Teaching & Learning
Aims and Ethos
At Harris Academy Purley we aim to provide outstanding teaching that meet the needs and aspirations of all students, promoting a view of learning as a shared responsibility and resulting in both rapid progress and high attainment.
It is the goal of the academy to move from being an outstanding school to an exceptional one, recognised in London for its consistent and significant performance and to be the first choice for local parents.
The HAPU 10 represent best practice in learning and teaching at Harris Academy Purley. Each element represents a standard we strive towards in every lesson. These form the focus of feedback in lesson observations.
Excellent classroom practice takes many forms but outstanding teaching typically produces learning that comes under the following:
Exhibits understanding of both the curriculum and subject
Excellent teaching ensures that learners have a deep understanding of their subjects, with the ability to understand underlying issues and connections – it is not mechanical, or performative. Moreover, students have an overview of the curriculum and how the different topics and skills integrate.
It is especially important that externally examined year groups have a clear understanding of examination structure and rubrics to enable them to deploy their learning effectively, but this understanding should be built into KS3 teaching, where appropriate, under the new 1-9 structure.
Balances and integrates skills and knowledge
A strong distinction between skills and knowledge misunderstands how student learn; whilst clearly there is variation between subjects and individual lessons, students at the concrete operational stage require a clear context in which to apply their practical and examination skills and knowledge is retained more effectively when it is applied.
Is characterised by high expectations
Outstanding learning means that students should surpass the progress and attainment suggested by national targets. Excellent teaching therefore requires challenging expectations, with objectives that 'teach to the top'.
In combination with high expectations excellent teaching differentiates so that all types of learner can access and succeed. It is important that support retains challenge, so that learners are guided but that their learning activities are still meaningful. Teachers should work closely with support staff to ensure that students with SEND have their needs met whilst ensuring that the student is fully engaged. The outcome is the learning, not the activity.
Builds through sequences of lessons
Excellent learning and teaching is sequential, building throughout the academic year and courses. Pace, challenge and engagement are essential ingredients to outstanding lessons, but should not be at the expense of deeper understanding and long-term retainment of knowledge. The current OFSTED inspection framework correctly identifies that learning is not episodic and that the occasional 'fire-work lesson' for an observation rarely best serves the needs of students.
It is critical that teachers, especially curriculum managers, ensure that schemes of work, learning materials, literacy, assessment and feedback documents are of good quality and, where possible, standardised to maximise accessibility to students and consistently high standards across subjects and faculties.
Makes effective use of assessment & feedback
Appropriate assessment and feedback will vary across age and subject, but outstanding assessment will have high levels and accuracy and reliability with outstanding feedback enabling students to make rapid progress. Excellent assessment & feedback is never performative – it should inform the planning of teaching and be a learning experience for the student.
Formal marking is time-consuming and inevitably results in trade-offs:
Excellence practice in your teaching depends on getting the correct mix for your subject and student age group e.g.:
Younger students will benefit from higher frequency and lower quantities of feedback as retention of the skills and knowledge is our priority and they struggle to assimilate large quantities of written feedback – it may in fact be demotivating.
Where pieces of work are extended, such as a Year 13 Humanities essay, the quality of the insight in the feedback is more often key to them cracking the problem. Skills activities benefit from regular practice, whereas recall of knowledge is more indicative of the quality of learning and revision.
Clarity of the instruction, practice of the assessment skills and modelling of high quality answers, in combination with effective structuring of revision, can all reduce wasteful assessment where the teacher uses valuable planning time correcting avoidable errors.
Better to ensure students give their best effort first time than endlessly correct.
Is shared throughout the Academy
Some of the most effective learning occurs when students collaborate together – whether this be through group work, buddying relationships, or other peer to peer learning opportunities. This builds the value of scholarship and establishes the Academy as a community of learning.
Similarly, as a learning organisation it is essential that we spread the excellent practice of our teaching and support staff. It is all out shared responsibility to develop and challenge our colleagues, and all benefit when skills and insights are shared democratically, not hoarded. We will unashamedly celebrate the success of our outstanding learning and teaching and those who actively contribute to sharing best practice.
Annual Harris Federation Conference
Over 4,000 staff attend the annual Harris Federation conference at ExCel London. Over 65 training sessions are offered to our staff, ranging from topics such as 'Thriving Classrooms' to 'Staff Leadership'.