A bit of a mix – pupil voice, surveys, reflection, impact, an Olympian, a cup, a conference and a pit…

It has been a while since I last wrote a blog… I have been adding to this blog on and off for the last few weeks as so much has been happening across our school. I thought I better finish it as December will be upon us soon and all things Chrsitmassy…

At the end of September our pupil voice groups met for the first time this session. Our pupils voice groups / focus groups are vertical groups from P3 – P7 with representatives feeding back to our infant classes. We have a variety of groups, one of which is our Learning Council who played a fundamental role in helping to establish our Legendary Learning List last session. Their drive and creativity was excellent. We have a new group of pupils this year who I know will continue to embed the hard work completed by last year’s group. Collectively, we decided on key aims for the year ahead. The group want to look at how well the Legendary Learning List has been understood and embedded in our school for pupils, staff and parents. They want to ensure each class is using and developing the Midlothian Learner and that pupils are thinking about and reflecting on skills they are learning and using in their learning.


So… where did we start? Our Learning Council devised questionnaires and these have been given out to all pupils, parents and staff. Our House and Vice Captains who lead our learning council helped to collect the data. We now have a clear picture of where each of our key groups are at. When the Learning Council meet next they will work on a plan to help tackle some of the areas that need improvement as a result of the feedback from the questionnaire – here are our results.

l-l-l-staff-feedback         parents-nov-16   legendary-learning-list-questionnaire-nov-2016        midlothian-learner-feedback-collated

As always, evidence informs us and helps move us forward with next steps. This session has been about letting things settle, embed and allowing us to reflect on the impact of our work so far. We want to ensure we have consistency across classes.

Our P1’s have started work on introducing the Legendary Learning List by taking a new word each week and slowly modelling that. Our common language creates consistency across our school with all learners using the same vocabulary.

All staff will be given a copy of the results to help them to focus on key areas that they would like to develop in their classrooms with their pupils.

In terms of reflection… it was a year ago that our SLT completed our Visible Learning School Matrix after attending EIA – a lot has happened in a year so we felt it was good time to revisit the Matrix to look at the impact our work has had. As a staff, we came together to look back at last year’s results to look at where we are now. Staff worked in groups to reflect on where we are now. There was lots of great dialogue and discussion around evidence. It really was powerful hearing staff discussing where we are using evidence to support us. We have key areas that we still need to develop but coming to that conclusion together as a staff was a good experience and our trust in each other and our work was growing as a result.

Following on from our work on Inspired and Passionate teachers we revisited the pupil surveys and classes were given out the surveys to complete again. Class teacher will be given their feedback and will have the chance to look at key areas to develop. As staff we will come together in the new year to look at teacher mindframes and how they can tie in and support us in developing the Inspired and Passionate Teacher strand. This has been a real shift in thinking for us as a staff. Seeking feedback from our pupils to inform our practise was slightly alien to us and took a while to get our heads around the process – we are still working through that process. It was daunting but actually really worthwhile as it is all about where we are now and using it move forward to improve impact for our pupils and for us as teachers and learners.

I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to share our work on Inspired and Passionate Teachers at the Scottish Visible Learning Conference on 7th November. This was such an amazing experience and I was lucky enough to be able to share it with teachers from Lasswade and Roslin as they shared work they had been doing in their schools.

It was great to network and to hear John Hattie himself share his key messages, of which there were many. You can read and get a flavour of the day through a Storify that Sarah Philp created. The day itself was such a success and that was down to Sarah and her team!

Here is the link to the Storify – https://storify.com/mideps/vlscotland

I attended a few workshops and as our next step is feedback the feedback workshop gave me a good grounding for moving forward, we still have lots to do before then but I was able to think ahead to how we might begin and how to prepare to gather our baseline evidence.

Before we start looking at feedback we need to ensure that we have key elements in place to ensure that feedback is relevant, current and has stickability. Our VL working group are holding Professional Dialogue sessions as we did last year, our first is on Learning Intentions and Success Criteria, using Shirley Clarke’s Outstanding Formative Assessment as a basis for discussion. As always we are using sweet and treats to entice our staff – Lolly Pops and Learning Intentions and Sweets and Success Criteria. This takes place in 2 weeks time.

Similarly to Roslin and other school across Midlothian, we have been lucky enough over the last few weeks, to have had a number of visitors to our school who really encapsulate some of the key elements of a Visible Learner. We too had Caitlin McClatchey visit us who shared her inspirational story of her journey to the Commonwealth games and the Olympics. So many key aspects of our Legendary Learning List came through in Caitlin’s story. Hearing how someone has followed their dreams through making mistakes, preserving, practicing and making connections really brought it alive for our pupils and staff. Caitlin translated that into real life for us and it really motivated us and inspired us to continue the work we are doing.

The following week we were visited by the Scottish Cup Tour with the theme and key message of the tour being Perseverance, again a key word on our Legendary Learning List and one of the most used words which come through in our survey results. The story highlighted how hard work and determination pays off using a real life example. We were able to talk about and transfer the key skills and how we can use these in our learning.

On Friday Midlothian was visited by James Nottingham again, we had one of our teachers and Learning assistant observe James in the classroom with pupils from Gorebridge and St Davids Primary. In afternoon more of our team went along to hear James share his work on the Learning Challenge. It was an inspiring afternoon from which we all came away with lots of ideas and key messages to take back to school. Something that stuck with me and really links in with developing visible learners, is the idea of sharing the process of learning and not just the end product – make the journey visible at each stage to show the process and progress.  There was lots of discussion around high quality dialogue linking with feedback – feedback in best within dialogue. This again helped me to think about where we go next as a school and how we can work together to develop this. James set us lots of questions during the afternoon and we were to discuss the “so what” it challenged us and focused us to talking about the impact that his ideas, suggestions and observations can have on pupils and teachers in our school. Another key messages was – challenge. How can we create desirable difficulties to enhance learning. We don’t want to smooth the path for our learners – we want to make it so they have to think, block their normal route and share challenge as something interesting and not deemed as something hard – easy is boring and challenge is interesting.


Thank you for reading!


New session update

It is hard to believe that we are more than half way through our first term back at school and I am just getting around to writing a blog… a busy, productive and reflective start to the session.

All our staff and pupils have had a positive start to the session. We have welcomed our new Head Teacher, Mrs Bowen, who will be working with us until Christmas. She has been truly impressed with our polite and hard working pupils who like to talk about and share their learning.

Our School Improvement Plan has been finalised and as always is a key visual feature in our school. At the moment it is looking a bit bare as staff are working together to create their action plans for taking our key areas forward. Our SIP was a collective approach involving all stakeholders. Visible Learning is evident throughout our SIP and really underpins what we are aiming for. Our over arching theme is – Developing Assessment Capable Visible Learners. Our SIP is based on evidence, baselines and aspirations. Staff will finalise plans this week as we meet to share our vision for taking each key area forward. During the planning process we have been drilling down and looking at the knowledge and practices for staff, pupils and parents that need to be common practice and consistent across our school in order to have sustainability.

We are continuing to work on embedding our Legendary Learning List (L.L.L) as mentioned in previous blogs. This is very visible around our school with classes engaging in our key dispositions in different ways in our classrooms. We are looking forward to sharing with each other how this is being used and the impact this is having. By creating the correct ethos and modelling this language will allow this to become further embedded and consistent across our school. We are really trying to raise the profile of the L.L.L and celebrate each of the key areas. One of the ways we are doing this is during citizenship where we share and model each disposition but also by celebrating success by using our new bright and bold stickers. Pupils share their experiences of using the L.L.L and how it has helped them to become a better learner.


An important development for us this session and one that sits very well with our L.L.L. is the Midlothian Learner statement.


All schools across Midlothian are working on developing these qualities. Schools will be approaching this in different ways and I am looking forward to sharing practice and looking at how we can ensure that it is used effectively.

As a school we took a baseline and asked our pupils about each of the seven key areas – what did they know / what are we doing in school and what could we do?

We were then able to create statements for each of the 7 areas of where we are now, we want to go and how we are going to get there.

Here are some examples;

midlothian-learner-evaluation-q3        midlothian-learner-evaluation-q2-1

Staff are focusing on the next steps outlined and working towards making the Midlothian Learner a key part of our classroom practice. We are ensuring that we draw close links with our L.L.L as they come hand in hand.



In Midlothian we have been extremely lucky to have had the opportunity to take part in some truly inspiring CLPL in the short space of time we have been back and there is even more still to come! Sir John Jones visited Midlothian and left us inspired with ‘sparkling eyes’ ready to ‘weave our magic’. His key messages of making excellent leadership a habit and that ‘there is always a better way’ made me reflect on my practice closely and certainly sparked lots of discussion in our SLT  about how we move forward.  Thinking of our pupils and building and developing pupil/teacher relations struck a cord with me as I work on doing this with my new class – ‘What can I do to make this year better for you?’ and focusing on the emotional side of things to be dream builders. A huge aspiration for me was ‘ They will be smart enough if I am good enough’. This sits well with the work we are doing on Inspired and Passionate Teachers when looking at teacher mindframes and reflecting on our practice in order for us to grow and improve. I left that day after tears and laughter feeling truly uplifted and inspired to go back and make a difference.

As if that wasn’t enough… Guy Claxton visited Midlothian on Friday afternoon and gave us lots of food for thought – my brain was buzzing with ideas as I thought about how I could take back his ideas and reflections to our school and continue to make a difference. Key messages I took away were ‘If you want it, coach it’ and we are ‘learning designers’. As a school a next step for us is for our pupils to ‘self activate’ and use the learning dispositions we have been working on, independently and to discuss and give examples of these. Alongside this we need to be thinking about progression and ensuring that we teach these dispositions and create environments for our pupils to use these. We want to develop ‘better learners’ and to equip our pupils with skills for learning ensuring that the language we are using is understood, modeled and given the space to be developed. It truly was a ‘fruitful’ afternoon with lots of staff going away and thinking about what they will do differently next week. I am looking forward to sharing key messages with staff as we look to grow and develop together.

Collaboration and sharing practice is such a key part of growing and improving and through the use of blogs, twitter and networking this is possible. I look forward to more learning and collaborating this session.  This session has started off so positively, I am looking forward to seeing where it takes us.

Reflections and Evaluations

It has been a long time since I last wrote a blog, too long in fact. This time of year is so busy as I am sure you all know. It is a time for reflecting, evaluating and thinking of successes and next steps.
Hawthornden has seen many successes within Visible Learning this year and with that comes next steps too. As a final blog for this session I just wanted to share some of those with you…

We have created a Visible Learning Aspiration for our school which we aim to fulfill;

All Learners at Hawthornden exhibit the characteristics of an Assessment Capable, Visible Learner. They understand and can describe what they are learning, how they are doing and where they will go next. Together staff will share assessment results with Learners and Parents and together we will work on these.
This really helps to focus us and to set our sights high on what it is we are working towards and aiming for.
A key highlight for us was taking part in the VLNetworkUK visit in March. This was such a fantastic day. It was inspiring to work with and enter into dialogue with so many professionals. We opened our doors to lots of visitors on the day and this really helped to validate where we were and to help with our next steps.

Pupil voice has been a huge part of our journey… In particular when it came to developing our Learning Dispositions. Staff worked alongside our Learning Council – a vertical group made up of pupils from P1-7 to look closely at developing Learning Dispositions. We wanted to create a set of Learning Dispositions that were based and underpinned by research but that also incorporated pupil voice. We took baseline statements of ‘How do you learn’ and then after input and direction from teachers we asked the same question again. From this evidence pupils in the Learning Council devised a list of common words from across the school. We then mapped the words on to Guy Claxton’s Learning Powered Brain to ensure there was a clear  coverage. The Learning Council set to work decided on a name and how these words would be shared across our school. Pupil voice lead the way with the whole school voting for a name for our list of words – The Legendary Learning List. Posters were designed by the pupils and then printed. Each word was then shared during Citizenship with a focus week and application challenge set for each word. Our aim now is to continue to embed these further in our daily routines and ethos across our school.  Each pupil was given a bookmark to take home with a supporting booklet to share with parents on our work on Learning Dispositions.
A3 Legendery Learning Poster %28Hawthornden%29 (1)

Pupils are now able to discuss ‘good learner’ qualities. There has been a shift in thinking between our baseline statement in March 2015 of ‘what makes a good learner’ to March 2016. The focus on behaviour is slowly disappearing, there are still some references to behaviour but there is more of a focus now on the process and the learning qualities.

Pupil Baseline Statements – March 2015
Children at Hawthornden Primary School think a Good Learner:
• Listens
• Concentrates
• Tries their best
• Is confident
• Uses feedback to improve
• Has a positive attitude in class and school
• Works together
• Puts their hand up
• Looks at the teacher
• Follows the school rules
• Gets the answers right
• Sits up straight
• Finishes their work Impact March 2016

Pupil Baseline Statements – March 2016

Children at Hawthornden Primary School think a Good Learner

• Growth Mindset – persevere, determined, never gives up
• Makes Mistakes
• Sets Targets
• Works with others
• Goes into the Learning Pit
• Focuses / concentrates
• Works with others
• Likes a challenge / Aims High
• Practices
• Reflects
Visible Learning surveys were carried out in September 2015 and then re-visited in May 2016 – this showed a significant shift across the school in pupils understanding what they are learning and the strategies for learning and their views on mistakes.

Evidence from class walk throughs and our pupil conference provided lots of examples of when and how pupils can talk about their learning e.g. reflection logs, target setting, PAT PALS and through focus group work on voice on the table. During our recent VSE (Validated Self Evaluation) Pupils were able to talk about their learning and use Growth Mindset set language as well as show some of the characteristics of a Visible Learner.
Staff evaluated themselves against the teacher mindframes – the common themes that were areas of development were Language of Learning and Dialogue Vs Monologue. Staff then worked together to create a shared vision for each mindframe as something to aspire to. As a result staff collaborated to develop a coaching model approach to support the development of the key mindframes in their classroom practice. Trios where created and staff visited each others classrooms to look at the learning and the evidence of the chosen mindframe. A coaching session took place where staff made and set targets to work on developing that mindframe further. This has lead to a greater relational trust with a culture of collaboration. Common themes and practice have been developed. Staff previously were reluctant to observe and enter classrooms – this has now improved. Staff have reflected on our school journey and their own journey at key stages throughout the year and have selected highlights and made aspirations.


We have a greater emphasis and use of professional reading and research resulting in professional dialogue focused on learning. The evidence and impact of this is the well attended professional reading groups and the spread of good practice as a result of the impact of research in classrooms.

Our successes have allowed us to think about where we want to go next… some of the key areas we will look to focus on next session are;

• To continue to develop the language of learning in our school – looking at the formation of L.I and S.C which will provide a foundation for further work on feedback. This will focus more on skills which will support the reflection of learning journeys.

• Continue to work on and embed Legendary Learning List so that all pupils can name and apply these confidently in their learning and give examples.

• To work on staff and pupils sharing assessment data and knowing how they have done in their last assessment.

• More consistent use of target setting and next steps across all classes and modelling good practice and the learning journey through WAGOLL and Learning Ladders.

• Continue to develop teacher mindframes and create a common and shared vision for each mindframe.
• Use of challenge in classrooms to be deemed as a positive and to continue to emphasis Growth Mindset.

• Continue to use survey data to reflect on practice and use this to measure impact.

• Sharing good practice and evidence of impact to support and motivate staff – Matrix to support practice.

• Continue staff reading groups – to support development of mindframes and visible learners.
• Gather baseline evidence to begin to look at feedback in classroom from pupils and teachers.

Visible Learning continues to form a key part of SIP for next session and I am looking forward to continuing on our journey to see where it takes us next year. Collaboration and support from staff, pupils, parents, EPS, local schools and the VLNetwork have undoubtedly been a huge factor in helping us on our journey – Thank You!


Pupil Voice and Partnership working

As always it has been super busy at Hawthornden… The final term is always a busy one!! We have a lot to fit in this term, planning and preparations have already begun as we look forward to next session.

Our latest staff reading group was on Visible Learning Case Studies. This book had been on our list for a while and as always we teamed this up with some sweet treats… cookies and Haribo, it helps us to concentrate 🙂


It was perfect timing, for this particular book, as it allowed us time to read about others schools and their journeys’, which is always fascinating. It also gave us time to reflect on our journey at the same time. We split into groups and we each took a different case study. We focused on ones that had looked at similar strands to us as we felt they would be most beneficial to us and would help us move forward. It was really interesting to read about their evidence gathering and their baseline data and how they moved forward. It was comforting in ways as in some cases we had similar data and moved in a similar direction. We took the time to note down key elements from each school’s journey and fed this back to the group.  It was refreshing to hear groups talk about the case studies and then relate them to what we have been doing or could do as a result of the similarities we share. It gave us lots of food for thought and ideas to take away and think about in relation to our own evidence and baseline statements. It was also interesting to hear about the ‘impact’ their work has had as for us we always thinking of ways we can monitor, track and find the impact of our work – ‘Know Thy Impact’. We ended the group by thinking about our journey in a similar way to the case studies we had read. We answered similar key questions which will help feed into our SIP next year but also helped re-focus us and gave us a chance to mark our journey.


Our Legendary Learning List (Good Learner Qualities / Learning Dispositions) is really taking off. We have spent the last few weeks launching this during citizenship gathering. We are have having a real focus on how we can apply and use the words in our learning. It is one thing talking about them but we want our pupils to get in the habit of applying them in their learning and to talk about each one confidently.  Each week the pupils have been set challenges on the focused words such as tallying each time the word is used in learning…


Classes kept a record and then shared this at citizenship and we looked at which word they had used the most…


For the next challenge we asked  pupils to come prepared, to the next citizenship gathering with a piece of work that they had reflected on. We had great examples; closing the gap in writing, setting weekly targets, weekly reflection – something I enjoyed, found challenging, learned, found tricky and how I became a Good Learner.

Our current challenge is recording the number of questions pupils ask and the number of questions their teachers ask – classes have been asked to pick a day to do this challenge over the next week and they will bring along their results to citizenship. We really want to model good practice and to show the pupils how to use and apply the Legendary Learning List effectively in their learning.


We have a booklet ready to be sent home to parents detailing the words and their meanings and how we are sharing these in school and how parents can support at home. Our Learning Council have been a huge support during this process and have helped to design logos to go along aside each word on our list. Miss Ferguson has been busy refining these images which will be taken and made into posters that will be displayed around our school and in classrooms. These images will appear alongside our L.I and S.C and the hope is that it will help pupils remember the key words from our list and that they will start to use and apply these words in their learning. Here is a sneak preview of some…

Pupil voice has played a huge part in this process and we aim to continue to  let pupil voice lead the way. We are also proud that we have used reading and research to inform our practice and that our Legendary Learning List maps onto Guy Claxton’s Learning Powered Brain well.

On Thursday afternoon last week we welcomed lots of parents along to our PAT PAL session. These sessions have proved to be hugely successful. Our focus this time was on the Language of Learning. We have been working hard to create a common language of learning across our school and our ASG. A huge thanks to our P6 Learning Council for helping lead the way. We had a great turn out and the pupils were excited to share their learning and become teachers themselves. Classes had lots of activities planned that focused on our Words of the Week created by the P6 learning council. Some classes looked at Blooms Taxonomy and how they are using and applying these words in their learning. Our P6 learning council wrote a letter to all the parents detailing what the Language of Learning is and how parents can support at home… here is a copy of their letter



We asked parents for feedback too and we were pleased with the response, lots of ideas to take away and consider for next session…

We have our next CAT session on Tuesday where we will be looking at evaluating our SIP from this year and using this to help us think about priorities for next year, which will help feed into our new school improvement plan.

2 weeks ago, 6 of our pupils had the opportunity to share their knowledge and work on Growth Mindset on a local radio station. We were very proud of how confidently our pupils spoke and how they shared their learning with others.

Some of our staff are off to hear  James Nottingham speak on Friday afternoon. This is such an exciting opportunity and one that they will come back and share with the rest of our staff. His works plays a huge part in our school and we look forward to gaining more of an understanding and ways that we can embed his work further in our school. More of that in our next blog…

Thank You for reading!


VLAT – Building Capacity

On Friday 3 of our members of staff had the opportunity to attend day 1 of the Visible Learning Into Action programme. This was a great chance for them to extend their knowledge and for us to build capacity across our school. VLAT Day 1 focused on Visible Learning research and how teachers can use and interact with this to help them make connections and gather evidence in their classrooms. The teachers were shown how to carry out a Visible Learning ‘impact cycle’ which they will use and that they can share with the rest of the staff in our school once they have completed it.
Day 1 focused on two of the five strands; Visible Learners and Know thy Impact. The staff were asked to think about and focus on some key questions throughout the day –
• To what extent are my learners assessment capable learners?
• What do my pupils think about learning and how we learn?
• What is the impact I am having on all of my pupils?

Each member of staff has shared their highlights and an outline of their proposed focus.
Louise – P2 teacher
On Friday, I attended Session 1 of the Visible Learning into Action for Teachers. We began the session by exploring the concept of ‘Teacher as Evaluator’ considering how we as professionals evaluate our own practice, our impact on outcomes for learners and how we share, value and act on our evaluations. 95% of everything we do in the classroom works (having an impact of O+) but our job is to apply the strategies which work BEST and evaluate their impact. I liked the Dashboards of Success and plan to emulate this as a means to dig beneath the results of data and analyse instead the risk of progress for children – not just for the least able, but also to evaluate the level of challenge for the most able pupils too. The characteristics of a Visible Learner and of a Visible Learning Classroom were also explored and a key message I took from this was that children must be TAUGHT to become Visible Learners – something which resonates strongly with our current work on the Legendary Learning List. We used the Visible Learning Classroom matrix to reflect on how embedded Visible Learning is in our own classrooms. I identified from this that (amongst other things!) I need to work more on seeking feedback from children on my own practice and on sharing with children their next steps in learning. I also would like to continue my work on teaching children strategies and making them aware of HOW they are learning and plan to evaluate my progress in this through my focus question –
‘Can children in my class articulate what they are learning and how they are learning in numeracy?’
The tools and methods for my evidence gathering will be by means of ‘walk through’ by my Impact Partners (with tally charts to record pupil answers) and Focus Groups (also by my Impact Partners). The key message of Know thy Impact, I felt is about using the data that we gather (all the time in teaching!) to inform learning. A friend told me that weighing a pig doesn’t make it any fatter – assessing for the sake of assessing is pointless. It’s what you do and how you feed the pig afterwards that makes the difference… As such, I found the section on effect sizes really interesting, especially in how they can indicate the LACK of progress for some of our highest achievers. These are the children who on the surface appear to be scoring consistently high marks, yet their effect sizes can indicate that their progress gap may actually be narrower than some of the less able pupils indicating that these learners are not being challenged enough. As part of the evidence gathering for the impact cycle for this strand, my Impact Partners and I plan to use the results of MUNP assessments to calculate the effect size in numeracy. We also plan to develop our own pre and post Topic tests for at the start and end of a unit of topic work – in my case for an Africa topic. From this, we will be able to analyse our impact in both numeracy and in an IDL topic. Once we have gathered our evidence, we will attend another VL Impact Cycle meeting in order to analyse our evidence, write baseline evidence statements and from these choose a Focus Area to develop as the next part of the impact cycle. As you can see, we have lots to do between now and then but I’m quite excited to begin my very first Impact Cycle!

Eilidh – P3 Teacher
There were many highlights from the day and on reflection I now feel that I now have a much better understanding of how I can use assessment data to the impact of my teaching on pupil progress. Another highlight was gaining a bank of approaches that will enable me to incorporate more pupil voice into my assessments e.g. through focus groups and video diaries.
Through my action plan, I will investigate what children think is a good learner in numeracy and mathematics. I would also like to find out:
a) If children in my class choose learning activities that extend and challenge them (mild, spicy or extra hot problems)
b) Which strategies they use when they don’t know what to do
I aim to collect data through questionnaires and holding focus groups with groups of pupils.
Claire – P5 teacher
It was a great session led by Laura Kearny and it was a great opportunity to reflect on where I am as a teacher with my current class with Visible Learning. For me, one of the most valuable parts to the day was completing the visible learning classroom matrix; evaluating what my students can do and what they can talk about with regards to the elements of Visible Learning. There were lots of aspects that I believe are evident in my classroom, yet lots still to address over time. This exercise allowed me to consider what area I would like to focus on as part of my impact cycle. I decided on students talking about ‘where they are going, how they are going and where they will go next’. I touch on this in my classroom with particular curricular areas, such as writing, yet feel this is not yet embedded within my classroom. With my trio I plan to use written responses and a walkthrough so others and myself can assess the baseline statement. I came away from the day with lots of ideas about evidence gathering and felt confident after the day that my impact cycle would have a positive effect on my teaching and my class.

We are looking forward to following their journeys. It is a great opportunity for our school to build capacity and momentum. We are looking forward to seeing their evidence gathering results and then subsequently the impact of the work that goes on. It is an exciting time and a great addition to our journey.

Reflection and Preparation for the new term ahead

Feeling refreshed after a break away,  I took the time to reflect on last term and how we will use our evidence and experiences to move us forward in the coming term.
Last term was a busy, exciting and progressive term for us. The VLNetwork visit provided us with lots of reflection, feedback and self evaluation, alongside this we reflected and evaluated where we are as a staff and as a school looking at the National Improvement Framework, We also began looking at some of the challenge questions within HGIOS 4. With the help of the EPS and the links and documents they have provided us on HIGIOS 4 and NIF in realtion to VL, we have made sure that we consulted, studied and used these to reflect on our progress and impact. We used our VL evidence as shown in a previous blog and mapped this against NIF.


This let us see the areas that we were developing and the ones that we need to concentrate on. As a SLT team we began to think about next year’s SIP but we needed more evidence and reflection and as always we took this to the staff, it is a process we are all involved in.
During a staff CAT session we gave an overview of the NIF and looked at the key areas. In groups we then looked at each area individually and looked at the evidence we have, what we need to work on and how we are going to get there. We focused on the 3 key questions that feature heavily in our Visible Learning work as staff are familiar with these and what we can see now is that VL is the foundation of what we do, everything is now beginning to link and bond together. We wanted to make sure that we had examples of hard evidence rather just than what we think/feel. We wanted staff to think about the evidence that we we can actually put out hands on e.g data, practices, documents.
This exercise was a great start to our self evaluation process and gave us the chance as a staff to discuss, share and reflect together. We as an SLT will now take this all in and look over it for key themes and next steps. It will also help to feed into our Standards and Qualities report.

Lots of common themes came up in discussion in the groups, staff feel that there is now much more of an emphasis on staff professional development and professional reading and that we are working together to inspire and share with others, there was lots of chat and ideas about how we can continue to do this next session to keep the momentum going.
Another key area that came up  was the use of data to help us move forward. Staff talked about assessment data and that they now feel that they are using this in a more meaningful way and the attainment meetings and consistent referring to progress and achievement at key areas throughput the session has allowed them to focus more on this and to use the information we have. Staff also talked about the data we have gathered in terms of the VL strands and how they have used the results to improve their practice and the impact their teaching has. Staff were keen to re-do some of the questionnaires to look at progress – Know Thy Impact loud and clear!! This session took place in the last week of term where we were beginning to feel a bit tired and in desperate need of out holidays but the discussion was uplifting, positive and exciting. It was so nice to hear common themes coming through and staff passionate about the need for change and how we can continue doing what we are doing.
To end the session we looked at the impact of our coaching sessions. This was a huge step for us as a staff, we worked on the purpose and the format of the sessions and the development of the coaching model. This was all completed with each member of staff involved, which was a good way of building relational trust as it helped to develop some of the areas from our evidence gathering results. Our focus linked to teacher mindframes and staff were able to take ideas away from our teacher reading session to help them develop their chosen mindframe. Staff were asked to answer questions on what went well, impact, next steps for staff and improvements. We will look closely at this feedback when planning and preparing our second round of observations.

Next term will see us introduce our learning dispositions. This has been a long process that has involved all staff and pupils. We have taken our time to ensure that we get this right and that it is something that is understood by everyone. Pupil voice features highly in the work we are doing and we felt it was important to take the time to gather ideas and use these to move us forward. As mentioned in a previous blog we have our chosen words which link in closely with the work of Guy Claxton. The pupils voted for and have chosen the name for our dispositions – The Legendary Learning List. The Learning Council will now help to share these words with pupils and parents. This is an exciting time for us and will help us to continue to develop Visible Learner characteristics. More on this as it develops…
Parental involvement is so important to us and our PAT PAL (Pupils as Teachers, Parents as Learners) have been very successful. Our next session takes place in April and the focus will be on Language of Learning. This is something that we have focused a lot on with the support and drive from our ASG Learning Council and we are looking forward to sharing our work with our parents and involving them in the process as we continue to move forward. Our Learning Council have great ideas for the session and we look forward to working with them and sharing their ideas.
Since August I have been working on looking at effect size and Know Thy Impact in my class focusing on Numeracy. I was trialing this to see how it would work out. The learners have been involved at each stage. They were given an assessment in August as a baseline, they were then given the same assessment in November and then again in March. I tracked the progress at each stage and used different interventions to ensure that there was progress and achievement. There were lots of feedback sessions between myself and the learner, a chance for them to reflect and for me to offer support and ways of moving forward. I also involved parents too. In November the learners completed the assessment again and this time I filled out a feedback sheet for the pupil and their parents to see the areas that they had strength in and the areas they needed to work on. This took the form of easy questions I got right/wrong and hard question I got right/ wrong. Easy questions were questions that been taught and hard question referred to questions that has not been taught yet.

assessment feedback VL

I received lots of positive feedback from parents after receiving the information home. In March the learners sat the assessment again. Before I let them see their results I asked them to think about progress and achievement. We talked a lot about what these words mean. They were to reflect and think about where they are now and where they were in August. I then met individually with each leaner to share their results but also to hear from them about their progress and achievement. This for me, was such a worthwhile exercise to hear the learners reflect on their learning and to see their reactions to their results was great but to hear from them about how this has helped them and to hear learners talking about next steps. I recorded and shared some of these on our Twitter feed. 

Here are some examples of what the learners wrote…

The pupils will now take these home and share with their parents their progress and achievement.  I also tracked the effect size for each pupil. I focused more on the average spread as it was not a standardized test. There were ups and downs in the process and things I would do differently next time but all in all this was a great experience and something I spent a lot of time thinking about and working on. It made me think about my practice and the impact that my teaching was having. I was able to reflect on a number of the mindframes in particular – I see assessment as feedback to me.  I plan to share this with staff to see if there is something that we can develop together to use to support us next session – it fits in so well with assessment capable learners and closing the gap  which is sure to feature in our SIP .

Next term looks set to be a busy one… Reflecting on our journey this session makes me feel proud of where we have come from and excited about where were going!



VLNetworkUK visit to Midlothian

It has taken me almost a week to write this blog as there is so much to say. I spent a long time reflecting on the lead up to the day and of course after the day itself. It has been hard to put into words my thoughts and feelings about the day but in true Growth Mindset style I have given it a try…

I was privileged to be invited to Bader Primary back in September for the VLNetwork visit and I was truly inspired with the excellent practice that I witnessed and how well embedded the key principles of VL were. I took so much away from that experience and I was able to share practice and ideas and develop these in our own context and setting.  When the date came in for our visit I felt a mixture of excitement, nerves and I also felt privileged at being given this opportunity, I was looking forward to sharing our journey and receiving feedback on our work so far and where we go next. The visit came at a perfect time for us, as we are beginning to think about evaluating our impact this year of our SIP and looking forward to next years.

As a SLT team we took some time back in February to reflect on our whole journey and to look at the evidence we have gathered. This was such a worthwhile exercise and we couldn’t believe the amount of evidence we had. It helped to refocus us and it also showed us how far we have come. It was a great opportunity for professional dialogue and thinking ahead to the future. We displayed the evidence in our HT’s office and it is a real visual and focal point. Standing back and looking at it once we had finished was a proud moment for us all and an exciting one as we looked to see where we go next. This gave us something to talk around and share, not only with our visitors but with staff too. The following day there was a steady stream of staff who came to view the evidence and each of them went away feeling proud but also thinking of what they were going to continue to do. Our HT took the time to look at the National Improvement Framework and coloured coded it with the evidence we displayed. It was a really worthwhile exercise that allowed us to reflect on the areas we have covered and that we will continue to cover but also the ones that we need to work on. Our evidence wall also includes the links with VL and HGIOS 4 which Sarah, our Principal EP, developed. We have used this to guide us and reflect on throughout each stage. Here is our evidence and impact wall…



So the day itself… Well, where to start, it was a great networking opportunity and to be in a room full of professionals from all over Scotland, England and Wales was bound to be inspiring and thought provoking. The day did not fail to deliver!

The day began with input from our Head of Education which was a great way to start and set the tone and context for the day but also our vision and direction in Midlothian. HGIOS 4 and NIF featured highly and how we are linking our work with these to help move us forward. It highlighted the commitment and drive from Midlothian as a whole which is so important and really echoed the collective and collaborative approach that we are striving to achieve.

The morning consisted of 2 visits and our visitors could opt in to visit 2 schools. We were thrilled to welcome visitors to our school. We thought carefully about how we could best share our journey and our learners featured highly. We started by sharing our journey to set the context and then it was off to see the learners in action. Our first session visitors had the opportunity to visit classes and meet and chat with our learners. We made it clear that we were at the beginning of our journey and that we had made progress but we still have a long way to go. Our learners are beginning to talk more about their learning and learning qualities but this is still being worked on and some can do this better than others in the sense the can link it to their learning. This was an opportunity for us to get feedback too and for our learners to share with others. Our second session visitors had the opportunity to meet with focus groups of learners who answered key questions and our visitors had the opportunity to ask further questions. We ended our sessions with questions and feedback and this was such a valuable experience for us. We had lots of questions, some that were easy to answer and some that were challenging but in a positive way, this for me was great as I had think, reflect and use our evidence and what I know about VL to answer. We received lots of lovely feedback and to be honest we were overwhelmed and so proud of the lovely comments we received – we would like to say a massive thank you! It has helped us so much and we will use your comments, reflections and suggestions to help move us forward.


The stars of the show were undoubtedly the learners. To say I am proud of them is a total understatement… Each and every one of our pupils were a credit to themselves and our school. Listening to them share and talk about their learning was incredible. They answered honestly and truthfully. It was great to a step back and just listen to them talk. It highlighted where we have come from but also the areas we still need to work on and where to go next. I made sure I made clear to our visitors that this is very much a work in progress and that our aim is to work on creating consistency across our school for our learners and that we are not quite there “yet”…

The afternoon session was where we all came back together and had the chance to engage in professional dialogue and there were lots of questions relating to VL that our visitors wanted to ask. There were lots of questions linking in with attainment, impact and ways of beginning a VL journey and keeping the momentum going. It was great for me to answer these kinds of questions as I tried to ensure that my passion and enthusiasm for VL came across and that it was backed up with evidence and impact, this was not difficult and at times I probably said too much. When you can see the progress being made in your school and you feel it you can’t help but be positive and enthusiastic about it.

A key theme of the day was collaboration and that is at the heart of the VLNetwork. Collaboration helps to move us forward and forward is the direction we want to go in. Collaboration not competition is so important – like we say to our learners learn with and from other, we as professionals need to model that too. Sharing practice and impact is not about showing off but evidencing your journey and perhaps inspiring others along the way. I know that our journey has been influenced in a positive way from others school within the VLnetwork and beyond and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. It is about sharing and taking from it what you need for your setting and using your evidence and data to guide it in the direction that you need to go!

Nearly a week down the line, we at Hawthornden are still talking about the visit,  and I would imagine we will be for a long time to come. The impact for us has been huge and something that will stay with us for a long time to come.

The day itself was such a success and a lot time, thought and preparation went into it from Sarah and all the schools involved, it certainly was a privilege to be a part of such an exciting day!