New CFBT Education Trust report offers some pointers, following school visits


In 2011 the CfBT Education Trust report ‘ To the next level: good schools   becoming outstanding’ analysed the processes by which  ‘good’ schools move  up to ‘outstanding’, as rated  by Ofsted . (see link below)

This new study To the next level: improving secondary school teaching to outstanding complements and builds on the  previous report.  It focuses on schools that either achieve and maintain high-quality teaching or succeed in rapidly improving the effectiveness of lessons. It explores the question of teaching excellence through observation in schools that have been on a journey towards excellence, together with interviews with experienced university teacher educators and a review of existing literature.

The report considered the common characteristics demonstrated by excellent teachers in their classrooms on a day-to-day basis. The study is set in the changing context of school improvement, which is putting a renewed emphasis on the quality of teaching and especially subject-specific pedagogy.

Interviews were conducted with experts in university education departments to shed more light on the precise features of very effective subject pedagogy. These experts confirmed the complex interplay of skills, knowledge and personal qualities to be found in the practice of effective teachers.

They especially emphasised the importance of these teachers’ awareness of the needs of individual learners and of the way they develop students’ conceptual understanding and skills within lessons and during longer units of work.

Nine secondary schools, selected for their success in improving teaching and learning, were visited for the study. Senior leaders, heads of subject departments, effective subject teachers and their students offered their views on why and how these teachers achieved their success. Sample lessons from each of the nine schools are briefly described, followed by more detailed case studies of five of the schools, tracing something of their improvement journey and philosophy.

The visits illustrate how schools with the most mature practice explore differences in pedagogy from subject to subject and advance the role of subject leaders. Lesson observation and study are a permanent part of a self-critical culture in these schools. The schools share two common characteristics: strong visionary leadership; and effective, integrated systems for regular quality review, performance management of teachers and associated continuous professional development.

The report draws together the findings from the literature, the interviews and the school visits to identify a number of key characteristics of success for improving teaching. See below for these key characteristics of success, and how they are manifested in schools with more mature systems and cultures.


Characteristics of success

• Inspirational leadership

• Accountability of teachers for the school’s success

• Shared expectations of quality

• A major emphasis on self-evaluation

• School-wide assessment for learning

• Teacher development mainly  in-house


Schools with more mature systems and cultures

• Delegated leadership

• Lesson observation as a shared enquiry

• Effective teaching: customised within subjects and understood within a longer timeframe

• Instinctive and continuous self-evaluation

• Excellent assessment

• A perspective beyond the school

Such schools are those which have been performing well for some years, with established, stable senior leaders and staff at lower levels, and with mature systems for monitoring, evaluation and teacher development.

The report makes recommendations for moving to the highest stage in teaching quality,  based on the findings of this small-scale study. These recommendations focus on:

• developing subject leaders

• making time for subject teams to meet and plan

• being subject-specific about pedagogy

• establishing longer units of work as the standard currency of scrutiny

• making judicious use of student self-assessment

• seeing the school as a contributor to local networks.

To the Next Level- good schools becoming outstanding’; Research Report; 2011-CFBT Education Trust- Peter Dougill ,Mike Raleigh ,Roy Blatchford, Lyn Fryer Dr Carol Robinson, John Richmond


To the next level: improving secondary teaching to outstanding; Research Report; 2013-CFBT Education Trust- Peter Daw , Carol Robinson


See also Tony McAleavy of CFBT Education Trust


Note: The research was led for Owen Education by Peter Daw. Carol Robinson conducted the review of UK research literature. Peter Daw conducted the interviews with university staff and made some of the visits to sample schools. Other school visits were carried out by Alan Howe and Helen Howard


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