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Teaching Tips

Who Else Wants Their Students Actively Revising For Exams And Fully Benefiting From It?

Revision. For students, it's a laborious period spent with multiple highlighters and an avalanche of books and worksheets. Most students really struggle to immerse themselves in a good revision period and they show a real disliking to undertaking it even though the benefits are so important to their exam results. Getting a student to properly revise is by no means an easy challenge for any teacher so how do teachers get their student's engaged with revision and how can teachers enable students to fully benefit from the time they spend revising?

4 Strategies For Teaching Students How To Revise

4 Strategies For Teaching Students How To Revise

Photo credit: Romer Jed Medina via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

One of the first hurdles student face whilst revising is the fact that they simply don’t know what strategy works for them and how they can best apply it. Rebecca Alber brilliantly outlines 4 excellent revision strategies that have students enthusiastically engaged in their revision compared to feeling unwilling and unmotivated to even attempt it.

The Revision Power Hour

The Revision Power Hour

One of the biggest challenges students and teachers face with revision is the time it takes for to memorise content, improve exam technique and obtain high-quality feedback. With this in mind, teachers should encourage students to undertake a Revision Power Hours which combines all of the above making it a powerful revision strategy.

Supporting Learning Through Effective Revision Techniques

3. Supporting Learning Through Effective Revision Techniques

So many teachers encourage students to summarise texts, highlight key information and continuous re-reading. If that works for some students then, by all means, let them stick with that. However, what other effective strategies are there? Shaun Allison outlines some exceedingly effective tactics that he has tried with his year 11 students.

How To Teach Revision

How To Teach Revision

As always, The Guardian Teacher Network offers fantastic pieces of actionable advice and in this blog, their pool of education specialists discuss their top tactics for teaching effective student revision.

Creative Revision

Creative Revision

Good revision requires good resources and TeachIt has a number of innovative, eccentric and unique revision aids to help students revise.

Top 10 Revision Apps For Students

Top 10 Revision Apps For Students-min

Near enough everything in the world right now is online or mobile orientated especially with current pupils. From creating interactive mind maps, flashcards and even creating SMS stories, you can truly take revision into the digital age.

Five Ways To Bring Revision Alive

Bring Revision Alive

Ask any student if they would willingly revise. We can guarantee that the answer will be a pretty solid no. With that being said, Dean Jones from Firth Park Academy has identified a need to bring new life and a fun edge to revision which he outlines in this post.

Revision Technique Ideas

Revision Technique Ideas

Rachel Hawke is quite right when she says 'I find that it gets difficult to think of new and engaging ideas as the lessons continue and students learn in different ways'. With this in mind, Rachel has put together an interesting article on the new revision techniques she uses with her students.

Five Proven Hacks To Help Students Tackle Revision

Five Proven Hacks To Help Students Tackle Revision

We'd love to hear your suggestions on how you get your student's revising so do let us know in the comments or by getting in touch with us on Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin.

Expert Ways To Dramatically Improve Student Assessments [Guest Blog]

Assessments in teaching are very much a firm standard in any school or education establishment. Of course, viewpoints on the effectiveness of regular assessments vary dramatically amongst teachers and education professionals but, there is no avoiding them. So, how do we make sure that we are assessing students in the most effective way and what are the current problems regarding assessments that we need to take into consideration?

Expert education blogger and experienced History Teacher, Neil Martin, offers his interesting viewpoints surrounding class based assessments and provides his insights into how best they can be improved to the benefit of both staff and pupils.

Neil regularly shares his expertise and views on the education sector on his own blog 'Actuality'  

Part 1 - Current Issues Surrounding Assessment In Teaching (Published 2016)

Part 2 - Solutions (Published 2017)

 

Part 1 - Current Issues Surrounding Assessments In Teaching

Student Completing Her Assesment

Designed by Freepik

Assessment becomes more and more important by the day. School pupils are reminded constantly about the necessity of working hard and achieving good results and government statistics on those achieving 5 good GCSE grades seem to be rolled out month on month. Testing and assessment are, of course, important and there is no getting away from it in schools.

 Nevertheless, are we assessing in the most productive way?

Is the constant push for better results actually having a negative impact on our students?

In this blog, I use History teaching as the basis for my observations, but I suspect that a teacher of any subject would identify with some of the problems and hopefully the solutions suggested.

In my experience, I would argue that we have to very careful in the way that we assess students. When I working in the maintained sector there was a requirement to demonstrate which national curriculum level students in years 7 – 9 were at and also to demonstrate that they had progressed. Termly assessments were key as well as a formal end of year exam which, it was hoped, would show improvement.

This system had its strengths, in particular, it emphasised pupil responsibility and ownership in that they were encouraged to target areas for improvement (for example one of a range of historical skills). Furthermore, this reflective element really made students read teacher comments carefully and also fully understand what exactly they needed to do in order to achieve their next level, at KS3, or a higher grade at GCSE or A level.

However, one needs to be careful with focussing too much on level descriptors as it can actually cause problems. For example, teachers end up making a best fit or 'fits all' judgement on a student's work, indeed as Burnham and Brown (2004) point out the level descriptors do not chart progression and in fact are good for only a summative assessment at the end of an academic year. Student's themselves can find level descriptors difficult to understand and also to see the point in them.

Furthermore, there is a case to suggest that with certain iterations of the A level and GCSE History syllabuses that it is possible to receive a high grade without actually knowing much historical detail; a point noted by Chapman (2011). Vague statements relating to 'attempting analysis' or 'producing simple statements' focussed mainly on skills and I am very thankful that new A levels now appear to be redressing the balance in terms of historical content.

Teaching to the test is also an area that many will be familiar with. Pressures from SLT, parents and governors mean that teachers invariably have to come up with more innovative ways of helping their students to achieve better results. I am guilty of this, increasing revision sessions and creating highly detailed scaffolding for students to follow in order to achieve the various demands of mark scheme level descriptors.

Whilst this does achieve good results, there is always a nagging feeling that students may have been rather short changed. Particularly if we take our subjects from a purely academic perspective assessment of this type stifles the creativity, flexibility and eclectic nature of excellent teaching, moreover are we doing them and the student's justice?

 

Part 2 - Solutions

Students Working On An Assesment

How can assessment be of use for students? Again I use my own subject, history, as a case study but once more I believe that many subjects would be able to identify with the solutions outlined.

An answer lies with making sure that the assessment procedures are authentic and effective. Philpot explains that assessment needs to be a regular event providing ready and understandable feedback encompassing a variety of learning styles (Philpot, 2011). Harry Torrance offers a further solution. 'Divergent assessment' emphasises the learners understanding rather than that of the agenda of the assessor (Torrance, 1998). Using this model would allow for more understanding of what the child knows, understands or can do within the subject.

This is a wholly 'child-centred approach' and focuses on how the child responds to the curriculum, prompts pupils to reflect on their own learning and results in more descriptive, qualitative feedback (Torrance, 1998). This approach allows a teacher to move away from simply teaching to the descriptor and focussing on jumping through hoops; assessment is therefore not the problem but the way it is carried out.

Nonetheless, based on this notion of authentic effective assessment it is clear that the traditional forms of teaching to the test and teaching for the test are lauded in schools. Relatively, recently Ofsted's History for all (2011) has raised concerns over the use of the National Curriculum level, pointing to some schools that apply the descriptors in a very superficial manner, the report also states that using mark schemes to help students understand how marks are awarded and how this can help them to improve (Ofsted, 2011) is somehow excellent assessment practice.

Ofsted's Good Assessment Practice in history (2008) also praises those lessons that devote significant time to discussing assessment criteria. This is not historical understanding and again shows the traditional approach of teaching to the test and a set of outcomes. Until these assessment practices are changed then understanding cannot be assessed properly.

How can we assess differently?

There have, however, been many attempts and suggestions to make assessment more rigorous and more helpful in expanding pupil understanding. More than ten years ago Chris Culpin (2002) highlighted the problems with formulaic questions, answers judged against level descriptors even going so far as to claim that the assessment model was unfit for purpose.

Culpin's suggestions ranged from a single exam board and single syllabus to more teacher control in the assessment and design of courses and a reduction on board set papers. To Culpin giving students more time to develop as historians would also allow for more rigour in the way that they were assessed. Whilst Culpin makes a strong case there are clear problems with his suggestions. Allowing students more time to prepare for assessment does not necessarily lead to better historical understanding, only that students are more prepared for the types of question they may encounter.

Student Assesments

Similarly, Cuplin suggests a modular structure to the course, again the problems highlighted earlier of teaching to a test either in terms of skills or content are clearly evident.

Mark Cottingham (2004) has experimented with methods that allow for National Curriculum levels to be used in their intended form, at the end of the key stage. Cottingham comments that there are conflicting demands in assessment at KS3, from making assessment meaningful and rigorous to using it to make a judgement based on vague level descriptors.

Cottingham draws on AFL principles to suggest the use of individual student progress sheets traffic lighting, to show understanding in key elements of the unit of work, and TARS (Teacher Assessment Record Sheet) (Cottingham, 2004). When combined the student and teacher records can be used to provide a level at the end of the key stage as progression in key areas can be charted. This is very close to Torrance's 'divergent model' of assessment and allows for the teacher and student to have a dialogue over progression and understanding. The student acts on feedback from the teacher and their own reflections and sets attainable targets for improvement.

Cottingham concludes that his approach can inform schemes of work and allow for the development of effective assessment strategies supporting pupil progress and understanding (Cottingham, 2004). Nonetheless, the AFL approach has been criticised. Kitson and Husbands (2011) suggest that many AFL strategies can work generally for History (and I would imagine other subjects) but cannot readily be used to assess more difficult concepts about nature and extent of change (Kitson & Husbands, 2011). Whilst this is a valid observation Kitson and Husbands suggest that AFL needs to be adapted to advance rather than divert subject understanding (Kitson & Husbands, 2011). I would propose that Cottingham's approach goes some way in achieving such adaptation.

In an attempt to address the problems with National Curriculum levels Jerome Freeman and Joanne Philpot have experimented widely with the use of APP (Assessing Pupil Progress). The reasoning behind this is to build holistic assessment into everyday teaching and also to gain a far deeper understanding of the individual learner's achievements (Freeman & Philpot, 2009). In practice, APP can improve curriculum planning and remove reliance on traditional testing procedures. Freeman and Philpot advocate a periodic review of evidence to build a profile of achievement based on various assessment focuses (AFs) which illustrate characteristic achievement at each National Curriculum level.

The benefits of this approach include gaining a clearer picture of achievements and progress, an emphasis on using a range of evidence that can broaden the curriculum and a secure basis for pupil tracking against National Curriculum levels (Freeman & Philpot, 2009). Additionally, APP allows for a much better understanding of levels in terms of pupil learning and progress, pupils are encouraged to identify how each lesson fits into the 'big picture'. Ultimately as Freeman and Philpot explain, 'if we want pupils to enjoy and get better at history

In practice, APP can improve curriculum planning and remove reliance on traditional testing procedures. Freeman and Philpot advocate a periodic review of evidence to build a profile of achievement based on various assessment focuses (AFs) which illustrate characteristic achievement at each National Curriculum level. The benefits of this approach include gaining a clearer picture of achievements and progress, an emphasis on using a range of evidence that can broaden the curriculum and a secure basis for pupil tracking against National Curriculum levels (Freeman & Philpot, 2009).

Additionally, APP allows for a much better understanding of levels in terms of pupil learning and progress, pupils are encouraged to identify how each lesson fits into the 'big picture'. Ultimately as Freeman and Philpot explain, 'if we want pupils to enjoy and get better at history than holistic assessment is a step in the right direction' (Freeman & Philpot, 2009, p. 13). This approach fits well with Torrance's divergent model and allows pupils to see where their learning is heading, without a loss of understanding.

Many practitioners have suggested moving from the traditionally written assessment in order to truly measure historical understanding. Matt Stanford's (2008) work on non-verbal assessment highlights the refreshing way that pupils can be assessed differently. By combining setting pupils the task of completing an enquiry question with a piece of art Stanford encouraged students to demonstrate their understanding of the renaissance in a truly unique way.

A key area of planning was in giving students a sense of period that 'would allow them to contextualise the subsequent historical knowledge' (Stanford, 2008, p. 6). This was achieved through an enquiry of eight lessons and the final task that would be assessed. Not only were students demonstrating their knowledge of historical content, but because this was a practical assessment they were also demonstrating their understanding of artistic techniques of the period.

Student Assessments

This, surely, demonstrates a far better understanding of the Renaissance than simply learning about different artists and allows all students to more readily demonstrate their understanding. Stanford himself notes that this should not replace more traditional written and oral assessments but to use it will allow a teacher to gain more of an 'understanding of what the student knows' (Stanford, 2008, p. 11). From this broader understanding, assessment criteria can be better achieved.

Fulard and Dacey (2008) take yet another approach to assessment. Their approach was developed from the belief that the limits of essay writing were becoming more and more obvious; speaking and listening seemed to offer a solution (Fullard & Dacey, 2008). Through an integration of National Curriculum levels into concepts and processes, Fullard and Dacey hoped to launch progression to A level at KS3 rather than have pupil ability reduced at GCSE. Pupils developed debating skills through various enquiries and were assessed on their ability to pursue a full debate in class as well as the notes they took and questions they asked.

The results were pleasing demonstrating, at least for high ability students, that this different type of assessment can be adequately deployed. However, some students made inadequate use of the preparation stages and failed to grasp the underlying concepts of causal reasoning. Fullard and Dacey admit that 'speaking and listening is not the answer but it is part of the answer to the problem of assessment' (Fullard & Dacey, 2008, p. 29)

Clearly, if the assessment is to be of use then it has to be valid, reliable, authentic and robust. Assessment or measuring needs to take an integral place in the classroom and be part of everyday planning, teaching and learning. Torrance's (1998) divergent model has been a driving factor more recently and some those better methods that have been developed over the last decade show a clear correlation to this assessment type. It is clear that assessment needs to have the individual learner placed at its centre and that a dialogue needs to exist between teacher and learner in order for that learner to progress in their historical understanding.

Most importantly, however, is that the concept of assessment or measuring is not the problem rather it is the way that the assessment is undertaken. A more eclectic approach is vital if the subject is to be accessible for all students and for those students to succeed as demonstrated by Stanford (2008) and Fullard and Dacey (2008). Teachers should not be afraid of attempting a different kind of assessment especially if that assessment or measuring can assist in pupil understanding and should take the time to do so and learn from the results.

References

Burnham, S., & Brown, G. (2004, June). Assessment without level descriptors. Teaching History(115), pp. 5-13.
Chapman, A. (2011). The history curriculum 16 - 19. In I. Davies (Ed.), Debates in History Teaching (pp. 46 - 55). Oxford: Routledge.
Cottingham, M. (2004, June). Dr Black Box or how I learned to stop worrying and love assessment. Teaching History, pp. 16-22.
Culpin, C. (2002, December). Why we must change history GCSE. Teaching History, pp. 6-9.
Freeman, J., & Philpot, J. (2009, December). Assessing Pupil Progress: Transforming teacher assessment in KS3 history. Teaching History, pp. 4-13.
Fullard, G., & Dacey, K. (2008, June). Holistic assessment through speaking and listening: an experiment with causal reasoning and evidential thinking in year 8. Teaching History, pp. 25-29.
Kitson, A., & Husbands, C. (2011). Teaching and Learning History 11-18. Maidenhead: Open University Press.
Ofsted. (2011). History for all. Retrieved March 16, 2013, from Ofsted: http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/resources/history-for-all
Philpot, J. (2011). Assessment. In I. Davies (Ed.), Debates in History Teaching (pp. 261 - 272). Oxford: Routledge.
Stanford, M. (2008, March). Redrawing the Renaissance: non-verbal assessment in year 7. Teaching History, pp. 4-11.
Torrance, H. (1998). Investigating Formative Assessment: Teaching, Learning and Assessment in the Classroom. Buckingham: Open University Press.

We'd be really eager to know your thoughts and viewpoints on assessment in education so do leave us a comment below or by contacting us on Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin.

Get Ready for Revising!

Revision and Studying TipsEaster is nearly coming to a close and whilst that brings the advent of the summer term, it also bring something highly important to the forefront. The GCSE and A Level exams. Students across the country will be heavily preparing for these exams which have such a big influence on their chosen career path. 

Teachers will also be constantly aiding and supporting students to make sure they are ready for these life changing exams and with that comes the focus of revision.

Revision is a challenge for many as it can sometimes be deemed long and monotonous. Sometimes students feel they don’t benefit from revision, But with these fantastic revision tips, we can ensure that students and teachers will make the most of out of revising and hopefully will be prepared for the 2016 summer exams.

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How To Survive Your NQT Year Like These Education Experts

For many teachers, they'll have stepped back into familiar territory by returning the classroom after a fantastic summer holidays. However, they'll be a number of Newly Qualified Teachers undertaking their first role. It's both an incredibly exciting and daunting time for NQT's which is why we've scoured the web to find some absolutely amazing articles full of inspiration and advice so NQT's can hit the ground running!

The Key To A Successful NQT Year

The Key To A Successful NQT Year - Copy

Adam Speight is an award winning teacher as well as a highly successful Head of Department. In this thought-provoking article posted on Innovate My School, Adam outlines a number of highly effective and actionable strategies that can ensure NQT's every bit of success in their year.

100 Tips For NQT's

Teachers Classroom

Teacher, Writer and Presenter, Sue Cowley set herself the challenge of tweeting 100 NQT Tips before her latest release. If you're ever seeking inspiration, this is most definitely your go to post for short and easy to digest pieces of advice.

NQT Special: How to protect your wellbeing

Wellbeing In Education

Teaching is by no means an easy profession which is why we encourage educators to really focus on their wellbeing. The Education Support Partnership is a charity that solely focuses on offering support to education specialists. This article outlines a number of tips especially for NQT's as to how they can maintain their mental health and mindfulness.

Some Quick Tips for NQTs and Trainees

Quick Tips and Ideas

If you are seeking a little bit of inspiration for effective classroom strategies, preparation tips and how to deal with all aspects of behaviour, make use of all the expert tips in this useful post from Teaching Battleground.

Life as an NQT: 10 survival tips from those who've lived to tell the tale

Teaching Tips - Copy

It's always a great idea to take on board the advice of people who have been in the same boat as yourself. With tips on time management, effective planning as well as how to cope in common situations, four fantastic teachers share their tactics on surviving as an NQT.

Guest Blog: Differentiated Learning Activities In The Classroom

In the second of our guest blog series, experienced History Teacher, Neil Martin discusses how to create and utilise differentiated learning activities in the classrooom Neil regularly blogs on his own website Actuality which offers expert insights into many education viewpoints. 

 

Differentiation In The Classroom

Over the course of my career I have taught both set and mixed ability classes. Both have their merits, set classes allow for a standardisation of pace (accelerated for the highly able for example allowing for stretching and less restriction with regard to content) and mixed ability allow for a range of interpretations to be brought to a lesson as well as allowing students to act as enablers for the success of their peers. Nevertheless, within each example there is still a range of ability and differentiation is always an element of planning that needs to be considered.

But what do we mean by differentiation?

In a broad sense differentiation meeting the needs of individual pupils so that they can learn. This not only means addressing the needs of those with SPLD but also those higher ability students.

Does differentiation mean different?

Richard Harris (Associate Professor Director of Teaching and Learning, Reading University) suggests that instead of attempting to slim down the curriculum by giving SPLD students easier material or indeed, simply giving the best students extension material we can allow all to succeed by following three clear principles when planning our lessons (Harris, 2005).

1 – Make the work engaging 2 – Make the work accessible but challenging 3 – Decide where you want to plan obstacles

What does this mean in practice?

Sensible planning; in essence that allows every student to learn appropriately no matter what their ability. Suggestions as to how each principle could be demonstrated in a lesson are as follows.

1 – Make the work engaging

For example:

  • A suitable narrative as an introduction to a particular topic
  • Art as a way of introducing a key historical concept – cause and consequence, change and continuity, significance
  • A foreign language news article relating to current events in the UK
  • An overarching Historical Enquiry
  • Physical history – props and artefacts
  • Revealing learning objectives later on in a lesson
  • Code breaking to discover learning objectives
  • Testing knowledge and ability with a tricky problem as students begin a lesson

The list could be endless; Harris concludes by explaining that enthusiasm and puzzlement are crucial, deliberately building up to what you want to do (Harris, 2005).

2 – Make the work accessible but challenging

At times I imagine that we are concerned that if pupils are not writing they are not learning. Nevertheless, pupils can still exercise and develop their analytical skills by not putting pen to paper. As educators it is vitally important that we consider a range of approaches. This in turn enables all forms of learner to achieve (audio, visual, kinaesthetic) and also promotes variety in the teacher's range of delivery.

Some further suggestions:

  • Using contradictory evidence to produce an account of an event.
  • Physically walking through a maths problem.
  • Visual images that can be used to pursue 'layers of inference'.
  • Presentation work as an end result focussed on points of certainty, probability and doubt.

3 – Decide where you want to place the obstacles

Within this element we are encouraged to consider the outcomes of our lessons; we can decide what to leave in and leave out. For example:

  • Considering the amount of quality writing that we want pupils to complete to consolidate their learning.
  • Using difficult text and employing methods such as reading it out dramatically together, identifying and addressing tone.
  • Highlight tricky words then use ICT with pupils to define those key words.
  • Summarising also presents a solution to difficult text or problems, especially if pupils are given a limit to that summary. This is a technique that can be built on as the pupils become more familiar with having to address more and more complex themes and lengthier articles.

Does differentiation matter?

In essence, yes it does matter, but, it is important not see differentiation as an obstacle to planning. See it more as opportunistic from a student and teacher perspective. Differentiation unlocks so much potential in the classroom and can offer the student a platform for future success and the foundation for achievement. For the teacher it expands and improves a repertoire promotes self-reflection and analysis of one's lessons and indeed one's students. So perhaps when you are planning your next lesson think outside the box a little and be different!

Bibliography
Harris, R. (2005). Does Differentiation have to mean different? Teaching History, 118, 5 - 12.

The 3 Most Effective Tactics to Engage Your Students!

You've seen it all before, you're teaching a class about a truly exciting subject. One that should inspire them. The lesson is planned meticulously and you hope that your student's revel in the information presented to them - But they don't. Instead, you have to fight for the attention of a group of students staring blankly at the ceiling or outside the window. Why aren't they interested? Why aren't they inspired?

In this blog we will detail how you can improve your student's level of engagement to create an exciting and progressive classroom atmosphere.

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How To Seamlessly Transition Into A School Leadership Role

Making The Jump From One Leadership Role To The Next As we approach the end of the academic year, many of you will be thinking about new roles that you will be taking up in September. Many of those roles will have a noticeable increase in leadership responsibility. Whilst a natural transition for some, stepping up to leadership can be underestimated in its complexity and often support provided can be insufficient or ineffective. It is claimed that nearly half of transitioning leaders underperform in the first 18 months.

Whether your next teaching role is your first foray into education leadership, or if you have undertaken a fresh new career change in a new environment, make use of my 5 tips for successful job transitions to help you to hit the ground running straight away.

1. Reflect On Your Current Role

Depending on your own circumstances, the choice to leave your last teaching job may have been either an easy decision or a hard decision. Whatever your reasons for leaving, it will be helpful to reflect on your own practice as an educator in order for you make the best possible impact in your new position.

Educators are natural reflective practitioners, so I recommend that you to take the time to evaluate your successes in your current teaching role, recognise and appreciate what you have achieved through the experiences and opportunities that your role has brought. Doing so will help you to gain a full understanding of the skills and strategies you have developed and help you to identify which are most useful to you moving forward.

In addition to this, it's equally as important to determine what you might need to develop further. There is a well-quoted phrase that 'what got you here will not get you there' which highlights the need to develop the skills and strengths that will be needed for success in your new role. Take into consideration areas of your pedagogy and leadership skills needed in your new role and identify 3 skills and strengths to work on through your transition.

A firm understanding of yourself as an educator sets you in a very good frame of mind for when you undertake a new leadership position. So make this your first priority when you transition from one job to the next.

2. Celebrate Leaving

A leaving do may not be every teacher's cup of tea, but they serve an important psychological function in helping us to let go of the past and to move forward. Saying goodbye to talented and trusted colleagues acknowledges the ending of a positive phase of your career and helps you to bring a role formally to a close. It enables a celebration of your achievements that have allowed you to move to a new role, encourages acknowledgement of what you will miss and focuses you to think about what were the best parts of it, and yourself, that you want to take with you into your new role. In short, it prepares you for the change and transition that lies ahead and helps develop the resilience, confidence and self-belief that you will need to create the impact that you will be hoping for.

3. Plan and Prepare For Your First Term

Every teacher will tell you, that quality planning leads to a high standard of performance. To hit the ground running early, I urge you develop a plan for your first term in your new position. To start with, learn as much as possible about your new school. You will no doubt be aware of your school's vision and developments plans from your interview process, now is the time to revisit the commitments you made and to begin to plan how you might go about achieving these. Some research and familiarisation with operation details such as staffing structures, policies and latest outcomes and achievements could help with your thoughts and should influence your aspirations for your plan for your first term.

Once your initial research on the school is complete, it's important that you gain a full understanding of your job role. Make sure that you're fully aware of your priorities, responsibilities as well as the possible challenges you could face and how best to tackle them.

By planning for your first term you'll be able to identify some easily achievable positive impact to help you secure early wins and build trust and respect from your new colleagues.

4. Focus and Forge New Relationships

A new role will involve a myriad of new people who will be crucial to the school's success as well as your own, so it's very important to identify the key people in your new role and build strong relationships with them. Building these strong relationships will lead to your stakeholders being fully engaged and immersed in your vision, making your job as a school leader enjoyable and progressive.

As a new Head Teacher, these will include your leadership team, governors (especially the chair) and your PA. For other leadership roles focus on your leadership peer group and your team of staff.

5. Keep Your Balance and Maintain Your Wellbeing

Leading a school, a subject or a year group is an incredible privilege especially when you have a direct influence on the lives and education of students and staff. But, with this responsibility comes a great deal of demanding work and it's important that teachers maintain their work-life balance, physical and mental health as well as how other people around them can be of support. Don't be too hard on yourself in these early days especially if you have taken on a challenging situation.

To improve your wellbeing, take into consideration your own levels of physical activity, how often you spend time relaxing and enjoying a moment of solitude. There's a number of fantastic wellbeing resources available such as The Wellbeing Action Plan, so do ensure that you are taking into consideration how your role may have an effect on yourself and what you can do to manage it.

 

Lorraine Couves is a Performance Consultant, Project Manager and Change Lead who enjoys facilitating ideas generation, problem-solving and organisational development. With over 15 years' experience of educational organisations, she has helped to drive strategic change leading to improvement in outcomes, Ofsted judgements and in financial sustainability.

Guest Blog: Stressed By Grammar?

Does a focus on spelling, punctuation and grammar destroy creativity?

How to use grammar to enhance creativity, rather than detracting from it This current debate is never far from the primary school staffroom agenda. It's an interesting question, which never sits easy with those of us reclining on the least populated side of the fence. The side which says 'it shouldn't – and if it does, we need to do something about it.

I do, of course, totally understand where this perception comes from. The grammar test at the end of Key Stage 2 is totally 'Gradgrind' in its approach – learn the facts and prove that you know them. Drill, drill, drill to learn them; revise, revise, revise to recall them; fill in the correct box and get the mark. Children are then expected to successfully apply these skills in their writing, assessed by their teachers following 'guidance' they have been given; guidance that will undoubtedly be changed yet again in this turbulent world of assessment. I firmly believe it is the slavish teaching to this checklist (particularly by teachers who lack confidence in their subject knowledge) that risks destroying young children's love of writing before they have even begun, masking their imagination behind an opaque veil of fronted adverbials, antonyms and an overwhelming, stagnant heap of success criteria.

Our challenge is to enable our young people to achieve mastery of grammar as early as possible, at a sensibly graduated pace and level relevant to their maturity – within this firm foundation, high quality teaching should, indeed must, allow their creativity to take flight. Children need grammar so they can make choices about how to use language to their own ends. What we absolutely do not want is to be faced by a year four class asserting (as they did to me at the start of this term), that the first sentence of their holiday recount really should begin with the word 'amazingly'...

Reassuringly, the very next day I was inspired by an outstanding workshop at The Roald Dahl Museum and Story Teller Centre, where our Year 5 children sat entranced as they heard of the process behind the great author's swashboggling inventiveness. The interactive tasks within the centre re-lit the flame of imagination which, in these days of screen passivity, risks being dampened for an entire generation and beyond. Every child embraced dressing up, developing new characters, creating a film script and jotting down ideas in their writer notebooks – a skill which our school embraced further when we took our gifted key stage 2 writers to a workshop at Buckingham Palace, where they explored various art works as sources of inspiration, guided by a published author.

A recent article by David Crystal confirms what all education professionals already know – good grammar is essential when related to meaning; get it wrong and your audience may well misunderstand what you're trying to say. As the notebook I recently bought my nephew states so succinctly on the front cover: Grammar is about knowing the difference between your rubbish and you're rubbish.

But where David goes further is by using an example that confirms exactly why good understanding of grammar supports creativity and freedom of expression. It should not, and does not, destroy it. When you take this stance, language comes alive as we teach how to use it to manipulate writing – what a privilege it is to explore this in the creative classroom through encouraging children to analyse the writing of their favourite author, in this case Terry Pratchett's positioning of adjectives in this sentence from 'The Carpet People'.

'He saw the gleam of ten thousand eyes, green, red and white.'

Enabling mastery of grammar is our challenge as educators, without compromising on a rich, vivid, creative curriculum that brings language alive, feeds the imagination and discovers meaning in our communications. Exploring writers' techniques, broadening reading, investigating vocabulary, embracing a range of experiences, writing for a purpose, developing a love of learning - this is our mission. Amazingly, if we get the balance right, our young writers will fly.

Keep up with the very latest education news, job opportunities and inspirational articles by following Always Flourishing on Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and Google+

Copyright: Debbie Rainer
Deputy Head Teacher
St Anthony's Catholic Primary School and Nursery, Slough

Interview advice for teachers- How to ace your next interview!

Interview Advice for your next Teaching JobFrom what you wear to the top questions asked. The Always Flourishing consultants; Andy, Becky and Laura, have provided the ultimate guide to great interview success for your next teaching role using their experiences with many local schools. This blog covers the many aspects of an interview from the preparation stages right the way through to questions you should ask your potential employers. 

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The Best EdTech Apps We Insist You Use In Your Classroom!

Integrating Edtech in your lessons can have a wealth of benefits as well as making vast improvement to yourself and your student's wellbeing.

If you've been following our series of blogs, you'll know we already have some Top Tips on Improving Teacher Wellbeing.

From capturing evidence for assignments, to delivering detailed feedback and encouraging student, teacher and parent collaboration, the inclusion of Edtech is something that we highly recommend.

But where do you begin when you wish to use Edtech in your classes?

What are the best apps for teachers available?

Scroll down to view the best Edtech apps that we insist you try with your students!

 1. Kahoot!

Kahoot

Image courtesy of getkahoot.com

Kahoot is a games based learning platform that allows teachers to utilise a whole range of subject related quizzes. Students are rewarded points based upon the selection of the right answer and how fast they were able to click it. Teachers are able to create their own quizzes based upon their own lessons, making it a fantastically fun way to test student's subject knowledge. When using Kahoot to create quizzes, you can even embed images and YouTube videos to improve the retention of student knowledge.

Cost: FREE

2. Class Dojo

ClassDojo

Image courtesy of classdojo.com

If you want to reinforce positive behaviour and improve your Classroom Management strategy, we urge you to try Class Dojo. Class Dojo is an app where you can reward and deduct points for positive or negative behaviour exhibited by your students – No more will you have to put checkmarks or tallies on a board!

This highly popular Edtech app comes with its own set of behaviours such as Homework entry, contest winner etc. But, you can create your own depending on your class or whole school policy. In addition to this, other amazingly useful features include; Trendspotter (which enables teachers to see patterns in positive or negative behaviour), and private messaging between parents and teachers without the need for each other's numbers.

Cost: FREE

3. Book Creator

Bookcreator

Image courtesy of bookcreator.com

Have you ever wanted to create your own online books and resources for your colleagues or students? Now you can with the ever popular app Book Creator. This award winning app enables teachers to easily create their own books and resources with textual, image, and audio elements making this a highly desirable teaching and learning tool for teachers to utilise.

Cost: £4.99

4. Padlet

Padlet

Image courtesy of padlet.com

Padlet is an online and device based application that works in a similar manner to Pinterest where you can pin ideas, videos and documents. Padlet can be utilised by teachers to encourage student research or creating mood boards or uploading evidence in relation to a subject based topic.

Cost: FREE

5. Plickers

Plickers

Image courtesy of plickers.com

Collecting data for formative assessments is often a rather demanding task which is why we feel that Plickers is an ideal option for time stretched teachers. Plickers collects formative data in real time without the need for any device from your students. This highly praised app assigns students to a barcode which can be printed. Students then raise their cards to answer a question or give feedback whilst the app, which is downloaded on a mobile or table device, scans the room and records the results instantly.

Cost: FREE including the cards! 

6. Seesaw

Seesaw

Image courtesy of web.seesaw.me

Seesaw is one of the best Edtech apps for teachers and students and we cannot recommend it enough. The app is a student driven portfolio where they can directly document what they have learnt in classes using photos, videos, drawings, text, PDFs, and links. Teachers can easily give feedback to students and other designated class educators.

In addition to this, parents have their own version of the app where they can see their children's work and leave comments for their children and their teachers to read thus strengthening the relationship between all individuals involved.

Cost: FREE to download but Seesaw offers a variety of bespoke pricing packages for schools depending on the number of student

7. Educade

Educade

Image courtesy of educade.org

Educade is one of the new learning resource apps available however it does already have a significant number of free lesson plans. Teachers are able to make use of this resource by selecting lessons in accordance with student's grades and age as well as being able to upload and create your own resources. Lessons come with their own step by step instructions, a list of resources and reviews from other teachers.

Cost: FREE

8. Notability

Notability

Image courtesy of GingerLabs.com

Students can often find note taking a difficult and sometimes boring task. By using Notability, students are able to easily combine handwriting, photos and typing to easily capture their thoughts and learning processes. One of the bonuses of Notability is that you can easily edit and annotate PDF documents making it ideal for students who are looking to make notes on learning resources.

Cost: FREE

9. Screencast-O-Matic

Screencast O Matic

Image courtesy of screencast-o-matic.com

If you wish to record tutorials for your class or if you wish to capture evidence of your students learning and understanding, we feel that Screencast-O-Matic is the ideal app for you. This online application records your screen making it easier than ever for yourself to showcase your knowledge to your students. Teachers who have used Screencast-O-Matic have used the tool for delivering student feedback through visual recording or audio as well as encouraging students to showcase their work and discuss their though processes.

Cost: FREE

10. Google Classroom

Google Classroom

Logo's courtesy of Google and Google Classroom.

Google classroom is one of the leading multi-device education suites available. Teachers can benefit from a range of highly desirable features such as the option to collaboratively teach courses with other educators, create class assignments at the click of a button, encourage classroom discussion and the ability to offer real time feedback. Another really great advantage of using Google Classroom is that teachers can set differentiated learning activities for individual students.

For further ideas on how you can utilise differentiated learning activities in your classes, do view our guest blog on this topic from Neil Martin.

Cost: FREE for schools using Google Apps for Education.

So, that's all the Edtech apps we have for now. We hope this inspires you to try some of our suggestions in your class so do let us know if you've had any success in doing so by leaving us a comment below!

Practical Guide: Keep Your Teacher Wellbeing In Check

Our Primary recruitment consultant and former KS1 Primary Teacher, Annie Davis, explains the necessary actions to be implemented to ensure school staff wellbeing remains a priority.

Looking back on my time in the classroom, it's clear to see that I actually prioritised my wellbeing, happiness and mental health as a teacher. Again being a teacher, I learnt most of these wellbeing ideas from my own personal experience which I am very excited to share!

1. Limit the time spent on one activity.

Make Time For You As A TeacherDuring my tenure as a Primary teacher, I knew of colleagues who would spend hours upon hours trying to complete the myriad of tasks we teachers face. I myself would be found in the early hours of the morning completing the usual mix of marking, planning and data inputting that is required of every teacher. I wanted to give my students my all so they would have the best lessons and the best feedback possible.

Looking back, I would sometimes spend too much time on one lesson, so I became short sighted to the fact I had a weeks-worth of lessons to plan!

After realising this was probably not the best tactic, I decided to limit the time on each task in order to complete more lesson plans to a good quality rather than just having one amazing lesson plan and the rest all average. It's not easy by any standard and there times when a little extra planning is required but all in all my priorities were in place and because I wasn't so drained and stressed, the students got the very best out of me!

2. Not every day is going to be a good one.

We all have bad days; sometimes a lesson does not go entirely to plan or you can be dealing with poor concentration or bad behaviour. There was this one lesson when a student with EBSD, who had been fantastically behaved prior to this, decided to walk out of my classroom in full view of the executive head who was observing! This one incident resulted in additional worries and doubts about my capabilities as a Primary Teacher even though this incident was a complete one off.

Rather than worry about this one shortcoming, my actions as a teacher were sensationally put into perspective by the child's parent who, at the end of the year, wrote me a beautiful letter saying how I had developed such a fantastic relationship with him, how my support was thoroughly appreciated and that I had made such a positive difference to her son as a teacher.

When you are teacher having one of those bad days, take a moment to think, have you made a difference as a teacher? Have you always tried to do everything you can by your students? If the answer to both these questions is yes, then you're doing amazingly well! Both good and bad days come in waves so it won't be long until your back to feeling on top again.

3. You can't complete everything.

Week in week out, we have a mountain of work that needs completing from data entry, student reports and the dreaded Primary SATS. This workload is enough to stretch anyone. At times I would often isolate myself in the hopes of having the necessary space in order to complete everything on my to-do list.

I've learnt that as a teacher you are never going to finish everything and the only way I did not develop an unhealthy mind-set is to think about what I have achieved in rather than what's been left on the back burner. I was also advised, as a trainee teacher, to make something known as a "ta-daa" list when, upon completing a task, I would find a way to reward myself by saying "ta-daa!"

4. Make Time For You!

Yoga and WellbeingI'm pretty sure you have all heard this piece of advice more than once. But seriously, it is advice that is so worth sharing and undertaking.

After a long and draining day, I would often find myself taking solace in my second passion, music. Once a week on a Thursday I would leave school at a reasonable time and head to Reading to participate in a local steel pan group rehearsal. I absolutely love playing music since it helps me to forget all of my pent up stresses and worries and just enjoy the moment.

Also, I was lucky enough to take up yoga which was provided by my former school. Yoga was so calming and exercising is a well-known way to relieve stress.

Make the time to indulge yourself in a hobby whether that be sport, music, dancing or just simply relaxing by reading a book or watching some tele. It gives you that all important mental break that enables you to feel refreshed and ready to take on any additional work you have to do.

I urge all of you to try and implement these wellbeing ideas ready for when you return to the classroom in September. Even if they seem difficult to follow when you are really busy, I can guarantee that it will make all the difference!

Further Resources

If you are looking for additional tips on improving your wellbeing as a teacher, please head to the following sites.

How Teachers Can Persevere

Always Flourishing PerserveranceToday was a highly eventful morning in the Always Flourishing office especially as we had NO electricity whatsoever! We had no internet so we couldn't check our systems. We had no telephones so we couldn't answer any calls. We didn't even have heating! But Did this stop us from working full out to support our schools and candidates? Of course it didn't and by persevering we managed to continue on as best as possible and soon enough we were back in the warmth of our office.

The Always Flourishing Team working literally from home! 

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Our Top Teaching Articles For This Week - 24th April 2017

We are completely blown away by the sheer number of education resources an teaching articles shared online and on social media.  We are so excited to share these top teaching blogs and articles that we have come across this week!

Teachers On Twitter

Logging In To Twitter On A Mobile Phone

Twitter is by far one of our favourite social networks, especially since we find many inspirational teachers and educators sharing resources, blog articles and examples of work. Erin Miller enthusiastically outlines the benefits of using Twitter as a source of inspiration and ideas and we can wholeheartedly agree with every suggestion. From using hashtags to find other likeminded individuals to making the most of reading education blogs, Erin covers all ground on how you can be a successful teacher on Twitter and we urge all of you to sign yourself up!

If you are already on Twitter or looking to join, make sure you follow us @AFlourishing!

6 Things To Get Right In Every School

TeacherHead 6 Things To Get Right In Every School

This intriguing article came up on our Twitter feed (again another reason to join!) and upon reading, I was completely immersed in the fantastic viewpoints from Tom Sherrington. Tom Sherrington is an experienced school leader and in this article, he outlines what every school needs in order to be a success.

From some great suggestions on effective staff development to resources on effective behaviour management, Tom covers a whole range of topics by his own admission are by no means the only six or necessarily the most important. But, they are all areas that it ought to be possible to plan for, taking account of research evidence and examples of effective practice across the system.

Don't Be A Perfectionist Or Else You'll Never Get Anything Done, EVER

Scott Bradlee Perfectionism

Even though this article does not come from the education sector, it is filled with so many fantastic gems of advice and guidance that will be of benefit to any teacher. Written by Scott Bradlee, the creator of the internet sensation that is Postmodern Jukebox, this terrific blog details Scott's own dealings with perfectionism and how individuals can sway from trying to maintain an idealised image of themselves and their work which can prevent them from achieving their goals.

With a vast number of articles stating that teachers are being unnecessarily hard on themselves (Finding A New Kind Of Perfect – Education Support Partnership), Scott's intelligence on the subject is a refreshing source of inspiration that will encourage teachers to break free from this occasional hindrance of a habit and to be bold enough to explore new ideas and ways of thinking.

DIY Environmental Classroom Activities

School Compost Heap with Compost Bins

Environment and Climate change has been at the forefront of many political discussions for a vast duration of time. Educate your students with these fantastic suggestions from TeachHub on how you can familiarise your students with the eco-system and how they can protect and preserve it. Many of the activities listed in this blog such as Composting, oil spill clean-up and the window garden can be taught in accordance to subjects within the National curriculum in particular Science and Food Technology.

Have you read an article that you feel should be included in our next article roundup? Let us know by getting in touch with us on Facebook, Twitter or Linkedin!

How Teachers Can Help Students on A Level and GCSE Results Day

Enabling Students to Survive GCSE and A Level Results DayThe long awaited A Level results day on the 18th of this month and GCSE's on the 24th and we can guarantee it's been penned in the diary by many teachers and students alike. Students across the country will be anxiously opening an envelope which can determine so many aspects of their future. We take a look teachers can do to make sure students survive this highly anticipated day.

Ensure you're GCSE and A Level students know and realise this...

Whether they achieve the grade they want or if they unfortunately don't, their results are only a reflection of how well they did in the exam. Teachers all know that exams can't measure how kind they are, whether they are skilled at tennis, or how they are just a joy to teach. Of course grades are hugely important but if your students have a desire to achieve and a passion to learn, they will achieve ANYTHING they set their minds too and we hope you reiterate this with them on the day.

Be a Shoulder to Cry On

There will no doubt be tears shed on results day both of happiness and disappointment. Organise a quiet and private area for students or teachers to express their emotions away from unwanted eyes. Once a student has had time to digest their results, gently reassure them of the many other options available. It's best not to press for an immediate decision of an alternative route just yet so give your students something they can take away and explore at a later stage.

Use your 'Know How'

Whether this is your first year of GCSE or A Level results, you will know what students need to do in order to get the next stage of education. Whether a student has met or exceeded their target grades or if they have not, you will be briefed on how you can offer your advice on the next steps whether that be resitting, deferring for a year. If you do find yourself slightly at a loss, talk to your senior manager on how best you can support your students through this period.

Praise, Praise, Praise

After countless months planning, revising and undertaking a myriad of exams across many subjects, you students rightly deserve every ounce of praise you can give for the sheer hard work they have put in over the exam season. Congratulate them. Celebrate with them. Take Selfies with Them. Share a hug with them. We all know that you as a teacher have put in a significant amount of work and by praising your student's, they will be hugely grateful for the contribution you have made!

Say Goodbye

In some cases, results day is the last time you will see some of your students. Even though the main focus of the day is to support your GCSE or A Level students through the next part of their academic career, do make the effort to say goodbye and thank them for being your students.

Top tips for Improving Teacher Wellbeing

Learn how you can implement these fantastic wellbeing activities for teachers with these brilliant gems of advice to maintain school staff wellbeing.

In recent years, there has been a significant emphasis on wellbeing for educators and people working in education. With many teachers unfortunately experiencing what is known as a "teacher burnout", we've browsed the web to provide you with the best tips and activities to improve your wellbeing and the wellbeing of other teachers.

Teacher Wellbeing Bags

Teacher Wellbeing Bags

The aim of these bags is to make staff feel valued and encourage a collaborative approach to teaching and learning across the curriculum areas. In an attempt to make staff feel welcome and confident I distributed the bags. They were an immediate hit! Each bag contained a personalised poster created quickly and easily using @RhonnaFarrer's design app.

The rest of the items included are listed below along with instructions for use:

• Cupcake cook book – set up a rota and get baking for department meetings.
• Star Stickies (Post It Notes) – write praise on these and leave them in places your colleagues will find them.
• Stickers – label lessons/ideas that worked well.
• Notepad – write down great teaching ideas on the go!
• Stickies (Post It Notes) – use these in department meetings to plan new schemes/lessons. Time-savers.
• Mints – to keep you cool when the going gets tough.
• Biscuits – for duty days and break times.
• Highlighters – to make your schemes of work stand out.
• Tissues – for those days. We all have them.
• Sweets – an energy boost for those afternoon triple lessons.
• Stamps – we all love stamps, right? For the full guide please head to Teacher Well-Being Bags

Improve your sleep

Improving Sleep for Teachers

A good night's sleep is the holy grail for today's generation of overworked and overstressed individuals. For teachers, a proper night's rest is particularly vital, especially when the next morning involves managing a classroom of excitable and children. But getting a full eight hours of slumber isn't as elusive as you might imagine. Here are simple and scientifically proven ways to beat insomnia.

Science tells us that how light or dark a room is at bedtime matters. Studies show that light can delay the production of melatonin, a chemical in the body that anticipates the daily onset of darkness. Another study by scientists at the University of Granada also found that sleeping in pitch black is important for the metabolism. To help make your room sleep conducive, it's worth investing in some blackout blinds or buying yourself an eye-mask. Another top tip is to dim the lights before you go to bed to signal to your body that darkness is setting in.

To discover more tips on how to improve your sleep please head The Guardian

Learn something new and share it with your students

Avoiding Teacher Burnout

Read an interesting book -- education or non-education related. I have been reading, The Smartest Kids in the World and How They Got that Way from Amanda Ripley. It is interesting and education related, so I don't feel guilty about taking time away from lesson planning and grading. Read a classic that you have always wanted to read but never got around to reading. Watch a TED Talk or go to Iuniversity and find something interesting about brain research (that's what I like to explore anyway).

For even more step by step guides to improving wellbeing and reducing Teacher Burnout, head over to Edutopia

Be Active

Being Active as a School Teacher

Regular physical activity is associated with lower rates of depression and anxiety across all age groups. Exercise is essential for slowing age-related cognitive decline and for promoting well-being. But it doesn't need to be particularly intense for you to feel good - slower-paced activities, such as walking, can have the benefit of encouraging social interactions as well providing some level of exercise.

Today, why not get physical? Here are a few ideas:

• Take the stairs not the lift
• Go for a walk at lunchtime (If permitted)
• Walk into work - perhaps with a colleague – so you can 'connect' as well
• Get off the bus one stop earlier than usual and walk the final part of your journey to work
• Organise a work sporting activity
• Have a kick-about in a local park
• Do some 'easy exercise', like stretching, before you leave for work in the morning
• Walk to someone's desk instead of calling or emailing.

For even more wellbeing in the workplace tips, please head to Mind. 

Laughter as a tonic

Improve Staff Wellbeing In Schools

Laughter is said to be good for the soul, but mind and body can also benefit. Frederika Roberts, co-founder of the RWS (Resilience Wellbeing Success) Programme says: "Companies could hold laughter yoga sessions at lunchtime or organise mini sessions before staff meetings. It doesn't cost much to send one or two members of staff on a two-day official training course to become a certified laughter yoga leader."

Discover more fantastic wellbeing tips by reading the whole article at The Guardian 

Getting the culture right

Ideas to Improve Teacher Wellbeing

It is important to have a working culture which allows teachers (and all staff) to feel they can talk about their stresses and worries. There is not a quick fix for this, but showing that you want to hear your colleagues' opinions is a good starting point. Making surveys anonymous, at least to start with, can encourage more staff to share their views than might otherwise be the case.

Another simple step is encouraging staff to take their breaks – preferably in a shared space where they can socialise with other members of staff – and discouraging them from staying for hours after the school day ends.

If you have enjoyed reading this blog on the top tips for Teacher Wellbeing, please like/follow our Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Linkedin accounts for the very latest in wellbeing and education news as well as Teaching Jobs within The Thames Valley.

The Schools and Teachers Leading On Wellbeing

As a forward thinking teaching agency within the Home Counties, we put wellbeing at the heart of everything we do. However, who are the education professionals leading on teacher wellbeing? How are they making a difference to the happiness and health of other teachers and teaching assistants? We take a look at some of the top teachers across the country and how they have been able to maximise the wellbeing of their school staff members and students?

Caseby's Casebook – The Workable Wellbeing Series

Vice Principal at an Oxford all through school. Roger Caseby has a strong interest on the link between teacher wellbeing and student outcomes. He's published a trio of blogs on how he implements wellbeing and positive mental health to his team of teachers.

1. Free tea & coffee in our staff room.

Tea and CoffeeThis is essential really, I feel it makes breaks a proper break and it's the fuel that keeps staff going in between! I've worked in schools where staff pay into a kitty for tea & coffee – it's a lot of effort for a very small sum in terms of a school budget and usually a nightmare for the colleague who has to get everyone to cough up. Chocolate biscuits also help at high pressure times and several colleagues share cake on their birthdays.

2. Considering the impact of new policies on staff wellbeing.

Change seems to be the one contestant in schools. As we plan and implement new policies and procedures it's important to consider their impact on workload and wellbeing. I have described this in more detail here.

3. Thank yous.

It only takes a moment to say thank you, but in a busy day doing so can easily slip, whether acknowledging an email response, on paper or in person. It's well worth getting into the habit of thanking people in even the routine tasks like a request for photocopying to reprographics. Use key points in the year such as the end of terms to voice appreciation or drop people a note. Performance management reviews are also an opportunity to thank colleagues for their contribution over the past year. At our Performance Development (we don't call it appraisal) day this year we picked up on idea from Cheney school, Oxford, and started a staff Thank You board where anyone can post thank you's to colleagues.

The full blog 'Workable Wellbeing' can be read here.
Workable Wellbeing 2 can be read here.
Workable Wellbeing 3 can be read here.

The Musings Of A Teaching Enthusiast

With marking, assessments and planning burning a hole in many a teacher's weekly schedule, arguably the most important part of their career centres on wellbeing. Every teacher will find challenging obstacles in their quest for a positive state of wellbeing, but I am hoping to offer some tips and ideas to help get us through the dark times and remind everyone that teaching is a fantastic career.

Start the day on a positive note

A good start to the day will help create a positive frame of mind for the challenges ahead. Why not allow yourself five or ten minutes to speak to a colleague about an interest outside of work, or sit with the children at Breakfast Club and discuss what they did the evening before. Take your mind off the day ahead for a few moments to allow breathing space before your focus is diluted to your class.

Add something new to your lessons

I challenge you to add a new idea or activity to each of your lessons. Try something new that you would not normally teach to help keep not only the children but also yourself engaged. Why not end a measuring lesson with a long jump competition? Or play battleships when teaching co-ordinates.

Access all of these wellbeing tips here.

Exeter Head

Wellbeing has deliberately been put at the centre of our School Improvement Plan. We want to be held to account for getting this right.

Our feedback policy has been revised, with the aims of reducing the time spent marking while giving children better guidance about what they need to do to improve their work. Maths feedback is now all verbal (apart from ticks and crosses showing right or wrong answers). Teachers now have more time to think about what children are really struggling with and to decide what are the best things they can do to help them, instead of writing long comments in their books and battling with the children to get them to act on them – or even read them.

Sports and ExerciseMarking of writing will now focus on how children can improve the piece of work they have just finished rather than identifying 'next steps'. Again, lots of this feedback is verbal. This should make sure the children really understand what they are being asked to do, and that they remain motivated by not being repeatedly told how their work could be better in the future.

Our PPA arrangements have changed so that teachers now have a full day every fortnight in their year teams. We have also kept our planning days – each half term year teams have a day together to plan the next half term's work. This means that teachers have four full days together every 6/7 weeks. The cost of this takes a significant part of our school improvement budget, but it is worth every penny to see the inspirational ideas the teachers come up with to deliver the curriculum.

Staff are challenging each other to take part in some form of activity outside school, and then celebrating this. September is exercise – staff are sharing their exploits on a board in the staffroom, showing how far they have run, walked, cycled or swum. People have set their own targets, and there is lots of encouragement and interest in what each other are doing. We have plans for October – possibly a bake off – and will try something new every month.

Read the full scope of Exter Head's wellbeing focus click here.

Mr W5

Teaching is tough: balancing the needs of individuals and the whole class, meeting the curriculum objectives, preparing for end of Key Stage tests, dealing with parents, carers and the demands of those running the school is an endless task. We are very good at looking after the wellbeing of pupils but rarely make time for ourselves; we need to model wellbeing and self-care to our pupils!

How?

  • 'Control the controllables' – focus on the things that you can affect.
  • Instead of trying harder, work smarter – try something different
  • Notice energisers and drainers – Think about which of your colleagues you need to spend most time around. Who brightens your day? Who inspires you and gives you new ideas? Who are the 'mood hoovers'? Who dampens your spirits?
  • Spend time with family, friends and loved ones.
  • Get outdoors – run, walk, sit and take in the beauty around you.
  • Allow yourself some 'you time' to indulge in that little guilty pleasure – watch trashy TV, read, bake, dance, sing. Be you!!
  • Be positive – make a conscious effort to see the good in every situation. There is something positive in everyday!
  • Learn to say no – sometimes you just don't need any more plates to spin!

Remember if everything gets too much, you must speak to someone!

The senior leaders in your school are there to support you and they will! If you feel that you can't speak to someone at school try your family and friends – they love you, they want you to be well – they will support you! If you feel that you need something more, speak to a medical professional!

Finally...remember how important and inspiring you are to every child in your care.

Teachers change lives but can only do so if they are fit, healthy and positive!

Discover more of Mr W's tips on wellbeing here. 

 

3 Reasons Why Cooking Should Be Compulsory in Schools

With a recent survey from The Times highlighting that young people are overspending on takeaways more than any other age group as well as only knowing on average 4 recipes, we take a look into how an increase in exposure to the culinary could have a significant benefit.

BBC's Good Food magazine revealed that 16-24 years old are spending £63.65 on food per week. In comparison to this, adults are typically spending £57.30. Could this spend be combatted by students learning the fundamental basics in cooking? We very much agree so!

 

3 Reasons Why Cooking Should Be Compulsory in Schools

1. Essential Life skill

The art of basic cookery is an essential life skill that too few teenage students are capable of doing. Many students resort to expensive ready meals that offer little nutritional value and a heap load of calories, fats, salts and sugars. According to one study, students lack confidence and knowledge in the kitchen and this has resulted in them showing little desire or interest in cooking their own meals.

By making Food technology compulsory, students will have the relevant guidance and motivation to plan, prepare and produce their own meals and with basic kitchen skills mastered, we can hopefully assume that more and more teenagers will be active cooks within their own home kitchen.

2. Promotes a Healthy Lifestyle

There's no denying that take away such as McDonalds, Dominos and KFC are popular for students, there is also no escaping the fact they serve some of the unhealthiest food available at significantly low prices! Just one slice of Domino's Pepperoni Pizza contains 310 calories and 16 grams of fat with just 8 slices totalling to 2,480 calories and 128 grams of fat!

Food Technology in particular Home Economics enables students to understand the nutritional breakdown of foods and which nutrients the body needs in order to function properly. After students have understood minerals, vitamins and nutrients teachers can encourage them to create alternative substitutes for ready meals and popular take outs!

3. Uncover a Talent or Potential Career Opportunity

With students exposed to cooking and baking, there is the increasing potential for students to discover a hidden culinary talent as well as the idea of working within the catering and hospitality industry. The introduction of students to the catering industry was noted in Jamie Oliver's five-part documentary, Jamie's Kitchen, in which unemployed and outspoken youths were trained by the celebrity chef. The outcome of this documentary led to many of the teens working in some of London's best restaurants as well as one individual, Kerry – Ann Dunlop, releasing a cookery book to much success.

These reasons alone prove that Food Technology and Cookery should become compulsory in education across all ages and schools within the UK. Here's hoping that schools take note and include this subject across the curriculum.

 

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