Aim: To improve the quality of teaching and learning by having middle leaders lead regular subject-specific in-school continuing professional development (CPD). To maintain a consistent focus on successful assessment for learning and to improve school CPD by using students’ own research on the quality of learning.

Background: After the 2008 Ofsted inspection, which assessed the school as Good overall with many Outstanding features, it was decided to harness colleagues’ latent enthusiasm for their subjects to balance the effects of constant curriculum change and inspection pressure.


Year 1: The “Blue Sky” database system was implemented to collect and monitor lesson observation grades and CPD feedback. All staff took part in Teacher Learning Communities with an in-depth focus on pedagogy. 75% of staff took part in peer observations to reflect and improve upon current practice. A team of four early-career teachers were trained in the latest research into good learning and developed this with staff within subject areas.

Year 2: Four of the best heads of department were appointed to the Senior Leadership Team to strengthen the leadership of subject-specific training. 80% of staff took part in peer observation. Two departments (English and Science) shared subject-based CPD at curriculum heads’ meetings. All members of the English, Geography and Mathematics departments used lesson DVDs to discuss effective subject-based teaching and learning.

Year 3: A new student academic council was established to carry out a teaching and learning research project. The student inquiry, Agency, voice and participation, was presented to colleagues and the feedback from teaching colleagues was the most positive ever received. The training students and staff received in research methodology from Canterbury Christchurch University provided students with important additional skills and strengthened our local university links. Over half of the subject leaders led a staff CPD session despite timetabling and time constraints.

Year 4: Student action research projects were extended. An online survey of staff perception on improvements to the school’s performance management (PM) system was conducted, including views on the accreditation of staff CPD contributions within performance management.

Evidence: Subject reviews, lesson observations, staff surveys, student research.

Impact: Lessons assessed Good/Outstanding increased over 3 years from 85% to 91% (with 50% Outstanding). In Year 4 Ofsted inspectors rated the school as Outstanding in all areas and praised the “innovative” approach to school-led CPD. 83% of staff agreed that teacher learning communities had supported improvements in practice and implementation of new learning strategies. 93% also agreed that it had been useful to meet regularly with staff from other departments.

Reflections: Giving our teachers responsibility for delivering CPD helped produce the strong professional learning culture that we have now. Our new student academic council has been a great success, with senior students given the opportunity to present their findings to staff. Middle leaders’ involvement in our performance management moderation committee also helped us to build trust as it represents our commitment to our self-improving school.

Contact: Simon Decker,