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No grades, but high value

target_webbridgwater college academy‘Courageous leadership for professional accountability’ – a key theme of our Redesigning Schooling in Action case study series that is at the forefront of Bridgwater College Academy’s recent success. The academy, an all-through 3-16 school in Somerset, uses a system of lesson observation in which the teacher being observed sets the criteria for the observation.

Crucially, no marks or grades are given. The result has been staff highly motivated to develop their professional skills and value – and the best results in the school’s history.

The purposes of lesson observation at BCA are to:

  • accurately portray what is happening in the classroom
  • stimulate professional reflection and dialogue
  • inform the coaching process and future developments at the academy
  • help deepen an understanding of teaching and learning
  • make even better teachers.

Teachers are formally observed three times a year, in November, February and June: only those in February involve SLT members. The observations in November and June are undertaken by the teacher’s line manager and/or another colleague. Many observations are done in pairs so staff can learn from each other. The teacher determines the time and group to be observed.

No tick boxes

There are no boxes to tick, or grades to note, in observation forms, which are used solely to prompt reflection and professional dialogue. In the November and June observations there are often no evaluative comments unless requested by the teacher, just information on which to reflect.

Follow-up meetings discuss what was observed and the next steps, adapting the PDP where appropriate.

The February observations are undertaken by the academy leadership team and lead teachers, often in pairs. Again, no judgements are given but the focus is more on evaluation against the teacher’s PDP criteria.

Observers are in the lesson for the whole time (75 minutes in secondary phase, 60 minutes in primary phase).

Although lessons are not judged, teaching at the academy is rigorously monitored and graded in the SEF, based on a combination of lesson observations and student progress.

In 2014, for the first time, results in all key stages were above the floor targets. The school’s journey in terms of A*-G GCSE grades showed a marked increase of 30% pre-academy in 2010 to 85% in 2014.

An update on the case study: last month, the academy was able to show its results for 2015 were the best ever at all phases: EYFS, KS1, KS2 and GCSE.

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