#100wordbookreview High Performers by @alatalite

This book transformed my understanding and philosophy of the role of middle leaders in schools. It is far more than this however, setting out the findings from highly successful schools from across the country.

Exploring a wide range of aspects including teaching, culture, curriculum content and self awareness Smith shares both insights and powerful reflective questions.

As well as these Smith shares what he feels are observable features of outstanding lessons; though not Ofsted ratified they do provide a range of ideas worth engaging with when reflecting upon what makes lessons great.

Essential reading for school leaders at all levels.

Barry Dunn – @SeahamRE


POP Targets

“It’s not how good you are, it’s how good you want to be.” Paul Arden

I’ve been thinking about goals a lot lately, goals for my students, goals for my department, professional goals for myself and personal goals. It’s this time of year I’m looking at student data and thinking about the year ahead and also leading up to my main sporting event of the year The Lakeland 50. (Planning to knock a few hours off last year’s time and finish feeling strong.)

I think that setting goals is an important part of the developmental process; whether long or short term, simple or hugely ambitious. @Learning Spy has written an excellent blog on goals and his tips to make them worthwhile here. He also includes an Ultrarunning story so as far as I’m concerned he hit the target with this one;)

I’ve also been lucky enough to see Dr Ian Boardley speak again this year at the Lakeland Recce Days. He’s a lecturer at Birmingham University and an accomplished ultrarunner. He shared a way of categorising goals in sporting events that I felt had some lessons I could apply to my professional goal setting in education. So the three categories are:- 


This is a focus on the end product of a particular event. Success is determined in very specific terms such as a time goal in running or a specific % of students achieving a specific grade or hitting all of your performance management goals. These are useful for us in terms of long term thinking and really useful to people with leadership responsibilities as these allow tracking of strategic goals.


This focus on the overall outcome of a particular event: usually in comparison to others. Beating a particular rival in a race or in our terms in education getting better results than another school or teacher or getting a better observation grade than a rival. These competitive goals make a lot more sense in sport than education as we’re very much a collegiate and supportive profession. We’re after the best for all not just ourselves.


This is a focus on in-performance goals, what you’re doing during the event. Addressing optimal form, technique and strategy. In race this is about when to run and when to walk (50 miles is quite a long way), getting my eating and hydration right. In school it’s about what to do and when to do it. What time of day do you mark efficiently? What do you need to remember to add to your lessons? (Starters? Plenaries? More questions?) What are the indicators you need to look out for when things aren’t going well and what are your strategies to overcome these? By thinking and planning around process goals in advance it allows me to focus on what I’m doing, not trying to figure out a strategy on the spot. A lot of adaptability comes from having though possibilities through in advance or experience of similar situations in the past. Things rarely go well by sheer good fortune. It’s also good to know what you’re going to do when things don’t go well.

I think all of these have value, process and performance more so in the educational setting. On a day to day basis I feel that thinking about our process goals could make the biggest impact and therefore support us in achieving our other goals. The process goals you set could be about your lesson structure; remembering to use a plenary to check the learning or making sure the class get time to tidy away making the end of the lesson less panicked. It could be setting specific times to do specific tasks; like booking certain slots for marking or putting an hour a week to spend on new ideas that would otherwise fall by the wayside. It might even be specific responses, for example if I see Marmaduke distracted I’ll knock on a table as a prompt rather than yelling – “How ye; get on with yer work.” Make sure the student knows the prompt too otherwise they’ll think you’ve gone wrong.

These small, specific, day to day changes help build good habits; it’s very much the Marginal Learning Gains idea of making lots of little impacts which accumulate to make a big difference. 

So dream big, aim high and know how you’re going to get there.

Barry Dunn – @SeahamRE

Featured image made using the following site:- Dude Generator. 

Big Day Out Newcastle #BDONE Part 5

The Hollywood effect with David Hodgson.

What’s really important in our lessons in what’s going on in the brain. We need to get them excited and engaged; we need to make a Hollywood movie of our subjects. Subject specialists have a rich and detailed vision of their subject; we need to share that film with our students. We also need to think about making the thinking efficient.

Three Big Ideas

1) Mood impacts on performance.

Look at the puppy room experiments where students stroked puppies for four minutes before taking a test and performed better.

In sport; you take time to get yourself in the right frame of mind whether it’s routine, chants, mantras of visualisation. You get yourself focused and in the mood for the task ahead.

Is this a wasted opportunity? We need to spend time making students relaxed, ready and curious. Not nervous and bored. We need to influence the mood of our classes:-

Push them towards it; gentles nudges and prompts.

OR drag them along with enthusiasm.

2) Activate the Learning

Use walk through memory techniques, attach ideas to landmarks. Move it, mark it out. Attach senses to ideas, the more stimuli and links to an idea the greater the recollection.

The example used was people who were good at spelling. 

1) Picture the word.

2) Say it, syllable by syllable.

3) Check gut feeling.

4) If it feels right it is right. Stop.

5) If it feels wrong go back to step one.

Activate your senses to improve learning; look at how the brain experiences the body.

3) Practice

Review at the end of the lesson; remind the brain what stuff is important. Focus on the small improvements.

The more the brain does something the more it will remember it. Make sure they review often and the right stuff.

Then it was time for lunch. (There won’t be a separate blog on the food.)

During lunch delegates were given opportunities for one to one consults with the Independant Thinking Associates. I was really impressed by this extra personal touch; Lisa obviously worked her team hard.

Barry Dunn – @SeahamRE

Visiting The Belmont Learning Hubs

Last week I had the pleasure of visiting @dan_brinton @belmont_school to see his “learning hubs” as part of the package of distributed leadership professional development initiatives implemented at his school.

After sharing an overview of his vision, implementation strategy and long term aims Dan took me on a tour of his learning hubs:

Questioning; how can questioning be used to assess knowledge, challenge thinking and direct learning?

Feedback & Critique; how can we use feedback to promote progress, reflection and pride in our work?

Challenge & Mindset; how can we create a culture of growth mindset where challenge is embraced?

E-Learning; how can we use technology to enhance learning inside and outside of the classroom?

(There was also a Literacy hub which sadly wasn’t on that afternoon.)

These are the five key aspects of learning and culture that the team at Belmont have identified as the key foci to push their school forward and deliver the best for their students.

I’ll not go into detail on the vision and processes as Dan shares a lot about what happens on his blog here. This is one of my favourite five blogs on the Internet and I strongly recommend giving it a read.

What I would like to share was the clear impact that this program had on the staff:-

1) The staff were really welcoming, open and honest about their learning journey. They shared their triumphs, challenges and some great ideas I could take away to use. There was a clear growth mindset in their own learning. 

(My instant takeaways to use in my classroom are at the bottom.)

2) The staff were passionate in their discussions about learning; it seems like an obvious thing to say but putting teachers together and giving them time to think and talk is such an important thing. It not only provides an important opportunity for reflection and development it also clearly defines what’s important in your school. It’s a culture thing.

3) Staff were focused on their legacy and impact. The work they were doing in their hubs was to share with their colleagues to make a difference to all of the students in their school. They knew what they were working on was an investment in the future.

4) Hub leaders and their groups were thinking rich picture; strategically looking at how their work and future plans will impact on all stakeholders. Clearly looking to synthesise with other initiatives in school such as their action research and lesson study groups.

As well as getting a great insight into the workings of the project and experiencing the groups first hand I was also lucky enough to pick up two quick ideas to use straight away in my classroom.

Multi-Coloured PEE

Chris Jones was kind enough to share how he had been focusing his students on scaffolding PEE (Point, Evidence, Explain) paragraphs using 3 different coloured pens. It’s a great, simple to implement concept and a clear way to highlight the paragraph structure to the students.


Lee Ferris shared this tool with me; it was originally designed as an App for language learning but can be used to work on key vocabulary and concepts. It’s easy to use and works around repetition and interleaving the learning by carefully timed reminders by e-mail or alerts on their phones.

I’m not only using it to brush up on my hugely rusty Japanese; I’ve also set up some essential vocabulary for my Key Stage 4 Religious Studies classes and high frequency academic vocabulary using the @LearningSpy list (with David’s kind permission) to develop their comprehension of exam style vocabulary.

Barry Dunn – @SeahamRE