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How can we ensure pupils achieve academically?

Rebecca Ashraf - TLA (Teaching, Learning & Assessment) Link at Leeds East Academy:

This half term as we step back into the classroom, I’ve been focusing my research on “stretch and challenge” in order to ensure that I am consistently teaching to the highest standards.

I started my research with two books: High Performance Learning by Deborah Eyre and The Science of Learning by Bradley Busch and Edward Watson.

Both books focused on the principle that high expectations and high aspirations are needed to ensure that pupils achieve academically.

I used this idea to form the basis of my WRAT Stretch and Challenge CPD session. The Science of Learning states that in order to ensure that pupils have high aspirations and high expectations, we need to incorporate “The 5 Cs” in our classroom, which I’ve outlined below and how this looks practically in lessons.

High Performance Learning focuses on challenging pupils through teaching to the top, incorporating high-quality modelling in lessons, providing pupils with challenge-focused feedback and mastery of learning. In my CPD session I discussed how this translates to our teaching practice and which strategies we could trial in lessons moving forward.

In order to ensure that our pupils achieve academically, it is essential that we incorporate stretch and challenge into our teaching practice, and it becomes a feature of everyday life. In doing so, we can build resilience and intrinsic motivation within our pupils. I want pupils to see challenge as something positive and something that they should strive for within their learning experience. By incorporating the High Performance Learning principles and “The 5 Cs”, I am confident that we can achieve that for all learners.

How do you create high-quality explanations and improve student understanding?

Michelle Minton – TLA (Teaching, Learning & Assessment) Link at Leeds West Academy

This half term I hosted the inaugural White Rose Academies Trust Teach Meet about ‘Explicit Teaching and High-Quality Instruction’.

This virtual session saw thirteen presenters, representing four organisations, two educational phases and seven subject areas share best practice and research with thirty colleagues from across the Luminate Group.

This melting pot of collaboration left me buzzing with ideas and excited about the power of this collective expertise.

This update aims to share two themes from this session. . Please take a moment to reflect upon how you could apply them to your own teaching and subject domain:

The Gradual Release Model

Chiara Marquis and Sarah Steel from LEA explained how they had used this model to structure their high-quality explanations in Geography and Maths.

The model begins with a teacher-led explanation or practice of a new topic or skill. This is referred to ‘I do it’. Here the teacher models the task, be it answering an exam question, annotating text, completing an equation or drawing a detailed diagram. During this stage, the teacher should use questioning to engage students and check for understanding. The next step is called ‘We do it’. Here the teacher guides students through the task, providing appropriate scaffolding and continuing to use questioning to engage and check understanding. Finally, support is faded and students complete the ‘You do it alone’ phase. Here students apply their learning independently and complete the task on their own.

Teaching Ambitious Vocabulary and Abstract Key Terms

Jasmine Clarke (English) and Rebecca Ashraf (MFL) from Leeds East Academy shared how they teach vocabulary and use the Frayer Model to improve student understanding and fluency of new key terms. As the table to the left shows, this takes students across four aspects of new key terms – their definition, use in a sentence, synonyms and antonyms.

Olivia Bowers from Leeds City College further explained how we can support student understanding of abstract key terms and concepts by making them more concrete. For example, Olivia shared the complex dictionary definition of ‘classical conditioning’, a key term required in A Level Psychology. This definition was complicated, abstract and ‘alien’ to students. Therefore, Olivia suggested finding a common and concrete reference point to hang this new key term on. In this example, Olivia asks students to consider what they do when they hear a mobile phone ring – immediately reach for said phone in their own pockets without thinking – this being a relatable example of ‘classical conditioning’.

A huge thank you to colleagues who shared their expertise in this session and those who attended and participated. If you would like to present at the next WRAT Teach Meet in Half Term 6, please get in touch via email:

How was Lockdown for our beginner teachers?

Lead Mentor of our Beginner Teacher Programme, Miss Wisson, asked our beginner teachers about what it was like to teach and develop their practice in lockdown.

“For my own personal development, I’ve found lockdown to be beneficial as I’ve met other colleagues outside my subject team to understand their roles. I haven’t been able to meet my fellow ITT (Initial Teacher Training) students in person, however, the support received from my mentor, the school and the Trust has been phenomenal. - Samantha Slinger – Beevers (Science ITT – Bradford College)

“The last half term has been an interesting one to say the least! The transfer of my teaching practice from the classroom to online learning was difficult but made much easier by the support from the academy and the Beginner Teacher CPD offer. Lockdown has given me an opportunity to develop my teaching in ways I never thought I would, but I’m glad to be back in the classroom, though!” - Chloe Thompson (Science NQT – Leeds East Academy)

“I’ve engaged in various forms of CPD, particularly about how to teach live virtual lessons! This was a completely novel concept for me at the beginning, and I wanted to gain as much information as possible to put into practice straight away. I have found lockdown a struggle in terms of having to learn to teach from scratch in a new way, however the skills I have gained in digital learning tools I hope to now take forward to see if it can have such a positive impact on learning in the actual classroom rather than just the virtual one.” - Jess Kirby (Science RQT – Leeds East Academy)

What did we focus on for our Vulnerable Groups and Co-Professionals’ CPD offer?

This half term saw us look at the Child Protection framework in great detail. Ben Carey and Stef Precious provided an overview of the framework and looked at the support we can provide for children who are vulnerable or whose families work with a social worker. Next half term will look at how we can help our young people to build their self-esteem and increase their resilience.

Our co-professional CPD offer covered data use, an essential part of so many roles. This session was hailed as highly beneficial and we look forward to our next session which will explore best use of all adults in the classroom to support learners.

What did we focus on for our ‘Vulnerable Groups and Co-Professionals’ CPD offer?

Jasmine Clarke – Core Curriculum Lead for English at Leeds East Academy

In Half Term 4, I have had the wonderful opportunity of overseeing the English Curriculum mini CPD series which focused on boosting staff English Language and Literature GCSE subject knowledge for both the Eduqas and AQA exam boards.

The sessions have been a fantastic way for colleagues from across the trust to passionately discuss their own subject and share their thoughts and expertise with a wide range of professionals. The Half Term was kicked off with a session focusing on Greek and Roman Mythology in Shakespeare’s tragedies.

The session outlined key mythological figures that were referenced in the plays and made explicit links to quotes from both Romeo and Juliet and Macbeth. With this subject knowledge, teachers will be able to stretch and challenge their classes. They will be able to guide their pupils on how best to incorporate the mythological references in their analysis, thus allowing them to reach the top grades.

Jenni Cafferty from Leeds East Academy stated that she “loved the session! [She] learnt so much that [she] didn’t know before and it was brilliant being able to discuss Shakespeare with other professionals from across the Trust”.

Alice Dale (LEA) shared her expertise on AQA, Language Paper 1 as she had examined for the exam board in 2019. The first session focused on Section A and how best to teach Questions 2, 3 and 4. Colleagues took into consideration how to use the mark scheme, when marking and teaching the paper, and examined modelled answers to ensure that they’re understanding of the mark scheme was sound.

What’s more, Alice shared a range of strategies to use when teaching pupils this paper for the first time. The second session focused on Section B and how to effectively teach pupils to create a description and/or a narrative. Staff participated in a range of modelled strategies to understand the effectiveness of each one with Alice, again, referring to the mark scheme throughout the session to ensure that there was a solid understanding of how to award marks.

In addition to the series accommodating for staff members who teach AQA within the Trust, the sessions have also accommodated for our colleagues who teach Eduqas. Ellie Russell (LCA) held an Eduqas specific CPD session on An Inspector Calls in which she explored contextual links, key character analysis, and how to teach this in line with the Equqas exam specification. First, the session asked colleagues to consider the relevance of the play today and why it is important to ask this to our own pupils. Then, she outlined the key themes of the play and combined this with character analysis before exploring three different methods for essay writing. This session was extremely well received and left staff “buzzing” to use the strategies in their teaching immediately. Ellie will be hosting two more sessions in Half Term 5 to further share her Eduqas expertise.

The final sessions of the Half Term included ‘Masculinity in Romeo and Juliet’ and ‘Unseen Poetry – Understanding the AQA Mark Scheme’ which myself and Jenni Cafferty led on. I am pleased to say that the sessions have been very well received and the availability that the virtual sessions bring for staff collaboration is invaluable. I am looking forward to releasing the CPD calendar for Half Term 5’s mini-series next week which endeavours to further enhance our English staff’s subject knowledge so that we can deliver exceptional teaching of English across the Trust.




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