Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Rewards and rapid recall


One area of development that I am responsible for is the progress and attainment in Numeracy. One of our targets during 2014-2015  was to improve the rapid recall of basic number skills, including multiplication and division facts, across the school. This area of development was highlighted during drop-ins and through informal assessment by teachers.
   
Many children were able to use number skills to complement written methods, however, the speed and accuracy at which written methods could be completed was being hindered by inaccuracies in more advanced multiplication and division facts and lack of rapid, or instant recall. 

As a maths team we decided that regular rehearsal of rapid mental calculation was required in order for accelerated progress to be made, as a result of research and conversations with other members of the Deal Learning Alliance, we decided to introduce 'Big Maths'. The structures and easy to use scheme sets high but differentiatable targets for the children and ensures that regular immersion in appropriately challenging mental calculation can occur. Both pupils and parents responded well to the introduction of 'Big Maths'.

We also wanted to ensure that the understanding of times tables facts, including the inverse were deeply embedded. Ensuring that the children knew the facts and making sure this could be assessed fairly across classes and year groups was of importance. We also wanted to have a significant reward for the children to aspire to earn. 

The children could already achieve a 'Pen Licence' for neat handwriting and presentation to earn their handwriting pen. They responded well to the introduction of this reward, especially as they received a licence card, similar to a driving licence, and a badge that can be worn to show their achievement. The badges proved to be very popular with the children. 

In 2013 I had created a set of times table quizzes to be used across our school. These were designed to be used by any adult, enabling us to use parent volunteers to conduct the small sessions the tables quizzes took up. This alleviated the extra workload that would have been felt by either the teacher or the teaching assistant, whilst still ensuring that the system was fair and challenging.

These were shared with the the whole school in 2013-2014, however, the public status of times table knowledge within the school, for children at least was still not easily visible. The introduction of an award or prize, much like the pen licence was then implemented, this raised the profile of times tables across the school. Certificates and badges are used as a reward for three different stages. 

Progression to the next family of times tables was achieved by scoring three ten out of ten results. Quizzes were scheduled to take place once a week and the children were very keen to take their quizzes. 

We arranged the time stables quizzes into'clubs', the 2, 5 & 10 make the 17 Club. Mastery of the 17 club leads to the learning of the 3, 4 and 8 times table facts which combine to make the 32 Club. Once the 32 Club badge has been earned the children can then learn their 6, 7, 9, 11 and 12 times tables facts; these combine with the previous badges to form the 77 Club. 


Inheriting a class this year already brandishing their badges from last year has been great, we were able to quiz the children to ensure they had retained the facts learned last year and carry straight on from where they left off. It is also very entertaining firing questions at the children as you pass them in the corridor, and then reassuring when they prove they have rapid recall. 

I look forward to seeing lots of the badges throughout the school, and seeing the impact of consolidated understanding of times tables underpinning standard methods of calculation.









Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Star Wars, iPads and Writing

Not long to go now everyone. While we see out the remaining days of summer term in the smelting ovens, many of us have been making that last push in the name of data and progress to really get the little treasures ready for the next stage in their learning.

Like all schools, we have been reinventing our assessment systems and are in the process of using national curriculum levels for the last term.

As a school we chose to stick with national curriculum levels across the board this year, for several reasons. 

1) We were due a very key inspection at the start of the year, and needed to be able to tell, and demonstrate a clear, obvious and measurable improvement in attainment, and progress across the school. 
2) As a school, like many in our district, county, and nationally, we are very proficient and consistent with the use of APP.
3) There were few, or no clear, successfully implemented, 'mastery' systems being shared as best practice at the end of the 2013-2014 academic year, or at the start of this year. 
4) No one in their right mind would change a system mid year....so after this week it's bye bye levels and APP for us...


Across our Year Four cohort there were several pockets of the writing curriculum that needed a last final push before the summer. These were:
- engaging the reader with a wider variety of engaging language;
- the use of adverbial openers and adverbial phrases;
- and the correct demarcation of direct speech.

Earlier in the year, during a throw away conversation in the corridor at the end of another frantic day, I had said to my new Year Four colleague that it would be awesome to do a unit based on Star Wars. Ultimately, I had wanted to do this unit on the week of May the fourth (a Star Wars geeks favourite date) however, being a bank holiday week, and directly sandwiched in a short term by trips and residential visits, the Literacy unit didn't fit. That was until, the final week of term five where the throw away comment was resurrected, we had several disengaged pupils who needed to make very rapid improvement in their writing, end result: we were going to do Star Wars in term 6, and two rather excited over thirty some thing men. To say I was a little excited would be an understatement, I had never used Star Wars in my teaching, so I started hunting...

The Star Wars unit was started after a two week unit of work from 'Gregory Cool' by Caroline Binch, a great book with fantastic settings and characters. This book had a good impact on the children's understanding of characters, their feelings and the description of settings, laying good foundations for further narrative work. We decided that we didn't want to use large sections of the Star Wars story, instead we wanted to focus only on small scenes. The Star Wars saga is rich in traditional story themes and lends itself brilliantly to several areas of the curriculum, including some very deep discussions on philosophy. 

We decided to focus on scenes from the film 'A New Hope', in particular the scene where Obi-Wan fights Darth Vader for the first week.

Not all children in the class had seen Star Wars, but there were enough experts in the room to really deepen the description of the scene and put the whole story in context. 

We used video compilations from YouTube to explore Darth Vader's past, and get a deeper understanding of both Anakin's and Obi-Wan's turmoil expressed during the scene.


Images and cells taken from the original 1977 comic, which can be read online at the Marvel Comic website, were used along with fan art and language through colour cards to build the children's descriptions and allow them to experiment with sentence structures.

The learning process for the unit was modelled and shared on the working wall throughout the week. Every opportunity to write was undertaken with an enthusiasm we were astounded by, the children were absolutely absorbed. They were hooked throughout week one and couldn't wait to write their stories.
The working walls:



Many different resources were used to support all of the pupils through the unit, to ensure that they could produce the style and level of description expected, as well as meet the punctuation and grammar expectations. Some children found the Language through Colour' sheets very effective, others preferred to plot their ideas in mind maps and on story mountains.


The first two days of the week were spent exploring the character and the back story, we also built in longer SPAG sessions to underpin the required sentence construction and punctuation skills. As the development of the scene progressed, we introduced a shared writing activity where the children explored different sections of the scene. They were given time to talk through their sentences, extend their ideas and peer assess, they then had to switch sections and repeat the process. Within this carousel, the children developed their use of engaging vocabulary and use of adverbial openers. 

We used the Book Creator app on the iPad to create a shared writing text with the completed scenes. This meant that all of the children had contributed to a high quality text before the end of the unit and set the market for the expected quality of writing. This is fast becoming my favourite app, it is so easy to use and is very flexible.



The children's engagement and enthusiasm for writing continued during the second week where the next section of the story was developed. The impact of the topic on the children's writing levels was impressive, the mean improvement in writing was +2.07 APS per child.
The final display wall

This was the most enjoyable Literacy unit of work that I have taught for several years, it is also the one that has had the most clear and measurable impact on pupil engagement, attainment and progress.

Would I do a unit like this again? Of course.

Will I be able to measure the impact and progress as accurately within a 'mastery' assessment model? I'm not sure yet. Watch this space... 

Goodbye levels, may the force be with you!







Sunday, 12 April 2015

Working Walls and Display

Within my role, I am privileged to get the opportunity to visit local schools within our learning alliance, the DLA (Deal Learning Alliance). During many of these visits one thing I enjoy most is the variety of approaches to using display spaces in the schools' shared spaces and each teacher's own room.
One interpretation of a 'Working Wall' in a Year 5 setting

In many classrooms there are a range of different displays, used for different reasons. None of the rooms that I have walked in have been identical, however, some rooms have clearly expressed the personality of the teacher, and children, more than others. 

When I first qualified, and during my student placements, I would spend hours, often over several evenings, and with the help of dedicated teaching assistants, painting backdrops and making large, high visual impact displays that decorated the room. We were very proud of some of these efforts, the children enjoyed looking at them; but they had little impact on the process of learning.

As an end product they were great for celebrating a final piece of work, but they did not support the children in their learning. They also did not encourage independence.


The concept of a 'Working Wall' had not really been discussed during the earlier years of my career. 'Interactive displays' were actively encouraged, and were part of discussion during teacher training, but these were not as refined as the idea of displays dedicated to moving learning forward.

Whilst at my previous school we started to look at the concept of developing more interactive displays. These were introduced to support learning and provide opportunities for independence.





This is one display from my Year 6 classroom at my previous school, it was probably the closest that I had got to what my interpretation of a 'Working Wall' is now. It was interactive. It encouraged independence. However, it wasn't used by the children to assess their understanding, I was modelling the use of the wall as an extension.

Then I moved schools.

Working with 'Working Walls'


During the 2012-2013 curricular year our Principal purchased all teachers a copy of the Jackie Beere book, 'The Perfect Ofsted Lesson.' The use of display to further drive learning forward was one theme that interested me. I started to experiment with a range of different 'Working Wall' ideas with the support of my Year 4 colleague.  We tried different display ideas, in Literacy and Numeracy, using ideas adapted from the Thinking Maps resources.

One style of working wall that had been a success for the children in our Year 4 classrooms has been the Numeracy working wall, examples of which can be seen below.

A 'Working Wall' from my classroom.








The concept is very simple, the children can identify the stages of development for he strategy or skill being covered. From the wall the children can then identify the stages of development they have already covered, can go back to to check their understanding, and independently identify the next stages in their learning. The children in my class regularly self assess using the wall, this enables me to facilitate the children in their learning journey far more effectively by differentiating the tasks more accurately.


Trial by OFSTED 


During our most recent Ofsted inspection the children demonstrated independent use of the working wall to develop their own learning and explain to the inspector what their next steps would be. Whilst receiving the feedback from the session, during which no grades were given, the inspector stated that she would have liked to have had access to strategies like that at school as a child.  I have to say that I wish I had as well.

Since the inspection we have been visited by several teachers, from schools around the county. Sceptical looks have been given to the 'scruffy' boards strewn with Post-it notes (other brands are of course available) but once the teaches have seen the boards in action, during mini-plenaries and prior learning tasks, and more importantly spoken to the children they can see the impact they have had.

I have found the use of large rolls of backing paper or lining paper to be very useful as the working wall can be rolled up and stored for the next time a topic is revisited.

Like all tools this strategy/resource doesn't fit all jobs and is not the only style of 'Working Wall. We must also recognise that we still need to use other displays, to give children reminders, helpful hints and more importantly to celebrate their learning journey and share their final products.

These are things that all teachers, classrooms and schools do differently. As a school we have introduced different expectations for displays in some of the shared spaces in the school, using large photograph frames to share the process of learning.

These will be shared in another post soon.
















Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Google Chromebooks, iPads and Social CPD

During this term I have been overseeing the implementation of a fundamental shift in technology resourcing within our school. After 18 months of research and planning (including much Twitter bashing, visiting local schools and trudging around stalls at BETT) we have removed our ICT suite, expanded our library and have started to use a range of new equipment and software.

Our Year 5 & Year 6 classes now have access to Google Chromebooks, a bank of iPads and each pupil has access to their own Google Apps for Education account. Key Stage 1 the EYFS team have been also been allocated iPads.

We have a long road to travel. We need to develop a group of digital leaders, both from the staff and the pupils, as well as initiate a structured CPD programme for the devices and their content. The question about timetabling resources effectively has also been raised and this needs to be thought out thoroughly, the devices represent a high investment, not only in money, but in planning and thinking time; for many members of staff. However, rigidly structuring access to the devices in the short term will not allow for the more adventurous and spontaneous use that has been seen within the first week in some classes.

Short term and initial impact 

One of our teachers has been extremely positive about the use of the Chromebooks with the pupils' Google Apps for Education accounts. Initially they were a little unsure; potentially apprehensive about the change of system. After the first session with the class they came into my room, one word was uttered: "WOW!" This has been a recurring theme throughout the week, teachers have commented on the excitement the roll out of new devices and accounts has generated amongst the pupils. Potentially with timely impact before those all important SATs and after several months of reduced access to laptops and interactive resources.

Next steps


We have also given each teacher an iPad for use to support learning and teaching within each classroom. This is to be supported through the use Air-server on each classroom PC to allow mirroring of device content to the projector. Annoyingly there have been gremlins at work and, for reasons unknown to us, Air-server has started to become very unstable this week. Our technicians have been in contact with the Air-server team and are working on a solution to the problem, until this is fixed one of the most exciting features of the use of iPads within the classroom has been inhibited.

There are so many potential positive impacts that the effective use of iPads can bring to learning and teaching within our school, but there are only so many hours to model and work with staff on how to use them effectively.

As part of our self directed CPD model we are encouraging teachers to take responsibility for developing research based and reflective practice, signposting them towards reflective resources and encouraging them to share those that they find. Within this model we are encouraging staff, within the guidelines set out in our e-safety policy, to use social media to support CPD and reflective practice.

During a staff meeting next week I will be leading a section of the staff meeting on this subject, entitled Social CPD, my initial slides for the meeting are below, I'm hoping these will become redundant and that Air-server will be up and running to allow mirroring once again.


Thursday, 19 February 2015

Low cost; high impact

Sometimes, and I am guilty of this too, the best, quickest and often simplest solutions to problems are often overlooked. Technology is becoming more and more relied upon to support and motivate learners. Whilst I don't think technology is a bad thing, if learning can be supported better without plugging something in or turning something on then don't plug it in or turn it on; simple.

Some of the more engaging and effective sessions in my room are often the ones that evolve from an unknown element being introduced. A few unplanned or unknown elements that have impacted upon learning in my room this term would not have looked out of place on a 'Blue Peter Makes' materials list. Many of us probably remember this one:


Instructions on how to make this and several other classic Blue Peter Makes can be found at:
This will be a site I will get my class to visit!

These resources are on my list of low cost high impact resources used this term:


Masking Tape


1. Masking Clauses 
One revelation was made during a group session on grammar. We were discussing the impact of clauses depending on their order within the sentence. I had planned to use the whiteboard and the children's show me boards to model arranging clauses for impact, however, I have a terrible habit of fidgeting with inconsequential objects whilst working and I had picked up a roll of masking tape. I asked the children to write a clause, to go with an example on the whiteboard, on a piece of tape. These were then put onto the Literacy working wall. The children were then able to rearrange the clauses and discuss the impact of their order. This appealed to several kinaesthetic and visual learners. We also found that  the whiteboard pens wiped off relatively easily, therefore editing and redrafting  clause was very quick and the children had little fear of experimenting with different ideas.

2. Masking Maze
I was privileged enough to work alongside my Year 2 colleagues this term for an afternoon team-teaching session on algorithms, and introducing the children to Logo programming. Masking tape was used during an impromptu introduction that I set up in the school hall. During the morning I had been teaching my class how to make a maze game on Scratch, an idea came to me during the last few minutes of the lunch break. I quickly set out a large, simple maze using masking tape on the hall floor.

When the children entered, much to their amusement, I put my shoes and tie around the maze in different locations. They then chose one of their teachers to be the robot/turtle and we introduced the language and instructions for controlling the turtle. The children directed the teacher to one of my items, but they had to avoid the maze walls. Extending the activity was relatively simple, the class were split into three smaller groups. Each group into pairs, with one child being the robot/turtle, the other being the programmer. Differentiating and adapting the activity for each group was then very simple as extra walls could be added with the simple addition of more tape, likewise it was also easy* to remove walls by peeling off masking tape to make routes easier to navigate.

*although it would have been easier with low-tac tape, lesson learnt. Several children and a few minutes were required after school, peeling bits off of the floor. 


Large paper and coloured pens


1. Felt tip Friends
There aren't many children that don't love using felt tip pens and bright colours to write with. During many of our most successful writing sessions I have started with a paired writing activity. The children choose one colour each and may only write one sentence at a time on their shared piece of paper, they discuss each sentence; often using ideas borrowed from Pie Corbett's 'Talk for Writing' models. This simple technique has engaged several reluctant writers in my classes over the past few years. I have modified the task in different ways to suit different group dynamics. In one group the children scored points for using a range of punctuation correctly, e.g. Full stop = 1pt, capital letter = 1 pt, comma in a list 1 point, comma for a clause 2 points etc...

2. Sentence Scaffolds
When experimenting with sentence construction and different types of punctuation I like to scaffold the activities using a similar technique to the felt tip friends. However, on this occasion the children pair, or group write sentences on A3 paper. Each piece of paper will have a scaffold sentence structure on it in different colours. The children have to then write a sentence in pairs ensuring their clauses fit the structure given.  I will often make differentiated sheets quickly before school and photocopy them for each pair. I have found that they make a brilliant warm up activity before longer writing tasks. We have also used them to structure children's learning on a working wall and as examples of stepping stones within success criteria for a task.


An example Sentence Scaffold



String.

1. String Connections 
In several sessions I have found an odd length of string in my pocket, left over from a display or tidying a roll of paper. In an impromptu discussion I had the children create a discussion connection web. They passed the string around and held on at their place in the discussion. This was a very quick and simple technique to track the history of the discussion and important points raised. It also allowed us to recap and build upon other pupils' ideas as the discussion continued.

2. String Timeline
The string has also been used as a non linear timeline during initial learning tasks for our history topics.


3. Story Strings
Whilst working with other teachers from local schools a group of pupil premium children from our year 5 class took part in a writing project on smuggling. Facilitated by several staff from different schools there were many different activities, however, one that struck a chord; story string. The children quite simply had a length of string each. During their walk they collected items of interest and tied them to their string. A simple and effective writing prompt ready for a recount to be written back in class.

There are many more very cheap resources that we all use that have a high quality impact on learning. This term I'm looking forward to measuring the impact of the investment we have made in Google Chrome books and iPads. 

At my previous school I had the opportunity to work alongside a very charismatic and IT astute Deputy Headteacher. One of his sage-like expressions during our IT meetings was "Don't be first...", I believe he saw the virtue in letting someone else iron the kinks out. However, it is with excitement that I start next term ready to roll out some firsts, we are the first school in our locality to implement Chrome Books and Google Apps for education at the pupil level. Our tech support team have been busy over the holiday getting the hardware set-up. 

Next it's time to introduce the resources to the children and staff; but I'm also looking forward to finding the next 'freebie' with high impact learning gains as well. 

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Keys to success: Adventures in Blogging in Year 4.



Is blogging the key?
Tagxedo of text from our class blog page.

Whilst carrying out research for my CPD targets last year, I read a very insightful book by Mark Anderson - "Perfect ICT Every Lesson".The book contained may good ideas and prompted several questions for next steps in my classroom and school. 


Notes from my Thought Journal whilst reading the book.
The thread that made me think most was the section and suggestions on blogging. I had used closed online systems online before e.g. Edmodo and Superclubs, but I had not had time to explore blogging in the primary school. Mark's insights about Quadblogging and praise for the 100 Word Challenge encouraged me to read further. 

I decided to explore the options around a venture into blogging with my Year 4 class. I wanted an easy to use and secure platform for the children to use and easy bulk group management for myself. Looking through the list of posts on the 100 Word Challenge website, there were many very impressive pieces of writing; furthermore the prompts were varied and inspiring. My mind was made up, I wanted to give this a whirl with my class. One of the commonly used blogging platforms used on the 100 Word Challenge website was kidblog.org, it fit the criteria set out for my use with the class and setting the group up didn't take too long. As you are able to upload from a csv I was therefore able to use the usernames from the pupils' Google accounts with ease.


I pitched the site to my class at the end of October 2014, we had all of their accounts set up and ready from November 2015.


Incorporating the 100 Word Challenge into the classroom has inspired several of the more reluctant readers and writers to take an interest in reading and writing. Building opportunities for the children to participate in blogging is essential, we have put the blogging in as a guided reading activity. Within their carousel of activities the children have at least one opportunity to read ad respond to children's blog posts and write their own. Several children have continued to write their posts at home or during their own free time at school. Between 3rd November 2014 and 8th February 2015 35 100 Word Challenge posts have been published by children in my class. Many more posts have not made it past the draft phase - we either need to build more time into the guided reading cycle to enable the children to complete the draft, check, redraft, peer check publish cycle; or we need to build more opportunities at other parts of the school day. 


Improved engagement does not always equate to improved attainment or progress. I decided to measure the progress made by pupils in writing during the period we have been using Kidblog. The data makes interesting reading: 






There is no concrete way to know whether the rate of progress in Pupils A, C, E ad H has been directly accelerated by posting to the class blog. However, accelerating the progress of the children's writing is not the sole reason for blogging. The process of blogging satisfies many aspects of the National Curriculum:



"Purpose of study: Computing also ensures that pupils become digitally literate – able to use, and express themselves and develop their ideas through, information and communication technology – at a level suitable for the future workplace and as active participants in a digital world."
"Within the Key Stage 2 National Curriculum pupils should be taught to: "select, use and combine a variety of software (including internet services) on a range of digital devices to design and create a range of programs, systems and content that accomplish given goals, including collecting, analysing, evaluating and presenting data and information."


Giving the children access to a wider audience, as authors, is far more important. They are extremely happy when they get a comment on their work from other pupils and teachers from around the globe. 

I shared our class blog with our school community during a Teachmeet last week, several staff have expressed a interest of joining in. Next steps could well be to Quadblog within our school. I will be continuing to use KidBlog and the 100 Word Challenge with my class and will roll it out across Years 5 and 6. First we have to get their new hardware set up. This week's ICT task: set up 16 Google Chromebooks and 53 Ipads. Very exciting! 



Monday, 2 February 2015

Introduction to our Journey: Using Google Apps for Education

Over the last six months I have been exploring the use of Google Apps in the primary setting.

I have used the Google Apps with both of my classes in the last six months and have rolled use of the Google accounts our with my partner year 4 class this term.

I have been deliberating the use of Google Apps in the primary school for several years. However, thoughts began to evolve after a visit to Bett 2013. I was researching a alternative to KLZ, the LEA recommended provider for email and calendar management, after being underwhelmed by the service being offered for the price. At Bett there were very few companies that grabbed my attention. Google, however, did. During the summer holiday of 2013, our IT support team, Primary Technologies assisted in the handover to Google Apps for Education. Initially we only activated the mail and calendar functions, but the potential for greater use of cloud resources for collaboration were key to plans for curriculum development within our school.


During August 2013 I began to jot several ideas about devices, management systems, content providers and began to formulate a plan. The above photograph is from my thought journal, I'm still adding and reviewing my thoughts on this mindmap - it is very much ongoing.

One of my CPD objectives for 2013-2014 was to investigate the impact of cloud based resources on engagement and attainment in writing. I chose to activate the Google docs, sheets, slides and drive apps from the Google Apps Suite for my class.

There were several hurdles to go through in order to set up and manage the children's accounts efficiently and safely. I chose to employ the IT support team at Primary Technologies to do this for us. We still get all of our accounts and the apps for free and are saving a lot of money compared to the KLZ or RM easymail subscriptions.

During the year we experimented with collaborative writing and explored the tools on offer. The children were very motivated, and some reluctant writers - not just boys - and several pupil premium children demonstrated improved attitudes towards their writing. One other advantage of the suite of Docs was the availability resources to children at home. The efficiency and ease with which Google Apps syncs with Edmodo (a truly fantastic resource!) creates a very manageable online learning platform with very little or no cost. The children are able to access set tasks, complete them and submit them for review without leaving the cloud; on almost any device.

I was so impressed with the Google Apps for Education and Edmodo system that I am rolling it out across years 4-6 this year. I have already introduced all of our year 4's to their accounts. Hardware issues have slowed down the setup a little.

Every cloud has a silver lining, the failure of a large bank of laptops has resulted in the purchase of Google Chromebooks and a bank of IPads for KS2 pupils to use. Another set of IPads have also been purchased for KS1 and EYFS. I am very excited to be rolling out devices and tools that have not been used in this scale or in this way in our locality.

I will be sharing our progress so far at the Deal Learning Alliance TeachMeet.
Here is a preview of the presentation - all made using the free suite of apps within Google Apps.


Update

Further details and a synopsis of each presentation from the teachmeet can be read at @chizkent's blog.






What to do after Ofsted?

I've taken longer than initially planned to write this first post, a post that was going to be about ICT and writing. However, there are some things that you have to get off your chest.

In the run up to the tinsel and hoop crazed period that consumes all primary schools in December, we got the call; Ofsted. It came as no surprise, we were ready; as ready as could be any way. We'd been anticipating a visit after our conversion to academy status in the previous academic year.

Needless to say we wanted the call to come, enjoying a Christmas holiday, without the uncertainty of an impending visit from the judges without wigs, was something that all staff and stakeholders in the school were looking forward to.

The inspection was a resounding success; a tribute and testament to the hard work and enthusiasm that every individual at the school puts into every session of everyday. One thing that I look back on from the inspection is a question asked during the feedback from an observation: "Why, in your opinion, have you (the school) made rapid progress?"

It didn't take long to answer, "As an academy we are free to take risks, we're not shackled by LEA policies or directives. Our CPD encourages us to improve as individuals through reflective practice that directly impacts on the school development objectives, we're encouraged to take risks and share good practice with others."

The lead inspector seemed, quite satisfied with the response, lots of ink was added to the paper, adorning the clipboard, precariously perched on the desk. It was refreshing to hear that this response, or similar to it, had been echoed from other members of staff during the inspection.

The other question that remains fully rooted in my mind didn't come from the Ofsted team. It came from the attendant on the desk at the local swimming pool. The first morning of the inspection and my class are meeting me at the pool for registration. I arrived slightly earlier than usual, and approached the desk to be met with:

"Good morning, are you aware that we will be closing the top section of the pool this morning? A dive team are arriving...." 

There was a dropped beat in my chest, my thoughts turned to the idea of a inspector arriving at any moment, and the endless amount of possibilities of problems that could arise if an observation occurred under such circumstances - not to mention the knock on effects and stress that such an event would cause for the other classes within my team who would be swimming throughout the morning. The pool management team were very understanding, and the dive team were quickly rescheduled to have no impact on the swim sessions.

We needed the Ofsted team to see how much progress we had made again. To see how far we had come. This small event on the first morning of the inspection gave perspective and a reminder to how quickly things could change.

I joined the school as a new member to the Senior Leadership Team in September 2012, it was a move into a school twice the size as my previous and with many different challenges. It was my first leadership post, one I was excited to start. Transition and change go hand in hand, but one thing that had remained constant at the school from day one of my appointment was the possibility of an Ofsted visit at any time. Sure enough I experienced my first Ofsted as part of the Senior Leadership Team in early November 2012, a true baptism of fire. This Ofsted was a real battle, late night paper chasing, data analysis and troop rallying. We were all relieved to emerge from that inspection; relieved and disappointed.

The school had gone through a rapid period of change. Many of the systems and structures that formed the basis of teaching and learning in the school were under review or had only recently been implemented. Nevertheless, the staff were determined. There was, and still is, a strong family and team ethos, everyone wanted to show how much progress we, as a school, were making. However, at that time the inspection team couldn't see an established trend in the data. New systems and strategies hadn't had time to demonstrate measurable progress in standardised assessments (how will Ofsted manage without levels Mr Gove?).

Conversion to an academy in January 2013 was one of the first stepping stones forward as an establishment from the 2012 inspection. In a short period the general mindset within the school changed, we began to take more risks. We offered an ever growing and richer curriculum. We were confident that we were on the right road. We could see the positive impact our curriculum was having on our pupils. We also knew that another Ofsted inspection was going to happen at any moment. This ominous looming was a feeling that we continued to feel, for another twenty two months; until now.

Now that feeling isn't there, there's a different feeling. I'm just not sure what to call it yet. What to do when you have been judged as 'Outstanding'... We've had more phone calls, emails and tweets wanting to hear how we did it, what can we share? People asking what next?

For me, the next steps at the moment are:

- Continue to take risks, learn from the mistakes, share them as well as the successes.
- Continue to look for opportunities to collaborate with others.
- Share steps and progress on this blog, seek feedback, criticism and support with next steps.