The Excel Academy

How can we be outstanding?

By A Steele 

Over the last few weeks, the Teaching & Learning team at the academy have been debating exactly what marks a lesson as not just good, but ‘outstanding’.

Not so long ago (within the last decade) Ofsted moved to no longer grading lessons – seeing this as a futile measure in a one-off picture. Many colleagues and schools welcomed this change. However, they have still been reporting on the grading for Teaching and Learning and so being able to identify outstanding practice is still important. This is not just a way for senior leaders to measure the quality of the staff, but also for teachers to continue to reflect on their practice and develop it. A colleague in English has recently written a blog for IRIS connect (the recording equipment that we use in lessons to allow us to reflect on our practice and share ideas) exploring the importance of reflecting on lessons – even as an experienced member of staff – and you can read more here.

Our teaching staff are all keen to deliver the best lessons to allow students to make as much progress as possible.

So what is it that constitutes an outstanding teacher? 

Our starting point here wasn’t the Ofsted criteria for an ‘outstanding’ grading in T&L, but, instead, a discussion with our senior leadership team who, between them, have experienced over a dozen Ofsted inspections, not to mention external reviews and have taken part in hundreds (if not thousands) of lesson observations.

First and foremost, the team commented that for a member of staff to show ‘outstanding’ practice, they had to have good relationships with students. More often than not, this meant an environment of respect that was often achieved through passionate subject teaching and then resulting in student enthusiasm for the subject. Colleagues commented that student voice often teaches us that, where students feel that staff ‘care’ about them as individuals, they work hard. When probed, this included talking to them about their weekends, saying hello to them in corridors and showing a human side to their characters by using anecdotes in their teaching.

The second and also final factor to showing outstanding practice was – quite simply – being consistently ‘good’ all the time. As much as this seems like an obvious get out, it really is – more often than not – the only other factor worth considering.

Of course, it is too simplistic. That sweeping statement includes all manner of other measurements:

  • It includes marking that is timely and explicitly tells students how to make progress which is then demonstrated by the student.
  • It includes lessons that are planned using regular formative assessment that allows teachers to intervene in a timely and effective manner.
  • It includes questioning that is so adept that it includes all students and scaffolds them to use higher thinking skills.
  • It includes teaching that promotes the best qualities of character and models pride and respect.

And none of this can be achieved without consistent mindset for learning practice.

In our academy we are very fortunate. Our mindset for learning system is robust and thorough. It both celebrates and promotes good behaviour and attitude, whilst providing a consistent process to dealing with poor behaviour. Through the application of this process across the school, by all members of staff (both teaching and non-teaching) we are able to teach good lessons and, as a result, much of the practice in the academy is good with lots of outstanding features.

So in our quest to be as ‘outstanding’ as possible, we will continue to reflect on our practice; we will continue to care about our students and we will continue to expect the best behaviour possible from them to ensure that not only our teaching and learning, but our whole school – staff and students – are outstanding.

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