What about the sparkle?
How to be an Outstanding Primary
By David Dunn
2 out of 5
David Dunn is a deputy headteacher and an advanced skills teacher, so he should know the meaning of outstanding in teaching terms. The very word "outstanding" in its full Ofstedian glory drives anxiety into every teacher from the very start of their training onwards. The term is so loaded with expectations it makes it hard to unpick.
David Dunn tries to demystify the term by breaking it down into sections and then setting targets relating to things you can achieve today, next month and next term. This is helpful, especially for newly-qualified teachers and those already drowning under the weight of paperwork and workload.
The book is split into chapters tackling key aspects such as planning, assessment, differentiation and questioning.
Some of the chapters contain some great practical ideas for effective teaching and learning, and refer back to some supporting theory, especially the differentiation and questioning chapters.
At times, however, the book lacks depth and chapters can become a list of interesting activities, rather than getting to grips with excellence in teaching. Chapters such as the one on community cohesion are thin and need beefing up with further reading and case studies to make them stand up to scrutiny.
It also does not address the differences within the primary range; an outstanding foundation stage teacher doesn't always have masses in common with an outstanding Year 6 (P6) teacher. This book is very key stage 2 (P4-7) centric; no reference is made to the early years foundation stage, for example, there is little that refers to children with weaker verbal or written skills or the wonderful, innovative ranges of assessment practices and team work that can be found in the early years. I would have liked a greater focus on working with the most and least able children, too.
I would have expected a chapter on being innovative and creative. The key thing that turns a good lesson into an outstanding one is that sparkle factor, the element that grabs the children's focus. Examples could include taking lessons outside, for example, or the creative use of ICT, and it would have been good to have had some case studies to demonstrate this.
Progression through a teaching and assessment cycle can also confuse the less experienced teacher; it would have been useful to have looked in greater depth at how themes develop and progress and culminate in a summative event or assessment strategy.
There are some good ideas in this book, many related to drama and active teaching. It is one for the staffroom book shelf, to dip into, to refresh the tired, jaded teacher and to re-light a spark. However, just by reading it you will not become outstanding - for that you need to read case studies and more in-depth texts. Overall, worth a borrow but not one to buy.
About the Author
David Dunn is deputy head-teacher of Pedmore CE Primary, an Ofsted-rated outstanding school. He is also an advanced skills teacher, and worked as part of a team that brought an English school in special measures out of the category in 12 months.