Lessons from the frontline 2008 : what good teachers and leaders are doing to improve teaching and learning and pupil engagement in their schools

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This special one day event took place at the DCSF on 7 March, as part of the 2008 themed series of events on tackling the ‘gender agenda'. A total of seven presentations, demonstrating successful innovations in schools, were supported by an exhibition about the schools and their work to improve the teaching and learning experience for pupils and staff.

Introduced and chaired by Eileen Allpress, member of the National Teacher Research Panel (NTRP), the interventions described by headteachers and classroom practitioners ranged from the large-scale and inspirational, showing how schools had been ‘turned around' by visionary leadership, through to small-scale - yet thought-provoking - classroom-based action research. Throughout the day, certain themes emerged time and again: above all, the importance of creating an appropriate environment, and having high expectations of all pupils, as well as having the courage to deviate from or adapt policy initiatives to suit local circumstances. The underlying theme of gender surfaced at various points during the day.

Geoff Barton and Julia Upton of King Edward VI School in Suffolk talked of the four key elements underpinning their ethos, engendering a culture of: leadership and participation; teaching students, not subjects; self-evaluation; and where the physical environment is not cosmetic. Some of these issues were also addressed in Richard Gilliand's presentation of two schools in Lincolnshire (The Priory and Joseph Ruston), aptly entitled ‘From soul destroying to life enhancing'. Here, Maslow's hierarchy of needs was seen to underpin the schools' philosophy. Robin Bevan, of Southend High School for Boys, spoke of challenging assumptions, and the place of research in increasing boys' engagement and raising their achievement.

Two infants schools were seen to have raised levels of confidence and motivation through innovative approaches to language teaching: Sharon Walsh at The Mead Infant School in Surrey had introduced French across the curriculum through careful planning and a focus on staff professional development, and Fiona Thomas and Gill King spoke of how Herne Infants School in Kent had developed its own approach to handwriting based on the French principles of ‘Le Graphisme' (the original research underpinning this, Une question de writing? is published on the TTRB). In Leighton Primary School, an urban school in Crewe, Glyn Turner had implemented a range of strategies based on government initiatives for improving pupil outcomes.

The final session of the day demonstrated how Knowsley secondary schools are being supported by LA projects in using data and classroom enquiry to increase teacher effectiveness and learner participation. The three cases presented were in science, MFL and geography.

Links to further materials and resources from the day will be added to this article as they become available.

Reviewed by:
Sue Field