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Jo Payne

Jo Payne is a Deputy Head Teacher. Although she specialised in primary languages during her teaching degree, she is particularly interested in how technology can enhance pupils’ learning. She writes a blog, MrsPTeach, on which she shares ideas about many subjects within education, including: feedback and marking, whole-class reading and maintaining a healthy work–life balance as a teacher @MrsPTeach.


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http://www.mrspteach.com/

Publications by Jo Payne

Making Every Primary Lesson Count

Advocates an approach designed to cultivate a classroom culture of…

Author Blog

Mum

July 15 2018

With a glass of gin on one side and a box of tissues on the other, this is undoubtedly the hardest post I'll ever write but it is the most important. 

After two and a half years bravely battling Ovarian Cancer, my mum passed away peacefully on Friday morning.  Cancer really is the cruellest of diseases: it takes someone who is full of life and reduces them to a shell of their former self.  We are well aware of families who have been given weeks or less after a diagnosis, and so are incredibly grateful for the time we've had; time we've spent on family holidays, reminiscing about good times in the past, and being there for each other through gruelling treatments.  We spent mum's final day laughing, joking and thinking of all the good times, in amongst the tears.  She knew it was her last day and the team at St Barnabas hospice ensured it was the perfect send-off, if there ever is such a thing. 

I've spent a lot of my life being known as "Janet Sharp's daughter"; something which at one point I resented but I quickly learned it was a badge to wear with honour. She was a respected school leader in West Sussex, taking on multiple failing schools one after the other and turning them around, dabbling her toes in the world of OfSTED inspecting (don't hold it against her - it didn't last long) and gaining a string of teachers who moved school with her to continue to be led by her - many of whom have been a great force of strength and support to us in her final days.  Even after receiving the diagnosis she went into schools and spent days supporting the leaders, remained as the trustee of an education committee for a long time and generally continued making a difference. 

It would be impossible to tally up just how many children's lives she has affected directly or indirectly.  She started off as a secondary maths teacher, despite having a geography degree, and was part of a department who all reduced their contracts to 4 days a week to avoid any colleagues being made redundant. She taught in a few local schools, including the one my sister and I attended years later, before falling into acting-headship.  With a taste of school leadership, she then found herself as head teacher of a string of schools before consulting in lots of West Sussex schools, including my former school. All the while, being a trustee for multiple organisations: a church, a residential centre, an education committee, and being heavily involved in the NAHT. This was all alongside looking after dozens of foster children in the family home for 15 years. Supported by my patient and servant-hearted dad, she really was a force to be reckoned with. 

Mum's mum had been a teacher so education certainly runs in the family.  However, it wasn't clear cut that I'd end up here from the start.  My plan after A Levels was to do a business management degree.  I don't remember telling mum that I wanted to be a teacher instead, but she always remembered it so clearly.  From the age of 11-18 I was at Christ's Hospital - a charity boarding school which is fully means-tested.  Many pupils' families were far away or abroad so we didn't go home very often - it was very rare that our parents came to visit randomly.  

Apparently one weekday when I was in my final year (aged 17), I rang mum and told her I had some important news so could she come up on Saturday and take me out to Wimpy in Horsham (our normal leave-weekend routine but this wasn't a leave-weekend).  I remember none of this but mum always said she spent the next few days stressing; she was convinced I was going to tell her I was pregnant!!  Apparently I was very bubbly and seemed fine when she arrived to take me out, and I had said nothing of any note at all so, part-way through our Wimpy meal, mum reluctantly asked what it was I wanted to discuss with her.  "Oh - I've changed my uni plans and decided I want to become a teacher. I hope that's OK?" was my response.  I'll never know how she actually felt about the news because she was just so relieved that her prediction was wrong! 

There are lots of things mum will miss over the coming years but I'm so glad she got the chance to read Making Every Primary Lesson Count in its early stages and to see it published.  She wasn't well enough to attend the Teaching Awards ceremony but I'm so pleased she got to experience that time of my life. In her final few weeks, mum had the opportunity to visit my new school where I started as Deputy Head Teacher in January and to see the hospital where my sister was working. She visited all my schools and showed an interest in everything education, always asking my husband and I about changes in our schools - she even wanted to know our SATs results in her final few days!

I've always trusted mum's judgement and, as it happens, all the head teachers I have worked for knew her before they knew me.  She always suggested great heads to work for and she respected Bruce, Martin and Alexis a huge amount.  No matter who I worked for, she had one piece of advice, which I heard on a weekly basis, normally during a conversation about my many netball matches.  It's great advice for anyone in a busy profession but particularly for teachers and it is this:

PACE YOURSELF

She has been the inspiration behind so much that I've done in life, as well as in education, and I'll forever be proud to be known as Janet Sharp's daughter.  And, mum - I'll endeavour to pace myself...as much as possible!

Mum and I managed to grab the school photographers
for a quick snap during the time I worked
as a TA in the school where she was Head Teacher in 2007. 

To those who knew mum, if you would like the information about her celebration service, please get in touch with me and I will let you know in due course. No flowers please. Mum requested instead for people to make a donation to support St Barnabas Hospice so feel free to do this - in memory of Janet Sharp - if you so wish. https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/jsharpstbarnabas

Please make sure the ladies in your life are aware of the often-misdiagnosed symptoms of Ovarian Cancer: http://www.ovacome.org.uk/information/symptoms-of-ovarian-cancer/ 

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Top-Down Planning: How does it work?

March 11 2018

On Radio 2, Simon Mayo runs a segment called confessions in which people can call in and admit something they've done.  On his first such podcast of 2017, a teacher called in.  The teacher had taken a group of children to an athletics competition and he had been put in charge of manning the shot put area.  Students had come and gone having completed their throws but one particularly strong looking student turned up, chose his shot and threw it a huge distance.  At the end of the competition, the results were announced and that student had broken all historical records in the area for the shot put.  The student was put through to the national competition to represent the area. 

A few weeks later, and having put all thoughts of the competition out of his mind, the teacher received a phone call.  During the conversation, he was reminded of manning the shot put and, particularly, the student who had thrown the shot a great distance.  He said he remembered the student and was asked which coloured shot he had given the student.  The teacher replied, "coloured shots?"  He was then told that different shots held different weights.  Apparently, the student who went to the national competition representing the area based on his amazing throw at the local event had, to his embarrassment and that of his family, been completely unable to lift the shot at the regional final!  

I was reminded of this story when recently a teacher told me about an issue she had unearthed in her school.  A teacher had come from Y6 to Y5 and, in the previous year, despite all the data looking rosey throughout the terms, the schools SATs results had been terrible.  After a few terms and a lot of digging, it was discovered that the summative assessment results of students in her current Y5 class were not reflective of the age expectations for the year group.  This explained the opposing picture in the previous year's KS2 results.  The teacher and leadership team thought the children were all doing great and that there was nothing to worry about; there was no need for intervention or raising the bar.  However, this led to a false sense of security and a surprise when the national results were released.

The student in the first story couldn't lift the shot.  The pupils in the second story couldn't reach the expected standard.  Why?  Because the standards they had been held to were too low; there wasn't enough challenge.

When I was an NQT in Hampshire, I heard Ian Troup talk about top-down planning and it felt like a revelation to me.  During my teacher training, I had always been taught and shown how to plan by starting with the main bulk - the middle, if you like - and planning what activity they will do, before differentiating the work up and down for the higher and lower ability pupils.  Instead, Ian argued that for all pupils to be appropriately challenged, we need to start by considering what the most able pupils need to learn next and then scaffold the work accordingly for the rest of the class.  This is exactly how I have always planned and taught ever since.


This diagram shows how, when you set the bar of expectation high, every pupil can be challenged.  Our challenge then, as teachers, is to ensure that pupils can access the learning appropriately.  This requires scaffolding.

Learning is scaffolded when supports (of various different forms) are in place to allow pupils to access the same learning.  Pupils can have heavy scaffolding - in the form of a guided answer with missing information, perhaps an adult to help - or lighter scaffolding, which could include a word mat or having been pre-taught something.

Planning like this requires a different process to the type of differentiation I learned at university which was very much 3-way, top/middle/bottom and delivered in ability groups.  Top-down planning is more personalised while sticking with one main activity which the whole class can access.  It sounds like extra work but it actually isn't.  Rather than preparing 3 (or more) different activities, teachers just plan for one.  Their time can then be better spent considering individuals and groups in the class and what they may need in place to achieve the learning objective through the same activity.  Sometimes this can be through a tweak, some pre-teaching, resources, adult support etc.

I'd encourage you to try and teach to the top.  Keep the expectations high so that your pupils aren't missing their potential.  Make sure they are best prepared to lift the shot and reach the expectations, unlike the poor boy in the regional athletics competition!

Coming soon - Scaffolding: How does it work?

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