Willing And Able

There’s some kings in my deck and a queen or to
So you know there ain’t nothin’, Nothin’ that I wouldn’t do

Prince – Willing And Able – Diamonds And Pearls


My reflections on my first couple of years in my role as Head of Department.

Just under a couple of years ago I was lucky enough to be appointed as HOD. In that time, I’ve got some things right, and some things wrong. I want to talk about the things I mostly got wrong because, although I couldn’t see it, I was heading towards a perfect storm!

Rewind two years ago: I was new to the school and new to the team and I was walking into a very established team. I had been given a remit and as anyone new to a role, I wanted to do a good job.

For the purpose of this blog I am going to focus on three areas I found the most challenging; difficult conversations, monitoring and making changes.

The elephant in the room

Difficult conversations: this was, and possibly still is, the hardest area to get right.

All schools want to raise achievement and standards. I decided my first job would be to look at year 11 data and felt one of the best ways was to moderate the recent mock marking. Once I’d reviewed the mocks I felt some marks didn’t fall within tolerance, especially in specific skill areas. I held a meeting to discuss the marking, so as not to single anyone out, I brought some model answers to show levels (against a mark scheme). A piece of cake I thought! Nope: that was a big mistake.

On reflection, I can understand why.  We all want to feel as if we are doing our jobs well. When I was training I was told my marking, when moderated, didn’t fall within tolerance. But I now realise I am somebody who likes clear and direct instructions but I think more importantly I had an established relationship with my line manager. Her delivery was clear. Mine, possibly out of nerves, was muddled.

Of course, I didn’t consciously set out to be unclear in my delivery, but walking into a meeting after a very short time and being negative was never going to be received in the way I’d hoped it would! A more accurate description would be to say that it went down like a lead balloon tied to the Titanic.

What would I do now?

I wouldn’t have held that meeting! I would set time aside in department meeting to focus on specific areas of the exam spec, skills or questions. For example, we could have all marked a student response together, a visualiser would have worked well, then discuss(ed) as a team why it fell into a level/mark. Or I could have provided exam board SAMs and as a team we could have discussed the mark given.

That would have been a better and more productive way of dealing with it.

The devil is in the detail

Monitoring a department is an area that I would often push to the side. I would set time aside for tracking different aspects of the department. Sometimes I would manage to adhere to my allocated time, sometimes I couldn’t due to more pressing issues. Again a big mistake.

The importance of monitoring (in a supportive way) cannot be overlooked. Had I kept to a schedule I would have had a much firmer grasp on all areas and I would have been able to deal with any issues (regardless of how minor) as they cropped up, not further down the line when it is much harder to resolve.

What would I do now?

I make up a schedule and ensure I stick to it by blocking out time on my timetable for monitoring (learning walks, book looks etc) over a half term. Again, any minor problems can be swept up quickly and dealt with before they become an issue and then possibly require a difficult conversation!  Seriously, I/we need to avoid anything getting to the stage that it “needs” one of those!  Sticking to a schedule means I can ensure department meetings address points before they escalate, through ongoing CPD. Slow and steady wins the race!

For example, after a book look staff could bring examples of marking and again as a team discuss positives together. Or if there’s an issue with the level of challenge in particular units, we could discuss how to raise it, for example, change the texts, or the focus.

The best thing since sliced bread

I moved from one secondary to another with a completely different demographic.

By the time I was appointed HOD I was a heavy social media user (mainly twitter).  I had started blogging and attended conferences at weekends. Being surrounded with so many enthusiastic and passionate teachers who were willing to give up their time, experience and knowledge (let alone resources) helped me grow in so many ways. For example there was so much discussion around certain edu-books (Reading Reconsidered, Bringing Words to Life, Closing the Vocab Gap) and before long I was spending vast amounts of time on Amazon! I brought with me a raft of new resources and started changing things. I wouldn’t go as far as to say “big mistake”, it wasn’t.  Changes I made, based on previous experience, research or books I’d read, were good – they focused on more challenging texts, high-quality purposeful resources all with the sole purpose of raising standards or improving progress. What was misguided was my implementation.

Change is good, and it’s needed. However, it’s important to consider why are you changing something? What will it add? How will it improve outcomes? Whatever you do has to have a purpose and ultimately has to help students making progress in one way or another. There was some resistance to some of the changes I wanted to make and again, on reflection I can see why.  In a conversation with Zoe Enser (@greeborunner) about this blog, she reminded me of the Ikea effect (as David Weston, @informed_edu, called it) “they had built it, it was theirs and now you were dismantling it!”  Once again I should have been clearer (again there’s that word) in my delivery. I should have been clearer on why some things needed changing and why it mattered.

What would I do now?

I wouldn’t make so many changes in such a small amount of time. I’d make sure any changes are in line with the school’s priorities and improvement plans. First and foremost I would be explicit in explaining the importance of any change.

Hit the Nail on the Head: What does the future hold?

At this point, I do need to stop and say that you can’t discuss/debate everything “as a team” or through CPD. Sometimes as a middle leader, you just need to make a decision. That’s part of your job.

I also need to point out it hasn’t been all doom and gloom. These are some of the strategies I have implemented successfully: I’ve worked hard on bringing structure and consistency to the department, raising achievement through standards and challenge, organisation of units, marking, feedback and assessments, dealing with deadlines alongside exam admin and sharing of resources. I’ve brought new texts in, streamlined starters and homework to target key skills. I began a strong extracurricular program, including national competitions, taking all KS3 to the library, year 11 to the local university, trips to the theatre and in-house performances. I have raised the profile of rewards, certificates and positive praise in the department alongside communication home with parents. I asked the exam board to come in and host a training session, and I ensure subject knowledge/teaching is always a focus of department meetings and to support the department I set up lunchtime “catch up” sessions for students not working at expected standards in their classwork and/or homework.  Once the team could see how to move forward, we began to see real improvements  – many of the strategies and initiatives I’ve implemented have been very well received, not just by the school, but parents and students and so far all had a positive impact in both KS3 and 4.

This year we had a very successful set of GCSE results in language and literature with nearly half of our students walking away with a grade 7-9. As a team, we clearly got a lot right – together!

What will I be changing for my third year?!

I need to remember the snowball effect – all decisions, strategies and initiatives I/we decide on will build and build: it doesn’t need to be overnight. I will continue to learn and grow as a middle leader. My school SLT and other Middle Leaders are fantastic and have supported me throughout my journey. The school has sent me on specific CPD courses to help me and are always there if I need to ask advice.  Also, they’ve supported all the strategies and initiatives I’ve suggested to help raise student achievement and begin to foster a love of English in them.

My priority for the next year ahead is to continue to support and lead my department in the way a good middle leader should.

Thank you for reading.

Some free support (taken from David Weston Unleashing Greatness in Teachers)

DfE CPD Standards – https://tdtrust.org/research/dfe-cpd-standard
Developing Great Teaching report- https://tdtrust.org/dgt
Free webinar on instructional coaching – https://tdtrust.org/coach
Monthly bulletin on effective CPD – https://tdtrust.org/news/newsletter
A library of articles on effective CPD – https://tdtrust.org/blog



2 hell with hesitation
2 hell with the reasons why

Prince – Scandalous – Batman


After holidays, lunches out, cups of tea, catching up with my friends and tv shows I decided to do some work: my INSET CPD.

And, what could be worse than preparing to enthuse staff after their summer break, than lots of ppts – but a ppt on literacy!  How do you get a whole staff on board with something that is often seen as an add-on?

It wasn’t long after I began preparing my session that I felt some responses/reactions to the topic of reading were scandalous.

When you can, I suggest you read The Literacy Trust research/report on children and young peoples’ reading 2017/18


I found these stats quite worrying:

The fact that 26.2% children/young adults only read once a month or less – that’s 12 times a year! Let that sink in. And then when you look at what they’re reading it’s even more concerning.

reading 2

Look at the highest % – Text/instant messages.

That’s not “reading”.




Back to my INSET – I borrowed a slide from Helen Ralston’s recent TENC19 

reading 3

(@ralston_h) talk “When you read a piece of text there are a number of individual actions and they are hard to tie together, but for someone who knows baseball, it’s a familiar pattern. A number of studies have shown that people understand what they read much better if they already have some background knowledge about the subject. From Closing the Vocab gap”.

If you look at these 3 1/2 sentences  – look at how much “background knowledge” you need to be able to fully understand it!

To show staff how hard this is I have taken

treading 34ext from BBC Bitesize (KS3) and blocked out 25-30% of the text from various pieces – I am going to challenge them to see if they know what subject and topic they’re about.

And yes, you may guess the subject and topic, but could an 11-12-year-old child?

Attitudes to Reading

What was more surprising than the stats above, but attitudes towards the importance of reading.


I sent out a quick poll. I know this isn’t really robust, however, it does highlight, in my opinion, some serious questions we need to be asking ourselves.

Only 23% of the 1,266 people said they regularly set “reading” as homework.

And the educators who did set reading as homework felt at KS5 it was essential.

At KS4 the words used were: sometimes, less, never, occasionally, not so much, now and again.

And at KS3 they became: no, rarely, never.

reading 6


Back to my INSET, to show staff that reading in their subject “IS” important I took one question (at random) from GCSE papers for every subject and ran it through a Flesch reading ease test measure – which subject do you think had the hardest score?

My question to all secondary subject teachers is – how do you expect students to be fluent readers if you aren’t giving them opportunities to read? How do you expect them at KS5 to suddenly learn those skills in your subject?

We need to be embedding these skills at KS3 if we want students to be proficient at reading.

All departments/subjects can work together to make your school a school that reads. Reading doesn’t have to be fiction/novels/romance! Reading can be textbooks, websites (visit the British Libary and research a topic).  You could then ask students to summarise, compare or evaluate a piece of text they’ve read.  I can’t see how reading around a subject will not increase a child’s understanding of it and therefore can’t understand why subjects (all secondary) aren’t setting it as regular homework.

I would suggest you make time to read  EEF IMPROVING LITERACY IN SECONDARY SCHOOLS, They have an excellent PDF you can download to support literacy (they also have a primary version).

They “challenge the notion that literacy in secondary school is solely the preserve of English teachers, or literacy coordinators. The emphasis on disciplinary literacy makes clear that every teacher communicates their subject through academic language, and that reading, writing, speaking and listening are at the heart of knowing and doing Science, Art, History, and every other subject in secondary school.”


The EEF states:

“Historically, many secondary school teachers have not seen themselves as literacy experts. Teaching children to read has been the domain of primary schools, or the responsibility of teachers in the English department at a push. Some cross-curricular efforts have held promise, but, in most secondary schools, the challenge of literacy today is greater than ever.” 

Primary and English teachers” that really is Scandalous!

In English, we do read a great variety of writing styles and genres. But if you are looking for ideas on how to promote reading outside of lessons/homework – these are some examples of initiatives we use:

  • Run regular reading challenges
  • Give a book away to all KS3 on WBD
  • We take all our KS3 to the library to borrow/research reading material
  • We give books as prizes alongside certificates as rewards
  • We work with other dpts to run competitions (eg design a new book cover, take a photo of extreme reading)
  • We do book displays
  • We recommend books to parents via our newsletter

Possibly the most important – we talk about books!

Finally, I would recommend:

Follow Alice Visser-Furay (@AVisserFuray) on twitter or read her blog: My Resources – Reading for Pleasure

literacy books

Read the following book, full of lots of practical ideas you can use immediately to raise literacy in your school:


The answers for the readability – Science and PE were the hardest to read and the easiest History and Maths  – but please remember only on those questions!

Thank you for reading.


I will be your superhero
If you give me half a chance

Prince – Superhero – Bootleg Collection, Volume 1

For a list of all my reads: Condition Of The Heart

Who says Young Adult novels are just for kids?

If you’re looking for a great book for your child, here are my favourite Young Adult reads from the last couple of years:

monster.PNGA Monster Calls

Author: Patrick Ness From an idea by Siobhan Dowd
Connor’s mum has cancer and life is changing. There is the nightmare, then there is school, where people avoid him, or persecute him. And then there is the immense, mythic Monster.



Chaos Walking trilogy

41GRCK+9UfLThe Knife of Never Letting Go

Author: Patrick Ness
Prentisstown isn’t like other towns. Everyone can hear everyone else’s thoughts in a constant, overwhelming Noise. There is no privacy. There are no secrets. Then Todd Hewitt unexpectedly stumbles on a spot of complete silence. Which is impossible. And now he’s going to have to run… Book 1


81PbLGE8qgLThe Ask and the Answer

Author: Patrick Ness

Fleeing before a relentless army, Todd and Viola once again face their worst enemy, Mayor Prentiss. Immediately imprisoned and separated from Viola, Todd is forced to learn the ways of the Mayor’s new order. And then, one day, the bombs begin to explode…


51DmqWJokuL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_Monsters of Men

Author: Patrick Ness

Three armies march on New Prentisstown. The New World is at war. Todd and Viola are caught in the middle, with no chance of escape. How can they hope to stop the fighting? How can there ever be peace when they’re so hopelessly outnumbered? And if war makes monsters of men, what terrible choices await?



Half Bad Trilogy

81-4XsCTiSLHalf Bad

Author: Sally Green

In a modern-day Britain in which witches live alongside humans, Nathan is a ‘half-code’, caught between the ‘good’ White Witches and the ‘bad’ Black Witches. Book 1


220px-Front_cover_of_Half_Wild_Half Wild

Author: Sally Green

Nathan is back, with new magical gifts, still determined to bring down the monstrous leader of the Council, Soul O’Brien and needing to rescue his girlfriend Annalise too.  Book 2


51q0-nND2eL._AC_SY400_Half Lost

Author: Sally Green

Consumed by anger and set on avenging his father’s death, Nathan is on the run again, while the fragmented Alliance of Free Witches is battling against the odds to end the war between the Black and White witches. Book 3.





The Lie Tree 
Author: Frances Hardinge

Faith is clever, curious and interested in everything around her – but because she is a girl, no-one pays her any attention, so she’s learned to exist in the background.




Holly Black’s Folk of the Air series

220px-The_Cruel_Prince_coverThe Cruel Prince
Author: Holly Black

Jude was just a child when she witnessed the murder of her parents by Madoc, a Faerie lord. Madoc took Jude and her sisters back to Elfhame with him and brought them up as his own.  Book 1



51NGQp8xR2L._SX323_BO1,204,203,200_The Wicked King
Author: Holly Black

Jude has tricked Cardan onto the throne, binding him to her for a year and a day. But the new High King does everything in his power to humiliate and undermine her, even as his fascination with her remains undimmed. Book 2



Book 3 – released 2020



Salt to the Sea

Author: Ruta Sepetys

It’s early 1945 and a group of people trek across Germany, bound together by their desperation to reach the ship that can take them away from the war-ravaged land. This inspirational novel is based on a true story from the Second World War.


after the fire

After the Fire

Author: Will Hill

Moonbeam, his central character, is beginning to doubt the teaching of Father John and to comprehend the methods he uses to control his followers. A survivor, she’s being coaxed to tell the story of the events that led up to that deadly confrontation with ‘The Authorities’.


The Graveyard Book

Author: Neil Gaiman

After his family are killed, Bod is brought up in a graveyard by ghosts – an array of century-spanning characters who care for him, impart wisdom and even teach body-fading skills.



Orphan Monster Spy
Book by Matt Killeen

After her mother is shot at a checkpoint, fifteen-year-old Sarah finds herself on the run from a government that wants to see every person like her dead. Then Sarah meets a mysterious man with an ambiguous accent, a suspiciously bare apartment, and a lockbox full of weapons.





by Patrice Lawrence

Not cool enough, not clever enough, not street enough for anyone to notice me. I was the kid people looked straight through. NOT ANY MORE. NOT SINCE MR ORANGE. Sixteen-year-old Marlon has made his mum a promise – he’ll never follow his big brother, Andre, down the wrong path. So far, it’s been easy, but when a date ends in tragedy, Marlon finds himself hunted.



The Ruby in the Smoke

by Philip Pullman

Sally Lockhart is living quietly in London with her obnoxious cousin, after her father’s tragic death at sea. But the peaceful, if hateful, existence is about to end. Sally’s father left her a message, and deciphering it will lead her into a world of danger and excitement such as she’s never known…


I am yours now and you are mine
And together we’ll love through all space and time, so don’t cry

Prince – 7 – Symbol


A few resources you may find useful!

Links after image screenshot.


5 min KS3 starters

40 ppt with 4 or 5 simple English language focused lesson starters.


KS3 Starters


Character Descriptions

A ppt full of character descriptions to help with creative writing.


Character Descriptions


Up-grade your literature essays!

A word grid document to help year11 use more focused language in their essays.


Upgrade your Vocab (word)



Literature Extracts (for a display)

Over 40 extracts/quotes that can be used for a display to either highlight a technique or text.


Extracts for Display

Features of a Non-Fiction Text

A handy A4 guide of basic features for different transactional writing:


features of non-fiction texts (word)

features-of-non-fiction-texts PDF


Features of a Fiction Text

A handy A4 guide of basic features for creative writing conventions:


Features of creative writing PDF


AQA Style of questions

A handy guide with the basic style of questions for KS4 to help you make up your own!


Style of questions

Style-of-questions PDF


Understanding the AO’s!

A handy guide for NQTs to help understand those pesky AOs


Teacher AO booklet

Teacher-AO-booklet PDF


Suggested Tasks

I made this as a list of tasks in the event students finish their work early, also to save copying, and the best bit – tasks that can be used with any text.


Teacher Suggested Tasks

Teacher-Suggested-Tasks PDF


A Christmas Carol Starters

A few basic starters, you can use as you go along, or revisit.


ACC Starters


An Inspector Calls Starters

A collection of starters for the play


AIC Starters


Macbeth Starters

A collection of starters for Macbeth


Macbeth Starters


General language/literature starters

A few more basic language or technique starters


KS4 starters


How to Translate Emotions into Written Body Language


Link to my Student GCSE blog for resource:  Emotions & Body Language



I’ve made up this mini S&L guide/PDF for students to help them through their spoken language element. Thank you to for sharing his PPT and ideas for S&L.

Student Speaking and Listening booklet PDF






Condition Of The Heart

“Acting out a whim is only good
For a condition of the heart”

Prince – Condition Of The Heart – Around The World In A Day


The year after Prince released Purple Rain, he followed it up with the fabulous Around the World in a Day. As a fan, I loved it, and one of my favourite tracks was and continues to be Condition of the Heart: It’s beautiful.  When it comes to books, like albums, we can’t help but have our favourites. Ones that appeal to us more than others. These are all the novels/books I’ve read this year. When the year is up, I will review my favourites. Some were just a joy to read!

For a list of my favourite Young Adult books:  Superhero

Books I’ve read in 2019 …

books 2019.PNG



Books I read in 2018 – A year of reading dangerously!





Feel Good, Feel Better, Feel Wonderful

Keep ur mind in the vertical motion
Always looking up

Prince – Feel Good, Feel Better, Feel Wonderful – LotusFlow3r


Earlier in the year Jude Huton @judehunton  asked me to present at   which took place on 9th June. The following blog is par of my presentation and slides – without my waffle in between.  My talk was suitable for any subject or phase. If are a different subject teacher just replace the English resources for your own subject/key stage. I have split KS4 and KS3 strategies/interventions otherwise this blog will go on and on; you can read about KS4 here.

KS3 Interventions

I do need to state in advance I work in a small, private independent school and I fully understand that makes managing classes/students easier than in a large secondary.  As a department again we’ve seen significant progress with student standardised scores increasing dramatically through the specific starters and homework put in place.


The first issue I tackled was SPaG through starters. I created one starter per lesson with answers. The ppts are basic but all follow the same format – here’s an example of some of the starters I’ve put together:

ks3 startersks3 starters

ks3 starters

I create one per lesson, with answers. These have worked because:

  1. they form a routine for students
  2. they get students writing quickly, but accurately in a short time frame
  3. they get 5 SPaG questions (blue slide), then mark immediately (green slide)
  4. there’s consistency across classes, all use them.

How we will improve for 18/19 – students all purchase a small dictionary (and a grammar rulebook) at the start of year 7, but I’ve rarely seen them use them. By making some of the slides dictionary based students are forced to use them. The hope here is using a dictionary will become part of every English lesson. Something I rarely see at the moment.

Another issue I saw was some students finished the work quickly, then twiddled thumbs until others catch up. From Sept they will be encouraged to work from a grammar book until all students have completed the five tasks.  For some students teachers did print out the starters.

We want our students to learn more vocabulary – we all know this is key – to do this I’ve built some starters (see slide 3), which looks at 5 words for students to learn/answer questions on, in context. This is continued the next day, using the same 5 words (see slide 5) but different questions.


I’ve mimicked the weekly homework we set at KS4, for KS3. Students are given a piece of text to read, then have to answer anywhere between 6-14 multiple choice questions. These are saved on PDF and uploaded to our homework platform. Here’s an example of a piece of prose and a poem used:

KS3 homework

How we will improve for 18/19 – these homeworks have worked well. To improve for this year I will issue parents with a list of the homework titles so they can check homework/scores etc.

I’ve also created some Quizlet simple 5-word weekly spelling tests for years 7-9. If you haven’t used Quizlet get on it – it’s really easy to use:


You can have a little go on this ‘sample test’ I’ve put together: Test – 5 spellings 

Students can download the app and do these quickly on their phones! All the options from learn, test and match are just so easy to use. Note to use ‘spell’ you need to use a browser, not Quizlet app. I think these will prove very useful.

Once you create them, you can do any of the above – I’ve keyed in the words and meanings. I’ve limited to 5 words as we already have the comprehension homework.


We know students learn from a simple to complex order so our SOW need to reflect this. As a department we are revamping all our SOW to refelct the skills needed for KS4.

KS3 sow


All our SOW will have a Knowledge Organiser (fancy term for a glossary) with key terms we want our students to learn for that unit. These will be kept by students in simple folders and build up through the units/years.

KS3 KO.png

I’ve built these terms into Quizlet tests for homework and they’ve been built into the SOW individual lessons (gaps above are because I am still working on it!).  This means every student will learn the same regardless of teacher or ability (thanks Dawn @missdcox  ).  Terms are used in class (more dictionary work) and in homework and will build on each other into KS4.

A few other strategies I’m putting in place from September ’18:

  1. I’d like students to number lessons, that way ‘if’ a student is absent they can catch work up – easier for me to keep track of missed lessons.
  2. Students will be given a table to list their scores from both starters and homework (spelling and comprehension test). This means I can check any issues quickly and intervene early:



Finally – I asked my old SENCO from my previous school to give me details of their KS3 interventions, which were considered a strength of the school. This is what they did well:

– We arranged for all students with comprehension scores lower than 85 to be tested for their reading accuracy ability.

– If their reading accuracy standardised score is also lower than 85 they receive personalised phonics support to assist them. We have three groups in Year 7 and two in Year 8 and two in Year 9.

– They are tested each full term for reading accuracy. If they improve they go up a group or back to the literacy form, (I ran the literacy form).

– The weakest also have daily intervention for 50 minutes in small groups, no larger than 4, using a range of approaches including precision teaching.

– We also have vocabulary building interventions. Students work on a set number of words using games, rhymes to develop their knowledge, spelling and use of the word. These are measured using tests before and after new word groups.

(In an ideal world we would also offer support for those who have low reading comprehension abilities but this would probably create another three literacy groups.)

We also have study skills for those who still have weak literacy intervention.

After school reading club also takes place, simply reading. They are excused from homework for completing this.

This has been acknowledged by Ofsted as strong practice, they referenced it to catch up, we use SEN budget for this. Catch up funding covers all of those who haven’t met expected by the end of KS2, our reading assessments do not discriminate between those who scored above or below, it isn’t therefore specific to KS2 catch up fund, if that makes sense!


This blog links to our intervention and strategies in KS4 . You can read about our KS4 strategies and interventions here.

Thank you for reading!

Get Yo Groove On

I’m usually workin’ both night and day
No time 4 fun

Prince – Get Yo Groove On – Emancipation


Earlier in the year, I was thrilled to be asked by Jude Huton @judehunton  to present at   which took place on 9th June. The following blog is part of my presentation and slides – without my waffle in between.  My talk was suitable for any subject or phase. If you are a different subject/phase teacher just replace the English resources for your own subject/key stage. I have also split KS4 and KS3 strategies/interventions otherwise this blog will go on and on; you can read about KS3 here.

I took a big risk this year and decided to put all my eggs in one basket, rather than offer several interventions, then not know which did or didn’t work I only used one central intervention which was run by myself.

I do need to state in advance I work in a small, private independent school and I fully understand that makes managing classes/students easier than in a large secondary.  The interventions have been successful with our students showing the highest % of progress I’ve ever seen and when I questioned students they said the interventions were helping them improve.

Targeting underachieving students

As teachers we want all students to reach their potential.

But how do you do that?  How do you get each student to be as successful as they can be?  Here are some ideas and ways you can use, or pick and mix from – after all, context is key. What works in one school, or for one student, may not work for others.


First, why don’t interventions work?  I’ve worked in schools where we’ve done all of the following – sometimes with the same student!


If one strategy doesn’t work, not to worry we have plan b, c, d…quite honestly, no wonder students were confused! But why is that?

  • Tests often mislead more than inform.
  • Some skills are harder to monitor.
  • Students need intervention in the area they are weakest in.
  • You need to use strategies that have worked elsewhere.  But that doesn’t mean the program will work for you. Research-based doesn’t mean that it will work automatically; you have to make such programs work. Visit other schools similar to yours.
  • Don’t put an intervention in and assume the problem is solved.
  • Intervention has to involve everyone; SLT, MLT, class teacher, student, parent/carer!
  • Don’t just leave up to the intervention, find moments for these students in class!
  • Involve parents in their programs as well.
  • Put strategies in place that help struggling students become successful!

I’ve worked in some schools where class teachers would teach students one way, intervention teachers another. No wonder we didn’t see students improve as much as we hoped.  Departments need consistency – not in the way they teach, but the success criteria delivered to students to get the best marks.

swellerThe first thing I did was to take the above advice; I broke the exam paper down.  After mocks, I wanted to know exactly what our students could/couldn’t do.  I went through:

  • An exam paper
  • mark scheme
  • SAM provided by exam board
  • Examiner’s comments

Using all those, I mocked up a student response analysis sheet for each exam they sat in English. These were for teachers but kept in the student’s file. All I wanted to know was ‘can they do something well, or not’.


Teachers completed these for their groups as they marked. No comments needed, just a tick or cross. This helped me decide the intervention needed for each student, they were also grouped together by need (AO). Here’s a completed one – So this student:


chose a quote from the right area, but not the correct quote to get the mark! However, this is only worth 1 mark.

only scored 2/6 because they didn’t analyse the quotes in relation to question.

student scored 6/15 because they didn’t ‘evaluate’ even though they used quotes etc – This was the priority AO as student lost 9 marks.


These worked well, but if I am honest were time-consuming to analyse. I had to go through each one and enter data into a spreadsheet.

How will I improve for 18/19 – I will use an online version eg google/microsoft forms instead of paper. This way staff enter data and I can analyse immediately.


Using the analysis sheets and data, I created a set of AO specific questions in the same style as the exam questions with a short text, question or prompt (mini exam questions, scaffolded and differentiated with sentence starters, hints). I made loads of these for each AO! Then each week I would visit students in form and ran the intervention sessions. These worked because the sheets (see below) broke the AO skill down into small chunks and students were able to slowly, over time, discover facts and relationships for themselves.


This was because:

  • the AOs were in taught in isolation (go back to Sweller image at the start)
  • Students read a variety of short unseen texts, so became more adept at selecting correct information (see Bruner)
  • they only had 20 mins to read/answer – it got them used to writing quickly!
  • the short space also ensured succinct answers
  • The targetted AOs meant students worked in groups of same need.
  • They didn’t take me long to read/mark so could give instant feedback

Here are some completed ones:


Grouping students together and breaking down the exam paper meant students were also able to discuss ideas with other students on the same AO.


How will I improve for 18/19 – I will begin intervention from September not January, the routine is key with students.  I would also follow any issues up much sooner with class teacher/student/parent etc.

Other strategies used in the classroom

The above is how I, as HOD, and my department tackled intervention. Our data showed significant progress using those strategies convincing me to continue with them, developing them further.  The following are other strategies we used in class and homework:

  1. Starters – I put together some simple 5-minute starters using language and literature skills – I have tweeted these out.


2. For September I want myself and team to get better at live modelling using our visualiers so that students can see how to structure responses.


To aid this I’ve created extract based Knowledge Organisers for the teachers focusing on key extracts/lines from texts. I made this one using Amy Forrester’s (@amymayforrester )A Christmas Carol Sliced resources she tweeted out:



Eventually I hope everyone in my department creates them as they go along for key texts/scenes/lines, they can be added to year on year as you teach, so eventually, I hope we end up with a bank of high-quality extract based teaching resources.

3. I used Chris Curtis (@Xris32 ) 200-word challenge for homework. You can read more about them here: 200 Word Challenge (see image below for example).

As a department, we set a two-part homework for KS4:

  1. students need to read a text, could be fiction or non-fiction – this gave them more opportunities to read new and challenging texts.
  2. students need to answer a question based on the text – often topics they have zero interest in.

200 w

The text to read and the task to complete are saved separately to PDF and uploaded to our homework platform.

My last strategy in the classroom is thanks to the lovely Becky (notoriously known as @shadylady222  ). This is a teacher that achieves amazing value added to students at her school. It can be easy to get good grades when you have well behaved/high achievers to begin, not so easy when they’re not. Anyway, a few years back Becky tweeted two documents I’ve used again and again but with different texts.

The first is connected to the vocabulary choices made by KS4 students when analysing literature. By giving them a set of words to memorise, their analysis improves immediately. Becky has tweeted these out, the one on the left is the original Of Mice and Men and my ripped off version for A Christmas Carol.


acc fr


The second inspired by a few on twitter; firstly Claire Hill (@Claire_Hill_ ) tweeted back in 2015 on the banishment of PEE and much more effective What Why How:




and Louisa (@englishluluis ) inspired Becky’s attempting to dump any form of PEEing and instead focusing on 3 qs- What? How? Why? Again these have been tweeted out:


All of the above are not set in stone, no strategy should be. They evolve as we work out the strengths and weaknesses.

For September 18/19 I will also be creating interleaved starters for all the texts we use (I haven’t started making these yet) and I’ve already begun to create mini Quizlet quote tests for the texts we use. As you can see below I limit to 5-15 terms/quotes to learn so I can set a couple of these a week.  I have made these for all the texts and poetry cluster to help students learn quotes and subject terminology. They take minutes to create.

ACC quotes

You can have a little go on this ‘sample test’ I’ve put together for KS3 spellings: Test – 5 spellings 

Students can download the app and do these quickly on their phones! All the options from learn, test and match are just so easy to use. (Note to use ‘spell’ you need to use a browser, not Quizlet app. I think these will prove very useful).

Once you create them, you can do any of the above – I’ve keyed in the words and meanings. I’ve limited to 5-15 terms/quotes as we already have the comprehension homework. I’ve also used Quizlet for literary terms/definitions (subject terminology).


These are some strategies I’m putting in place from September ’18 (KS3 in particular) but I will also try to do these for KS4 where possible:

  1. I’d like students to number lessons, that way ‘if’ a student is absent they can catch work up – easier for me to keep track of missed lessons.
  2. Students will be given a table to list their scores from both starters and homework (spelling and comprehension test). This means I can check any issues quickly and intervene early:


If you aren’t keen on the above, here are 6 further strategies, according to research, that do work:

  • Metacognition and self-regulation
  • Collaborative learning
  • Effective feedback
  • Homework
  • 1:1 tuition
  • Peer tutoring


Finally, we want to be in a position where we don’t need an intervention – getting it right in the classroom from year 7.  To do that we need to get our KS3 right. You can read about our KS3 strategies and interventions here.

Thank you for reading!

Emotions & Body Language

Great Narratives, Descriptions and Monologues

How do you write more interesting descriptions? Describing people can be tricky because it’s easy to slip into clichés.

Students often write stuff like this: “She was tall. Her dark hair …”

Try some of these resources to help you:

  1. A ppt filled with great character descriptions –  Characters
  2. PDF – How to translate Emotions into Words!
  3. Word – How To Translate Emotions Into Written Body Language




This is acknowledged again at the end, but for clarity and transparency, I have used the policy available at https://automattic.com/privacy/ for this post. This privacy policy was made available under a Creative Commons Sharealike licence. It was copied, adapted and re-purposed it for my own use.  Credit :  Automattic .

Privacy Policy/ General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) – Effective from January 10th 2018. Your privacy is critically important to me. I have a few fundamental principles:

  • I am thoughtful about the personal information I ask you to provide and the personal information that I collect about you through this website.
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Below is Automattic Inc.’s privacy policy, which incorporates and clarifies these principles.

This Privacy Policy applies to information that I collect about you when you:

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Throughout this Privacy Policy I’ll refer to this website and mobile applications collectively as “Services.”

Below I explain how I collect, use, and share information about you, along with the choices that you have with respect to that information. If you have any questions about this Privacy Policy, please contact me: fkr49@hotmail.com.

Information I Collect

I only collect information about you if I have a reason to do so–for example, to communicate with you, or to make my services better.

I collect information in three ways: if and when you provide information to us, automatically through operating our services, and from outside sources. Let’s go over the information that I collect.

Information You Provide to Me

It’s probably no surprise that I collect information that you provide to me. The amount and type of information depends on the context and how I use the information. Here are some examples:

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Information I Collect Automatically

I also collect some information automatically:

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Information I Collect from Other Sources

I may also get information about you from other sources. For example, if you create or log into your WordPress.com account through another service (like Google) or if you connect your website or account to a social media service (like Twitter) through the Publicize feature, I will receive information from that service (such as your username, basic profile information, and friends list) via the authorization procedures used by that service. The information I receive depends on which services you authorize and any options that are available.

I may also get information from third party services about individuals who are not yet users, which WordPress may use, for example, for marketing and advertising purposes.

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I use information about you as mentioned above and as follows:

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Sharing Information

How I Share Information

I do not sell our users’ private personal information.

I share information about you in the limited circumstances spelled out below and with appropriate safeguards on your privacy:

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While no online service is 100% secure, I work very hard to protect information about you against unauthorized access, use, alteration, or destruction, and take reasonable measures to do so.


You have several choices available when it comes to information about you:

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Other Things You Should Know

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One More Thing: This Policy Is Available Under a Creative Commons Sharealike License

This privacy policy was made available under a Creative Commons Sharealike license. It was copied, adapted and repurposed it for my own use.  Credit :  Automattic .

Privacy Policy Changes

Although most changes are likely to be minor, I may change my Privacy Policy from time to time. I encourage visitors to frequently check this page for any changes to the Privacy Policy. If I make changes, I will notify you by revising the change log below, and, in some cases, I may provide additional notice (such as adding a statement to my homepage or). Your continued use of the Services after any change in this Privacy Policy will constitute your consent to such change.


1000 X’s & O’s – Component 2: Non-fiction and Transactional Writing

You work so hard, you really do
I don’t think that anyone could work as hard as you

Prince -1000 X’s & O’s  –  HITnRUN – Phase One


Getting Started: GCSE (9-1) English  – Edexcel

Moving schools means, learning a new spec! Teachers deserve lots of X’x & O’s! For further information on Edexcel go to their website here.  I’ve written this blog to help any newbie to the spec, and to get it straight in my head myself. I will revisit it and ‘edit’ until I am happy with it.  1000 X’s & O’s – Component 2: Non-fiction and Transactional Writing is part of a set of two blogs. The first can be found here.