On the Learning Walk being CPD rather than accountability.


Before you start to read this post, watch this.  It’s a classic.  What I’d like you to do is imagine that the Black Knight is Ofsted, continuity Gove, the DfE, your SLT.  That sort of thing.

Now, there are all sorts of things I could say about this.  I could comment of brave leadership.  Ignoring the ‘baddies’ to continue on the important mission of improving learning whatever the distractions.  I’m not against Ofsted you understand, I’m paid from public money and there should be a level of accountability without a shadow of a doubt.  Indeed, I’ve notched up around 9 inspections and found each and every one of them positive.  Look back at previous posts, and you should find that clear message.  The problem with Ofsted is that it distracts a school from the main thing, and the main thing should be what’s going on in classrooms.  The learning.

You may have noticed that I’m on a little crusade of late.  I don’t believe in any Holy Grail of teaching and never have.  However, II am just as sceptical of blanket condemnation as I do recommendation.  In the hallowed halls of #TLT14 this weekend, the Learning Walk came under fire.  Now, I have no doubt that there is some horrific practice out there regarding these.  Instead, I thought I’d share a small insight into what we are trying to achieve where I am now.

Firstly, we have a Learning Delivery Unit.  This body of teachers meets every two weeks and we speak about Learning.  We hold ourselves accountable.  The group comprises SLT, ASTs (Yes, I know they don’t exist), and teachers at al levels of their career.  There’s no pay or extra time.  There’s plenty of extra workload.  The group meet without ‘us’ (The Deputy and two Assistant Heads that make up the Teaching and Learning SLT) at lunchtime, get external coaching and meet after school.  Together, we hold ourselves to account for driving the improvement of Teaching and Learning across the school.  It’s a mashup of grass roots clout and SLT clout. 

The group are responsible for:

  • The Teaching and Learning Blog – Learning Adventures
  • Formulating, implementing and driving our Teacher Learning Communities (this year focused on a subverted lesson study approach to Pupil Premium students)
  • Research
  • Developing Reading
  • Developing coaching
  • Developing Learning Partnerships and Professional Learning Time menus
  • A few other things
  • Learning Walks

Our Learning Walks are driven by two classroom teachers, one of which would fit into the 21/25 periods a week of contact time bracket.  They focus on our 10 Powerful Practices with a new focus every fortnight.  Many walks are done in pairs and although every member of SLT is in the mix as well as our middle leaders, there are also NQTs and teachers of all levels.  Plus, it’s focused on sharing good practice. The balance of WWWs far outstrips the EBIs and the focus gives a real clarity to the comments.  At the moment, we are looking at Growth Mindset. The first two weeks of term was Learning Environment.  Crucially, there’s email or face-to-face feedback to the teachers visited.  Children are spoken to and rewarded and the Learning Walk forms a core part of our schools personalised CPD offering.

It doesn’t have to be oppressive and it’s our own agenda. The next step if to be a little more consistent with two aspects:

1. Using a tablet to collate the information and be able to view it in ‘real-time’ via a Google Docs form.  Now we have WiFi across the school, we’ve been trailing this with positive results. It’s part of my desire to improve workloads.

2. Using the schools Learning Adventures Twitter account to snap great student and staff work.  I hope to get one of our fantastic IT team to collate these and share them in different ways. I do need to get better at this as it hasn’t been too regular. Think of it as a virtual Ethic of Excellence wall for teachers and students.

2014-10-19 20.27.34

Now, I’m not fooling myself for a moment.  When I walk in to a room on a walk I know that there may be the intake of breath.  To be honest, I feel the same when an NQT and their mentor walk into a classroom that I’m teaching.  But monitoring needn’t be evil.  Indeed, it’s essential if we are to support staff to develop teaching and learning.  I argue that point in this 2012 post.

So, the Learning Walk: done proper and it’s great CPD.


Photo credit sourced from Flickr and used under a Creative Commons licence.

2 Responses

  1. Couldn't agree more, David. Seriously needs to be addressed at our school – there have been instances where they sit outside other staff members' rooms, making notes and they never heard what about. I have had feedback from heads of year learning walks and it was really useful and any positives were a little boost! We also were given time to walk around as a year group to look at displays and room layout options. This was a good idea, but I feel more could have been done with it.
    I love the idea of the results being public, otherwise what is the point? That ol' chesnut again… viva la revolucion!

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