Innovative Practice - Three's company
After a whole-school review between inspections, the leadership team at Ysgol Bryngwyn realised that although most teaching and learning at the school was good, it was also inconsistent.
So they came up with the idea of learning "triads", bringing together three staff members from different departments to learn from and support each other.
According to Alison Bevan, the school's director of learning, the triads were designed to be a "non-critical, non-threatening" support framework for staff that would allow them to take risks in their teaching and improve the quality of learning.
Teams of three teachers were chosen so that each member would benefit from the knowledge and experience of the other two.
Headteacher Paul Jones says that three was the "magic number" and bigger groups would have been impractical. The triads were particularly focused on sharing Assessment for Learning and differentiation techniques.
All staff agreed to have peer lesson observations, and follow-up reviews were conducted to ensure that teachers also had the benefit of regular and informal feedback from their colleagues.
Jones says it was important that the triads were based on trust and professional dialogue rather than monitoring.
Tips from the scheme
Keep the triads completely separate from the performance management system so that teachers see it as a support system not a threat.
- Have a shared focus across the school. In Ysgol Bryngwyn's case this was Assessment for Learning and differentiation.
- Make the triads more practical than theoretical.
Evidence that it works?
Jones says the learning triads have had a "transformative" effect on the school, improving teachers' confidence and well-being, and their teaching standards in the classroom.
Student attendance, engagement and performance has also risen significantly.
The project was highlighted by Welsh schools inspectorate Estyn as a model of best practice.
Approach - Helping teachers develop through learning "triads"
Started - 2009
Leaders - Paul Jones, headteacher, and Alison Bevan, director of learning
Name - Ysgol Bryngwyn
Location - Llanelli, Carmarthenshire, Wales
Students - 890
Age range - 11-16
Intake - The school covers the town of Llanelli and nearby villages. Almost a third of pupils live in some of the poorest areas in Wales, and free school meal uptake is higher than the Welsh average
Estyn overall rating - Excellent (2012).