Great teachers do NOT make great schools…

The one thing that has stayed with me since Dylan Wiliam’s visit over a year ago is that ‘all teachers need to improve’. This article from the IoE tells us why it’s important and links it to another famous teaching quote.

Great Teachers do not make great schools…



pile of scrapbooks

RE teachers often bemoan the amount of marking that we have to do, and it can be a lot.  We often see students once a week and are expected to mark books often.  I have, in the past, as a full-time RE teacher, teaching mainly KS3, taught 18 groups a week – that’s over 500 books a week that could pass through my hands.

As a school, we have developed SIR (Success, Improvement, Response), which has been running for a couple of years and when I did a book look a few weeks ago with my fabulous team of mainly non-specialists, I was thrilled with what I saw.  They give specific, measured and informative feedback.  They mark often (sometimes too often) and sometimes too much.

So, our departmental next step.
I want us all to focus on one thing. The Sutton Trust say that feedback is where progress is made. Our marking policy wants to see students responding to feedback, so the marking we do MUST make an impact.  I am really happy that we acknowledge most of the work that our students do with a tick, sticker, stamp, vivo, little comment. What I want us all to focus on is improvements. I would also like our students to be focusing on writing paragraphs.  As well as our 4 summative assessments (Learning Landmarks) a year, our department are focusing on writing paragraphs.  Each student is to write a paragraph every three lessons that is then marked using SIR.  The response should be done mainly in lesson, but occasionally for homework.

I’ve spent quite a long time experimenting with ‘I’ – and I’m still getting there. It needs to be specific and focused on the next step. It also needs to be specific in terms of expectation. For example:
S  – You have begun to explain the key term Anicca
I –  Please explain anicca in detail – you can use the way that Buddhists use mandalas as an example.  I then sometimes draw a line in the margin of their book to show how much I’m expecting that they write. Their response has to take them longer than you took to feedback.
Do not write long term improvements that you hope they remember for next time. It has to be something they do immediately.
I do not mind sacrificing content over improvements. That’s where the progress is made.

I really want to encourage my team to mark less, but with more impact.

(Obviously there are some exceptions to this – if a student has spent three hours on a homework, or they have made a really lovely personal response, I know my team will respond appropriately!)

I wonder what other departments are doing?


Week 2 Revision techniques

Revision tips for Burgate parents

Hopefully there is a completed Revision Topic Planner pride of place on the fridge announcing your son or daughters’ good intentions and a nice corner of your home tidy, comfortable and ready for some serious revision….now what?

Your lovely Year 11 should have identified what topic they are going to cover this week. If they are still floundering I am hoping the links to the revision guides below will help get them organised. Each of the revision guides is put together by the head of department and often includes the exam date, breakdown of what is required for the exam, some great advice for revision (often with links to helpful resources) and possibly suggestions for exam technique. Should you want guidance from the exam boards then click on the subject specification. Exam specifications outline exactly what students need to be able to do to succeed in their examination, however sometimes it…

View original post 900 more words

Revision tips for parents

Revision tips for Burgate parents


It is at this time of year that I start to feel sorry for our year 11 students. At a time when their brains are undergoing a whole ‘rewiring’ and hormones are really kicking in they are expected to perform in their biggest set of exams yet, their GCSEs. Whilst we as teachers are busy trying to shoe-horn as much information into them as possible, their brains are trying to filter out any unnecessary information equally as quickly.

You might be lucky and have a lovely son or daughter conscientiously revising away, or you may be asking yourself where this stressed out, snarling teenager has suddenly appeared from. Either way you are probably wondering how you can help your son or daughter navigate their way through this tricky time.

There are 74 days until their first written exam takes place (Religious studies on Monday 11th May). Over the next…

View original post 468 more words

Week 3: Making a Mind Map

Revision tips for Burgate parents

‘A wise man knows that he knows nothing’ (Anon)

There are numerous ways to revise so if revision is becoming a bit stale, or your son or daughter is finding other techniques are not working, it might be an ideal opportunity to try a new revision technique. This week the majority of year 11 have had a revision session on Mind Maps. There is often confusion between Mind Maps and Spider diagrams and students are often resistant to changing their ways. In many ways Spider diagrams and Mind Maps are very similar, both start with a central idea from which other ideas radiate. Both are great at helping to organise ideas into categories, and into a hierarchical order with links being drawn between different concepts. However Tony Buzan, the brain behind Mind Maps, states a few simple rules. These are described in detail below, but to summarise briefly, Mind Maps use single words…

View original post 563 more words