Our LSEF Round 2 Project “Inspiring & Sharing Teaching Excellence” was conceived by the Southwark Schools Learning Partnership (SSLP) – a group of secondary schools from both state and independent sectors, most of whom have been working together within the SSLP since its formation under London Challenge in 2003. Our project focus was on preparing innovative teaching materials and methodologies to enhance subject expertise and support teachers with the revised KS4 curriculum in English, MFL, Chemistry and Physics. As word spread of what we were doing, staff from schools in Lambeth, Lewisham and Greenwich joined in.
In Autumn 2013 we recruited subject leaders from within our schools and designed attitudinal questionnaires for staff and students. Specialist subject study days for participating teachers were run by the Prince’s Teaching Institute (PTI), starting with an inspirational lecture and moving into more practical workshops, where teachers formed smaller groups to work on particular projects. Meanwhile, the project directors (one independent school head and one very recently retired state school head) worked together to plan the project and design the forms for “hard data” collection and evaluation.
Everyone was initially filled with enthusiasm, but for some the pressures of working in challenging inner-city schools, coping with staff shortages and other issues, left little time or energy for the project. Teachers met in small groups from time to time and came together again for subject-paired twilight sessions in March 2014 to exchange ideas and renew their purpose. As the academic year drew to a close we learnt that, inevitably, some teachers were moving schools and others would not be continuing into the second year with the classes they had chosen for the project. We decided that we would work with a one-year cohort and a two-year cohort and do the best we could. Such issues are typical in London and surely not confined to our project.
In early October, the directors gathered together as many of the participating teachers as possible for a twilight session near London Bridge. Schools sent new participants to reinforce the existing teams. The four subject groups quickly became involved in deep discussions about the way forward over some welcome refreshments and then fed back to their project colleagues. Unfortunately, Chemistry, English and MFL all had to find new subject leaders, but suitable volunteers were quickly identified. Aware that only three terms remained, each group sharpened its focus. Yammer was recommended as a tool for sharing their work easily over the internet. The English team worked on developing resources to enable teachers successfully to introduce pre-1914 literature to their students for the new 2015 GCSE syllabus. The MFL group decided to focus on devising new teaching resources for KS3, to inspire students to continue with their study of languages. The “flipped classroom” for GCSE was the focus for the Physics group. The Chemists had initially planned to compile a “How-To” guide, for use by non-specialist teachers at KS4, but as their project developed, they too were drawn towards “flipped learning” and the making of videos students.
During the Autumn and Spring Terms the subject groups communicated via the internet and visited one another’s schools, observing lessons and discussing ideas. One director visited participants in their schools, encouraging and advising them, while the other master-minded communications and, supported by data administrator, collected feedback and data for the evaluation. They brought everyone together again at the end of March for another twilight session, where plans were honed once more. It also became clear that the project was being shared more widely within all the schools and having a real impact.
Our final presentations were made in the Garry Weston Library at Southwark Cathedral where the initial sessions with the PTI had taken place. This twilight session was very well attended, with Heads and Senior Managers from our schools and visitors from the Institute of Education. Each of the four subject groups made absolutely superb presentations, speaking with passion and enthusiasm, supported by examples of their digital resources and booklets. The MFL group worked on the use of film, poetry, cookery and spelling bees and has established a website where their lessons have been uploaded. An edited collection of the Chemists’ student videos (covering a range of GCSE topics) has been posted on YouTube. The Physics group has put together a pack of resources. The English group have produced an astonishingly rich booklet of resources, which will be available as a pdf. Team spirit was high as was a sense of genuine achievement. The room was certainly buzzing! The participants are very keen to continue to go on working together and to share their resources even more widely.
All that remains is for the student and staff attitudinal surveys (before and after) and the hard data to be crunched and analysed and the final evaluation report to be produced. This has been an inspirational project – many thanks to all who have been involved.
Marion Gibbs, Project Director, SSLP
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