What the inspectors saw - Good practice by Ofsted

16th November 2012 at 00:00
Time management: 100-minute history lessons at Farlingaye High School

In brief

At Farlingaye High School a heavy emphasis on planning and subject-specific professional development has helped it to keep pupils engaged in history through its unusually long 100-minute lessons.

The project

Even exceptional teachers can find it challenging to keep every pupil engaged for the duration of a lesson. This challenge becomes even greater at schools such as Farlingaye High, where the day is split into just three 100-minute lessons.

However, staff at the comprehensive in Suffolk take care to ensure that the lengthy classes are used to their advantage.

This is particularly clear in the school's history department, which has worked on ways to use the lengthy classes to provide its pupils with a deeper development of historical understanding.

Each lesson is intricately planned to allow for opportunities to explore subjects in depth.

Headteacher Sue Hargadon says: "You cannot wing it in 100 minutes - you can try in 35 or 40 and occasionally you might get away with it. However, no one can teach lessons in 100 minutes without putting in the preparatory effort."

Too much preparation can, however, lead to lessons that seem too rigid, so teachers take care to make the activities flexible and swap them when necessary.

Lessons are also divided up so that pupils do not spend the entire time in the same place. Individual exercises are mixed with group tasks, mini presentations and whole-class feedback sessions, and pupils often spend part of the lesson working on computers in the humanities department's computer area.

History teacher Nicola Hetherington says that the longer classes mean "pupils have the opportunity to reason things out for themselves". "It actually means that they talk more and we talk less," she adds.

One Year 8 lesson that Ofsted observed focused on how industrial changes in the 19th century created social and economic conditions that made it even more difficult for the police to catch criminals, including Jack the Ripper.

In that one class, pupils undertook individual and collaborative work, a myth-busting task, memory games, a Facebook-inspired task and a version of the television game show Family Fortunes.

The ability to fit all this into one lesson resulted in a group of motivated and engaged pupils who the inspectors felt made "considerable progress in their historical knowledge, thinking and understanding".

Key to Farlingaye's success with its longer lessons has been its "ideas bank", affectionately referred to by teachers as "the pack of cards".

This is a collection of 52 cards put together by the school's teaching and learning group, with ideas for activities, starters, plenaries and group work.

These include the "guess the objective" game where pupils are given a taste of a lesson - with video clips, for example - and then predict what the lesson objective will be on cards, which are put aside until later.

Signs of success

This approach has been so successful that it led to the department being judged outstanding in a history subject inspection in 2011. History has become the most popular optional subject at key stage 4, with more than 50 per cent of the pupils choosing to take it for GCSE.

Results are consistently first-rate and the proportion of pupils gaining the highest grades is well above average. The pupils are enthusiastic, with one Year 10 saying: "The history teachers seem to enjoy hard work - but that's great because it means that they know what they are on about and our lessons are just brilliant."

What the inspector said

"They have a clear rationale and an enquiry-based curriculum; they know what they want to teach, how they are going to teach it and why they should be teaching it. As a result, they use the opportunities offered by 100-minute lessons to deliver inspiring lessons in which teaching and learning are outstanding and through which students make outstanding progress."


Name: Farlingaye High School

Location: Woodbridge, Suffolk

Intake: The proportion who receive free school meals or have a statement of special educational needs is low

Age: 11-18

Numbers: About 1,800 including sixth-formers.

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