TRaIL Blazer



This is the first edition of TRaIL Blazer, a publication for Cotham Staff.

How did it all begin?

A desire to get more staff using the fabulous resource that is the staff CPD library. With this in mind I invited staff to join a pedagogy book group. A wonderful group of staff then formed and agreed to meet, to read, to share reading and to share learning.

We needed a title for this auspicious group… TRaIL – Teachers Researching and Improving Learning (thanks Lucy Mitchell)

So, the purpose of this publication is to share with Cotham staff the reading and research of the TRaIL group and to provide a format where staff can share the great and innovative things that they are doing in classrooms. In this publication you will find some summaries of the books that the book group have read and also submissions from Kelly McDonagh, sharing her innovative reward card scheme, and a lovely new-year article from Danny Dignan (destined to be a regular columnist!) TraIL members will contribute but I really want all staff to be able to submit items for TRaIL Blazer e.g. photos of great resources, of great work; examples and commentary about the teaching and learning strategies you are using and developing; critical commentary about current issues in education…

If you would like to join the TRaIL book group please let me know, if you want to contribute to TRaIL Blazer, or want to discuss your ideas of how to develop TRaIL Blazer please contact me.

Ali Goddard-Jones


Learning with Loyalty Cards

Kelly McDonagh

When I was perusing Pinterest a little while back, I came across an image of loyalty cards. A teacher in America had created learning loyalty cards which were aimed at encouraging students to be more responsible, take greater care with their spelling and become homework experts ( I thought this was a great idea and an ideal opportunity for me to help encourage and develop student ‘Skills’ in lessons. Teaching discrete ‘Skills’ lessons, it is easy to use the language of learning whereas I tended to not talk about ‘Skills’ in ICT and Business Studies lessons (because there is always so much to do in a lesson!). I therefore decided to create my own loyalty card. Fortunately I am lucky to have a name starting with McD and I exploit this at every available opportunity! I introduce the loyalty card at the start of a rotation when I am outlining my expectations. Students come in, get their loyalty cards out of their folders then during the lesson, I will sign their loyalty card when they are demonstrating one of the skills. When students have demonstrated 5 of the skills (could be the same skill) then they get a small prize.

Homework submission can be quite poor in some classes. On the reverse of the loyalty card is a ‘Homework Hero’ section. This has helped me to have good structured discussions with students. When they ask, “Miss, am I a homework hero?” I ask them to look at their loyalty card and if they say “but Miss, I’ve done 3 homeworks in a row?” I can explain that quality is essential. This has meant that students are taking greater care with their homework.

This has had a variety of benefits. Not only are students talking about the ‘skills’ they are developing (not in a Skills lesson!) but it gets them to want to demonstrate independence, teamwork, creativity – it is ace hearing “Miss McD, I worked out the problem with my programming on my own!... can you sign my card?” Student feedback has been positive too. When doing my ‘keep, grow, change’ feedback, students like the loyalty card and they want to impress.

‘Everybody’s Gotta To Learn Sometime’

Danny Dignan

Here we go. 2014. The year they’re saying will be filled with limitless possibilities.

In reality, your resolutions (if you’ve made any) will quite possibly have already been abandoned. Or, you’ll be clinging to them like one of those big pink inflatable chairs in the water park after the wave machine has just let loose one of its finest.

As you read this, you’ll probably still be bewildered after the demands of Christmas and New Year. You’ll be thinking quickly about how you’re going to engage a range of beautiful minds and original personalities for another twenty-odd weeks. Just how are you going to do it? How do other people do it? How will reading this article, help you do it? Especially when you could be spending the valuable life units it takes you to read it doing some marking, creating some seating plans or most difficultly, undertaking some (double-sided) photo-copying?

The answer is of course… that you already know how to do it.

Just like Kung Fu Panda’s (goose) father, there is no special recipe. You just need a few reminders to let you know that you’re already really good at doing it.

You don’t need me to tell you that our students are a laser-brained bunch, eminently able to recognise and describe good and outstanding teaching. Ask any group of students in school and they will tell you a wide range of different things that the teachers at Cotham do to help them progress in their learning.

Every now and again, I’ll ask students what teachers do to help them learn. Of course, there are always a group of students who will habitually respond with a furrowed brow. There are others though, who are only too happy to explain what teachers do to help them progress. Whether it’s creating songs that help them remember mean, median and mode, using ‘magic hats’ to understand progression, being taught how to break the fourth wall in drama or being given a model answer that helps them visualise a better way to answer an examination question.

That’s before they’ll tell you about the different personal touches that different teachers bring to their lessons. The few well-timed encouraging words that help a student through a moment where they are struggling or the perfectly-delivered piece of advice. Or the confidence-boosting compliment that lets a student know that they have been recognised as an individual and helps them believe that they can and will do well. And of course, the specific and detailed feedback, targets and other help that teachers give and students appreciate that helps them progress in their learning.

But then, you already knew that.

There are very many things for us busy teachers to remember at the start of a hectic, frantic, frenetic (and a whole gamut of other words ending in ‘tic’) new term. But one of the really important things that’s easy to forget, is that along with the outstanding teachers here at Cotham, there are lots of students who are also outstanding in lots of different ways. Students who are enthusiastic, receptive and who recognise and appreciate the outstanding teaching that teachers deliver every day.

Which is well worth remembering.

Oh, and make sure to remember to watch Kung Fu Panda 1 & 2.

They’ll teach you lots of good things that you can use in teaching … and they’re funny. Just what you need after a day of marking, creating seating plans and struggling with the difficulties of (double-sided) photocopying.

CPD Update

New Year and a renewed sense of purpose

What is the intention and purpose of CPD at Cotham School?

High quality professional development enables the school to improve and develops its capacity for sustained improvement by developing high quality teaching, leadership capacity and high professional standards among all staff.

14 CPD intentions for 2014!

  1. Further improve teaching and learning
  2. Contribute to raising attainment and achievement
  3. Prepare and skill staff for new challenges
  4. Develop professional knowledge and understanding
  5. Allow for curriculum innovation and development
  6. Develop and enhance leadership capability

7.Focus CPD on the school’s priorities for improvement

8.Address the needs of staff

9.Ensure that staff skills and competencies develop progressively

10.Provide opportunities for accreditation

11.Equip staff for progression and promotion

12.Contribute to building a professional learning community

13.Support effective recruitment and retention and succession planning

14.Promote and embed professional standards (including the Teachers’ Standards)

You should have had the opportunity to discuss your CPD needs with line managers in performance management review and planning meetings. The professional development plans of staff inform the school’s CPD plan. If you want to discuss your professional development, CPD opportunities and your progression further please contact Ali Goddard-Jones.

Cotham CPD themes 2014

A wealth of ideas for CPD are emerging from staff professional development plans and discussions with staff:

- Behaviour for Learning

- Literacy

- Marking and feedback

- Monitoring and evidencing feedback

- AfL

- Group work

- Peer assessment

- Engagement and creativity

- Differentiation

- ICT, e-learning and web-based technologies

- Using data to improve student outcomes

- Using behaviour data to improve learning

- Managing cultural diversity

- SEND – strategies to support students

- EAL learners

- Role of the tutor


Many of these themes will be addressed through in-house opportunities, such as INSET days, twilight training, learning lunch, forums and meetings; as well as external courses. It is important to remember the scope and variety of CPD opportunity and that we can address our learning needs through many varied activities:

  • Mentoring and coaching
  • Reading and research
  • On-line learning
  • Membership of a working party or a subject hub
  • Peer observation
  • Observing colleagues in other schools
  • Sharing best practice

January 2014 New staff

Welcome to the new staff joining us this term (and some returning to us) and thanks too to those staff that will be supporting them as mentors and buddies.

  • Donna Ferris, Teacher of PE and KS3 Co-ordinator
  • Ben Jose, Teacher of Music
  • Matthew Rowan – Cover Supervisor
  • Jennifer Berry – Cover Supervisor
  • Victoria Hobbs – Teacher of English
  • Stephen Hallett – Teacher of PE/Science/Maths
  • Mike Slattery – Part-time teacher of History
  • Martin Daley – Data Administrator
  • Liz Ferris – KS3 English