Effective professional dialogue

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Effective professional dialogue

At Ysgol Bryngwyn School, Camarthenshire, teachers from different departments work together in ‘triads’ (groups of three) to help each other improve the quality of their teaching. Based on trust and open professional dialogue, the benefits brought about by these ‘triads’ have led to significant improvements in the quality of pupils’ learning.

Number of pupils: 900
Age range: 11-16 years
Date of Estyn inspection: January 2012

Context and background to sector-leading practice

Ysgol Bryngwyn School is an 11-16, mixed, community school, maintained by Carmarthenshire local authority. It is situated in Dafen, on the north-eastern side of Llanelli, and draws its pupils from parts of the town centre and from a number of outlying villages. There are 900 pupils on roll.

The school caters for the full ability range. Four per cent of pupils have a statement of special educational needs, which is higher than the national average of 2.6%. A further 29% of pupils have special educational needs but no statement. This figure is also higher than the national average of 17.6%.

Approximately 29% of pupils live in the 20% most deprived areas of Wales and the proportion of pupils entitled to free school meals is 19.3%. This figure is slightly higher than the national average of 17.4%. In 2009, following an internal whole-school review, we realised two important things. These were that:

  • while most teaching and learning was good, there was still too much internal variation; and
  • it was essential to make sure that teachers were meeting the needs of learners across the ability range.

Description of nature of strategy or activity

As a result of the internal review findings, we established our learning ‘triads’. This involved putting together three teachers across different departments to encourage a professional dialogue and to develop a culture where all staff become reflective practitioners. This initiative was designed as a non-critical, non-threatening support framework for staff. It was intended to enable staff to take risks in their teaching, improve the quality of learning and open educational dialogue within the school.

The ‘triads’ were carefully selected, ensuring each person had something positive to bring to the ‘triad’. All staff agreed to undertake peer lesson observations during gained time in the summer term. Follow-up reviews within the triad were programmed to make sure that staff had the benefit of informal feedback from their peers.

The key concept of this approach was that it would be based on trust and a continuing professional dialogue rather than monitoring through compliance. There was no initial formal link to performance management.

What impact has this work had on provision and learners’ standards?

Learning ‘triads’ now exist to support members of staff to develop as teachers. This approach has continued in general group work, at in-service training and, more importantly, through informal conversations in the corridors, staff room and classrooms about the quality of teaching and learning.

Staff are now more confident about their teaching and there has been a willingness to experiment more in lessons. This has led to improved standards of teaching in lessons and, most importantly, improvements in the quality of pupils’ learning.

Staff enjoy teaching and this is evidenced by improved outcomes, including those in pupils’ wellbeing and attendance.

Pupils continue to make very good progress and achieve high standards. In our most recent inspection report, inspectors commented that teaching is very effective and has a significant impact on raising standards of achievement. The high level of consistency in the good or better teaching is a very strong feature of the school. In terms of wellbeing, there has been a significant reduction in fixed-term exclusions and no permanent exclusions in last three years. Satisfaction levels from pupil questionnaires and pupil trails have increased while there have been significant improvements in key indicators at both key stage 4 and key stage 3. Performance is now considerably stronger than that of similar schools.