Life after Levels VS 1-9 Flight Path

Please find two guides created to support staff with marking for life after levels. We are applying a 1-9 flight path for data input so that progress is still measured through to the start of the GCSE course in Y9, but reporting home using ‘working towards, working at, working above’ expected standard. Hope they are useful: a marking guide for KS3 data input guide for KS3



#Litdrive Moves House!

huge_2_10682A year ago (almost to the day) I started up #litdrive, a shared drive for Literacy Coordinators (and all those who think it important that kids know their exclamation form their explanation) to share resources and initiatives. A year on, we have grown from a select few to a few more and I’ve shifted us over to Dropbox to celebrate. The reason? I’m paying for all this nifty storage and want something a little tidier for what is now a hefty bank of resources.

It is the collaborative nature of this profession that will aid teacher survival (I spoke about value vs time a while ago here: and my aim is to teach students and help teachers.

The more the merrier- as ever- so please get in touch @saysmiss if you would like to share or benefit from the shared drive.


The Whole Non Fiction Caboodle

After not wanting to move my MOST RETWEETED RESOURCE EVER from TES and put onto dropbox with all the other bits and pieces, here’s the link. I got sick of searching for 19th century resources and their 21st century worthy comparisons and so put a booklet together- it really is a starting point but it seems to be rather useful:





KS3: Cobweb Clearing Phase 2

Please find below a number of links for various resources to monitor progress, mark and teach AO descriptors at KS3. ideal if you are following a five year flight path:

Making AO criteria explicit through displays and teacher reference to reading strategies:

Making AO criteria clear through GCSE mirrored assessments:

Making AO criteria explicit through next steps for students:

Marking grids for support, mid and higher attainment groups. Support are Band 0-2, mid are band 1-3, higher are 2-4 following EDUQAS specification:

Marking guide to complement the new approach:

Making learning objectives clear to students: KS3 Cover sheets (inspired by Kate McCabe):

Making learning clear to parents: Parent guide with programme of study:

Fiction tasks for library lessons:

Non-fiction tasks for library lessons:





Woods and Trees: Advice for Autumn

readers-leaders.jpgThe start of term is what I think sometimes a slightly more productive time to reflect upon the year before; your brain is functioning again after a few weeks of ‘being you,’ your thoughts are fresh and you can think about your practice in context to your new students. We all start with clean slates, new stationery, positive mindsets about the new year and with the best of intentions, our path may become a little off-road by half term when our eyelids simply refuse to play ball. These are what I believe to be the core elements of my teaching that I use to re-centre my approach:

  • Be yourself. This can be a ‘teacher-version’ of yourself and not necessarily your ‘true-self,’ but spend time figuring our the teacher identity that you are, or want to be. Don’t try to emulate others- they are different, not better or worse. Studying teacher identity during my professional studies has been one of the most useful and grounding elements of my teaching practice. Read Effective Teaching: Evidence and Practice by Daniel Muijs and David Reynolds (Chapter 6: Teacher Beliefs, Values and Knowledge) for a further insight into the concept of self.
  • Every day is a new day. For staff, for students, for parents, for support staff, for you. Avoid carrying grudges or becoming your own worst critic if something didn’t quite go the way that you wanted it to. Failure is inevitable if you want to learn effectively and your own criticism will become your biggest obstacle if you let it. Self-validation is an incredibly powerful tool if you can master it.
  • Plan smart. Create resources that will be used more than once! This has been particularly challenging given the current climate of English but I have tried to focus on making resources that will weather the storm and that will benefit more than one class. Throwaway lessons are exactly that and often, you are creating the PowerPoint as your own safety blanket as opposed to aid the students. Last year for the first time, I saved my adapted planning on a weekly basis in an additional file to well-established schemes. With my subject in particular, you often find yourself using different texts or approaches so that they ‘get it.’ These classes will appear again- next time, you will be ready!
  • Share. I would not be the teacher that I am without the amazing teams that I have been a part of and the fantastic amount of people on Twitter that I have given, received or collaborated with in order to make this job a little bit better. Aside from the practical benefits, sharing is good for the soul! Not only are you feeding the kindness, you are helping someone to spend an extra hour with their child at the weekend, make that visit to see friends, whatever it may be. That makes you absolutely priceless in my eyes.
  • Know when to stop. In case you haven’t quite fathomed out the mystery of the to-do list, it is NEVER empty. Ever. It is not your productivity that needs to improve, simply your resilience to the list. Do what you can and be kind to yourself- if you’re tired, most of what you will produce will be a bag of pants anyway (you already know that). The sooner you approach the list monster with a new sense of empowerment, the happier you will be.


Have a fantastic, productive, fulfilling year!




#PedagooHampshire16: Getting into Gear with English and Litdrive

This first line is really because I am so excited about this, that I needed to get a first line down to get this blog going. There it is, out the way and I can get on with explaining why.

The collaboration that comes with teaching is like nothing else I have experienced within a professional career, and Lord knows I love a good teachmeet! #PedagooHampshire will be no exception because I truly believe it is a little something special.

I was first introduced to #teacher5aday on Twitter and have grown accustomed in following the journeys of teachers from around the world as they share their stories of coming together and celebrating not only the very essence of what it means to teach, but their lives and enjoyment outside of teaching. The fun, laughter, enjoyment and reassurance from @martynreah’s 5 a day baby has sometimes been the thing that connects me with others when the day has been a bit too long, or the workload pile a bit too high.

To repay in kind my gratitude, I have been so kindly invited to run a session at #PedagooHampshire16 to have a chat (I’ve been assured that if you are attending, you will talk back!) about how I have used Life after Levels as an opportunity to re-energise English and Literacy, sharing practical, time-saving ways to assess, track progress but also encourage students to realise the vital connection between their effort and their achievement.  I will also babble a little but about the chance to collaborate with other teachers internationally with #litdrive and #KS3LTP, outlining ways for you to get involved in future collaborations. Although the developments are English specific, they are tweaked from an abundance of ideas used by other subjects so the aim is that there’s something for everyone.

As a shameless additional plug, I’d like to mark the superb input from teachers for #teacher5adayread by holding a book swap. I will be bothering you for your books so please bring along one or two books that would love a new home.

Look forward to seeing you there- I’ll be the one with the bag of nerves and a smile!




#teacher5adayread: a little room for you

Reading is the only way I can sit still. If I’m not submerged in a story, my mind will wander to food (always food!), plans that week, what’s left to do, what I could be buying on the internet- my partner Ben says it is the only way to get me to attempt to relax most of the time. I write this after being told that there were no plans today, and so took it upon myself to redecorate the bathroom. I need reading more than reading needs me!

It is with the lounge-worthy days of Summer that #teacher5aday came about; national libraries were challenging children to read six books over the summer break and @martynreah quite rightly mentioned, why can’t we do the same?

The discussions and recommendations that have taken place as a result of #teacher5aday have been a pleasure to see- I now have several books winging their way to me because I could not resist after reading a tweet that gave a snippet of the synopsis or seeing a beautiful cover that would fit nicely on my bookshelf. After all, it is all about the shelfie…but reading is always the surefire way to #connect, #learn, #relax and #notice, and what a perfect time of the year to do just that.

It really is that simple. Use the #teacher5aday hashtag for a multitude of recommendations, update the spreadsheet as you go with a mini review to share with others, tweet your reading spots or get involved by sharing your top three books of all time, or perhaps the book you would pick if you had to read one forever (kindly shared by Stagecoach- what a crisis! One book!). You’ll find the document here

This will be the fourth year to attempt fifty books as part of the #fiftybookchallenge that I shared a few years ago- if you like a challenge- and it always is for me- then please do get involved. I’ve shared my list so far (currently at number 38 and counting) here:


Happy reading!


Clearing Out The Cobwebs: Key Stage Three



Remembecobweb_curtain_by_artoffragility-d3brabpr the Wasted Years Report? Yep, that. Whilst the outcome seemed to point a finger in an accusatory manner, the findings themselves were explicit enough: Key Stage Three was getting a bit of a rough ride. In a middle-child syndrome fashion, Key Stage Two had clung onto SATs (you know, that test that matches up to a thematic Primary approach and assesses children in such an accurate and useful way that we can hardly compete at Secondary level- oh hang on, we did that SAT thing once….) and Key Stage Four have this fancy new linear approach that is just a real game changer. What about middling Three? Understaffed, over complicated, assessed with an assortment of pen colours and scaled numbers that it just sits awkwardly in the corner and wonders when someone will start paying it some attention.

New Key Stage Four specifications have bumped that job up the list; Key Stage Three fails to fit the easily-forgotten format that it once did, and indeed, we cannot afford to call the time wasted. Cue the removal of all previous formats-hurrah!- with the guidance of the DfE (lacking in hurrah) and our friendly neighbouring schools to figure out how this will look.

I’m getting to that. For those that don’t keep up with my highly publicised career journey, I moved schools in April to start a new position as Assistant Subject Leader, coordinating Key Stage Three. To give a little context, this is a school with (rightly so) huge expectations students that demonstrate a pro active and focused approach, no room for ‘dead time’ and a supportive parent body who are willing to embrace rigour whilst requesting for explicit outlines in return (I will blog after #TMBehaviour next week to explain the ethos in more detail- it has changed my mind dramatically with regards to resilience in so many ways). Key Stage Three has the opportunity for profound progress, providing new experiences and development within the subject and now with the removal of levels, what many may view as a well-needed holistic approach to learning. Having setting up the hastag #KS3LTP for schools to collaborate and share their approaches ( David Bunker’s blog also helped me tremendously there has been an influx of twittering about this. I’ll talk you through my plan and perhaps it will help you out with your own plan; I will explain my thought process along the way. If you would like to share schemes or discuss in more detail, please drop me a tweet. Here we are:

Create a five year plan- but not:

I’ve remapped the overview for KS3, matching each assessment opportunity to mirror a diluted version of the exams taken at KS4. They will match the format and thus ensures that KS3 will have completed EVERY exam that they will encounter at KS4 at least once by the end of Year 8. Year 7 takes an (almost, with the exception of jamming NF in there) chronological approach to literature, starting with a unit that examines etymology and Middle English; the exam will match Lang component One which is the exam paper that most fits the format of KS2 SATs paper; comprehension questions followed by an analytical interpretative and evaluative response. Writing is taught through reading; great writing will come from a mentor text approach, providing reading lists that accompany each unit but also providing private reading booklets where the students chooses their book of choice for that half term. In addition, the overview provides as many opportunities as possible for comparative work both within the same context and through perspectives; teaching staff will have the option to provide a comparative assessment as opposed to an analytical answer. The overarching aim here is to a) provide an experience for the students that makes criteria explicit and referenced regularly within teaching time, b) place an emphasis upon making time for reading and c) provide relevant challenge wherever we can for students. My final draft overview is in the dropbox link.

Removing levels but not standards:

Keeping to the five year plan, KS3 assessment will use bands. This removes a mark or grade, but still gives an indication as to where the piece of work succeeds or could be developed. As a school, we will use 1-9 to monitor attainment, but the initial thought is that reporting home will simply be, ‘working towards, working at expected standard, working above expected standard,’ demonstrating a finger in the wind that yep, you’re heading in the right direction. Keep it up. Yes yes, this does have a remaining twinge of levels but it prepares students for the terminology of KS4 and unpacks a subject that many students seem to struggle in deciphering the criteria for at times.

No Excuses, No Surprises!

This is my HOD’s motto and it seems apt here- in order for a reformat of our overview and teaching to KS4 terminology, we need to make certain approaches and strategies more explicit for students. Students often say that they struggle to revise for English; it lacks the linear and formulaic approach that sits comfortably with Maths or Science at times.  So to use explicit teaching of Assessment Objectives, familiarising students with what each stage of the criteria is asking of them and what that would look like on a practical level seems a logical step to help their understanding. As part of this process, I have created posters with stem questions to teach reading strategies and encouraging staff to use the visuals regularly with their groups when teaching reading skills. In addition, our department walls, marking feedback, and the discussions that we have with students will use the assessment objectives so that when we evaluate, we know that would enable us to demonstrate our understanding of AO1. Please don’t mistake this for assessment-led teaching; but without a Brownie Promise, how do you think they would remember to do their best? If we want to prepare students, unwrap, unravel and smooth out all that jargon speak from the word go.

Breathe and Stop

Another obstacle for both Key Stages seems to be the concept of long term gain; with the removal of controlled assessments at GCSE, there are no thermometers to colour in as we go, no checklists of ‘banked’ marks- how do we motivate over the long term? How do we create learning habits that are going to last over a sustained period of time? We create tools that not only look ahead but that will create the fulfilment of completion for students; a little while ago, I shared the Key Stage Three self audit for students- this has been amended to fit with our ‘towards, at expected, above’ approach. Accompanied with a long term tracker, students will be able to identify assessment objectives that they are most confident in demonstrating within their own work, but this can also help with intervention at an early point, using as a preventative measure rather than an after thought- imagine how powerful intervention could be in short, AO-driven sessions? (Jen Wilson is a good point of reference for further reading To enhance this experience, students will be presented with an English guidebook at the start of Year 7; this will contain an overview alongside assessment dates, recommended reading for each unit, an AO guide, support with developing skills and a range of resources and challenges for them should they wish. The booklet will act as a go-to for their first two years, creating a fun, imaginative way for them to prepare for the next topic, explore the subject in more detail or even provide creative methods for them to revise or consolidate a topic. This isn’t complete yet! Once it is, I will add to the folder.

My ultimate aim? To provide a comprehensive and varied (in both the academic and imaginative sense of the word) approach to Key Stage Three that ultimately prepares students for the next steps. Hope it is of some use to you.

KS3 stuff

Posters to solve problems





Bring Your Milk!Developing Healthy Habits

On the back of a massively successful week over the Christmas Break, #teacher5adayslowchat is set to return over Easter. Over the seven days, @martynReah, @MsHMFL, @SueRoffey, @naomi7444 (founder of the #teacher5aday journal, a fantastic crowd funded project), @MrsPert1, @EnglishHOD , @formationpeople, @GilchristGeorge (a man of formidable knowledge within both education and improvement) and @robfmac contributed to blogs in the run up to the week with differing approaches to the same overarching theme: how can we tackle wellbeing, both individually but also on a vaster scale, within schools and communities?

I often tell this story to my students, after my Mother telling me the same story when I was young about individual impact.

There once was a small, insignificant village with a multitude of giving and compassionate people. One day, Hero, the local messenger arrived to announce that the Emperor was coming to town- their town! Who would have thought such a great man would grace them with his presence. As a result, the Mayor proclaimed that the fountain that greeted all the village’s visitors would flow with milk on the day itself, as a mark of gratitude to the Emperor.

It was very simple: every household would need to bring one pint of milk to the fountain early that morning to prepare for the great event. Easy.

The morning finally arrived, with locals gathering to see their great National leader as his procession began to flow down the hills towards the village. The mayor waited until the horses had just reached the gates before commanding his men to reveal the fountain of milk for all to see.

The villagers held their breath, eagerly awaiting this gesture of appreciation…… but nothing burst from the cherubs that sat at the precipice of the fountain. The fountain lay dry and dormant. The mayor stammered his previous words, his face a twisted ball of anguish, but again, nothing. A single drop failed to appear.

You see- this is why ‘teacher5aday is so important to me, and many others, for two reasons that you can draw from this story. One is that the small, simple acts that you carry out in a bid to maintain your own wellbeing, thanks to the use of Twitter, are reached by so many other people, that you may make more of an impact to simply you’re own. The second, is that whilst some may consider wellbeing as an individual issue, like so many other social and economical issues that are present in society today, I do not. If we want people to succeed, to thrive, to simply find contentment on a day-to-day basis within schools, we need to recognise that mental and emotional wellbeing is not something that will get better if we do not do something about it.

To re-vitalise and reaffirm the priority of wellbeing within schools, #teacher5adayslowchat is making a comeback! Join us over the course of the week, from 4th-8th April, as we look at developing healthy habits. I’ll be starting on the Monday- which coincides with my first day at a new role so @martynreah will be tweeting my questions and sharing ideas until I can drop in later that day. We’re going to start with your own wellbeing; I want to consider the different strategies that we can develop to recognise our own capabilities and limits, whilst sharing practical ways of maintaining levels of focus and keeping wellbeing a key priority overall.

Opening on the 4th, I want you to consider the following questions to start:

How do you measure your wellbeing? What are the warning signs?

Why keep #teacher5aday top priority? Why is work/relax simply not enough?

What has helped you to maintain the focus?

I look forward to you joining me over the course of the week as we discuss Developing Healthy Habits- please feel free to get in touch before April with any thoughts you may have.




Seasick and Froth: Independence and Progress

Where did we get to?

I’ve been mulling over the concept of spoon feeding within education, taking away the safety net whilst providing enough of the net for any of us to avoid feeling that swooping towards the cliff edge feeling and how we plan on going about all of that in the midst of what is stormy waters for the educational sector (all the shipwrecked metaphors. What can I say? I love a metaphor).

Previous action research included studying the process of peer and self assessment using a structured framework, guiding students towards making meaningful progress through using one another as an additional resource within the classroom; this then moved onto how to personalise learning through characteristic strengths and growth mindset. At Ashby Teachmeet recently, I spoke about the explicit link between developing the climate that makes things seem challenging and yet possible for all learners; this is only achievable, in my opinion, if we provide learners with the opportunity to reflect upon their own progress. Here is where we got to.

I have trialled the process of reflection, improvement and self-audit with my GCSE groups; one is a ‘top’ set, all working to target grades of B or above. The other, a mixed ability group with the range of target grades E-C. All students have a skills audit sheet that not only identifies the skills that they will develop over the GCSE course, but also outlines the particular assessment objective that the skill will relate to. Additionally, at the start of each unit, we have spent time selecting the skills that we will endeavour to develop during that unit. As a result of this, I am now currently working on a skills audit that will be tailored for each unit and perhaps act as an overlay to the giant skills sheet for the entire course (blue sky and all that). Both groups went through this process: visit audit sheet to identify skills before commencing a topic, using skills audit sheet to peer and self assess class work, planning and assessments and using the skills audit alongside post assessment work to celebrate successes in confidence but also identify areas that should be their key priority for the next unit or when we revisit the following year.

Successes? Both groups got it. The student feedback at a midpoint over the 3 month period and then again at the point of completion showed a clear, strong understanding their progress and the next steps required from the students’ point of view rather than the teacher; male students that always demonstrated a requirement for ‘beating targets’ found some sense of satisfaction in measuring their increasing confidence within a subject that may sometimes feel as though you are reaching a plateau- English content I find is reliant upon transferring skills in addition to developing them as such. One student noted that it ‘was more useful than comparing my work to other people as I don’t write in the same way’ which I found comforting. This was a process that was taking a rather qualitative subject and providing a linear way to demonstrate progress – nuts and bolts are hard to apply within English. The danger then becomes in who got the best and self-auditing means that students move away from test-topping which is always a good thing, surely. One student stated, ‘it helps me realise that I can now approach tasks better,’ and ‘it boosts my confidence to answer a question.’ Personally, this is the value of the progress over progress itself; if the effort is there and I have helped to strengthen that, then I believe the outcome will still ultimately be the same.

The key successes I took from this were that the skills audit acts as a triple whammy for teaching resourcing; one to one discussions post unit were far more focussed and specific to the student, the onus took a shift so that whilst I provided any material to help to make an improvement by way of intervention, the student was the one to signpost to me where they needed to make that improvement. It also made discussions at parents’ evening based entirely around progress and independent learning; conversations were centred around effort and action plans to aid this process. Intervention has been far easier to tailor as a result; students have been in a position to use assessment marking and the skills audit to know exactly what they want to develop or work on as the GCSE course has got underway.

Advice for approaching? Play the long game. This, like any practice or adaptation to teaching will take a routine and modelling to perfect. The more frequently used, the greater value the students placed upon the process of considering their work with a much more obejctive approach than they were perhaps previously used to. Provide as many examples of work using the skills audit to measure skills applied wherever possible; use the skills to drive lessons or form the lesson’s big question.

Two things stood out to me above all else: one, that it is questionable to suggest that the act of self audit has to be accurate or correct. Two, that the link between assessment criteria and the skills acquired needed to be much more clear to even the most able of students; they found it incredibly difficult to understand that they were using the same skills but just with differing content. The ideal? To create an online process for students to visit each time they worked yhrough a topic, measuring their confidence and skills developed as they progressed through the content and completed assessments to test their knowledge. Smaller, regular assessments that were clearly targeting skills outlined within the tool that students could then identify their own capabilities and perhaps even better, have a variety of links to resources that could help them to ‘close their own gap.’ Students understood the value and could identify holes in their learning, but sometimes struggled to know what to do with that information without guidance from me, although I do still need something to do with all this independent work, so I’m not complaining.

Back to the ship, big waves, etc, etc. What next? Develop a clear pathway for students to identify with not only what they excel at, but the targets for themselves as well. Essentially, a lighthouse in all this murky, gloomy weather that we are having. I just need to get around to making it…