Improving Schools

Introduction to the School Effectiveness Team (September 2020)

Letter from Alice McShane, School Effectiveness Team Lead

Leadership Updates

This is a new short and half-termly slot for headteachers, senior leaders and governors to tap into ‘in the moment’ updates. This virtual session is delivered by the team in a 1-1.5 hour slot at the end of the school day and so can feed into staff and SLT meetings. It takes a practical no nonsense approach to each topic, with tools, templates and a point to good practice.

Subscribe to our regular bulletins to find out when the next session is being held.

Cost: free of charge to all schools

Update 6: The first four weeks - some prompts for action planning

Schools coronavirus (COVID-19) operational guidance ( (p52-54)

1. Is the curriculum broad and balanced?

  • Have there been any subjects that have not been taught during Lockdown?
  • What changes will need to be made to the existing timetable to account for this?
  • Have you agreed the basic building blocks of key learning that children need to know now in these subjects in each year group, so that they are ready for next term?
  • Example subjects: PE, music, MFL, DT – but there could be others. If you have a rolling programme of themes, then it could be that History or Geography have not been taught for some time. How will you help pupils to be ready for next term?

2. What are the children’s wellbeing needs as they return? (or have been in school through lockdown)

  • Attendance and anxiety- any pupils not attending?
  • Family changes and new vulnerability
  • Some children may need extra support for social skills and co-operation, which may need to be taught or re-taught.
  • Re-instate learning behaviours and positive attitudes to learning- most pupils will be keen to return- but are there any exceptions?
  • How will you support pupils to improve their stamina and basic standards (handwriting, spelling, presentation etc), while remaining positive and affirming?
  • PSHE curriculum- consider what needs to be revisited

3. What are the children’s gaps in skills and knowledge in core subjects as they return, and how can you address them?

4. What are the children’s gaps in skills and knowledge in other subjects as they return, and how can you address them?

  • Some of these will be obvious, where subjects have not been taught.
  • Even though subjects have nominally been taught, coverage may have been patchy or the curriculum may have had to be altered (eg Games in PE)
  • Babcock LDP - Improving Schools and leadership updates
  • How will you assess for gaps in skills and knowledge the foundation subjects? How will pupils demonstrate key learning and understanding? This could involve retrieval and deliberate planned links to prior learning
  • Have you agreed the basic “building blocks” of learning that children really need to know before the end of term, and transition to new year group/key stage?
  • What key prior understanding do the children need in order to retain this new knowledge over time and how will it be picked up in the Summer/Autumn?
  • What key experiences will support consolidation before moving learning on? (eg understanding maps- linked to experiences of walking around the town/village)

5. How will you use Catch up funding? New education recovery package for children and young people - GOV.UK (

1. (25th March, SLU release and update 3: Babcock LDP - Improving Schools and leadership updates )

  • Have you evaluated the impact of catch up funding recently?
  • How did you use the catch up funding over lockdown? What have you learned from this? If it was paused, how will you re-start it?
  • Have you considered the National Tutoring Programme? National Tutoring Programme | NTP
  • How many SEND pupils remained in school? What will they need to ensure they are ready for next term and the Autumn term? How do they compare with any SEND pupils who remained at home?

2. How will Cultural Capital be created or bolstered for disadvantaged pupils, who may not have had the key experiences at home necessary for the wider understanding of the world? How will you make up for what they have lost?

  • What experiences were planned for the first four weeks? How can they be adapted?
  • What key experiences will the children miss- eg residentials- is there a way to make up for this? (Potentially Outdoor Ed/Forest school provision)
  • How else can cultural capital be developed? Eg democracy/British values

Looking towards Summer term 2021

1. Assess pupils’ knowledge and understanding at the beginning of term.

  • How far has the key knowledge and conceptual understanding prioritised in the first four weeks been established at this point in core subjects and foundation subjects?
  • What needs further work – given that the key basic knowledge has been identified as central to progress?
  • How does this map into the key concepts identified in the school’s “usual” curriculum? What needs to be taught, so that the children are ready for the next year or key stage?

2. Look at the objectives or aims for the Autumn term in the next year group/key stage

  • Alter teaching sequences, through joint planning, to make sure that gaps from the Spring term are addressed, but that progress towards Autumn term objectives is considered now. What milestones do the children need to achieve in their learning over the Summer term in order to move them into (for example) Y4 readiness?

Update 3: Golden Nuggets

Remote Education “Golden Nuggets” 

Release 3 Assessment and Feedback

Here are a few golden nuggets that you may want to consider that have been gathered from across the county over the past few weeks:

  • Increase engagement with a question within 7 minutes of each lesson live or pre-recorded with a pause point.
  • Be mindful of workload and set out key pieces of work that will get feedback each week with parents and pupils.
  • Sending books or examples of work home for parents from December to be able to see what pupils were capable of to help parents.
  • Reinforce ‘its ok to get it wrong as this is how we learn’ with parents/guardians
  • Use of apps for quizzes and retrieval practice to gleam an ongoing understanding of what knowledge pupils have remembered across the curriculum or subject specific.
  • Video calls with class teacher, where possible, to pick up on any specific feedback for specific pupils.
  • Identify common issues from work and picking up and revisiting in live sessions or additional direction for revisiting videos and topics.
  • Making the use of chat rooms or break out rooms where pupils need additional feedback.
  • Weekly knowledge checks.
  • Break up lessons to allow some pupils doing individual tasks whilst others have additional teacher input to feedback, revisit or reassess any learning.
  • Mind maps for recall on topics – pupils take photos and share with the class
  • In the absence of working walls – emphasis on key tier 2 and 3 vocabulary to reinforce spelling, meaning and understanding.
  • Don’t forget traditional AFL strategies with Q and A or targeted cold calling responses.
  • Google forms to support short quizzes. Padlets for summary of learning to share and Kahoot quizzes (Please see Edtech demonstrator for more examples)
  • Feedback to pupils with regular recognition for effort and achievements.

Update 2 - Remote Learning Article from National Online Safety

Remote learning is a term which has been coined repeatedly over the last few weeks. But what is remote learning? What does remote learning involve? And how do you ensure your child has a safe remote learning experience? Our cybersecurity expert and former ICT Teacher, Emma Davis, explains more below.

What is Remote Learning?

Remote learning, also often referred to as distance learning, is simply a method of learning which doesn’t facilitate face-to-face contact with the teacher in a physical location. It means children can learn away from the classroom and often employs online methods such as webinars, e-learning, live-streaming or the ability to download resources and materials.

Schools may employ different approaches to remote learning, and each should have their own policies in place and guidelines for parent and students. As a parent, try to engage as much as possible and make sure to take note of the school’s ICT Policy, Acceptable Use Policy and their approach to data collection and storage.

Often there will be a member of staff within the school who has been appointed responsible for liaising with parents with regards to online learning. Make sure you know who your parental advocate is and don’t be afraid to ask them questions if you are not sure.

Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs)

Also referred to as a Personalised Learning Environment (PLE), many schools will provide a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) for their students to work from home already. They will be able to provide resources for students remotely and mark work submitted online. They may have been using these VLEs already for coursework, homework and other tasks for a few years.

Safety considerations

  • Schools should not expect your child to sign up to anything with a personal email address. They should either be provided with a school email address or a username and password.
  • Ensure your child always keeps their login to this facility private and that they don’t share their account with anyone.
  • Many VLEs include a chat function or message boards, etc. It is important to monitor the use of these facilities and that your child understands what is appropriate to write online. Perhaps remind them that these messages will be visible to the school staff and they shouldn’t put anything in a message, that they wouldn’t want anyone else to see.
  • It’s important to remind children of their conduct online. As a member of the VLE, they share a digital environment and their behaviour impacts the success of the online school community.
  • If it gets to the point of issuing online assessments, it is important for parents to reinforce the fact that this should be carried out independently and do what they can to reinforce the school guidelines.
  • Many VLE providers will also create an app that parents can use. These are a simpler format and could help you to become more familiar with the service your child is using.

Video Conferencing Software

Schools may decide to deliver online learning using video-conferencing programs such as Skype or Zoom. These programs enable students to talk to each other, and potentially their teacher, when they need some verbal face-to-face communication. Whilst they are a great way to keep in touch, to safeguard both students and staff, one-to-one tuition is not generally advised.

Safety considerations

  • Don’t put unnecessary personal information in the user profile of these apps. For example, try to keep location, phone number and dates of birth private.
  • To ensure that there are no security flaws in these applications, make sure they are also kept up to date and install any patches as soon as they become available.
  • Always check the terms and conditions of the programs, especially those around age. For example, by default, Skype restricts the privacy settings of users under 16 years old. However, this won’t be effective if they are registered with parental information.
  • Help to educate your child on how to use these programs to ensure they are safe. Careless use of Skype can lead to a breach of personal security, downloading viruses or malware or even contact from people they don’t know.
  • Remind your child to never accept instant messages, phone calls, screen sharing or files from someone they don’t know.
  • Consider using a parental control tool like Skypito to manage who your kids communicate with. Skypito requires parents to approve all of their child's Skype contacts, and allows them to restrict calls and chats with strangers.

Protecting your home network

It’s important to make sure that your home network is secure. Increased use of the Internet for anything increases your risk of clicking on or downloading something nasty to your network, so it’s important you have anti-virus / anti-malware software installed to ensure the safety of your family.

Safety considerations

  • Keep your anti-virus program updated daily and allow it to stay current. There are new attacks every day and the amount of malicious content on web applications is rapidly increasing in both frequency and expertise so it’s important to stay up to date.
  • If you have a wireless router, check that your wireless network is secure so that people living nearby can’t access it. It is best to set up your network so that only people with a wireless ‘key’ (i.e. password) can connect to your network.
  • If your network is secure, users will be prompted for a password when they try to access it for the first time and there should be a padlock symbol next to the network name. If this doesn’t happen, your network isn’t protected and anyone will be able to join.
  • It is always best to change the name of your network – but not to anything that identifies it to you or your family. You should also change the default password, as these are often freely available to attackers online if they know where to look. You should choose a password of at least 8 characters, with a mix of case, numbers and symbols. The current advice is to pick three random words or a memorable phrase.
  • Always cross-check information if you’re not sure about what your child is being asked to do and speak to the school contact.

Secure online chats and chatrooms

It is normal for students to want to be able to communicate with each other whilst they are unable to see each other. It will help them feel less isolated and they will be able to help each other out with their home learning. However, it is crucial that they can do this safely.

The best messaging apps will use encryption while transmitting the data, so that it can’t be intercepted and read by others. Many have end-to-end encryption to protect messages along with other forms of communication, such as group chats, voice calls, media files etc.

When online, a child may also make use of chatrooms to get help on their work or to find someone to talk to. They can be a positive environment for students to collaborate. However, there are also some risks associated with them, so it’s important to reiterate general online safety advice around using messaging apps and chatrooms.

Safety considerations

  • Advise children to never give out personal information about themselves, friends or family online and always think before answering private messages.
  • Some online ‘friends’ are actually just strangers and children should not hesitate to block people that make them feel uncomfortable. They should take a screenshot of their conversation if they need to report the conversation to someone.
  • Children can always log out to avoid unwelcome situations or change their screen name if necessary. Children should definitely not use their real name in a chatroom and should report any users who are breaking the rules set out by the chatroom provider.

How we can help

At National Online Safety, our whole ethos is centred around keeping children safe online. Our range of training courses and learning resources can be accessed anywhere, at any time, and our Certified School Membership means you can focus on providing a whole school community approach to online safety.

To find out how our membership programme can benefit you, click here, or alternatively, email us at and one of our Online Safety Consultants will be available to help.

Update 2: Golden Nuggets

Remote Education “Golden Nuggets” - Release 2 Supporting SEND

Here are a few golden nuggets that you may want to consider that have been gathered from across the county over the past few weeks.

  • Ensure that pupils have clear structures and timetables where possible.
  • Build in time for social interaction that is more unstructured with pupils working at home.
  • Try to create capacity to continue with any interventions that would have been happening in school.
  • Look at capacity for virtual pre-teaching where possible either in school or virtually.
  • Use of the TA facilitate the pre-recorded lessons directly with pupils in or out of school
  • Assign TAS/LSA/support staff to any SEND pupils at home and make regular phone calls to liaise with home. (Any one-to-one virtual work consider your safeguarding policy)
  • Potential use of breakout rooms with older pupils to help and support them in with their learning on line.
  • Oak academy have developed an area for SEND learners that can support.
  • Consider any pupils that have additional time allocated as part of their normal provision. Ensure this is considered so they have that time or rest breaks to complete their work and don’t become overwhelmed or disengaged.
  • Record any conversations (On the suggested profroma SEN Release 9 Jan 21) where pupils with EHCPs have not taken up the place in school.
  • Ensure your remote learning offer for pupils with EHCPs covers any specified provision as close as possible.
  • Build in non-screen afternoons and provide suggested activities that pupils and parents may want to do at this time.
  • Consider any specific apps that can help families at home with timetables, recording and tracking feelings (Lots of ideas app directions on get help with remote education).
  • Support staff offering one to one zoom sessions to revisit the lesson content/ reinforce any key points or clarify and chunk or scaffold any learning further.
  • Build any capacity to retain any social clubs, even if once per week) that pupils normally attend at break times or after school where possible to maintain their social network or support group.

Update 2 - Digital Safety During COVID-19


The impact of COVID-19 means that most of us will be at home for an extended period and are likely to be spending increasing amounts of time online.

The online world is a necessity for many children in accessing school work and it delivers huge benefits, not least in enabling us to stay connected to family and friends during this period. However, many parents may feel concerned about the content their children are accessing.

Although rare, there is a risk that increased online activity and feelings of stress and isolation may be exploited by negative influences and online groomers of all kinds to target vulnerable children and young people directly.

An understanding of digital safety will help parents and carers safeguard loved ones from a range of harms, whether that’s child sexual exploitation, fraud, or extremist influences seeking to radicalise vulnerable people.

Extremists may use the COVID-19 outbreak to promote hateful views, for example through conspiracy theories blaming a particular group for the virus, or through spreading misinformation regarding these groups’ responses to it.

What steps can I take to keep my child safe online?

  • If you have downloaded new apps or bought new technology to help stay connected at this time, remember to review and adjust privacy and safety settings if you or your child is signing up to a new online service.
  • Government has encouraged Internet Service Providers to allow parents to easily filter content to put you in control of what your child can see online.
  • You can switch on family friendly filters to help prevent age inappropriate content being accessed on devices in your home.

What are the signs that my child may be being exploited online?

  • Online exploitation is often hard to recognise because it is a complex issue. When it comes to being drawn into extremist ideas online, sometimes there are clear warning signs, in other cases the changes are less obvious.
  • Although some of these traits may be quite common among teenagers, taken together they could be indicators that your child may need some help:
    • Exploring new and unusual websites, chat forums and platforms. Harmful influences may push individuals towards platforms with a greater degree of anonymity.
    • Joining new or secret groups since isolation.
    • Speaking with new friends or being secretive about chats during online gaming or in forums.
    • A strong desire to seek new meaning, identity and purpose.
    • Using language you wouldn’t expect them to know.
    • Watching, sharing or creating films online linked to religious, political or racial hate.
    • Becoming increasingly argumentative or refusing to listen to different points of view.

Should I be concerned that a loved one is being exploited online?

The above are merely signs that they might need help, but you know your child best and you will want to speak with them first. Check in with them and ask about what they are viewing, who they are speaking to and how they are feeling. This might feel difficult, but here are some pointers to help you:

What help is available if my child is being exploited online?

  • It is important to safeguard loved ones from a range of online harms, whether that’s child sexual exploitation, fraud, or extremist influences seeking to radicalise vulnerable people.
  • If you are concerned that your child may be at risk of radicalisation, help is available to make sure they get the support they need to move away from harmful influences.
  • Teachers, healthcare practitioners, social workers, the police, charities, psychologists and religious leaders work together to safeguard those vulnerable to radicalisation through a safeguarding programme known as Prevent.
  • Prevent protects people from being drawn into hateful extremism – regardless of the ideology. It works in a similar way to safeguarding processes designed to protect people from gangs, drug abuse, and physical and sexual exploitation.
  • Receiving support through Prevent is voluntary, confidential and not any form of criminal sanction. It will not show up on any checks or negatively affect an individual’s future in any way.
  • The type of support available is wide-ranging, and can include help with education or careers advice, dealing with mental or emotional health issues, or digital safety training for parents; it all depends on the individual’s needs.
  • With this specialist help, vulnerable people across the country have moved away from supporting hateful extremism, enabling them to live more stable and fulfilling lives.

How can I access support and advice for a loved one being radicalised?

  • As with other safeguarding functions, Prevent is still operating during this time and is here to support families in times of need.
  • If you are worried that a loved one is being radicalised, you can call the police on 101 to get advice or share a concern so that they can get safeguarding support. Alternatively, you can contact your local authority safeguarding team for help.
  • Contacting the authorities will not get the individual into trouble if a criminal act hasn’t been committed. The local authority or police will discuss your concerns, suggest how they can best help and give you access to relevant support and advice.
  • If you think someone is in immediate danger, or if you see or hear something that may be terrorist-related, trust your instincts and call 999 or the confidential Anti-Terrorist Hotline on 0800 789 321.

I have seen concerning hateful content online that could cause harm. What should I do?

Prevent takes robust action to tackle radicalisation online and to counter the ideology promoted by extremists. This includes removing terrorist-related material and action to suspend the accounts of those fuelling these views.

Any member of the public can report terrorist content they find online through the GOV.UK referral tool. The Action Counters Terrorism campaign provides more information on this.

Further resources

There are resources available to help you understand and protect your child from different harms online.

Update 1: Golden Nuggets

Remote Education - Golden Nuggets to Consider

These have been gathered from across the county over the past two weeks:

  • Ensure your remote programme has time in the day, and week, which is less structured allowing pupils at home to interact with their peers and teachers.
  • Be creative to ensure all teachers get their PPA 
  • Create a key contact address or number for parents to get any technical support from school
  • Create a key person and contact time for families to get any support with the learning materials or content 
  • Keep a running log of student engagement with possibilities of RAG rating pupils for any follow up
  • Look at staggering live morning sessions to support families with multiple siblings
  • Consider a real balance with screen and no screen activities
  • Give a fresh reminder on guidance, protocol, expectations and safeguarding when using interactive live teaching with staff, parents and pupils. 
  • AFL can still be really useful when delivering any live lessons
  • Use the review document of remote education as a live document with planned revisits in the diary with leaders and governors
  • Pre-plan the pieces of work that will of which pupils will get feedback and communicate this with parents and pupils. This may be set pieces, one per day or a set number per week
  • Try and gain lots of positive praise throughout the day or week to share with pupils who are working at home
  • Try and maintain lots of short inputs, including regular phonics, for the youngest pupils 
  • Offer potential support sessions for families in creating timetables and routines
  • Have a plan of how to support families with multiple siblings trying to learn in the home and if possible offer bespoke support
  • Draw from the OAK Academy resources to amend and support your school offer with KS2 and KS4 currently the most accessed
  • Start considering what the catch up plan and approach may be as a when we return back to school

Leadership Updates 6 - release three for session on 25 March

Full re-opening strategic support presentation for Q and A session 25 March


Leadership Updates 5 - release two for session on 17 March

Full re-opening strategic support presentation for Q and A session 17 March

Leadership Updates 4 - release one for session on 11 March

Full re-opening strategic support - revised version 12 March

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