Using an online platform has transformed lesson observations

Thomas Telford School, Shropshire

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Thomas Telford School was established in 1991 as a City Technology College and is now rated one of the most successful state secondary schools in England, rated Outstanding by Ofsted, with an emphasis on science, maths, technology and business. It has set up academies in Wolverhampton, Walsall, Sandwell and Madeley and also provides in-school teacher training as part of the West Midlands Consortium.

"We have a culture now where professional development is seen as a career-long process and BlueSky could really help us to embed that concept ever more deeply across the school."

Chris Heywood
Assistant Headteacher, Standards, Data and Administration

How is BlueSky supporting Thomas Telford?

The school uses BlueSky primarily for managing lesson observations, the content of which also feed into performance management.

"We use graded lesson observations three times a year, carried out by heads of department, where everything is captured on BlueSky," says Chris Heywood, Assistant Headteacher, Standards, Data and Administration. "Most of the teaching is good or outstanding, however if someone falls below that level, we can see at a glance where there might be areas for individual development, which can then be addressed."

With BlueSky, all of the information from lesson observation is there at a glance for the headteacher to draw on when looking at overall performance management. Because BlueSky enables leaders to view performance across staff teams, departments or whole school, any common patterns - in terms of training needs - are also easy to spot, and this intelligence is now feeding into staff development.

"We have five professional development days across the year which have a teaching and learning focus. During these we will highlight some of the recurring themes that have emerged through BlueSky, whether it's differentiation, questioning or other aspects of pedagogy and look at how to address them," says Chris. "For example, we held one session which looked at what an outstanding lesson would look like and defined the key aspects of good execution. We held workshops where people showcased what they did in their departments. Much of that work was based around the insights we have derived from using BlueSky."

What is the impact?

"The capacity of BlueSky to collate information from lesson observations and generate summary reports detailing how departments, teams or year groups are performing has been a major benefit," says Chris.

"It has revolutionised that aspect of our monitoring. In the past, everything was largely paper-based which meant collating information from different sources could be time-consuming. Now we can generate a report in a few seconds, allowing us to see at a glance what's been done, who's been observed, who hasn't, how many were rated outstanding, how many good, where the areas of development are, and if any teachers need additional support. It's made that entire process so much more effective."

"We have a culture now where professional development is seen as a career-long process and BlueSky could really help us to embed that concept ever more deeply across the school."

​What's next?

The school plans to expand its use of BlueSky to align professional development to performance management and whole-school improvement goals. Some staff are already using BlueSky to log their professional development, and the aim is to roll this out across the school in time so that it becomes a routine part of practice.

There are also plans to use the system for learning walks, including pastoral learning walks covering PSHE and form time. In March 2021 the West Midlands Consortium introduced BlueSky Education to support trainee teachers in schools throughout the Trust.

"The project facility on BlueSky could be used by people to collate evidence of professional learning, demonstrating that they are research-based in terms of their thinking, that they're trying out new ideas to develop their pedagogy and that they're working across departments," says Chris.