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The Learning Walk of School Life

Learning Walks: all teachers dread them but Derek Peaple shows us why SLT do them.

OK, a bit tenuous but the ‘Learning Walk’ is probably the best way that, as a school leader, you can get a true feel of the ‘life’ of your school; it’s heartbeat. The day to day, hour by hour, minute by minute quality of teaching and learning.

Our regular Learning Walks bring together small teams drawn across the Senior Leadership Team, Heads of Department, teachers, school improvement partners and Governors. Each team spends it’s time walking into lessons in every subject area. We might each aim to visit up to four in an hour: chatting to the young people, flicking through books and sampling the learning experience around common, identified themes that all ultimately feed into student progress. This includes; approaches to questioning, feedback and assessment, stretch and challenge, for example. We compare our thoughts, observations and reflections together, and then feedback to staff as a whole.

That feedback forms part of the cycle of our weekly professional development sessions. We restructured the school day on Mondays five years ago. We shortened registration, breaks and lunchtimes to create an early finish for students (who have the opportunity to take part in externally sourced enrichment activities) and a ring-fenced hour and half of professional development time. It means that our reflections on professional learning are continuous and regularly refreshed, rather than being ‘bolted on’ in tired twilights or one-off and infrequent INSET Days.

It’s a hugely positive experience, because you identify so much great practice. It also helps to guarantee that there’s no risk of the school experiencing any Dire Straits…

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The author

Derek has been the Headteacher of Park House School since 2003, during which time he has played a leading role in regional, national and international education initiatives. He supported the design of the Values-themed London 2012 Get Set Education programme and was subsequently appointed as the first Chair of the Youth Sport Trust‘s National Headteacher Strategy Group. In 2013 he received the inaugural Sir John Madejski Award for Outstanding Contribution to Education and Sport and contributed to the House of Commons Education Committee’s Report, School Sport following London 2012: No more political football. Ofsted recently stated that, at Park House, a "values driven ambition for students inspired by the Headteacher drives the school’s effective improvement." The school has also just been identified in the top 100 state schools in the country for continuous improvement in GCSE results. Derek was shortlisted for the 2016 TES National Headteacher of the Year Award.

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