Robert Brooks

Leading Practitioner



Here are my slides from the #TMLeatherhead event held at Therfield School this evening.

My presentation was about Differentiation by pathway in Science

Here is the link to the lesson resources mentioned in this presentation 

It was a great evening and Teach Meet event.

Hoping to go to another one soon!




Yesterday I went to the Research Education 2015 #rED15 event at South Hampstead High School along with other teachers from my school. Thanks Richard @rolfster for organising this for us!


South Hampstead High School’s Headmistress, Helen Pike, and Tom Bennett, the event organiser, welcomed us all to the event.

Life after levels

This session was led by Daisy Christodoulou @daisychristo on life after levels. This was of particular interest to me as a KS3 Science Co-ordinator and from my work creating the PiXL Club KS223 Science levelling proforma and associated test questions with model answers.

Daisy made a really important point to start off with by deciding what was wrong with National Curriculum levels before deciding what to replace them with. Levels were previously used for both formative and summative assessments, which was very difficult for teachers and schools to accurately track students’ progress at KS3. The National Curriculum levelling grids previously published for KS3 Science were incredibly difficult to interpret and manage for the benefit of the students.

Using National Curriculum level statements to standardise how assessment happens at KS3 in all schools was flawed by schools interpreting the statements in various different ways. Daisy gave many examples of how different assessment questions could link to meeting a statement. In this particular example, if the question is phrased in one way then 90% of students met the statement but in another method only 15% of students achieved it.

Daisy then explained how using multiple choice questions (MCQs) can be used for assessment beyond levels. At first I was a little skeptical to this idea as I remembered the previous GCSE Science examinations that were purely MCQs and wondered where they had a place in today’s education. I quickly realised whilst discussing with one my colleagues at the event and through the next several slides that MCQs can be used to test and build on students’ knowledge. Daisy suggested how challenge can be brought in and how to set MCQs that highlight misconceptions, such as a common incorrect answer that students may select.

Daisy then discussed how using model answers to set the standard for essay or longer answer questions and moderating assessments within departments could help to secure better accuracy.

Daisy finished with three conclusions to her presentation:

  1. Don’t replace levels with rehashed levels!
  2. Define criteria in terms of a) questions and b) pupil work.
  3. Remember that human judgement is comparative, not absolute.

The importance of the teaching profession

I was disappointed that John Tomsett’s @johntomsett session on Research Evidence in Education was full so I returned to the hall to listen to Nick Gibb’s @NickGibbMP views on the importance of the teaching profession. I had mixed views of this particular speech. It was good to see that this MP was able to recognise the strengths that teachers and students have in the UK. There are now over 2,300 education blogs, according to Andrew Old @oldandrew, and Nick stated that many of them “have directly influenced government policy.” Nick also stated that “our best policies have always grown out of the profession.”

Nick then focused on how trainee teachers’ degree classes had been improving over time and stated that the “best graduates are going into teaching.” Whilst it is pleasing to hear that there is an increasing number of highly qualified graduates going into the classroom. a higher degree class does not automatically make a better or more effective classroom practitioner. One member of the audience spoke out about this during the question and answer session at the end. There are many highly effective and experienced teachers that are in the profession with less than a 2:1 degree. These good and experienced teachers are vital for our profession. It was good for Nick then to acknowledge that:

On a more positive note, Nick advised those teachers in schools where to direct their senior leaders or colleagues to if they are still being:

  • Asked to include learning styles in lesson plans
  • Criticised for implementing frequent factual recall tests
  • Subjected to “termly do-or-die lesson observations

“And if your school still practices Brain Gym, then God help you!”

Flip the system

René Kneyber @rkneyber discussed how flipping the system occurs in Holland to change “education from the ground up.” René talked about how difficult it was to manage teachers properly and how complex it was to ‘measure’ a teacher. René then went onto explaining “flipping the system,” whereby teachers can hold more senior staff to account and allow themselves to influence educational policy.

To achieve this, René talked about the importance of collaborative working so that teachers are not just staying in their own classrooms. By working collaboratively as a group, classroom practitioners can put their ideas forward in the flipping system to develop the education their pupils receive.

René then compared how much teaching and planning time is available in different countries:

In summary:

Will the media ever get education?

Ed Dorrell @Ed_Dorrell Deputy Editor for the @TES gave a presentation about the media and education. Ed discussed how there is “good and bad” of both journalism and educational research and that there are “many reasons why teachers and journalists disagree.” The role of journalists is to reduce the size and complexity of academic articles for others to understand, although some ideas can be lost in translation. Ed outlines some of the deadly sins of education journalism: lust, envy, greed and so on. Ed also gave us some examples of various education journalism headlines that may indicate that an article is invalid:

Exam marking and re-marking: what do we know and how should we use what we know?

This was probably the most interesting and useful session I attended at #rED15, which was led by Amanda Spielman from @Ofqual 

Amanda gave possible reasons for why there has been a recent increase in appeals for exam re-marking, such as a reduction in retake opportunities due to linearisation, increased accountability pressures and expressions of dissatisfaction with marking. Amanda also stated that the greatest scope for reliability in marking was in subjects like English and Philosophy, whereas subjects like Mathematics would have a smaller scope.

Amanda outlined:

How qualifications work:

Marking tolerances:

It was clear that there were many advantages of using electronic marking compared to marking traditional paper scripts, such as team leaders being able to instantly check the accuracy of marking.

The research study by Ofqual was regarding the Enquiries about Results System (EARs):

How could EARs be better?

They used a study to compare the current EAR processes with three alternative models:

The conclusion confirmed that their current EAR model actually performed as well or better than other models since double blind remarking brought problems too and the differences between live and study EARs showed that markers may be affected by the knowledge of students’ likely proximity to a grade boundary:

Amanda also stated that any model can be affected by human factors so it is important to continue finding ways of managing these effects.

CPD Panel

A CPD panel debated research by John Hattie and others to determine the most effective ways in which evidence-informed professional development for teachers can improve learning outcomes for pupils.

Becca Knowles discussed how in science we need external support to help with the recent vast changes, such as in curriculum. David Weston looked at Hattie’s research “one year so one year’s progress for the child.” He correctly stated that there are too many variables involved in a year’s progress for a child and not all of these variables were within our control. He compared the sheer number of variables to the term “noisy.”

Another point made by the CPD panel was that CPD needs to be closely related to a teacher’s experience. A teacher that has been teaching for 20 years may not need a CPD session on classroom management, whereas an NQT might. CPD also needs to be linked to a teacher’s competency and level of responsibility, such as a middle or senior leader. A CPD panelist suggested that teachers who are “getting the results” could be given more autonomy and a teacher that is not could be given more “support.”

Another CPD panelist stated that it is important to know how you have improved as some schools and teachers do not. Without this information, it is very difficult to move forward even more. Many schools, like ours, use BlueSky for performance management and for recording CPD.

My action points after attending #rED15:

  • To use Daisy’s strategies for life beyond levels to help develop our KS3 Science curriculum.
  • To develop collaborative working methods to reduce workload and increase learning outcomes.
  • To look at ways we can develop exam marking moderation at a mock level within school to further secure grade accuracy.

Overall this was a fantastic day and learning experience, topped off with a drink by the Thames at the end of the day!

Best wishes for the academic year 2015/2016.