Robert Brooks

Leading Practitioner


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How to Have Difficult Conversations

Tabula Rasa

Like all professions, education is full of terrible leaders. There are lots of good ones out there, but a cursory glance at the odd teacher blog, or a tiptoe into the average staff room, would tell you that there are a lot of teachers who don’t really rate the people who lead them.

In the past, I have written about what I termed the ‘Bowling Ball’ approach to leadership. This particular leadership style is embodied by those leaders who take no responsibility for the failings of the school, but instead pass blame down the ranks towards the teachers, bashing them to smithereens on the way. This is not good for lots of reasons. Staff feel disempowered and less invested in the school; they lose confidence and are less likely to want to work hard; they sometimes become negative and complain. People need to feel like the people who lead them…

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Why I’ve left Teaching

Some very interesting and valid points made here and I’m really sorry to hear that the teaching profession has lost such an inspirational teacher.

my life. my love.

photo (19)

I’ll be totally honest and say that I never thought this day would come.

I have been in a job that I have loved for 15 years.

Teaching is all I ever thought I would do. All I have ever done. All I have ever wanted to do.

I am sat here, surrounded by the 4 brightly coloured walls, full of colourful displays that I hope I’m remembered for, saddened by the deafening silence of the classroom now that all of my class have disappeared off on their Easter Holidays.

This very room has been my second home for so long.

For the hour when I am in the classroom, with the class, teaching, I love it. It’s still the most rewarding feeling to know that you have taught, supported, encouraged and guided a child throughout their learning.

But sadly, that’s not the job any more.

The powers that be…

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Science Revision Packs

It’s that time of year again when the number of lessons in KS4 and KS5 are becoming fewer and fewer before the exams and stress levels are high.

You may be anxious a few days before the end of the Easter break thinking or even worrying:

  • “Have I got time to teach all the content?”
  • “Have the students understood the key scientific concepts sufficiently to answer the dreaded 6 mark extended writing questions?”
  • “Do my students have the knowledge recall required?”
  • “Do my students know their precise areas of weakness?”

And the big one …. will the students meet their target grade? 

One thing you could consider doing in the next week or so is getting together a revision pack for students. Our Head of Science recently got us to work on creating a revision pack for a module each for GCSE, such as B2. My colleague and I that teach AS Physics created one for each of our modules. This was successful as we were able to create multiple packs quickly and quality assure each others’ as a team to ensure consistency.

What a revision pack is NOT:

  • A revision guide – still get the students to purchase the relevant CGP Guide or equivalent as this is not a replacement
  • For the students to work on only at home
  • For the students to work on only at school
  • A student’s only revision resource
  • Something that necessarily requires in depth teacher marking

What a revision pack IS:

  • A resource designed for students to pinpoint their specific areas of weakness in terms of knowledge, understanding and skills
  • A guide to improving these areas of weakness or where to find the information
  • An opportunity for exam practise and knowledge consolidation
  • Hints, guidance and strategies for exam success

What should a revision pack contain?

  • Snazzy title page showing images of the topics in the booklet – get this page colour printed if the budget allows!
  • Checklists using the specification statements (these can be copied and pasted across from the specification) – avoid too many boxes for the students to tick
  • Knowledge questions (with answers at the back) that test recall, possibly 5 per double page spread in the textbook – it is important that students do not write the answers to these in their revision pack but on scrap paper so that these can be reused
  • Selected PowerPoint slides printed in handout format that contain key knowledge (use Boardworks to help you create these quickly if your school has bought into this)
  • 6 mark questions with the mark schemes at the back 
  • A 6 mark question planning template that you normally get your students to use in class that they are used to
  • Selected past paper questions (with mark schemes at the back) that you know students in your class generally struggle on from recent mock examinations or those questions that you feel come up a lot and want your students to practise (use Exam Wizard to help you do this quickly if you are with Edexcel or the equivalent for AQA or OCR)
  • A list of examiner hints (refer to examiner reports for these)
  • A list of websites or other resources that your school uses, such as those on the VLE
  • A list of command words in the exam, such as explain and analyse and what they mean

Ideas for using a revision pack in lessons:

  • Students learn the knowledge questions for a particular section at home and then get tested on these as a starter activity
  • Students complete one past paper question at the same time and peer assess this afterwards using the mark scheme and teacher guidance 
  • Students updating their checklists quickly after gaining confidence through class activities 
  • The teacher, or a confident student in a particular topic, leads going through a particular 6 mark question or other structured past paper question and how to approach it – look at command words, what topic is this to do with etc
  • Students work in varying table groups (ditch the seating plan!) depending on which specification statement they are working on – keep changing this to increase the pace of a revision lesson
  • Targeted homework can easily be set from class as there is plenty to do in the revision pack for different students’ needs

I recommend printing these packs rather than just putting it on the VLE. That way they can be strategically used in lessons as well as at home and teachers can rigorously check on their students’ progress. Students also have to write on paper in the exam and need the experience of this rather than typing out answers on a computer. Furthermore, it is a resource not immediately requiring the internet, so no social media distractions for your students!

To save time, print all the pages you need as separate documents and put into a file to sort into order. Then ask reprographics to double side copy it so that it looks like there are less pages to the students (and save money of course!)

I hope this is useful and best of luck to your students taking examinations shortly.