TeacherTales: Video CPD - our silver lining

Posted by Guest blogger - Lynette Clapham, Grove House Primary - Last updated on March 7, 2023

In some respects, IRIS Connect has become something of a lifeline to us this year. Being honest, it was something that our school had already invested in but there was a great deal of nervousness around its use, which really prevented it from being fully embraced. Fears around not liking the sound of our own voices, seeing ourselves on screen, or even those who were a little nervous of the technology were an initial barrier for us. 

As an organisation, we pride ourselves on our consistently good outcomes for all pupils through high levels of inclusion and a culture of coaching and development. I am a firm believer in getting the climate for learning right not only for our pupils but for our professionals too – this is our commitment to supporting everyone we work with to become the best that they can be.

Crossley Hall and Grove House form part of the Pennine Academies Yorkshire Multi Academy Trust in Bradford, West Yorkshire. In 2019 Grove House and Crossley Hall entered into a formal IRIS Connect Collaboration Agreement. Using Groups on IRIS Connect, teachers and support staff can access good practice from both schools in areas such as phonics, reading for fluency and special educational needs.


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Improving teaching without being in the classroom

Our school was full of positivity in September. We were all more than ready for some level of normal again and to make the most of the year ahead. Within the first 3 weeks of the new school year, despite our best efforts of social distancing and bubbles, we had nearly 30 confirmed Covid cases in school, which our local public health officers felt were a result of community transmission. As Executive Head, I felt trapped between the desperate need to keep the school community safe and the need to continue moving the school forward, giving the children the education they deserved. Leaders needed to know what was happening in classrooms. This year, across the two schools, 40% of teaching staff are in the early stages of their career and after such a disrupted NQT/RQT/ECT year, the CPD opportunities were essential for their development. Put simply, how could we get staff into classrooms to share the good work our teachers do? How could we work side by side to carry out our in-the-moment coaching without physically getting into classrooms? We had to pay more attention to what IRIS Connect and the virtual world could offer us.

At the beginning of October, we successfully used IRIS Connect for our first round of lesson observations and instantly saw the opportunity. From that point and without much effort, teachers who were less experienced were able to observe their colleagues whilst working from home. With a little encouragement, teachers embraced our culture of having a go and taking a risk and quickly overcame the issues that had previously been a barrier for us. Without even trying, we had a bank of lessons, which we could use to support the development of others. If children were struggling with additional needs or emerging social and emotional needs, staff were able to ask for guidance through the support of an IRIS Connect recording. Professional dialogue evolved between staff whilst avoiding direct contact and staff began to see for themselves how they could use IRIS Connect to not only share but also take ownership of their own development. For the first time, we were really seeing the potential impact that it could give us. 

Our ECTs have not had the smoothest of starts in their career. For them in particular this work is incredibly important. Shelby joined us as an ECT at Crossley Hall in September 2020 and speaks very highly of the system and how in particular it has supported her in developing her own reflections. 

"I like the idea of being able to see myself from the perspectives of others and learning how I can improve my use of language in teaching and improve my pace." - Shelby, ECT, Crossley Hall.


Video CPD beyond the pandemic

Like our colleagues across the country, we are welcoming the lift out of lockdown and we have already moved from a ‘Covid Response’ phase into our ‘Covid Recovery’. Our work with IRIS Connect has provided us with the foundations for our virtual school improvement approach, helping us shape our response and develop the quality of teaching and learning across the school. The number of teachers contributing to our collaboration group continues to grow as more staff become involved. We have more capacity – physically and virtually. Of course, we have welcomed the Catch-Up Premium but we do know the best way to support children to make accelerated progress is through excellent, quality-first teaching every day. Sharing how we do this now happens by the click of a button and the comfort of an armchair, providing teachers with the headspace to reflect away from our busy schools. We even went as far as using IRIS Connect to support the recruitment of key positions in school. During the January lockdown, Crossley Hall successfully recruited a new Head of School. IRIS Connect formed part of the selection process and gave candidates an overview of the teaching profile, allowing the panel to see their understanding of teaching and learning by viewing a range of lessons.

As we work to consolidate our approach, our middle and senior leaders are becoming IRIS Champions where they are being tasked with developing areas of IRIS Connect to impact teaching and learning in school. The same for teachers who are Specialists Leaders in Education, Research Champions, and those who have more specialist skill sets. Our Curriculum Networks are in the early phases of development and subject leaders are now beginning to look at how IRIS Connect can support their work developing subject knowledge through recorded subject knowledge Masterclasses. 

All good school improvement strategies come with a plan of implementation. For us, this has become more of a natural evolution and it is now that our more formalised plan is coming into play. If we can continue to build on what we have already created, the sharing of strategies that promote rapid progress alongside the impact of the work of SLEs across the trust and wider community, we might have just found our silver lining after the most challenging time our profession has seen. 

Guest blog by Lynette Clapham - Interim Executive Head at Grove House Primary & Crossley Hall Primary.

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