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Penglais School

Penglais School

Bespoke to and driven by practitioners


Information about the school

Penglais School is a mixed comprehensive school in Aberystwyth with around 1,200 pupils on roll including about 270 in the 6th form. The school was established in 1973 and teaches mainly through the medium of English.


Approach taken

Our aim was to develop a culture of staff always being the best they can be. We wanted to have a non-judgmental culture with the focus on teaching and learning, sharing good practice, time invested in developing pedagogy and colleagues taking ownership of their own development.

Our journey to develop professional learning started four years ago in September 2017 where we gave more ownership to colleagues to how they contributed to professional learning. We also introduced research groups for all colleagues to be a part of enabling them to contribute to change at Penglais.

In September 2018, we started to give more ownership to colleagues with regards how to work effectively within their faculties. This included:

  • Working in faculties to develop their own assessment policies. At this time, we removed all grading from any lesson observations and focussed on the quality of the professional discussion that came from it.
  • We were still offering guidance and direction from ‘above’ with regards to teaching and learning priorities but at the same time alongside the intention of developing faculty leaders in the role of taking more ownership within their faculties.
  • At this point we encouraged colleagues to start contributing and sharing ideas in our twice weekly briefings on Inclusion and Teaching & Learning.

By January 2018 we were coming out of the directive style of leadership, this included:

  • Developing colleagues in restorative practice approaches.
  • More contributions from colleagues in presenting within INSET (workshops/marketplace style).
  • Introducing colleagues to the process of coaching to develop their teaching.

In September 2019, we made professional development objectives linked to teaching and leadership with emphasis on the standards including leadership for all colleagues. Maths started trialling different ways of looking into cognitive development and started teaching parts of their lesson ‘silently’. Colleagues shared the results with all staff through briefings and INEST.

In September 2020, we looked at ways we could make our professional learning more bespoke. Twilight hours were used individually or within a department to develop their practice. This took various forms – some did online training; some did research and others took up department-based training which could be disseminated during meetings. Maths for example decided to study different aspects of research in their subject and reported back findings in faculty meetings. The languages department set up a coaching and pedagogy session each Wednesday lunchtime for 30 minutes to discuss, share and support implementation of good practice.

COVID-19 hit the nation and this period really showed us how a school can self-improve. There was a lot of development in our CPD. Some of this included:

  • Weekly newsletter on good practice with links for colleagues to experiment with, without feeling that they ‘will mess up and fail’.
  • Screencasts and presentations on how to develop live and blended learning.
  • Colleagues presented within the online briefings including NQTs.
  • Faculties worked together weekly to develop resources and support blended and live learning and sharing their recordings to further develop blended learning teaching techniques.
  • Developing an open culture with transparency in our discussions when things did not go as well as planned in the teaching.

In June 2021, we wanted to see how we could develop our Intelligent Accountability leadership style. We as an SLT read literature on Intelligent Accountability and this led to discussions in meetings on how we could implement something similar at Penglais. We then presented this to our extended leadership team and asked for volunteers to form a working party across a range of roles in school to work out the details and how it would work effectively.

From September 2021, the connection between whole school priorities, professional development objectives, professional learning, quality assurance and accountability is much clearer and developed in a way that supports staff autonomy and improves motivation.

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