The Power of WHY?

As teachers we often give students the answers without ever getting them to ask the question first. As children and young people they are born inquisitive but somehow they lose some of this as they get older. Are we playing a part?


So lets think for a minute….. Have you ever thought about the following…

Why Everest is getting higher every year?

Or why Africa only contributes about 3% to world finance

Or why 50% of the world’s population live on 1% of the world’s surface.

Or why the earth’s magnetic field changes every million years

Or why the Middle East is called the Middle East.

(Middle of what and East of what?)

Or why the earth is round or why there is oil under deserts,

or whats the average age of a seagull, or..or..or.. ?


As a Geography Department here in Westfield Academy we have turned our focus towards getting our students to ask the questions before they receive the answers. We want them to be in awe of the world we live in and question what surrounds them on a daily basis.




Below are the strategies we use and implement on a daily basis. Though these strategies are simple they are extremely effective and go a long way towards the development of a growth mindset both in and outside the classroom.

  1. Video clips to promote awe and wonder – also a key learning tool for the visual learner.
  2. Home is where the heart is – Geography in context – We aim to provide UK based examples to give students the opportunity to relate to subject content and then broaden their horizons.
  3. Geography Cartoons – Unlock the meaning of the Geography cartoon – Encourages students to think outside the box and make links between key topics.
  4. It is all about me – for students not born in the UK giving them the opportunity to provide examples that are relevant to course content along with areas that they too can relate to.



Promoting an environment where students feel confident enough to ask questions and dig deeper into the areas they are studying is where we aim to be.


As teachers we can play our part in this and allow students time and space for enquiry and investigation. The general approach to how we speak in the classroom needs to focus on a positive mindset. It’s not how many times you fall down but how many times you get up and keep going.


As the year draws to a close let’s enjoy what has been an amazing year. Enjoy the summer and roll on 2017-2018.

A little awe and wonder…

The John Wayne legend lives on:

[T]hat at the rehearsal for “The Greatest Story Ever Told’, The Duke, playing the Roman soldier who speared Jesus on the cross, said rather flatly: “Truly he was the son of God”. the director said: “Not like that, say it with awe!”

Obligingly Wayne repeated his line: “Aw, truly he was the son of God.”

Lena and Graham




How to be the Best Form Tutor!

The Role of a Form Tutor

This week we looked at the specific roles of a form tutor. We identified different strategies on how to be a successful influence on student welfare.


Why is this role important?

The form tutor is the first member of staff students come into contact with on a daily basis. The small time period that the students share with their form tutor is arguably the most important period of the day. This is because this time will set the tone for the days outcomes. It also allows tutors to identify any immediate issues or problems before the working day has begun. Preparation is key in this time as it allows students to make a successful transition from home to school.


What do the students believe make an excellent and effective form tutor?

form tutor.png


We have identified the following 8 strategies as being the most important & effective ways to manage your form time:

Praise the positives

form tutor 2

  • Praise students who have either got lots of positives or students who have improved.
  • Compare your forms positives/negatives to other forms in the year group, create positive competition

Question the negatives

form tutor 1

  • Once a week, get your forms Go4Schools up and identify people that have accumulated negative points.
  • It shows the students you know exactly what is going on when you are not there


Be tough over the specifics

form tutor 3

  • Has your form got their equipment?
  • Is there planner signed?
  • Are they wearing make up?
  • Do they have shoes, correct trousers?
  • Lining up perfectly for assembly
  • You form represent you – make sure they know it!

See your form do something positive

form yutor 5

  • Once a half term try and find time to drop into a lesson for 10 minutes, especially if it’s a lesson they do well in.
  • It will allow you to see them excel at something and share a positive learning experience you don’t usually get as a form tutor.
  • It also reminds them you are watching them!

Email teachers about problems


  • As a form tutor students are more likely to come to you with problems (at home, with homework, classwork, peer issues)
  • Providing class teachers with this information is crucial to avoiding problems escalating during lesson time and allowing lessons to run smoothly.

Teachers communicating with form tutor


  • The form tutor is not in lessons. Their only way of knowing what is going on is checking Go4Schools.
  • If you overhear something, experience behaviour/peer issues or have any concerns, the form tutor should be the first port of call.
  • Make sure the form tutor has all the facts. They will often be the ones that have the best relationship with students/parents to provide support if necessary.


Call/Email Home



  • You will often find yourself calling home for FT report, attendance, behaviour
  • Try and find something positive to call/email home about for each student every half term. That works out approximately 1 phone call per day.
  • Parents really appreciate this and it forms a relationship which makes it more likely they will be understanding when you have to call for a negative reason.
  • Students also really respond to this


Set targets


  • Set your form a target for each half term. Offer them a prize/reward if they hit it.
  • This data can easily be accessed/downloaded from Go4Schools in seconds and is easy to keep track of.
  • My target
  • At least 100 positives
  • No more than 20 negative points
  • No more than 1 day missed

Thank you to Chris and Harry, for their fantastic butterfly session and blog post! 🙂

To turn your households’ rancour to pure love.

On Saturday, Romeo and Juliet was being performed at The Globe, just down the road from London Bridge and Borough Market. Shakespeare’s language can be a struggle, keeping up with the words and devices. Watching from above, however, whilst Romeo and Juliet professed their anguish and love in the Balcony scene, what I really noticed was the raptness of the audience. They surrounded Romeo – that’s him with the face paint, on a ladder below on the left. People were just looking and listening so intently, carried away by the words and their message of love. It was magical.

She speaks.
O, speak again, bright angel! For thou art
As glorious to this night, being o’er my head,
As is a wingèd messenger of heaven
Unto the white, upturnèd, wondering eyes
Of mortals that fall back to gaze on him
When he bestrides the lazy-puffing clouds
And sails upon the bosom of the air.

Context and culture: It’s what we do here…

Every now and then this turns up on social media, and I remember how important it is:

Previous posts have set out the Westfield Way – see March post.

These are our expectations, our non-negotiables and our culture for both staff and students – this is the way we do it at Westfield Academy.


Because we have seen over time that this works for our students and staff.

So next question is what conditions are needed here to make them work?

  • Collegiality – the power of the team and creating alignment
  • Creativity – working with these foundations and making them part of our own day-to-day professional practice in our classroom. As subject teachers embedding them in how we teach our subject and mesh with our own personalities and practice.
  • Forward-looking – using all that we offer with regards CPD and developing this practice, especially subject-wise. This next half term there will be a real focus on moving onwards from the foundations now in place and embedding key next steps:

New specs



Assessment for Learning

Differentiation/ Scaffolding/ Extension

Broadening subject knowledge through use of twitter / social media

  • Modelling, always modelling – we never know when students and staff need us to hold the line and tough it out. Believe the culture, and trust the system.
  • Habit –  “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” — Aristotle
  • Relationships – these will come with the emdedding of the systems and expectations. The context, and quality of any school is based on the human relationships within, and these relationships are the glue for our Academy, and get us out of the bed come November
  • Be open – do I need support on this, as well as…
  • Who can I help?
Elvis helps Johnny Cash


The text below comes from Andy Buck’s Leadership Matters:

He writes of leaders at all levels helping to create great schools, and with it great learning. And that is the context for all of us.




PMR preparation & planning for Success

It is getting to that time of the term when you are due your PMR review. This can be stressful and at times, quite an overwhelming process, especially when you want to show off your skill and show that your precious pupils are making the progress expected of them.

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so how do you plan a brilliant lesson and help the observer know your class?

The success is all in the planning and your observation pack!

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So what exactly is a PMR observation pack? and how will it help me? 

This is evidence of you, your class and how you help them take the necessary steps to succeed and make progress. That’s a big task- and sometimes a lot of what you do in the classroom can be overlooked, especially when you only have 60mins to highlight the 60 hours you have put in place that week! So therefore, we need to break it down and make it very clear- exactly what we have done and HOW it will impact your learners.

1st. Context sheet- the bible of your lesson plan. 

model context sheet

2nd. Seating plan- annotated. 

images (1)

3rd. Lesson plan- 5 min plan- very clear breakdown of the direction of the lesson. 

5 minute lesson plan

4th. Annotated/ labelled lesson ppt/ resources

copy of lesson


5th. Scaffold/ differentiated/ extension tasks and labelled with what students. 


6th. Questioning

maths 5

You need to question and check pupil progress and every given opportunity. Go between higher and lower order questioning. Check their understanding- reflect on their understanding- adapt if necessary. challenge them- stretch their capacity. Don’t give up on them.


Make sure you have made it explicitly clear which students will require scaffold  work and what their starting point is. This makes it very easy for the observer to understand what progress has been made and if it is sufficient. The clearer you make this for your observer the easier your observation will be.

images (2)

Lastly, Please do not try some new and technical strategy on the day of your observation- this is bound to be difficult and could be a disaster. Practise what you want to get better at in the lead up to your observation. Try new techniques and try them every day until they are a success- new strategies take time, effort and care to be successful. Remember Observers are looking for progress over time.





Preparing for PMR: Supporting Success


PMR can be a  stressful time for colleagues and it involves a lot of planning and preparation- especially when we want to achieve our targets and grow into the best teachers we can.

So for our recent CPD cycle, we decided to change up our training and design a pick and mix style session- where staff brought their Pre-Pmr observation booklets and evaluated their successes and where they wold like to improve.

Westfield Academy PrePMR evaluation

We then provided a range of support/ resources and guidance for staff on a number of areas, that we, as the teaching & Learning team, decided were crucial for staff development.

IMAG1270.jpgimages (14)

Below we have broken it down into essential sections for a successful observation (whether you are NQT, training or a well-established teacher) there are resources that everyone can use and adapt and more importantly make your life just that little bit easier!


  • Input-Activity-Review Cycle
  • Starters and Plenaries



5 minute lesson plan





questioning stems


Stretch and Challenge 

stretch an challengethinking-cats

Learning Objectives and Outcomes


Context sheets & Lesson Pan

  • what should go into a context sheet?
  • How much Information is too much?
  • Seating plans

learning diversity.png

model context sheet

5 minute lesson plan

Assessment for Learning 

  • Mind maps for reviews and consolidation

maths cross curricular

  • In lesson strategies

afl 4

  • Keyword Tennis as a fun consolidation activity

key word tennis

  • Blue Stickers and Whole School marking Policy

afl 3


Behaviour For Learning 

Behaviour 4 Learning Strategies

Behaviour for Learning Class Jobs


A successful observation is a combination of fantastic planning, enthusiasm and ensuring you do everything to ensure your pupils make adequate progress.

Top Tips:

  1. Ask colleagues to team teach/ look over your lesson plans in the lead up to your observation- subject specialists could give you great ideas.
  2. Don’t plan to use a new whizzy AFL strategy in your observation if you have never trialled it beforehand.
  3. Prepare using a simple 5min plan
  4. Be consistent and follow policy procedures to ensure a calm learning environment
  5. Question throughout your lesson- ensure you know where pupils are at in their learning cycle. Act upon it- adapt- if they are not sure.




Recruitment at Westfield Academy

One term in at our new build and we are looking for new teachers to join us for 2017-18.


We have an Open day for teachers on Wednesday 29th March from midday, so get in touch at if you would like to meet us and look around.

We have opportunities for colleagues of all experiences, including training for those wishing to join the profession. We believe our CPD programme, outlined in the Blog, will support colleagues to continue developing their skills, and deliver outstanding learning in the classroom.

We believe the following applies to schools as much as it does classrooms.

The best classrooms are those where nobody feels anonymous, unsupported or under-valued – and that includes the teachers and teacher assistants.