25 Apr 2018

Gain time

Gain time

Eyes on the prize. Just a few weeks to go. A lesson countdown in operation. Furiously putting the finishing touches to year 6 and 11 classes.

Just think of the gain time afterwards!

At this time of year, gain time can take on almost mythical proportions – the shimmering oasis in the distance. However it may work at your school, however many lessons might be freed up (or perhaps it might just be time saved in marking and planning), grand plans start being made about what will get done during that final half-term. Are any of these on your to-do list?

· Planning CPD programmes
· Rewriting schemes of work
· Creating new assessments
· Reworking department policies on behaviour and/or feedback and/or homework
· Planning interventions for other year groups (year 10 and year 5)
· Organising and running trips and/or plays
· Organising and running whole class projects

Which ones are you doing and why?

Sometimes in our professional desire to make sure we are making full use of the time, we might be so hurriedly doing, doing, doing, that we might not have taken a moment, an hour (at a department meeting), a week, perhaps longer, to really consider which areas we need to target. Which ones do our pupils need most?

The recent guidance report from the EEF on Putting Evidence to Work can provide some useful pointers about the stages we should consider when making changes at a school level, though the advice feels equally relevant for a department or faculty too.

‘The first activity is to identify a tight and specific area of focus. The objective is to identify a clear priority that is amenable to change. Don’t start with a solution and look for a problem!’

The opening paragraph from section 3 of the report feels very pertinent for gain time, particularly the notion of narrowing the focus. The starting point for this should be pupil data, but again caution needs to be applied as the report cites the potential to make an assumption that a pupil group has a low reading score, ‘but a more detailed analysis might reveal that pupils’ decoding skills are good but their comprehension is poor.’

Reading is a useful example as its importance to accessing the curriculum at all levels means it can easily be an area that is identified, but its breadth can make meaningful changes difficult to achieve unless purposeful exploration has been carried out. Doing that takes time, and that is something we are attempting to provide with our three day ‘Literacy at Transition’ course, the first day of which will be entirely focused on different aspects of reading, helping colleagues consider which strand might be the most relevant to focus on in their school context.

Day two looks at writing, and the third considers different assessment practices, as well as making decisions about how to roll out ideas across a department and school.

So, as the last half-term approaches, keep your eyes on the prize, but start considering that to-do list and ensuring it is explored and tightened to a focus that means that time of year is full of gain.