Creating a professional culture of consistently high expectations

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Leaders at Lliswerry High School have created a culture where teachers have consistently high expectations. They have provided timely and relevant professional development for staff. All staff participate in networks of professional practice and joint learning networks. This has led to a sense of collective responsibility for continually improving pedagogy and practice.


Lliswerry High School is an English-medium, 11-19 mixed, community school serving residential areas to the eastern side of Newport.  There are around 800 pupils on roll with approximately 150 in the sixth form.

Around 31% of pupils are eligible for free school meals.  The school identifies that around 29% of pupils have an additional learning needs and nearly 3% of pupils have a statement of special educational needs.

Around 23% of pupils speak English as an additional language.  This is a substantially higher proportion than the local authority average.  Sixteen per cent of pupils are at Welsh Government language acquisition stage A or B; a few of these pupils do not have any prior experience of education.  The school has pupils from a wide range of ethnic backgrounds.  Approximately 15% of pupils are not from a white British background.  There are a very few pupils who speak Welsh at home.

The leadership team consists of the headteacher who has been in post since September 2017, a deputy headteacher who joined the school in 2013 and two assistant headteachers.  The assistant head with responsibility for teaching and learning joined the school in April 2014.

Strategy and action

Over the last three years, senior and middle leaders have had a relentless focus on improving pedagogy and creating a culture of consistently high expectations for teaching and learning.  Leaders have clarified and strengthened their minimum expectations of classroom practice and collective responsibilities.  Leaders have provided staff with relevant and timely professional learning opportunities and have been careful not to overwhelm staff with too much change.

The school’s strong evaluative culture has enabled leaders to judge strengths and areas for development honestly, and to pinpoint professional learning needs accurately.

The school has a detailed three-year plan for improving teaching.  This outlines carefully planned and timely opportunities to introduce new strategies to ensure improved progress for learners.  The main foci for improving teaching over the last two years have been the introduction of a pedagogical acronym to ensure pace and challenge, alongside a range of strategies to challenge the underlying beliefs about learning and predetermined intelligence.  All teaching staff are clear about their collective responsibilities with regard to pedagogy and their personal accountability within the system.

All staff are members of one of the school’s networks of professional learning.  These networks use action enquiry to improve aspects of teaching.  The networks follow the Welsh Government guidance (Welsh Government, 2013) to ensure that they focus appropriately and can demonstrate the impact of their work.  Recent networks have focused on national priorities as well as school priorities.  Each network writes a report of their findings, which they share with the whole staff.  Leaders take account of the outcomes of the networks’ action enquiries when they review school policy and approaches.  As a result of senior leaders taking the views of staff into account, they feel involved in school improvement and their professional opinion is valued. 

Staff also participate in joint practice learning groups.  This is peer coaching using the GROW model and also incorporates aspects of lesson study.  Colleagues agree a focus, support each other as they prepare improvements and reflect on classroom practice through peer coaching.  Through both learning communities and joint practice learning groups, teachers are encouraged to engage with evidence and employ proven effective practice.  The range of support available to the groups includes video technology to capture lessons and a learning library with relevant publications and access to research.

The school plans its professional learning activities very carefully.  Leaders ensure that staff have the necessary resources to support their learning.  Evaluation is thorough and honest.  All staff feel involved and know their contribution is valued.  They understand their responsibility in improving their teaching.  Staff discuss their involvement in these activities during performance management sessions that link to the new professional standards.

Evaluation processes include rigorous tracking and monitoring to support and challenge all staff.  As a result of regular and robust self-evaluation activities, each teacher has a personal teaching and learning profile.  Senior and middle leaders discuss the personal profiles in line management meetings to celebrate strengths and to identify appropriate professional learning opportunities.  Staff value these as they appreciate the opportunity to talk about their practice and the bespoke nature of the precise professional learning opportunities offered.  Each department also has a teaching and learning profile, which supports middle leaders to tailor their improvement plans accordingly.  Teaching and learning is an agenda item in every line management and departmental meeting.

As a result of these thorough and detailed self-evaluation activities and line management discussions, the school is able to plan and map beneficial professional learning activity for the year ahead.


At the time of inspection in 2013, teachers were enthusiastic and had high expectations of pupils’ behaviour and standards of work in only around half of lessons.  In 2017, the quality of teaching has improved notably as evidenced by the outcomes of lesson observations, the scrutiny of pupils’ work and by staff and pupil responses to faculty surveys about the quality of teaching and learning.  Pupil outcomes have also improved for example, in 2017 the school is in the top quarter of similar schools based on pupils eligibility for free school meals for level 2 including English and mathematics (Welsh Government, 2017c).

Pupils are strongly of the view that teaching and behaviour has improved significantly during their time in the school.  Teachers are highly appreciative of the professional learning activities available to them and of how the school supports their personal development successfully.

Next steps as identified by the school

  • Embedding collective responsibilities for all staff borne from professional learning days and linking in particular to a growth mindset and developing oracy
  • Developing learner voice through termly dialogues about teaching
  • Development of looking at books in conversation with learners
  • Embedding the language of the 12 pedagogical principles
  • Introduce personal teaching and learning profiles for support staff (mirroring teaching staff) to enable them to take ownership of their professional learning and development