Sandbach is an 11-18 Free School.


To build a collaborative, sustainable approach to professional development based on a model of coaching and self reflection in order to improve Teaching and Learning (T&L).


In November 2014 the school received a “Good” judgment from Ofsted having been in “Requires Improvement”. To improve further, the approach to grading lessons was reviewed and a “top down” approach abandoned in favour of a more collaborative “bottom up” system.


Year 1

Based upon the work of Bambrick-Santoyo ‘Leverage Leadership’ and online articles, a model of unannounced lesson sampling, self-reflection in a T&L log followed by professional coaching conversations was initiated and trialled. The trial, involving the assistant headteacher in charge of T&L and a curriculum leader, was videoed and shared with middle leaders. After staff training, a calendar of lesson sampling was produced and feedback from staff was sought at regular intervals during the term. The T&L logs that staff completed were reviewed after every cycle and exemplars of best practice shared at staff and department meetings.

Year 2

The project concentrated on training staff in holding coaching conversations. All middle leaders were given a copy of the book ‘The Perfect Teacher Coach’ Beere & Broughton and one of the authors was the keynote speaker at the middle-leader conference. Staff also started to use their logs to reflect on other aspects of professional development, e.g. additional training and comments on review data.

Year 3

In response to staff feedback ‘Open Classroom’ fortnight was introduced. Staff volunteered lessons that other staff could sample and all staff buddied up with a teacher from another department to sample lessons. As staff grew in confidence in identifying areas of development and sharing their practice ‘Training Tuesdays’ were introduced – after school sessions which staff volunteered to lead and attend.


Staff feedback, T&L logs, student voice


100% of staff engaged; they completed T&L logs for all 5 cycles and took part in open classroom fortnight. The use of WAGOLL – ‘what a good one looks like’ and modelling became common place with staff. Student voice confirmed that they saw improved consistency within lessons. They also valued the quality and variety within lessons and the feedback given to them. GCSE results improved year on year – A*to C and other measures.


Our particular context led up to the initiation of the project and there was virtually no resistance to its introduction, including no-notice lesson sampling. The model has transformed the way in which teaching staff develop their teaching and learning and the culture within the school. A whole-school project of this nature, which impacts upon every member of the teaching staff, has to be revisited and evaluated with staff on a regular basis. It is vital that staff see that their input is listened to and helps to shape the project.


Sarah Burns,