Aylesbury Grammar School is an 11-18 boys’ grammar school
To increase student awareness of the skills and characteristics needed to achieve success in school and beyond, and to increase teacher expertise in developing students beyond subject content.
Following a learning review in 2014, as well as informal feedback from staff and alumni, the school identified the need for a clear, dedicated strategy to improve teaching and learning centred around developing students into successful learners.
The key learning skills required by an “AGS Learner” were identified after consulting staff, students and parents. Staff volunteers joined the Learning & Teaching (L&T) working party to trial ideas and help shape whole-school focus and policy. A whole-school review was undertaken which highlighted successes (clear guidance and reasoning, useful advice, increased confidence and knowledge of students and staff) as well as development points for Year 2 (enable greater flexibility in approach rather than a rigid top-down approach).
Staff training was focused on specific areas which were identified as development needs (e.g. collaboration in learning, increasing resilience through appropriate challenge and questioning). As a result subject areas were able to produce departmental-specific guidance, including bespoke displays in each classroom. Information evenings were held for parents with specific age-related guidance, which received positive feedback. Visits to another school (identified by Association for Character Education, ACE, as a leading school) helped to refine plans and evaluate progress and successes.
The AGS Learner microsite was launched, providing research as well as giving information and guidance to staff, students and parents. Support was given to three other schools embarking on a character education project and AGS hosted a Leaders of Learning and Teaching conference where the AGS Learner journey was shared with senior leaders from 10 other schools.
Staff reviews, student feedback, parents’ feedback
The project gave a clear L&T focus to training and support (CPD, inset, staff and student induction, learning observations and feedback, peer support and reviews, lessons and assemblies). This work covered every aspect of school and so the senior team had a clear, shared purpose.
The main challenge was to shift the mindset of some staff who saw their role as solely teaching their subject rather than developing learners. The challenge was overcome most effectively through linking all internal CPD, observations, self-evaluation and appraisals to the development of learners so that staff became more knowledgeable and better equipped in their role.
We found that schools should see their L&T focus as core to all areas and key to being successful. Active (and visible) student working groups focused on learning should be integral to decision making. Schools should work together much more closely to share effective practice and ideas for developing student learning character
Mark Sturgeon – Headteacher, firstname.lastname@example.org