Blinks: High quality reviews and training
Blinks: High quality reviews and training
Blinks: High quality reviews and training
High quality reviews and training
High quality reviews and training

Example Reports

Examples of Blink Reports - names have been changed

Example 1: Hillgrove High School Blink

A day's focus on: HH basics in place; Year 7 and 8 curriculum; 'deep dives' in science and mathematics; language skills development.

1. The school's lead documentation - Main Development Plan and Year of the Curriculum paper - are strong digests of all that is intended this academic year. They provide an excellent context for any visitor and a platform from which middle leaders can lead 'deep dives'.

Leaders in mathematics and science demonstrated capably the intent, implementation and impact story in their respective curriculum areas, and responded authoritatively to questions from reviewers. The Spiral Curriculum model unfolded appropriately, from talking to these leaders and meeting students.

Given the strong position of these two core subjects, targets of 70 - 80% achieving GCSE grade 4+ and 45 - 55% achieving GCSE 5+ look plausible, accepting national figures for science have historically been lower than for maths.

2. Students in Year 7 spoke confidently about their enjoyment of maths, their strong progression from Year 6, and were aware of the notion of a spiral curriculum. Students in Year 8 were less articulate and confident in their reflections on learning in science; once prompted, they were able to give examples of new knowledge and skills learned, including referencing specialist vocabulary. They enjoy science lessons and recognise the challenge of learning and embedding so much scientific vocabulary.

Further, in conversation with the headteachers and some of their former pupils, Years 7 and 8 commented that they enjoy good relationships across the school, and that they find work challenging in maths, science and citizenship.

3. EAL - the school has admitted a significant number of students in need of high quality EAL provision. Statistically, these students are likely to perform well at GCSE and A level; urgent consideration needs to be given as to which sets they should be placed in across the curriculum. It is recommended that bespoke English tuition be provided for them at the earliest opportunity; if given after school twice a week, families (where appropriate) could be asked to contribute to the cost of tuition. This is not the province of SEND.

4. Classrooms - overall there is a climate of intelligent purpose in classrooms, and certainly new arrangements for break and lunchtimes have led to altogether calmer corridors and common spaces. In the memorable words of one Year 8 student, referring to certain times of the day, 'you see us at our best when you see the whole Hillgrove family together'.

5. Lessons varied in the quality of education. In lessons where students made most progress:
  • consistent enjoyment and engagement
  • good pace and orchestration of time
  • excellent teacher subject knowledge
  • thoughtful planning and harnessing of relevant resources, including visualisers
  • clarity in the curriculum sequence of the lesson and its destination
  • students able to explain what was happening and why
  • students able to use maths and science vocabulary with confidence.
In lessons where there was not the same 'solid consensus' around the purpose and journey of the lesson:
  • teachers tended towards the more didactic, not checking carefully whether students understood a new concept
  • activities were shallow and carried on for too long without suitable teacher intervention
  • there was a lack of scaffolding and differentiation
  • there was no consolidation before 'moving on'
  • students' voices were not heard, their language skills not properly developed
  • inattention - not disruption - prevailed amongst some students.
6. Books came in all varieties!

In students' exercise books which showed the Hillgrove High experience at its best:
  • high expectations from teachers who make no concessions as to how work should be presented, irrespective of the prior attainment of the students
  • good progress is evident in regular assessments
  • knowledge is learned and retained, even where writing is a barrier
  • tasks are well scaffolded, leading to properly completed diagrams and answers which show in-depth learning
  • feedback/marking is regular and informs next steps ( Go Green in practice)
  • applied learning and digression are in evidence, a welcome break from photocopied worksheets.
In exercise books which reflect carelessness from both students and teachers, and clearly not adhering to the HH basics:
  • there is no evidence that a teacher has looked at a student's book: what does 'live marking' mean?
  • assessment is not used effectively to inform next steps in learning
  • there is a gap between what a subject leader says should be happening about assessment and what is actually happening
  • the spirit and letter of 'the right marking at the right time' is not evident.
7. Pointers

So much of what is happening in classrooms is of good quality and valued by students. Systems are fit for purpose and the school day flows well, for both students and staff. In the spirit of not introducing new initiatives, rather of fine tuning, the reviewers mention the following three pointers:
  1. Subject leaders: be confident in your curriculum and enjoy 'shouting out' why it's the best subject on the curriculum! In science, revisit the skills progression in Year 8.
  2. Do offer more stretch and challenge orally to all students.
  3. Reaffirm to all teachers points 7, 8 and 9 of the HH basics.
Our sincere thanks to students and staff for sharing Hillgrove High with us for the day. November 2021

Blinks: High quality institution reviews for the education sector

Example 2: Report to CEO, Headteachers, Board - December 2020

Equity & Excellence

A The current strengths of the trust's schools

in all the schools attend regularly to take advantage of what is provided by way of good and excellent primary education. They flourish and enjoy their childhood experiences. The culture for learning and collaboration is strong, and rarely are children not engaged with the tasks and activities the teachers set. There is mutual respect between children and staff, and children treat one another with dignity. They handle resources with care and look after their environments.

Teachers know their children well and demonstrate a diligent duty of care. Teachers across the schools are reflective practitioners who plan lessons well; mixed-age classes in particular present challenges for teachers which they rise to confidently. They also demonstrate a new-found belief, cohesiveness and professional pride in one another's achievements across the trust, a singular feature of the reviewer's conversations with teachers during the Blinks week. There is little 'white noise' to distract teachers' focus on harnessing resources and devising lessons to motivate pupils.

Headteachers have embraced the new vision and model quiet, calm, determined leadership. They are ambitious for children and staff, and are optimistic about their schools and the trust's ways of working. As a result of focused communication at all levels, senior and middle leaders are of a similar disposition, offering interconnected approaches to how the schools are organized and progressing. Day-to-day running is smooth; the demands of the current health restrictions are being managed with aplomb.

The values of the schools – many deeply rooted in Christian values – are tangible and appropriately implicit and explicit. The trust's stated ambition to produce confident individuals, caring contributors and effective learners – founded on developing character virtues - is distinctive amongst multi-academy trusts.

The increasing capacity of central services (finance, HR, estates) enables headteachers to concentrate on enhancing the quality of classroom learning and coaching colleagues to excellence. Equally, leaders and teachers working across the trust on identified priorities are embedding the habit of collaboration to the benefit of children and staff alike.

B Equity and excellence: the continuing journey

'An excellent school - and school system - delivers superior performance and has a high impact over a sustained period of time.'

So what requires leaders' attention this academic year?

1. Look afresh at what each school's entry zone says about (i) itself as a learning community, and (ii) the trust's common set of values and expectations?

2. There is a consensus that a plausible and challenging target for pupils' attainment over the next 2 - 3 years, across the trust, can be:
  • 80 - 90% reaching expected standards at age 11
  • 30 - 40% reaching greater depth at age 11
  • 90% of children at age 11+ attain a reading age which at least matches their chronological age.
In taking staff on this journey to a shared ambition it is worth reflecting on one definition of 'working at great depth' which chimes with the trust's vision for effective learners: Children work independently, applying what they have learned in one area of a subject to others. They apply their knowledge consistently, confidently and fluently. They are able to explain what they have been doing to others, including teaching other children what they have learned.

3. To raise attainment in mathematics for all children, there needs to be a greater profile given to number in classrooms; and the pitch of maths lessons for higher attainers in particular needs lifting.

4. A fresh approach to oracy and articulacy is emerging, expecting all children to present regularly in class and thus be in a position to talk about their learning journeys – these children can do it, as evidenced in current pilots.

5. Age-appropriate global awareness and learning about different cultures can be enhanced – a lovely globe and world map in every school/classroom!

6. A refreshing of HUBS is underway so that they are teacher-led, and deliver impact on children's attainment and on teachers' professional development.

7. Through the new curriculum, there should be a concerted effort to embed in lesson plans outdoor learning for all children, given the extraordinarily rich environments occupied by most schools. This should not be left to chance.

Blinks: High quality institution reviews for the education sector

Example 3: Crendon Academy

Dear Alex and Colleagues

'The past is a foreign country. They do things differently there.'

There are a good number of staff and students at Crendon Academy who can recall different days, when the school was much less of a place than it is today. Now, the school is very popular with local families and a place which professionals want to join. This is a school at ease with itself where to be a student, teacher, parent or visitor is to be part of an educational community steering knowingly towards excellence. There is an attention to detail and ambition for constant improvement which permeate.

Teachers and leaders have a shared and confident understanding of the school's values and expectations; in all parts of the organisation, staff reflect creatively on their practice and appreciate the distinctive contribution of each and every colleague. The school's investment in high quality professional development is palpable.

With the same sense of focus and purpose, students go about their daily studies, treating one another and staff with courtesy and mutual dignity. The learning environments - from the entrance foyer, to cabinet displays in corridors, to some exemplary classrooms - speak well of the collective endeavour, with an emphasis on each achieving his or her personal best, in a climate of care, support and love.

During a day of visits to classrooms, I encountered real joy in learning; highly skilled revision sessions, fit for purpose at this time of the year; youngsters deep in their personal reading; students being challenged to address complex historical and geographical questions; senior students immersed in their chemical experiments; others reviewing meaningfully the results of internal examinations and their requisite, personal next steps. Purposeful practice is a hallmark.

Schools are a people business, and the excellent leadership which is to be found in all quarters at Crendon knows well that positive development and step-change are about orchestrating a judicious blend of timing, encouragement and appropriate challenge. So is now the time to reflect again on L.P. Hartley's words which head this letter?

By common consent, the junior students have a potential about them which needs grasping, with urgency. An altogether raised level of expectations for academic achievement - rooted in teachers' own scholarship and promotion in classrooms of intellectual enquiry - is called for, across all subject areas.

Hand-in-hand must go a concerted effort by all staff to promote greater articulacy and social confidence in the students, many of whom will otherwise continue to rest content within narrow horizons. This, to my mind, is not about social engineering, but about affording greater social capital to all the youngsters served by the academy.

As Principal and staff you must surely be very proud of what you are achieving day by day, term by term. Teaching and running schools is a relentless and highly enjoyable business. The families you serve must surely be talking in their neighbourhoods about the good local school. And if, according to one educational commentator, 'an excellent school delivers superior performance and has a high impact over a sustained period of time', then that goal is within your certain grasp over the coming period.

Thank you for sharing the school with me.

Yours sincerely,

Roy Blatchford

Blinks: High quality institution reviews for the education sector

Example 4: University Language Centre

A        Context

As a key part of the wider transformation plan, changes have been made to the English Language curriculum experienced by foundation year students. There are approximately 1450 students, currently divided into Level 1: 700 students; and Level 2: 750 students.

Students receive 13 hours of classroom-based teaching. Class sizes (setted by language ability) are generally 30 - 35 students; National Geographic book, video and audio resources are the core 'texts'.

Three observers visited five sessions, talked to staff and students, and examined students' workbooks.

B        Key points from observations
  • The majority of students arrive at lessons ready to learn and sustain their focus throughout the 50/100 minute time slots. Sessions generally start on time.

  • Teaching is competent, rooted in strong subject knowledge, and using the target language of English consistently; Arabic is used judiciously to support weaker students and ensure good pace to the lessons. Teachers prepare well for the sessions.

  • The National Geographic materials – books, videos, tapes – are highly engaging and relevant for the age range, motivating staff and students alike. Reading, writing, speaking and listening skills are valued equally. Investment in this new course has been timely and well judged.

  • Classroom environments are satisfactory, with some positive displays of 'students at work' on the corridors.

  • There is clear evidence of teachers' effective marking of students' work, and of students using the formative marking to improve their own written English.

  • Students indicate that they are using the on-line facilities for between 5 – 7 hours a week, to embed and extend their learning of English.

  • The overall atmosphere and culture in the Centre are harmonious and purposeful, and have undoubtedly seen a step-change under new leadership since a year ago.

C        Next steps

In taking forward the Centre's practice, consideration might be given to the following:
  • How can teachers best interest 'the boys in the back row', many of whom are at risk of failing the course through lack of engagement?

  • How might teachers, particularly at this stage of the term, 'speak less' and expect students to 'speak more, in full sentences'?

  • What techniques of 'question and answer' might be used to ensure that male and female students engage orally with one another across the classroom?

  • How might teachers inject more humour and energy into sessions by asking students to teach and model language points, particularly where students are growing in confidence and competence in their spoken English? Have fun with relishing new vocabulary, and get everyone to join in!

  • What 'standard technique' (eg a summary notice-board to be photographed by students) might be introduced into every teaching session so that all students can take away the key learning points of the session? This point links to....

  • How might iPads, Podcasts, mobile phones, etc. be harnessed for appropriate learning, say in a five minute 'digression' every session?

  • 'Do you see what I see?' How can the faculty introduce through CPD mutual classroom observations which strengthen everyone's daily practice?

D        Leadership discussions

Discussions with the Centre's leadership team included the following:
  • There are well judged plans to develop a programme of CPD for faculty.

  • The Centre might benefit from a modest increase in administrative staff.

  • National Geographic might be able to support the improvement of displays in classrooms, particularly focused on key language points and helping students understand a map of the world.

  • The forthcoming 'Book Club', with movies, and the general raising of the profile of the new Resource Centre, possibly staffed by a couple of advisers/counsellors.

  • Further work needed on supporting students 'at risk', particularly related to their attendance.

  • A Steering Committee to be established to ensure effective co-ordination across English, Maths and IT teaching and learning in the foundation year.
My thanks to co-observers for their open discussions and leadership of this review, and my especial appreciation to teachers and students for sharing their classrooms.

Roy Blatchford     © Blinks 2024

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