To the Next Level

Research here unsurprisingly underlines the following areas which underpin successful learning.

The report makes recommendations for moving to the highest stage in teaching quality, based on the findings of this small-scale study. These recommendations focus on:

•  developing subject leaders

•  making time for subject teams to meet and plan

•  being subject-specific about pedagogy

•  establishing longer units of work as the standard currency of scrutiny

•  making judicious use of student self-assessment

•  seeing the school as a contributor to local networks.


•  Teachers’ motivation to improve is commonly driven by an intrinsic desire to keep up to date and do the best job they can.

•  Systematic monitoring and tracking of students’ progress can lead to improvements in teaching.

•  Teaching can also improve in classrooms where teachers clearly communicate their expectations and where students work towards well-understood learning outcomes.

•  Teaching and learning improve when lessons are active, full of dialogue and enjoyable.

•  Teaching is more effective when teachers give clear explanations and know how to ask open questions which lead students’ enquiries further. Their classroom skill is based on a sure foundation of knowledge of their subject.

•  Strong leadership and a clear whole-school vision of teaching, learning and assessment can enable teachers to learn new skills, techniques and knowledge.

•  The most effective professional development is linked to a school’s or a teacher’s needs, is conducted in-house, and takes the form of collaborative enquiry. However, some carefully planned connections beyond the school are useful to a school’s development and self-awareness.

•  Team-teaching, lesson observations and the use of coaches and mentors play a part in individual professional development and in the growth of a confident self-critical culture.

5.3 Recommendations for moving to the highest stage in teaching quality

From this small-scale study the evidence would suggest six broad recommendations for schools which are seeking to respond to the new Ofsted requirement for a school to have outstanding teaching and learning in order for it to be judged ‘outstanding’ overall:

Develop subject leaders

Put effort into the development of subject leaders as inspirers of others, as models and managers, and then increase the trust placed in them to lead their subjects (while retaining accountability and intervening rapidly if the trust proves misplaced).

Make time for subject teams to meet and plan

Increase the amount of time subject teams have to meet and plan, moderate, discuss pedagogy and report to each other on action research, so that a strong culture of self-evaluation develops (reviewing and revising schemes of work in response to moderated unit assessments, for example).

Be subject-specific about pedagogy

Encourage subject teams to identify the subject-specific features of pedagogy and, by doing so, customise the agreed teaching and learning policy to introduce appropriate flexibility over lesson structure (for example, When is a starter activity helpful in art? How are lesson objectives best communicated in mathematics?).

Make longer units of work the standard currency of scrutiny

Encourage the use of work scrutiny and student feedback to gain insight into the structuring and trajectory of learning over longer units of work. Study the impact of these longer units on progress, rather than relying too much on observation of single lessons when evaluating teaching and learning.

Make judicious use of student self-assessment

Continue to stress the importance of transparency of assessment for students and their involvement in monitoring their own progress, but be alert to the over-use of student self- and peer-assessment within assessment for learning, ensuring that detailed diagnostic assessment and response by teachers remains central and teaching time is not eroded by assessment for learning practices.

See the school as a contributor to local networks

Seize every opportunity to be involved in school-to-school support. Encourage staff in all subjects to make a contribution to subject and other local networks, or to support other schools in their improvement. See that staff have opportunities to take on new ideas in their subject through further study (including on externally accredited courses), through membership of subject associations, and by participation in internet-based professional communities.

Further information
The CfBT Education Trust report – To the Next Level: Improving secondary school teaching to outstanding – is available to download for free at

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