4 the Tears in Your Eyes

Many people came from all around
Hear this man preach, glorious sound

Prince – 4 the Tears in Your Eyes – The Hits/The B-Sides

Deep Dive… what does that actually mean? Well, according to Google:

deep dive – noun
  1. an in-depth examination or analysis of a topic.
    “the series promises to take a deep dive into the complexities of long-term relationships”

I, like many other HODs, am beginning to get all my ducks in a row for some form of deep dive. My journey will begin with a good old department review with my amazing colleague HOD for Humanities Eve (@evebrindley).  I hope this helps you with ways to proceed forward. A huge thanks to Leah (@Read_Learn_Lead) for sharing her dpt review forms.

Realistically you could not cover everything listed here on this blog, the intention is to use it to help you ask the right questions for your department/school/students. The documents I’ve attached are very basic/simple, but again to be used as a start point for you to adapt/add for your department/school/students.

Download Department Review BOOKLET

The teaching and learning observed during a series of lesson observations

As well as carrying out formal observations, department review should have “drop-ins” to evaluate standards.

  • Teaching, particularly in terms of the planning for, and delivery of, learning opportunities that enhance progress for all pupils;

What will I see in the classroom? This could include:

  • Lesson Observations (approx 6, depends on size of dpt/sch)
  • Talking to students (ensure you have class lists ready so you can make a note of who you speak to in case needs to be followed up). Questions to students:
    • What are you learning?
    • Why are you being taught this?

Document needed: school t&l observation form (not attached – just use your school’s form)

Examination results achieved by the department

Analyse and evaluate results subject’s or department’s results

  • compare pupil attainment data year on year
  • compare with other schools/local/national
  • KS3 Teacher assessments
  • External standardised tests (SATs/FFT/GL/Midyis/Yellis/GCSE)

As well as looking at overall results, the analysis will show you where individual teachers are being most effective.

  • Information handling, particularly in terms of identifying how well individual pupils are performing against expectations for their age and capabilities, monitoring their progress over time and evaluating all their achievements, including the non-academic and communicating this information to parents and pupils.
  • What do the examination and externally standardised tests show about pupils’ attainment?
  • What do changes in their attainment levels indicate with regard to pupils’ progress and the value which the school adds to their achievement?
  • Are there are differences in the achievement of different groups of pupils (e.g. year, gender, ethnicity, SEND, EAL, most able etc)?
  • Is the department meeting school/academy targets?
  • Are students on positive VA?
  • How does department data compare to local and national data?
  • What percentage of students are on track to meet grade-level goals?
  • How do specific subgroups, such as English Language Learners, compare to the overall student population?
  • Are there achievement gaps between different student groups?

Regarding KS3 assessments (End of Unit or End of Year), what are you testing and why? How do they prepare students for KS4 exam skills?

Document attached: Examination results achieved by the department

The quality of marking/feedback to students on how to improve

Scrutinise pupils’ work: How does subject lead track KS3/4 data?

HOD/HOF- If anyone looked at books in your subject – what are we likely to see?

List maybe 1-10 things you/your department do regularly to help student progress.

Back in Nov ’19, Caroline Spalding (@MrsSpalding) had a fantastic thread asking what would you see in her students’ books! 


Find the thread and read it!

Also, back in November, Ms Evans EngTwit (@MissEvsEngTwit) also posted a fantastic thread on her experience of her deep dive:
Ms Evans

Ms Evans uses “Learning Journey sheets” – showing explicit vocab teaching, showing knowledge students may not have had before starting a unit. This is also a very similar idea or concept to unit “Big Questions”.

I’ve taken the following from her thread – ask yourself:

  • What will we see in your books? A large selection of books will need to be looked at
  • Can you find an example of explicit teaching of tier 2 and tier 3 vocabulary?
  • Can you show me in the books where previous learning has been build upon?
  • Can you show me in the books where students have made progress?
  • Can you show me where students have acquired new knowledge?
  • Why do they need to know this [new knowledge]?

Will teacher feedback and any DIRT tasks evidence where misconceptions had been identified and can you see progress made.

Document attached: Book Review

At Class/teacher level KS3 tracking and EOU/EOY assessments

You need to identify students who may not make expected progress. It is important to gather this information at the start of each academic, but regular checks throughout the year are also valuable. This way you can monitor students’ progress during the year to determine whether students are making adequate progress and identify if any students are not progressing or falling behind.  Collecting data will help you assess strengths and weaknesses, and identify the area of need. Then you can begin to assess further need/strategies to move forward so that all students meet standards and expectations.

Do you and your department know:

  • What assessments are we using to identify, monitor, collect and assess?
  • Where is the student with regards to the department learning progression?
  • How is the student responding to core instruction? Is it working?
  • Are they on track to meet standards?
  • Are there areas where the department has more than one test?
  • What are their strengths or weaknesses?
  • What learning goals should I set for this student?
  • Is additional, more targeted, testing needed eg intervention?
  • How is the student responding to supplemental intervention? Is it working?
  • Do I know which skills they need to progress?
  • How does he compare to his peers?
  • Are they retaining previously taught skills?
  • How does my group of students, as a whole, compare to other groups/subjects in school?
  • Are there patterns of weakness among students that indicate a change in curriculum or supplemental program may be needed?
  • What skills/knowledge are you trying to measure?

Document attached: Key questions for KS3

Extracurricular activities, interventions and study support

  • How does the department support students?
  • What interventions are offered?
  • What extracurricular activities does dpt offer?
  • Do you offer students chances to compete in different areas of your subject?
  • How do you know your year 7 are on track?
  • How well do you work with other departments/share information?
  • How closely do you work with your SENCO/SEND Dpt?
  • In English are you covering reading, writing and speaking and listening opportunities?
  • How is literacy promoted across the school?
  • How are KS4 interventions taught?
  • What is different between teaching, revision and intervention in your department?
  • How many will likely need additional support to meet learning goals?
  • What percentage qualify for intervention?
  • How many should be further evaluated for special education service needs?
  • Are additional resources needed?

Document attached: Extracurricular activities

Curriculum experiences

As a subject leader, you should ensure:

  • You focus on the particular features of your subject
  • Your subject’s full curriculum is being covered
  • The curriculum and other opportunities and, in particular, how well they provide for the individual needs of the pupils

You can also explore how well pupils are applying literacy/numeracy skills cross-curricular.  If you were asked “Tell me about your curriculum”. What could/would you say?  For example has HOD/Dpt have you made changes to your curriculum? How did you design your curriculum? Again ask yourself:

  • Who do we get (primary), who are our feeder schools? What’s their curriculum?
  • What do CHS learners struggle with?
  • What do we need them to know by the end of year 9 so that they are KS4 ready?
  • What do our results tell us?
  • What does the National curriculum require?
  • What knowledge do we want them to have?
  • What is a sensible order for them to study this in?
  • How are we going to assess?
  • How are we going to build the skills alongside the knowledge?
  • How is your curriculum mapped out at KS3 (7,8,9)?
  • Can you point out where knowledge is built upon and across the years?
  • Can you show challenge in assessment tasks?
  • Can you show how the NC is covered in full?
  • Are the skills/content leading to (KS4) exam board assessment objectives?

This brings us back to the Big Questions (and back to Ms Evans thread – know it, prove it, link it, say it).  Why are Big Questions useful? Compare the above to Ofsted’s initial questions:

  • What are the starting points for your children?
  • How do you ensure effective KS transitions?
  • Can you show me how this matches the NC?
  • Are there links across the curriculum?
  • How do you know students have made progress (acquired knowledge)?
  • How do you build on the knowledge they have acquired?

Christine Counsell (@Counsell_C ) tweeted this fantastic image from one of her presentations which is useful when planning your curriculum. When I asked Christine if I could use the image, she agreed, but asked if I could point out:

Key thing to note is that these are questions for senior leaders to ask in order to sustain better conversations with middle leaders. i.e. never using it as an audit tool or checklist”.

curriculum christine counsil

Document attached: Curriculum experiences and support for learning further Qs

Leadership and management of the department

Evidence of this can be taken from in previous sections, as well as:

  • Policies and procedures you have in place
  • Records of continuous professional development
  • Curriculum plans
  • resources provision, particularly in terms of suitably qualified and trained staff and the availability of appropriate learning materials, equipment and facilities; and management of evaluation, planning, implementation and monitoring that ensure that good progress is assured for all pupils.

Inspector(s) may want to meet and talk to all department staff.  Staff need to know their curriculum/policies and students!

  • What do your team really think?
  • How well do you know your students?
  • What content is being taught?
  • Why do you teach what you teach at KS4 (or KS3)?
  • How is your wellbeing supported by your leaders?
  • How do you know your students are making progress?
  • How do you build upon prior knowledge?
  • What CPD have you been offered?

Ongoing, as your curriculum evolves, you need to ensure:

  • After teaching a unit, as a department review it. Annotate your SOW to improve teaching next time.
  • Is knowledge the “right” knowledge students need to succeed?
  • Are the units in the right order? Consider in English reading is always before writing so that students have picked apart examples of what a good one looks like!
  • Are the units cohesive, and are the links that you think are there secure?
  • How do you ensure the knowledge sticks, that students recall/remember the knowledge and how can you check/test for this?
  • Is your KS3 preparing students for KS4? How do you know?
  • How do you ensure your curriculum is knowledge rich? (as opposed to exam skills led)?

Document attached: Department staff questionnaire

Student voice (their comments on the subject and the support for their progress).

It’s important to communicate with pupils about their experience of your subject.  Pupil interviews are useful when exploring pupils’ views on a subject. You can also find out:

  • If all aspects of the curriculum are being covered sufficiently from the pupils’ perspective
  • Whether pupils are enjoying the subject or being challenged
  • What do your students think about their learning/curriculum
  • What do students think about behaviour in your subject?

The term ‘pupil voice’ can be slightly misleading, as it is important to find out what pupils know as well as what their views are.  Consider using a pupil questionnaire to identify pupils’ opinions about teaching and learning in a subject.

Document attached: Student voice2

Create a departmental action plan

There should be a strong correlation between the departmental self-evaluation and the school SIP, with the departmental action plan showing how it is enabling the achievement of actions set out in the school action plan.

The action plan does not need to be too detailed, but it should include:

  • The areas for development
  • What actions to take
  • Who will monitor each action

Document attached: Action plan

As I said at the start, you can’t do all of this! This is perhaps a start point, pick and mix the questions that best suit you, your school, your students and your department.

Thank you for reading!

5 thoughts on “4 the Tears in Your Eyes

  1. Pingback: Forever … | alwayslearningweb

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