Marlborough Primary School – Using the continua to improve teaching

Area(s) of focus: Improve the quality of teaching

School(s) or partnership name: Marlborough Primary School

Name of lead person: Jonathan Lewis

Role of lead person: Acting Headteacher

Lead person e-mail address:

Lead person telephone number: 029 20 492564

Local authority(ies): Cardiff

Phase(s): Primary

Context and background to case study:

Marlborough Primary School serves the Penylan/Roath community in Cardiff. There are currently 537 pupils on roll with 64 part-time pupils in the nursery. The majority of pupils are taught in 2-form entry classes, with the exception of Reception which is three-form entry.

The school has a vibrant ethnic minority population. Currently 32.2% of pupils hail from ethnic minorities. 119 (23.2%) of pupils speak a home language. 27 different home languages are spoken. 9.7 % of pupils are entitled to Free School Meals.

The school has a Special Resource Base, which accommodates up to 20 children with severe to complex learning needs on behalf of Cardiff LA.

Following the school's amalgamation in 2011 reducing the in-school variation in the quality of teaching was a main focus. Whilst progress had been made prior to the Estyn inspection in January 2013, teaching was judged as adequate.

Working closely with Gareth Coombes we piloted the Teaching for Learning Continua. As a Senior Leadership Team we received bespoke training. We asked staff to complete a self-assessment against the full continua. This was used as a starting point to decide which strands of the continua would be the initial focus for the remainder of 2013 and into the 2013-2014 academic year.

Nature of strategy or activity:

The twilight inset diary was aligned to have a stronger focus on teaching and learning. This included best practice clinics and observing videos of lessons with staff collaboratively analysing the good features of the teaching and learning.

Each half-term there was a specific focus on a strand of teaching and learning from the continua followed by a twenty minute session observation. Early impact was clearly evident and the school was removed from LA monitoring. However, as senior leaders we strongly felt that this was the beginning of the journey and the school needed to consolidate and build upon the improvements made. The school’s vision is, ‘Aiming for Excellence’, and we were not complacent with teaching being merely good.

We are now into our third year of using the continua and as a school we are refining and evolving the process.

  • Currently, following the launch of the focus there is a greater emphasis on developing and nurturing teaching.
  • The annual meeting calendar has been fully re-aligned so that SLT, phase, inset and TA meetings all have a shared focus on improving teaching and learning.
  • Initially, we monitored mainly through a session observation. This has now been refined to include; a greater focus on listening to learners, one-to-one professional dialogue where teachers present a portfolio evidencing on how they have developed the specific focus and the impact on learners and Lesson Study (staff working in teaching triads with the a specific focus on aspects of children’s learning).

Impact on provision, teaching and learning and/or leadership:

The impact on teaching has been significant. We carefully track and monitor progress each half term.

All teachers at Marlborough aspire to being excellent and are proactively engaged in continuous professional development of their teaching skills. Our aspiration is encapsulated in the quote by Dylan Wiliam, “Every teacher needs to improve, not because they are not good enough, but because they can be even better.”

Impact on leadership

  • The Senior Leaders conducted joint lesson/ session observations and gave joint feedback initially to ensure consistency in judgements and quality of feedback. Joint lesson observations and feedback were also undertaken with our Challenge Advisor, Mark Austin. This was integral to building capacity and distributed leadership within the Senior Leadership Team. The impact of which is a highly effective SLT who have an in-depth understanding of standards within their teams and across the school.
  • Improving teaching is a priority in each school improvement plan. The majority of phase meetings, twilight Insets and Inset days are focused on professional dialogue and development of teaching. The impact is a reflective school culture where all teachers take ownership of their personal development.

Where is the good practice recognised? 

Source 1: Mark Austin, Challenge Advisor

Source 2: Pathfinder partnership with Christ the King Primary School

Source 3: SIG 27 - Convener Pat Hoffer, Springwood Primary School