Skip to content


December 30, 2014

A year ago yesterday I wrote my first blog #Nurture1314. At the time I had started to enjoy reading the bogs of many school leaders and teachers from all across the country. The Nurture post was a way of “getting in on the act” and become a blogger.

I’m writing this post to mark the 1st anniversary of my blog and to reflect on 2014 and look forward to 2015 (which of course is the whole point of @ChocoTzar’s Nurture idea).

In my original Nurture blog from last year my 14 targets for 2014 were:

1. To improve my teaching. I think I can say that I did improve my performance in the classroom in 2014. Last January saw the biggest change to the way I teach when I tried #RAG123 marking after being suitably impressed by @ListerKev’s blog. This “every book every lesson” approach, coupled with using SOLO taxonomy to set challenging learning outcomes for lessons led to the (incredibly self indulgently titled) “routine” to be developed. The “routine” means that I can mark a class set of books and plan for the next lesson in 10-20 minutes. It is efficient and I would like to think that it means that I can deliver consistently good lessons as my default. The focus is on what pupils will learn/perform/achieve rather than on what tasks they will be doing.

2. Start blogging. In just over a year I have published 15 blog posts.This was beyond my expectations when I started. Blogging has been a brilliant mechanism to gather my thoughts and ideas and to put them out for public scrutiny. It is a real source of pride that many of the people that inspired me to start blogging are the ones that read, comment and retweet the link to my blogs. My second blog on my RAG123 experiment has been read over 4000 times. My blog has been read in 87 different countries. I can only thank the many people on twitter that have supported and encouraged me this year. There are far too many to mention but I am hugely grateful. To be able to blog I have needed the support of my wife and I’m fortunate that I have this. She encourages me and is very proud of my output although she is not quite as interested in the stats as I am (but I’m nearly on 20 000 darling). I also have the full support of my headteacher. I am conscious that he could say to me rather than write that blog last weekend why didn’t you do x and y which I am still waiting for? Again I am fortunate that I have his full support (and challenge when necessary).

3. Play more golf (and better). I have certainly regained my appetite for golf and have been going for regular lessons. With great feedback and lots of practice I know I can improve further.

4. Spend more time with the family. As with every person that works in education, the work/life balance is a constant issue. My eldest son plays football on Saturday mornings and this is the highlight of my week. Tuesday is always a night off from school work. The plan for the year was to get all of the weekend work done on Friday and/or Saturday leaving Sunday as a family day. This has worked for most of the year. To help in this regard my wife insists that Twitter gets deleted from my phone on a Saturday morning and reinstated Monday morning. This helps because Twitter is so addictive.

5. To create a better Timetable. I think I achieved this although the timetable for 2014-15 led to just as many sleepless nights as the first one I did for the year 2013-14. This may well be the nature of the beast.

6. To assist in the creation of a teaching and learning policy for the school. This manifested itself in the 10 features of effective lessons document that I blogged about here. This is something that I am very proud of and the hope is that these 10 features will continue to be points of improvement for all staff. The twilight INSET sessions on each of the 10 features are going well

7. To assist in updating the assessment policy. This is now nearly complete. It is called the assessment, feedback and closing the gap policy. The working party are putting the finishing touches to it and it should be released in the new year. We hope it will be a flexible document that each department can tailor to make it work for the pupils in their subject.

8. Work more efficiently. This is, and always will be a work in progress.

9. To help Year 11 as a cohort get the results they deserve. In 2012-13 we had record breaking results. In 2013-14 we had a dip. We were expecting a drop but we were collectively disappointed with what the cohort achieved. From my point of view I hope I have learned many lessons. If I could go back a year there are things I would have done differently. As a school we are now focused on getting the best possible results from our current Year 11 cohort.

10. Make sure my Year 11 teaching group are successful in their applied science GCSE. I was very pleased with the results from this group. I’d like to think that RAG123 marking and the improvement in my lesson planning had the desired effect. This coupled with the ruthlessly high expectations from my Head of Science meant that the pupils delivered what I was expecting.

11. To use Twitter for CPD. This has been an absolute revelation this year. The number of colleagues that are prepared to give up their time to interact, share, support and challenge never ceases to amaze me. The highlights have been:

  • Having a few of my blogs included in @TeacherToolkit’s Monthly Education Panorama.
  • Being one of the 101 people to follow on Twitter, again by @TeacherToolkit.
  • @dan_brinton giving up an hour of his time to discuss learning intentions, expanding on his  brilliant blog here.
  • Being asked to proofread and give feedback on @LeadingLearner’s DIY CPD series.
  • Getting a mention at the end of @Headguruteacher’s “1000000 views” blog.
  • Having my blog Growth Mindset? as @shaun_allison’s blog of the week.
  • @Doug_Lemov writing a blog about the creation of our 10 features of effective lessons at Penyrheol. This was a fantastic endorsement of what we did.

12. Organise internal teach meets in school to better share the excellent practice that goes on (like @BelmontTeach and their magic Mondays). We ran a number of 15 minute forums in the Spring and Summer term. 6 different colleagues ran a number of sessions on topics as diverse as marking with symbols, the propeller effect and takeaway homework. I have blogged on some of them here, here and here.

13. To continue to learn more about our staff. A definite yes. They will also have learned more about me (mistakes and all).

14. Use Ipads for teaching and learning. We are still waiting for wifi to be set up whole school. It is a constant source of frustration for all at our school, particularly our ICT coordinator and our network manager. I am confident we have the skills in school to use this technology, when required to enhance the learning experience. As long as the focus remains on what the pupils should be learning and not on what they are doing I don’t forsee any issues. This book by @Simon_Pridham123 is a great resource on how to integrate technology into the classroom.

So that is my reflection done.

Here are my 5 targets for 2015

1. Spend more quality time with my family. This will be an ongoing target for me I am sure. We need to continue to make Sunday our family day and plan activities such as swimming, going to the cinema or bike riding. In August we go on our first holiday abroad for a number of years. We can’t wait. My kids are 12, 9 and nearly 6 and I’m already wondering where the time has gone.I have been reminded by @Andyphilipday to never take any family moment for granted. As I’m getting older I can see just how true this is. And while I am on about quality time….. I want to score 36 points regularly off an 18 handicap. My golfing group aim to play fortnightly and this is very aspirational target.

2. Get better at teaching. I hope to find more marginal gains in 2015. There is much that I can learn from Twitter. I can also learn a huge amount from my colleagues. I also want to get better at being a deputy head. I have shaken off imposter syndrome but I know that I still have so much to learn. I am fortunate to be part of a very supportive SLT. If I can’t become a good deputy head in their company then frankly I don’t deserve my job.

3. Learn from other schools. In 2015 I’m excited to be working with a number of schools across Swansea to further improve standards of teaching and learning. My brief is to see how excellent teaching and learning is identified and disseminated across the whole school. I am also involved in a project on reducing the effect of deprivation on attainment. We have 7 of our staff in the project group. This is being coordinated by one of the SLT and the local University UWSTD. Like every school this is a hugely important issue for us. Narrowing the attainment gap is a principal priority for the school. It is an issue of social justice. Part of our “research” will be visiting a number of schools across Wales where they have implemented strategies and successfully narrowed that gap. This is an exciting opportunity which should give us plenty of food for thought going forwards.

4. Promote Growth Mindset whole school. I have made some tentative steps with this as this blog chronicles. I think promoting these values loud and clear could help our school get to the next level. Our aim is to get to 70% of our cohort achieving 5 A*-C including English & Maths and ensuring all of our pupils and staff have a growth mindset will certainly help. How powerful could the concept of “yet” be for many of our pupils?

5. Keep the main focus on whole school teaching and learning. Having created the 10 features of effective lessons document and having a twilight inset on each, the next challenge is to continue to convince all colleagues that improvement is necessary and possible for all (as @dylanwiliam says because we can) . My personal area for development is without doubt effective questioning. I am simply not good enough at it. Our intention in 2015 is to video some of our best “questioners” in action and then make these available for all staff. This would be a resource which could make a positive difference to my teaching. Time is the biggest barrier to change in schools. Staff (myself included) need reassurances that making small changes, such as having clearer learning intentions or asking “better” questions, are marginal gains that are worth initially investing time into.

If you have read this far then thank you very much. I promise my next blog will have fewer words and more pictures…..


From → Nurture

  1. jillberry102 permalink

    Great stuff, Damian. Congratulations on all you’ve achieved this year, and may 2015 be even more positive and rewarding. Keep writing! I always enjoy reading what you have to say.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. The Nurture 14/15 Collection | Freeing the Angel
  2. #Nurture 1415 posts all in one place | A Roller In The Ocean

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: