How to teach (it’s not rocket science) 


I’m so lucky to have an NQT this year. Working with new teachers is a great way to reflect on your own teaching.

We were discussing teaching styles and I told her the following:

“I don’t care how you teach. Talk at them, put them in groups, jump up and down, do what you want. All I care about is if they’re learning. Have they learnt what they need to ? How do you know? If not, what are you doing about it?”

To me these are the fundamentals of teaching. Keep it simple. Whistle and bells teaching is great if it fulfils these. If not, you’re wasting your time. If it takes three lessons of students researching, making a poster and presenting one core concept I would argue that is a waste of time; there are more efficient ways to learn. 

There is caveat to these. Due to the small amount of time we see our students, our job is to maximise the time we have with them and the time we don’t have with them. Our planning should ensure that learning is the priority; not fun or tick boxing for SLT/school policies. We are the experts and allowing students to engage with our expertise, to me, is what teaching is about. 

Last term a student said to me “Wow Miss, how do you know all this stuff?”. The ‘fun’ in my lessons comes from their inquisitive questions. They want to know more. It’s my job to make sure they are learning, enjoyment is secondary. In most cases it comes as a natural consequence.

However this isn’t enough. Whilst we cannot pin-point learning in a lesson, there are strategies that seem to be as close as we can get to checking learning. I’ve always used testing in my classes but it’s only recently that I’ve seen the research that suggests how important it is for long term learning. So testing becomes the way to check if they really have learnt what you think they’ve learnt. But the best thing about testing is that it has a double bonus; it contributes to the learning itself. Repetition of content over a period of time helps to embed it and allows students to be able to apply it in different contexts.

The beauty of this view is that I don’t spend hours planning. Any resources I create are simple and focus on a key idea they need to understand. Most homework I set now is quizzing. It contributes directly to learning. It’s premade and marks itself. 

If you have an NQT starting with you or you are one, remember teaching doesn’t need to be complicated. We just need to keep a focus on the learning; it’s not rocket science.


Should we critique or comment on other people’s lesson ideas?


With Twitter and online teacher groups people share their lesson ideas all the time. For some it is a life saver, especially if you’re teaching out of your subject area. At events such as TeachMeets, people share their idea or lesson resource and the audience politely clap.

However at which point should you stop and make a comment if something is wrong or if you don’t agree with it? Or do we just leave it, either because of British ‘manners’ that dictate you  shouldn’t mention anything or you feel it might upset the person sharing?

Does it make a difference if it’s a typo or a SPAG error compared to a bigger issue such as they have something factually incorrect? I’ve been more interested in research recently, should this help to decide if a lesson idea is a valid or effective one?

When does a comment become a criticism?

Should these be taken personally?

More pertinent to RE, should we say if we feel that someone is teaching something in RE that may sit elsewhere in the curriculum? Who is ‘right’? Without a National Curriculum and a past history of AT2, it seems that any thing can be wedged into an RE lesson.

There are many many times where people have shared stuff and others have said how ‘amazing’ it is, and it isn’t amazing. I’ve sat on my hands and haven’t commented. The horrific long list of emails being ‘cheeky’ and asking for a copy of it makes me want to cry. I once sat in a teacher presentation on literacy where there were SPAG errors. No-one said a word.

Do our students deserve to have a certain quality of curriclulum or resource or does anything go? Who decides?

Or should we respect the fact that someone may have spent hours on this and ignore any issues?

Is there a best way to critique or should we all be open to people’s comments on work we make public?

Should we only comment if someone directly asks for feedback?

Do we have a moral responsibility to ensure that everything students see is of a high quality or do we keep quiet and clap everything and anything?

My concern is that if we shut down any sort of dialogue on these things that lots of dross is shared, but the other extreme is that people don’t feel comfortable to share anything. Is there a middle ground?

*Please do point out any SPAG errors in this and feel free to comment/critique/ feedback.

A brief guide to the new GCSE grade boundaries

  1. There will be no UMS. These were for modular exams. Everything is now linear.
  2. The DfE have published descriptors for 2/5/8, however they are mainly meaningless because:
    1. It will depend exactly on your board for the actual criteria that will be used for your specification
    2. Exam boards will not use these to allocate grades
    3. Grade allocations are based on numbers of students NOT these descriptors.
    4. What a 2/5/8 will change every year depending on the cohort and the teaching. As teachers get used to the new courses, they will get better at teaching them. This doesn’t mean more students will do better.
  3. Essentially your students are in competition with each other and with every other students sitting that paper. All students cannot achieve a 9.
  4. You will not get any grade boundaries from anywhere until a set of results has been published. It is no-ones responsibility/fault to do so. They are only ever generated after a session, you’re just used to lots of previous sessions with their boundaries. Make them up if you’re desperate but you’ll 99% be wrong.
  5. You cannot use the way the DfE/boards will calculate grade boundaries to work out in-house boundaries. They use numbers of students you will use quality of work against a mark scheme. They’re two very different things.


6.  You cannot use old spec grade boundaries to calculate new. RS GCSE is a great example. Last year for Edexcel a students needed 96% for an A* and OCR needed 82%. This is % of marks. Again, Ofqual documents reference % of candidates NOT marks. You could use the number of entries data but that won’t help you in-house as you don’t teach the entire cohort of entries.

7. A ‘good’ GCSE and a level 2 pass will be two different things. A 5 is a good GCSE. A 4 is a level 2 pass.u



Essentially my advice is to teach students what they need for the specification you’re doing (and beyond) and teach to the top. Each specification has sample assessment material. Use the levelling/marks and support all students to full marks. Any SLT that thinks you can create any boundaries or descriptors yourself are deluded and are best pacified with something they can enter onto their spreadsheet. They’ll get a shock in 2018…..



1-9 grade descriptors for all subjects

Current grading vs new grading

Click to access Postcard_-_Grading_New_GCSEs.pdf

set of postcards going through some basics

Ofqual blog

This is all to the best of my knowedge and for classroom teachers, not data managers.

You’re a great teacher….so here’s your punishment


Punishment may not be the best phrase, but there are so many times that leaders in schools use their great teachers which are only justified because they’re ‘good’ teachers.

Here are some things I’ve heard about:

  • Always taking visitors to their classroom
  • Ensuring Ofsted go to their classroom
  • Putting a ‘naughty’ student in their group because ‘they’ll deal with them’
  • Giving them ‘bottom’ sets as they can ‘teach them’
  • Making them lead things (on the same teaching hours as ‘not so great’ teachers)
  • Mentioning their name all the time in meetings ( once or twice is nice, more than that is just embarrassing)
  • Saying ‘Well they get good results…..’ for justifying an action that isn’t related to results, involving that teacher
  • Always involving them in whole school initiatives as they’ll ‘do it best’
  • Assuming they’ll be happy to always go above and beyond without recompense
  • Giving them the jobs/tasks/classes/rooms/resources that others wouldn’t want because ‘they’ll cope’
  • Keep being pushed to take more responsibility even though they just want to be a classroom teacher

So if you’re a leader in a school, think carefully how you treat your ‘great’ teachers. Giving some teachers more to do because they’re ‘good’ may not be the best way to manage them.


Deliberate recall – don’t just leave it to chance 


I’ve been planning for our new GCSE and discussing with other people how they teach the GCSE course.

I’m putting into the course structure, multiple, planned, deliberate recall points. This will either be application into another context, part of a test or part of a planned homework programme that are multiple choice quizzes.

See below for the overall structure and then when the repetitions will take place. Without homeworks, most topics will be recapped in some part between 3 and 8 times. Homework will increase that and will cover all content.

Research suggests that repetition (and forgetting time) increases the chance for long term retention.  If we know this we need to forget following the text book from the beginning to the end, and start planning for learning, not for teacher comfort or convenience. We need to plan for deliberate recall.