Celebrating excellence in subject leadership

The Bernice McCabe Award

The Bernice McCabe Award Winner: Geography - Thomas Tallis School, London

The PTI’s Bernice McCabe Award celebrates excellence in subject leadership within schools, recognising departments that put quality subject teaching at the heart of the classroom.

Thomas Tallis is a large 11-18 community comprehensive school in Greenwich, London.

  • Why were they nominated?
  • The Geography department was nominated for their new project “Geography to understand the world and change it for the better”. Within this, the department implemented a new Key stage 3 curriculum

Geography - Thomas Tallis School - Winner of the BMC Award

The departmental vision was to provide students with global perspective rather than teaching through ‘classic’ themes such as rivers andcoasts. Changing the KS3 curriculum to “Continents and regions of the world” provided both staff and students at Thomas Tallis School the opportunity to teach and learn through enquiry with more extended writing and recall. Moving from half-termly topics to termly topics to embed overarching themes through continents that can then be re-visited through another continent in a different year group. 

An activity that has been embedded beyond the curriculum is “Earth Day”. Earth Day features a variety of guest speakers and workshops to show students the career paths they could potentially take within geography. As a result, Thomas Tallis School, have seen their highest cohort of A level students that the school has had both in terms of external and internal candidates (48 students). 

Furthermore, all Geography staff were part of the redesign of the KS3 curriculum, staff have attended CPD’s with each other (whomever was lead on a specific continent) and books have been passed around the department to aid the development of current enquiry questions for each location. Geography staff all contributed to sending articles, podcasts, lectures, events to the newsletter for students. Geographers attended lectures to keep up-to-date in order to run micro-lectures at lunch time in the EL Threshold Concept group. 

The Geography department have also made links within and beyond the school including a PTI primary day. The PTI primary day has made the transition between KS2 and KS3 geography liaising with primary colleagues in the PTI to look at how to better prepare students for secondary school Geography.

The Bernice McCabe Award nominee: Maths - Winstanley College, Wigan

The PTI’s Bernice McCabe Award celebrates excellence in subject leadership within schools, recognising departments that put quality subject teaching at the heart of the classroom.

Winstanley College is Sixth Form College based in the North West.

  • Why were they nominated?
  • The Maths department created and implemented a wide range of new resources to help students develop (and teachers assess) basic skills in each mathematical topic and to provide individualised feedback

Maths - Winstanley College - Highly Commended for the BMC Award

The Maths department's new projects included a three-tiered home-work package, a peer-mentoring scheme and the wider use of MS Teams to encourage effective independent study.

Creation of a tiered homework package - By creating a common template and sharing the workload between all members of the department, staff created the first-tier home-works, called "fluency & skills" for each of the Year 12 units. These fluency tasks assess understanding of the basic skills of a new topic and are marked by the teacher, in order to provide timely feedback and intervention before students are then asked to complete the second-tier task; a problem-solving assignment based on exam questions relating to the same topic, which also enables students to become familiar with exam command words, techniques and marking criteria. For the final tier, students complete regular revision assignments in a portfolio, which reassess knowledge and skills across a variety of topic areas, whilst also encouraging the independent study skills which will be vital for progression.

Implementation of a Peer-mentoring scheme - After each internal assessment, Year 12 students who have under-performed are asked to attend weekly mentor sessions with a volunteer Year 13 mentor. Meeting once a week for one hour, in the dedicated Maths Study Room, students work through any issues arising from assessments or current topics, discuss exam-techniques and organisational skills with a trusted peer. The scheme has proved beneficial for both mentors and mentees and is modelled upon the idea of having ‘academic-parents’, as is often used at university level.

Use of MS Teams - A broader use of MS Teams was implemented to encourage students to better engage with the subject outside lessons, take ownership of their learning and engage in super-curricular activities. All students are members of a main Maths team where regular posts are made by the department which advise students on the best resources to use during free-study periods or in preparation for upcoming assessments, in addition to advertising challenging supra-curricular events such as the Winstanley Maths Premiership alongside tutorials and competitions delivered by local universities.

The team is also used as a resource-bank where students have access to folders such as 'weekly revision', 'past-papers' & 'question banks' and students can also access electronic copies of the topic booklets created in-house, which include hyperlinks to matching video tutorials. All the strands of the project are based around the desire to ensure that students develop into inquisitive, independent, and successful leaners, with the study, technology and communication skills to progress and excel in the future.

The Bernice McCabe Award nominee: Music - Gordon’s School, Surrey.

The PTI’s Bernice McCabe Award celebrates excellence in subject leadership within schools, recognising departments that put quality subject teaching at the heart of the classroom.

Gordon’s School is a state boarding school in a village near Woking, Surrey.

  • Why were they nominated?
  • The Music department has been nominated for their project which extended their reach to all students within their care

Music - Gordon's School - Highly Commended for the BMC Award

The departmental vision was to allow students to see that an arts education is for life, not just at KS3 and to involve as many students as possible in that vision.

In the curriculum, a cross-curricular project was devised based on the concept of 'Protest' (as the end result of the PTI Subject Leadership Qualification). This topic was first devised by Music in 2020-21 as a song writing unit for Year 9, and has been well received by students. In 2021-22, this was rolled out to Drama (topic on Brecht, followed by a devised piece based on their choice of protest) and Art (Birds with Issues project). Feedback from the students has been very positive and an unexpected win for both music and drama is that the students have really started to consider the impact music can have on a piece of theatre. This has also helped foster a culture of songwriting which did not exist previously.

In terms of co-curricular provision, to support an instrumental bursary scheme in year 7, the department launched a number of new ensembles to provide opportunities for beginner students to play or sing. These include a girls’ choir, a boy’s choir, a Junior wind group and a Junior Jazz Ensemble. Students can join these ensembles as soon as they have learnt to play one note. It has been clear to see the students loving the social impact of learning an instrument or singing and being involved with an ensemble from the outset.

Finally, after attending a careers speed dating event where no creative careers were on display, students voiced their desire for change and so the department decided to initiate the first ever Creative Careers Day. The department fought for a day off timetable for the students studying music, art, drama and dance and also for the staff. The Heads of Departments have designed a stream for their subject including both presentations and practical workshops for students. CPD sessions for teachers enriching their subject knowledge of careers and arts links were also arranged, including talks on Artsmark from the Bridge Organisation and Arts Award qualifications. They also learned how to apply for higher education courses and what a teacher reference should look like for conservatoire. In total across all three strands they had about 100 students and 10 staff taking part (including some Careers Dept leads), including participants from other local secondary schools.

The Bernice McCabe Award nominee: English - Robert Clack School, London

The PTI’s Bernice McCabe Award celebrates excellence in subject leadership within schools, recognising departments that put quality subject teaching at the heart of the classroom.

Robert Clack School is an 11-18 mixed comprehensive school in Dagenham.

  • Why were they nominated?
  • The English department has been nominated for its vision to enrich vocabulary learning within and beyond the curriculum, and how to enrich vocabulary development as an aspect of school culture

English - Robert Clack School 

The English department wanted long-term, meaningful change to vocabulary acquisition across the whole school, and therefore looked at the best approach to make vocabulary a sustained focus across all subjects, as opposed to just the English department. Instead of creating new schemes of work for particular subjects, staff looked at wider-scale, whole-school methods of both enriching staff knowledge of vocabulary. 

Vocabulary was able to become a focus for the school through the creation of literacy representatives. This group has a nominated teacher from each department, they meet 6 times per year to discuss literacy, and for the past 4 years there has been a focus on vocabulary. 

The successful use of literacy representatives has led to wider whole-school collaboration in regards to literacy as a whole, including vocabulary. This gathering of staff from a wide variety of departments has led to really productive discussions about vocabulary and the implementation of wider literacy policies across the school. 

For example, in Year 4, the creation and promotion of FASE reading to support oral literacy and spoken vocabulary was made easier through the use of literacy representatives. Literacy representatives receive training and are able to disseminate this information to their departments in weekly departmental meetings. This use of literacy reps to collaborate and share best practice in regards to vocabulary has been a real success of the project. Giving non-specialist teachers an avenue to ask questions about vocabulary and literacy, share ideas, and collaborate has been essential in growing staff confidence towards tackling literacy and vocabulary across all three sites. Simultaneously, the English department also refined and enhanced the ‘word of the week’ programme. This meant gathering feedback from students and using this to create more incentives/ prizes associated with using the word. The impact of this ‘word of the week’ vocabulary initiative has expanded and grown to become a mainstay in the culture of the school. The promotion of the 'word of the week' in year group assemblies has made it a popular initiative with both staff and students, and will certainly live on beyond this program.

The Bernice McCabe Award nominee: Design and Technology - Leeds West Academy, Yorkshire

The PTI’s Bernice McCabe Award celebrates excellence in subject leadership within schools, recognising departments that put quality subject teaching at the heart of the classroom.

Leeds West Academy is a secondary school with academy status in Leeds, West Yorkshire.

  • Why were they nominated?
  • The D&T department has been nominated for developing an exceptional curriculum where students have the opportunity to follow their dreams and achieve their career goals

MFL - Leeds West Academy 

The MFL department have implemented a Half-Termly Curriculum team meeting where the previous Half Term schemes of learning and curriculum map is looked at by every member of staff and notes are made to edit accordingly. The department's schemes of learning were diversified thanks to the PTI course on decolonization. The curriculum now includes resources that speak of Latin America as well as Spain as an example of Spanish. 

During open evenings, students are given the chance to visit the Spanish classroom and also play matching animals and colours. This is also a showcase of the work of students at Leeds West Academy to the parents of different feed primaries in the area.

The MFL department would love to provide the staff body with training so the languages offered to students are more diverse and KS3 students have the options available for them to choose their GCSE options. As an extracurricular activity, the MFL department would also like to offer the community a concert of Latin American music by a band named Mestisa. This band offers a wide range of workshops with instruments from Bolivia, Peru and Chile and for students to become familiarised with the rhythms and the Latin American culture above all. The MFL department believe that having students experience real examples of future careers in languages, may prompt them to think about how these may benefit their lives in the future.