Amos Turner-Wardell

Senior AHT, Ellis Guilford School and Sports College

When I joined Ellis Guildford School there was little emphasis on the quality of teaching. The school ethos is ‘Be your best’; but we were not living this in the quality of lessons, with students complaining of being ‘bored’.

This is not an assessment to be ignored: on the contrary, it shows that teaching and learning in the school had become stale. It was reflected in the students’ results, as they disengaged with the subject matter and missed out on the learning opportunities that a great education should offer.

My aims were to:

  • Improve the school’s CPD programme to the point that overall quality of teaching would be judged ‘Good’ by our internal teaching and learning team
  • Improve our overall results in core subjects, with a specific focus on English. I knew we could bring results in English up from 38% A* to C at GCSE to a score that reflected our students’ hard work

Getting teachers to think about teaching and learning was a crucial first step. Following three mini INSETs to encourage teachers to share their best practice, I introduced a teaching and learning Fortnightly Focus, with each e-bulletin focusing on a different strategy to improve teaching practice.

Initially, teachers argued that they had no time to read it. So we put it where everyone could take a minute to browse: on the back of toilet doors. Now, teachers are proactively asking for the bulletin so that they can try out the ideas it suggests. Success!

Next, I developed a backbone for ‘Good’ lessons – a checklist of seven basic expectations for every lesson, tied in with the Department for Education’s Teacher Standards:

  • 1 Engaging start
  • 2 Challenging outcomes
  • 3 Positive climate for learning
  • 4 Literacy
  • 5 Differentiation
  • 6 Assessment of learning
  • 7 Effective feedback

These may not be ground breaking – but they do provide all teachers with a framework to build their lessons around, and have enabled a number of our staff to move from ‘Inadequate’ to ‘Good’.

Finally, I designed an effective CPD programme to support staff improvement. We introduced rigorous staff monitoring which enabled us to direct each staff member into the CPD stream that was most useful to them, challenging all staff to continually improve their practice, from the strongest to those who were struggling. 

After just one half-term of CPD, six of the 12 staff members in the bottom CPD stream had improved their practice to a degree that they moved into a different stream. What’s more, we made this system sustainable by training teachers with excellent practice to run CPD for their colleagues.

This blog post originally appeared on the website of The Future Leaders Trust. In November 2016 The Future Leaders Trust joined forces with Teaching Leaders to form Ambition School Leadership. Together we will tackle educational disadvantage faster and more effectively, improving the life chances of more of our most disadvantaged pupils. Click here to find out more about Ambition School Leadership.


Following one year of these interventions, the results are in. Our focus on the English department paid off, with 73% of students achieving three or more progress levels. What’s more, by June of the school-year I joined, the percentage of lessons which were graded 'Good' or better had risen from 45% to 75%. 

Together, the staff and I have ensured that the Ellis Guilford ethos of ‘Be our best’ is not only a motto, but is reflected in the way we approach all aspects of our practice.  As a result, the school and our students can expect a brighter – and definitely not ‘boring’ – future. 

This article originally appeared on the website of the Ambition School Leadership. In March 2019 the Institute for Teaching merged with Ambition School Leadership to form Ambition Institute. 

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