2015-16 case studies

2015-16 Case-Studies

We were grateful to Pater Matthews OBE who wrote the foreword for this year’s case studies:

I am honoured be invited to contribute a foreword to this second volume of case studies. I recently met some year 11 students at Torquay Academy. They are terrific advocates for the school. They told me that the best thing about the school is ‘its teachers’. They extolled the consistently high quality of their teaching and personal support and counted themselves very fortunate to be students here. The students also recognised and respected the time and effort invested in the ongoing professional development of staff so as to refine teaching and learning. Uniquely, in my experience of talking to teenage students, they could think of no ‘even better if…’suggestions for the school.

The Principal’s avowed belief that every student could go to university is symptomatic of a school that is passionately committed to ‘success for all’. Stunning examination results, exceptional value added scores, better attendance, greatly reduced incidence of exclusions and – not least – the evidence that every student in key stage 3 is reading at least five times a week, are among the indicators of a hard-working, high-achieving and well-led school. These informative and inspiring case studies show some of the well-conceived strategies that underlie the school’s success. They are written by expert leaders who clearly work as a cohesive team in a culture of high expectations and mutual trust. The case studies give some clues as to why the school has taken off in the last two or three years and is flying high. Per ardua ad astra applies as much to Torquay Academy as to the Royal Air Force. I commend the case studies to a wide readership.


Peter Matthews OBE, PhD, FRSA

Visiting Professor, University College London – Institute of Education


Visualising a vision

It’s been 16 months since I took up my first headship at the wonderful Torquay Academy and it’s time to open up the blog again…  It’s been a (steep) learning curve, but I will save that for another post in the future.  I think it is sufficient to quote Leo McGarry from the West Wing “fake it till you make it”; I hope I am now starting to make it!

We had the pleasure of welcoming our Regional Schools Commissioner, Sir David Carter, to school yesterday.  During our tour Sir David took a photo of our school vision and tweeted it.  This led to me getting a number of messages asking to see a full image.

Screen Shot 2015-05-06 at 20.46.02


The image is based upon our Vision 2020 document that was written by our staff and other stakeholders.  I used the INSET session on my first day to gather the ideas of colleagues as to the type of school they wanted to work in by 2020.  I highlighted 12 areas of the school and our work grew into a rather lengthy document (TA Vision 2020 v12).  I wanted a rather more digestible Vision 2020 that could be shared with students, parents, governors…  I contacted the brilliant Joel Cooper, who I had met at a SSAT conference, in the hope he could bring our vision to life.  He produced this version initially:

torquay final small


Joel then made some adjustments so it would fit on our 8 x 2m wall.  It was fitted by local sign writer, Dean.  We are delighted with the results.  I will often talk to students during the day in front of the wall and discuss various aspects of our vision.  I also love the images and often use them in assemblies.



A commitment to write a guide to: Introducing iPads into your school

Apple Store Covent Garden

Wooly Matt via Compfight

Will a public declaration to do something encourage me to actually do it? I hope so.  The following is my planning – I have highlighted chapter headings and sub headings.  These may change as I go on, but they will hopefully guide me as I progress.

I will publish each chapter on here as I go and I’m not entirely sure what I’ll do with the final version.  I will try and ensure it is accessible to other.  I would welcome your thoughts and feedback.


Creating a vision for the future use of ICT

  • My approach to creating a vision for the future use of ICT
  • Creating a vision for the future use of ICT checklist

Why choose iPads?

  • Tablets v computer rooms
  • Tablets v laptops
  • iPads v other tablets
  • Dealing with the naysayers
  • My approach to why choose iPads
  • Why choose iPads checklist

Getting the infrastructure right

  • The tender process
  • Choosing a broadband connection
  • Type and size of connection
  • My approach to getting the infrastructure right
  • Getting the infrastructure right checklist

Buying your iPads

  • Price
  • Availability of stock
  • Support
  • Location
  • Choosing which iPad to buy
  • Protecting the iPads: cases
  • Protecting the iPads: insurance
  • My approach to buying your iPads
  • Buying your iPads checklist

Apple TVs

Staff training

  • My approach to staff training
  • Staff training checklist

Ongoing support for staff and students

  • Genius Bar
  • Digital leaders
  • Teacher learning communities
  • My approach to ongoing support for staff and students
  • Ongoing support for staff and students checklist

Setting up the iPads

  • My approach to Setting up the iPads
  • Setting up the iPads checklist

Running a pilot

  • Pilot with teacher enthusiasts
  • Pilots with a nominated class
  • My approach to running a pilot
  • Running a pilot checklist

Moving towards a 1 to 1 roll out

  • Paying for the 1 to 1 roll out
  • My approach to moving towards a 1 to 1 roll out
  • Moving towards a 1 to 1 roll out checklist

A bring your own device policy (BYOD)

  • My approach to a bring your own device policy (BYOD)
  • A bring your own device policy (BYOD) checklist

A guide to 11 essential apps

  • Safari
  • Keynote
  • Quesco
  • Popplet
  • iMovie
  • Explain everything
  • Google street view and maps
  • Book creator
  • Evernote
  • Socrative
  • Showbie

Other apps that can be used across the curriculum

  • iTunesU
  • Pages
  • Numbers
  • GarageBand
  • Camera
  • iBooks
  • QR reader
  • Puffin
  • iPlayer
  • Twitter
  • Evernote
  • Skitch
  • Google drive
  • Comic Life
  • I can animate
  • Skype
  • Khan Academy
  • TED talks
  • Quickoffice
  • Prezi

Flipped learning

Appendix 1: A tender document for a school wide wireless system




Learning in the hands of students

This post is a copy of a paper I wrote for the iNet Educator Online Conference – the original is available here.  Comments on the paper are available here.

This essay will describe how Devonport High School for Boys (DHSB) has undertaken a project with its students to develop an app for use on ipods, iphones, ipads and Android devices.  The app, which is now available in the iTunes store, provides students and parents with a wealth of information about their learning including rewards, sanctions, revision materials, attendance and a homework organiser.

DHSB has a school development plan that highlights the importance of enterprise and creativity; this applies equally to staff and students.


The school’s virtual learning environment (VLE) is supplied by Frog and each night students and parents are able to access updated information about that day’s rewards, sanctions and attendance which enable conversations about learning and school to take place at home (see screenshot below).  This supports our belief in the key tripartite relationship of school, students and parents. 

VLE parent view

In investigating ways of making the information more readily accessible to parents and students.  I conducted some research with both groups to find out how we could make it easier to access the information: the resounding answer was a mobile friendly site.

Following my research a Year 10 student, James, came to speak to me because he wanted to get involved in developing a mobile vle for the school.  He had some previous programming experience, but he hadn’t worked on a mobile site or an Apple app.  Another student, Ben (Year 11) who enjoyed graphic design, approached me about helping with the design of the site. 

Together, using the feedback from the vle’s users, we planned what the new mobile site should contain.  James and Ben felt that an app that could be distributed on the Apple Store would be a brilliant solution for many of our users – the only problem was nobody had any coding experience on Apple’s mobile operating system (iOS)!

James was determined to look further into how to program apps and within a couple of weeks he had mastered the basics and produced an app with limited features that linked to some pages on the school’s vle.  James had achieved this learning independently with the support of online materials, videos and forums.  Ben then went to work designing graphics to give the site a professional look.

In order to allow James to create the required pages for the app I’ve had to give him administrator access to our vle.  This required a leap of faith on our behalf as James could have caused irreparable damage to our vle, but without access this project could not have continued.

Since the first version of the app James and Ben have spent countless hours developing it into one that contains numerous innovative features and is genuinely unique.  The app has been downloaded 1,000 times and reached 21st in Apple’s education charts.

Since the app’s release the boys have been receiving a great deal of interest from other schools who would like an app developed for their community.  This has prompted the boys to set up a limited company, PixelBit Apps.  To do this they have met and received support from local accountants Francis Clark: Martin Atkins, their Business Services Director, commented that “not only have these boys shown great technical expertise in creating this outstanding app, they have gained the skills and knowledge that will enable them to set up and run a limited company”.  James and Ben are now developing apps for other schools who are delighted with the results.

There has been a lot written in the education press in recent months about the advantage students with a private education have in terms of confidence and self-belief.  My experience of this project is that the boys involved have not only had a significant improvement in their computing skills and understanding of business, but their soft skills have also developed tremendously.  They have undertaken meetings with accountants, bank managers and school leaders with great confidence; witnessing this growth has given great pleasure.

When Rob Salkowitz stated in Young World Rising that three forces are reshaping the world of the 21st century: youth, ICT and entrepreneurship, I believe he had in mind students such as James and Ben developing themselves and their ideas in this fashion.  They have already equipped themselves for entering the jobs market in a post-globalisation era.  Their website, pixelbitapps.com, has already led to them writing an app for the BBC’s Apprentice’s contestant, Leon Doyle, that allows iPhone users to save money on their phone calls to 0800, 0808 and 0500 numbers. Ben has developed his own graphic design site, benbate.com, and he has undertaken work for clients from around the world – including a multi million dollar US firm.

This app exemplifies how our school is fostering a creative approach to learning and placing it into the hands of students.  DHSB has an Assistant Headteacher responsible for Enterprise; he works tirelessly to encourage enterprising and creative approaches to learning and problem solving.  Many other students have been supported to develop their own ideas and take responsibility for their learning, but doing it within the supportive framework of the school.

The challenge for the school is how we can further embed these principles into the learning across the school.

Below is a copy of a video created by the students to promote the app during an assembly.


Improving performance and school improvement


The above diagram has been produced by the National College for its short course, Managing and Improving Performance.  The following is a copy of a blog post I placed on the National College’s website.

The elements in this diagram will no doubt support school improvement; it links Performance Management (PM), Continuing Professional Development (CPD) and the Professional Standards (PS) with school improvement feeding into each of the areas.  Having school improvement at the heart of the diagram leaves no ambiguity as to the rationale for PM taking place; it is the vehicle by which staff contribute to improvement of the whole school.  I also like the relationship between PM, CPD and PS as these three elements will assist individual staff improvement.

My concern is that there could be a degree of disconnect between colleagues and school improvement.  Whilst it is important for all staff to have a full understanding of the goals for whole school improvement it is far more likely they will be able to connect better with areas directly associated with their day to day role.

This has prompted me to think about the relationship between school improvement and PM in my own school, DHSB.  Having just completed a PM cycle, this is an opportune moment to evaluate the process.

In a post-SEF era we looked to our whole staff (teaching and support) to evaluate the present position to enable us to identify our developmental needs.  Staff worked in groups to identify tasks that different groups would need to undertake throughout the year to achieve whole school improvement in a number of different key areas.  Below is a summary of comments of the first term under the theme of Learning Relationships (LG – Leadership Group).

Brown paper planning

This then enabled LG and our ASTs who ran the session to come up with a summary of our development priorities for the school using the words of the collective staff; our SDP is shown below.


Departments then worked on their Department SEFs (DSEF) and were able to draw up their own Department Development Plans (DDP); these would be underpinned by the SDP.

PM conversations could then take place with staff entirely connected to the SDP as well as their own DSEF and DDP to set objectives that would support school improvement.  PM objectives for all staff could then be checked with the SDP in mind; this led to a few objectives being tweaked to ensure the drive was towards our agreed goals for the year.

To return to the original National College diagram: I like the acknowledgement that PM, CPD and PS are all intertwined and an essential part of school improvement, but I believe there should be a greater emphasis on the SDP and, in my school’s case, the DDP and DSEF.  I have tried to reflect this in the diagram below.

PM cycle


Transparency – I’m lovin’ it?


I can’t remember the last time I ate a McDonalds burger; there’s just something about the thought of it…..

The McDonalds website hosts a video that outlines how the”patties” are manufactured.  Do this video make me anymore inclined to eat a McDonalds burger?  Absolutely not.  What would its impact be on a McDonalds regular?  I have no idea, but I don’t think it would be too positive!

Is the increasing movement towards transparency a positive one?  I believe so, but there are some thing that happen that I don’t necessarily want to know the full details of.  Parents want to know how their children are progressing and they should demand to know how they can improve further.  Is the reporting of each and every assessment and their associated criteria necessary and beneficial?  I’m not so convinced.

Interesting, whilst McDonalds show transparency in the making of the patties, they do not show the abattoirs and how the cuts of beer arrive at the factory.  Perhaps that’s where the analogy for education lies and what we can learn from one of the world’s most successful marketing machines; some transparency is a good thing, but each and every last detail is not required.


Hayesbrook School visit

I had the great pleasure of visiting the outstanding Hayesbrook School on 19th and 20th March 2009.  The co-heads, Nigel and Debbie, and their staff were extremely generous with their time in showing us around.

Hayesbrook School is an all boys non-selective school in Tonbridge, Kent. It is located literally, but certainly not metaphorically, in the shadow of the Judd School, a local grammar school.

Co-headship with an emphasis on distributed leadership – Nigel and Debbie. Co-headship started when Nigel was asked to run another school and Debbie became acting head – this continued for 18 months. When Nigel returned he was unknown by 2 year groups and some staff and Debbie had a desire to continue with headship.

Led to a model of co headship being adopted. Questionnaires have confirmed that the majority of governors, staff and students belief it has been an improvement on the previous model.

They describe the SLT as being HOT – honest, open and trust. Focus upon the importance of open discussions remaining within SLT.

Preference for schools is set after results of 11 plus is known. Just had a survey ofsted and it looked at the impact of leadership in each area of the school.

How do boys learn best? Teachers don’t sit down! Staff must use their full repertoire of skills to ensure the boys are compliant. One hour lessons are split into small chunks. Many activities ensure busy and compliant boys.

DVD has been produced by students that has been a vehicle to promote student achievement. Display everything!

ICT young leaders in addition to sports leaders. This is on the verge of being accredited. Also leaders in languages, literacy and humanities. They take sports leaders out to Thailand through the dreams and teams project run by the British Council.

Effort league tables are shown throughout the school for each of the years. End of year raffle for top students. League table based upon effort. Letters home for improvement and absolute positions. Areas on league are based upon football leagues.

Unsung heroes’ lunch with parents invited. The task is to raise self belief; this is vital after the failure to get into the grammar schools. Sports presentation evening takes places annually.

All staff are given the option to be a mentor and the local lions club are invited to be mentors as well.

Litaracy leaders spoke about working with Tower Hamlets primary schools. Introduced secondary school life and then played a variety of games, for example, line up the leader based upon how old they were – the moral being not to judge a book by it’s cover. Next they will be working with year 7 students who are C/D borderline with the aim of improving literacy skills.

Watched a drama group that were unsupervised as teacher was assessing a group in a side room. All boys were on-task despite being left alone. On the wall in the drama classroom was a board that gave clear indicators of the progress of each student. This was found to be a great motivator.


In each room there are key words, level descriptors, GCSE coursework chart, results that celebrate success, topics that will be taught in each year.


On tutor board there is: our vision learning together, how your tie must look.


Maths is the top performing department. Business and PE are the most popular subjects.

Subjects are taught differently to the various sets. English lessons were observed – sets 1 and 2 were being taught in lines with fairly traditional teaching. A set 4 group were taught with all tables pushed to one side acting out a section from the book.

Interestingly, there are two female teachers in the PE department!

Points are awarded onto the students’ smart card for healthy eating choices. These can then be converted into free meals or saved up for cinema tickets.

There is a focus upon improving literacy for the boys.

Boy specific teaching activities have been identified.

FFT data is used as a baseline to provide targets.

Learning support assistants rather than teaching assistants.

The sports specialism is embedded throughout the school. It is also used with the student leaders. Subjects use their notice boards to highlight the links with sport.

Applied learning specialism is design to ensure learning is applied, not just the applied courses. Timetable is suspended for 5 days a year for each year group.