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Teaching and learning

Adopted: March 2019.

1. Teaching

  1. Teachers at Charter use the mnemonic SPEAK as a reminder of key principles used around the school: Standard English; Projection; Echo; Ask a range of pupils; Keep revisiting Key Knowledge. 
  2. Teachers model Standard English. They also insist upon this from pupils. This supports and challenges pupils across the ability range, and it is particularly supportive of EAL pupils. Charter teachers deliberately extend pupils’ vocabulary. Charter teachers explicitly teach pupils how to use subject specific vocabulary. Charter teachers explicitly teach pupils to speak using a more formal register appropriate in an academic and/or professional context. 
  3. Projection is modelled and prized. Teachers encourage pupils to fill the room so every member of the class can hear. This turns every pupil’s response into a learning opportunity and maximises learning return on time invested. The concept of full projection supports Charter’s No Hiding Place/No Opt Out stance. Teachers explicitly teach pupils to answer with confidence, using full sentences and carefully chosen vocabulary. Teachers correct pupils and deliberately teach them to refine their responses. Teachers often employ hands down questioning. In this way, key pupils can be pinpointed and specific attention given. Teachers deliberately target shy, reluctant or disaffected pupils. Teachers deliberately target pupils thought to be underperforming. Teachers deliberately target EAL pupils to ensure that they are given plenty of opportunities to reply at length orally. (See SEALS) 
  4. Echo: whole class choral response is widely used. Classes are also split into a variety of subgroups for ‘I say, you say’ (echo) activities. This ensures the full and active participation of all pupils. Pupils are fully aware that ‘opt out’ and ‘hiding in plain sight’ are not options at Charter. Splitting pupils into subgroups allows teachers quickly to identify pupils who are not fully participating.  
  5. Teachers Ask a Range of Pupils. Charter teachers use hands up and hands down questioning. Charter teachers choose the most able to offer responses as excellent models for the rest of the class. Teachers analyse the strengths and areas for improvement in pupils’ responses. This is a key feature of explicit Charter teaching. Charter teachers explicitly teach pupils subject specific grade nine habits.  
  6. When Charter teachers Ask a Range of Pupils, they revisit the same point with several pupils, deliberately focusing on reluctant pupils, and strongly challenging pupils who habitually attempt ‘I don’t know’ as a response. No Hiding Place/No Opt Out/No Hiding in Plain Sight. 
  7. Teachers rapidly intervene if a pupil response is imprecise, slow or confused. Charter teachers constantly focus on learning return on time invested. Charter teachers are ever aware that ESC: Every Second Counts. Charter teachers know that if a response is faltering or imprecise the pupil has not fully grasped the knowledge taught. This is a sign that the knowledge has to be retaught. We aim for taught key knowledge to be recalled instantly. Pupils should grasp key knowledge to the point of automaticity.  
  8. Charter pupils overlearn to ensure that knowledge is retained. We practise not until pupils get  it right, but until they never get it wrong. Pupils practise not until they nearly know it, but until they really know it. This is a key part of teaching pupils perseverance as being essential to successful learning. We teach so knowledge is committed to the long term memory. Charter teachers support and extend pupil answers by giving memory aids and compulsory items to include. Inclusion vocabulary grids are often used to ensure teachers are concise and precise and to support and challenge pupils’ oral and written responses. These techniques, and many more besides, are key to ensuring full participation of all pupils.  
  9. Challenge and support is provided in a variety of ways, e.g. initials, asterisks, line numbers, reading with a ruler, the explicit teaching of subject specific Grade 9 habits. In KS3, classes are set by ability. However, even in this context we are very mindful of the individual differences in children in the same class.  
  10. Targeted questioning employs the techniques of SPEAK (see earlier) and SHAPE. SHAPE answers are in full SENTENCES; HAND away from your face; full PROJECTION so thirty classmates can hear you; confident EYE contact.  
  11. Teachers make a beeline for the SEALS. Children who are SHY, EAL, ABSENTEES, LAZY, SEND. This ensures No Hiding Place in any lesson. Again, challenge & support is the key message. We must challenge all pupils. 
  12. Teachers keep revisiting key knowledge. Charter teachers teach for memorisation. They identify high frequency topic specific errors in advance and teach pre-emptively. This saves time, avoids pupil confusion and encourages careful preemptive planning. Each lesson, teachers have a clear understanding of the key knowledge they wish pupils to remember. 
  13. Within a lesson, across a series of lessons, between terms, years and key stages, teachers systematically revisit identified key knowledge.  Key knowledge is taught to the point of instant recall. Pupils are taught to automaticity. At Charter, we believe that true learning is about long term retention. We teach so pupils accumulate more and more knowledge over time. They are then able to recall this knowledge with ever greater ease and to connect the, initially disparate, knowledge they have committed to long term memory.  
  14. Oral drill is an important part of Charter lessons. Pupils are trained to give strong, well-formed, confident answers using the mnemonic SHAPE: ‘full SENTENCES; HANDS away from the face; ARTICULATE; PROJECT; EYE contact’. This oral drill fulfils many functions: it reinforces key knowledge, develops pupils’ self-confidence, teaches pupils how to behave appropriately in academic and professional contexts, and affords all pupils, and especially EAL pupils, many opportunities to practise and improve their English speaking and listening skills
  15. Charter lessons typically begin with brisk oral drill of key knowledge, which takes around five to ten minutes. This regular practice of key facts means that pupils learn them to fluency/automaticity and are able to apply their key knowledge to more complex problems. Again, every second counts (ESC) in Charter lessons. As soon as the first pupil arrives, oral drill begins. Choral repetition/Echo chanting is commonly used at the start of lessons. Prepared presentations are often projected to support all pupils and ensure that opt out is preempted. Initials are widely used as a support/recall tool: ‘I met a t f a a l’ 
  16. Pupils are trained to follow the mnemonic SLANT: ‘sit up STRAIGHT; LISTEN carefully; ASK and ANSWER questions; NEVER interrupt; TRACK the teacher’. Good work habits are consistently reinforced around the school. When a pupil falls below the high standards expected, they are reminded calmly and politely but firmly what is expected, and given a demerit. Charter teachers use every merit and demerit as a teaching opportunity. Consistency and clarity of expectations is a hallmark of Charter teaching. 
  17. Charter teachers teach from the front. They explain concepts and model answers using precise and concise language. Charter teachers plan and teach preemptively. Charter teachers reflect carefully on the root causes of high frequency subject/topic specific errors and then teach pupils how to avoid these errors.  
  18. Pupils listen in silence, and only speak after they have been given permission to do so. Teachers check for understanding frequently. They do this through a mixture of hands up and hands down questioning. They use SPEAK methods to ensure all pupils contribute, focus and recall.  
  19. Charter teachers focus on maximising learning return upon time invested in and out of the lesson. Charter teachers focus on opportunity cost. Oral quizzing, often rapid fire and with clues to give support & challenge, is frequently employed. Closely guided writing practice is used to build pupil confidence and teach subject specific grade nine habits. Writing tasks are always completed in silence, to maximise pupil focus and concentration. Teachers circulate, frequently drawing attention to the time remaining. This helps monitor pupils’ work output and inform future planning
  20. At Charter, the packing away process starts around ten minutes before the bell. This is NOT the end of the lesson. The first and last ten minutes of every lesson are vital. In the last ten minutes, pupils pack away, pupils’ recall is tested, teaching points are made of the merits and demerits given, clear reminders are given of corridor expectations. Pupils stand and are dismissed in silence row by row. Teachers remind pupils about expectations for behaviour in the corridors and the necessity for punctuality, as they leave the classroom. Teachers ensure that they are aware of the next lesson location for their pupils. In this way sufficient time is given for pupils to travel and reach their next lesson on time. Three minutes before the bell is the earliest dismissal time. This is used when pupils are travelling from one end of the site to the other.  
  21. Teachers escort their pupils down the corridor as much as possible. When in the corridor, teachers question pupils on their subject specialism or test them on whole school poetry. Staff habitually ask pupils how many merits they have had or if they have received a Golden Ticket. Academic success is praised. Courtesy is praised. Staff deliberately teach pupils Charter culture, so all pupils aspire to be Top of the Pyramid. Teachers deliberately teach pupils mutual respect for all. Teachers repeatedly remind pupils that all adults in school are there to support them, that we are one team and that, if they have any concerns they should tell us and we will help.  

2. Assessment and feedback

2.1 Rationale

  1. Assessment is an integral part of teaching and learning, both to inform staff and pupils about progress and to give support and guidance on how to improve. Assessment, used effectively,  helps to build pupil confidence. Assessment is a diagnostic tool for staff, and should provide concrete, specific information of the impact of their teaching. 
  2. Assessment and feedback should not be onerous. It should provide an excellent learning return on time invested. Teachers must be mindful of the opportunity cost of assessment and feedback activities. Opportunity cost relates to the effective use of lesson time and the use of preparation time outside of the lesson.     
  3. Ofsted - Quality of Teaching (Outstanding) “Teachers provide pupils with incisive feedback, in line with the school’s assessment policy, about what pupils can do to improve their knowledge, understanding and skills. The pupils use this feedback effectively.”  
  4. All assessment and feedback activities must focus on the learning return on time invested in and out of the lesson. All teachers must carefully consider the opportunity cost of their choices. For example, with 30 pupils and spending 3 minutes per book, that would mean 90 minutes per class. With 10 classes, that would mean 15 hours per week, which could be Monday to Friday 4.30pm to 6.30pm and 5 hours on Saturday. This is not conducive to staff wellbeing. There is no evidence that the workload this represents has a correspondingly positive impact upon pupil progress. 

2.2 Practical application

  1. At Charter, we have a policy of ‘no written marking’. Feedback is provided to the whole class. Teachers plan feedback carefully so it is concise, precise and actionable. Teachers carefully review pupils’ subsequent oral and written responses to gauge the impact of feedback given.  
  2. The effective scrutiny of pupils’ work is a key element of quality teaching. Teachers read pupils’ work regularly. Teachers read samples of pupils’ work. Teachers sample the work of individual pupils to gauge pupils’ progress. Sampling pupils’ work should lead to further refined whole class feedback and adjustments to teaching
  3. Charter teachers teach and plan pre-emptively. This means that many high frequency subject/topic specific errors will not arise. Teachers use their subject expertise to deliberately teach pupils how to avoid traditional high frequency errors.  
  4. Teachers would normally read their pupils’ written work once per fortnight as a minimum. Some subjects, for example RE or music, might entail a lot of discussion or have only one lesson per week. In such a case, teachers would read pupils work at least once every three weeks.
  5. Teachers make a note of their findings when they have read pupils’ work. In this way members of the department share strategies to improve teaching. The assessment of pupils’ work should feed into teacher reflection on their own practice. We use the concept of RRR, read/reflect/reteach.

2.3 Expectations for summative assessment

  1. We report summative assessments in the form of GCSE grades to Inspiration Trust at the end of each half term at KS4. Therefore, staff must have completed at least one piece of work that it is appropriate to grade every half term (this could be a mock examination).   
  2. The precise nature of that assessment is dependent on the requirements of the curriculum subject and should be quality assured by curriculum leaders. 
  3. We report summative assessments for KS3 pupils each term.  These assessments are created by curriculum leaders in school and are moderated by subject specialist leads. They are expected to assess the expanding domain in each subject throughout KS3.  The precise nature of that assessment is dependent on the requirements of the curriculum subject.   
  4. The assessments are graded with a percentage, which can be related to both passing and average marks and be used to assess a pupil’s position within their cohort. 
  5. Summative assessments are intended to demonstrate the current achievement of pupils – they will be marked to a grade or percentage.  Although teachers may wish to analyse performance to identify areas of strength and weakness, they are not expected to provide written feedback from summative assessments to pupils. 
  6. Charter’s teachers explicitly teach exam technique: how to navigate exam papers, how to avoid common traps, how to write to time, how to read exam questions carefully and how to identify key points. At Charter we regularly show pupils exemplar work and analyse the specific components of top answers. We deliberately teach pupils subject specific grade nine habits. We develop pupils’ exam confidence by guiding them through exam questions very explicitly and in a step by step manner. 

2.4 Expectations for formative assessment

  1. The term “formative assessment” can be confusing. At Charter, we see “formative assessment” as an integral part of the teaching process.  
  2. At Charter, we plan and teach preemptively.  We identify the root causes of high frequency errors. We modify our teaching to preempt and prevent these typical subject/topic specific errors. We teach explicitly, highlighting potential stumbling blocks and how to avoid these. We use strategies such as SPEAK  and SHAPE to ensure that opting out or hiding in plain sight are not possible. We analyse top quality exemplar answers in a systematic manner to ensure pupils fully understand the components of top quality responses. We support and challenge pupils by providing key vocabulary.  We give precise and concise whole class feedback. We monitor pupils’ subsequent work to ascertain impact of teacher feedback. We closely guide extended written and oral responses. We give instant feedback to develop more refined oral responses. We use past papers formatively to develop pupils’ clarity of expression, to build confidence, to teach effective time management. We choose teaching, feedback and assessment strategies that maximise learning return on time invested. We choose strategies mindful of opportunity cost.  
  3. Many of these strategies could come under the umbrella of “formative assessment”. Teachers make sure that pupils are 100% clear as to what constitutes top quality work and how, through specific strategies, they can achieve that standard.  
  4. Formative assessment can take a variety of forms. It is the responsibility of curriculum leaders to ensure they have devised a formative assessment ‘package’ that is appropriate for their subject in terms of format, content and regularity. Strategies should be chosen on the basis that they demonstrate the best possible learning return in time invested.  
  5. Potential pitfalls: more able pupils finish early. In short tests of, for example, five questions, the most able pupils finish before the less able have written their name and the date. Instead, identify your most able/prolific pupil. Estimate, “In 15 minutes, Johnny will probably complete 15 questions. I will set 20 questions. In this way, Johnny will be fully occupied for at least 15 minutes. In that 15 minutes, the less able will have completed between 5 and 10 questions. They too will have been fully occupied and focussed for 15 minutes.” 
  6. Potential pitfalls: the less willing/able do not attempt the question. Give clues. These may be in the form of key words or initials or the number of letters in a word. The most able do not need these clues but they can self-check their responses and can complete more questions with this self-check mechanism in place. The less able/willing have no excuses. As a teacher, when a pupil fails to answer a question/series of questions correctly, even when clues have been provided, this is a clear sign that the content needs to be retaught.  
  7. Potential pitfalls: teaching time lost to testing. Written tests, even low stakes ones, can take a sizeable chunk out of a lesson. That is time when you are not teaching. You do not have to be teaching every minute of every lesson. Pupils need time to do individual extended practice. Be mindful that, even in a 60 minute lesson, due to transitions etc, 5 minutes represents 10% of the lesson. 10 mins, which can pass very quickly, represents a huge 20% of the lesson. Are written tests helping to consolidate memory? Are they sufficiently demanding? Are the most able being stretched? Are the tests being administered very slickly so not a second is wasted?

2.5 Suggested formative assessment strategies

  1. Knowledge based quiz – factual recall questions. Teachers must be mindful as to the amount of lesson time these tests take. Are they the best use of lesson time? Is valuable teaching time being taken up with low learning return quizzes? How long does it take for pupils to answer the questions? Are the most able finished long in advance of the rest of the class? What are the most able then doing? Is this dead time? How do you mark and give feedback to the class? Does the time it takes to give feedback represent a good learning return? Why a written quiz? Why not just orally? What are the pros and cons? Every activity chosen must represent the highest possible learning return on time invested.  
  2. Multiple choice questioning when well-constructed can help identify misconceptions. Are the options sufficiently feasible to truly test pupils’ knowledge? Is the task sufficiently demanding intellectually? Is the time it takes out of the lesson to produce the resource justified in terms of learning return? Are pupils randomly guessing? How will you avoid this? Are you using the multiple options to teach nuance and how to actively avoid traps and misconceptions?
  3. Use of mini-whiteboards – rapid checking of specific knowledge of whole groups. Have you taught pupils to write extended answers using initial letters only? Have you taught them to respond using key words only? Have you taught them to write legibly and in letters big enough for you to check easily? Do you get pupils to show their boards after one question or five? Pupils showing their boards at every single answer can be very time consuming. Are more able pupils waiting for less able pupils to complete their answers before you invite the class to show their answers? Is this slowing down the pace of the lesson? How can you ensure every second is productive for the more able as the less able complete their answers? 
  4. ‘Cold-Calling’ – Targeted questioning of individuals in preference to ‘hands-up’.  Are you giving clues? Do you model perfect answers and analyse why they are so good? Do you preempt high frequency errors? Do you ask the most able first and build on their responses? Do you get the less able to repeat exemplary top quality answers back to the class? Do you insist on SHAPE/SPEAK? 
  5. Comprehension questions – checked and marked as a group. The teacher must take the lead on feeding back. The teacher must use time effectively. The teacher simply tells pupils the correct answer. He may add additional information. He may reference common errors and why they occur. He should not elicit responses from pupils. That would be a poor use of time in this context.  
  6. Whole class feedback on longer tasks – pupils receive generic feedback to act on. Teachers adjust their teaching based on misconceptions and gaps in knowledge. Teachers should, where possible, analyse top quality responses with pupils. Teachers teach pupils how to tackle questions systematically. Teachers teach pupils how to write at “exam speed”. Teachers teach pupils how to spot typical traps in exam type questions. Of course, as Charter teachers, our teaching is pre-emptive. We have identified the high frequency errors pupils typically make. We have identified the root causes of these errors. We have pointed out these typical errors to pupils from the beginning. Pupils are fully aware of the typical errors their peers in other schools make. Charter teachers teach their pupils subject specific grade nine success habits. Charter teachers teach their pupils to respond to questions systematically. Charter teachers teach their pupils to read questions very carefully and reflect upon what, precisely, the question is asking and what, precisely, the best possible response would be.  
  7. First 10/Last 10 – Every Second Counts. Charter teachers are very structured and systematic in their use of the first and last ten minutes of every lesson. Lessons start with the first pupil arriving to the lesson. All pupils have been taught to get their equipment out without waiting for the teacher’s signal. As pupils arrive the teacher can fire accessible key knowledge questions at the first few pupils. As more pupils arrive and the noise level (because of chairs and shuffling) increases, the teacher quickly moves to whole class chanting. This could be times tables, poetry, quotations, definitions or other forms of key knowledge. All subsequent pupils arriving enter a room where the teacher is fully in control and all pupils are fully engaged in learning. The last ten minutes start with the pack up routine. This is NOT the end of the lesson. This last ten minutes are crucial for the successful consolidation of key knowledge from that lesson and from previous lessons. Teachers regularly delve back weeks, terms and years to ensure that key knowledge remains readily accessible to all pupils.  

2.6 Responsibility for assessment

At GYCA every lesson includes assessment; therefore, every member of staff has a responsibility for assessment and should be actively planning for it in lessons.

The class teacher has the responsibility for:

  1. Reporting to parents on the attainment and progress of pupils according to the Academy reporting schedule.
  2. Ensuring that all pupils are summatively assessed every half term at KS4 and every term at KS3 and that those outcomes are recorded centrally via SIMS.
  3. Using formative assessment effectively in every lesson to help pupils to identify next steps towards progress in the subject.
  4. Sharing assessment criteria for tasks with pupils as appropriate.
  5. Maintaining effective records of pupil achievement and progress which can be accessed by other staff if necessary.
  6. Using assessment data to inform planning, lesson preparation and seating plans.

The curriciulum leader has the responsibility for:

  1. Overseeing and monitoring assessment in his/her department, including contacting parents as and when it is necessary.
  2. Collating and analyzing assessment data and tracking progress of individuals and classes within the department.
  3. Ensuring that reports and tracking data are completed by the department.
  4. Including items on assessment in department meetings to ensure it has a high profile.
  5. Conducting learning walks, lesson observations, surveys and interviews to gain insight into the quality of assessment taking place in the department.
  6. Conducting work scrutinies regularly to monitor, highlight and share good practice within the department for departmental evaluation.
  7. Ensuring that all staff in their department are complying with academy and departmental expectations for the regularity and quality of assessment.
  8. Reporting on the quality of marking and assessment to SLT through the line management processes.

SLT have the responsibility for:

  1. Monitoring their area of line management to have an overview of progress.
  2. Using data to analyse underachievement of individual pupils or classes.
  3. Contacting parents, where necessary, with regard to their child’s progress.
  4. Conducting work scrutinies in conjunction with the curriculum leaders they line manage to monitor compliance with academy policies and support the evaluation of teaching and learning.
  5. Taking action, with the curriculum leader to address underachievement and to keep the Assistant Principal (Teaching and Learning) informed of intervention strategies for individuals.
  6. Taking action, with the curriculum leader, to address non-compliance with the academy assessment and feedback policy and to keep the Assistant Principal (Teaching and Learning) informed of support provided for staff whose assessment and feedback does not meet the expectations of the academy.

3. Homework

3.1 Overview

Homework at Charter chiefly consists of core knowledge which must be memorised, although there are variations to this, as agreed between curriculum leaders and their line managers. In most departments, curriculum leaders select knowledge which forms the foundations for mastering their subject. This is given to pupils to memorise for homework, and they are regularly tested to check that they have mastered it. The frequency of the tests varies depending upon the subject area, with core subjects such as English and science testing more frequently than those with less curriculum time devoted to them.

Responsibility for homework

The class teacher has the responsibility for:

  1. Setting homework according to a schedule agreed by their academic department.
  2. Ensuring that when homework is set, pupils have absolute clarity about what is required and by when.
  3. Testing pupils where appropriate according to a schedule agreed by their academic department.
  4. Keeping a record of those who pass or fail tests, and promptly entering homework detentions on SIMS when pupils fail.

The curriculum leader has the responsibility for:

  1. Overseeing and monitoring homework in his/her department, including contacting parents as and when it is necessary.
  2. Conducting learning walks, lesson observations, surveys and interviews to gain insight into the consistency of homework setting and testing taking place in the department.
  3. Ensuring that all staff in their department are complying with academy and departmental expectations for the regularity and quality of homework.Reporting on the quality of homework setting and testing to SLT through the line management processes.
  4. Monitoring their area of line management to have an overview of homework setting and testing.
  5. Contacting parents, where necessary, with regard to their child’s homework.
  6. Taking action, with the curriculum leader, to address non-compliance with the academy homework policy and keeping the Assistant Principal (Teaching and Learning) informed of support provided for staff whose homework setting and testing does not meet the expectations of the academy.