Aquinas Core Teaching Principles
Great teaching is ‘Life-Transforming’. Aquinas believes that every child and young person in our rust must have access to the best possible teaching and the very best curriculum experience. Weuse the Confederation of Schools Trust’s (CST) four key academy improvement propositions, two of which are shown here:
1. The goal is for every teacher in every classroom to be as good as they can be in what they teach (the curriculum) and how they teach (pedagogy).
2. There is no improvement for pupils without improvement in teaching and no improvement in teaching without the best professional development for teachers.
Our thoughts about teaching link closely to our thoughts on curriculum design which can be found in our document, The Aquinas Approach to Curriculum Design.
At Aquinas, our best teachers and leaders know that:
• High-quality teaching has a long-term positive effect on our pupils’ life chances, particularly for our children and young people from disadvantaged backgrounds; therefore, the development of great teachers and great teaching is the single most impactful strategy in closing the disadvantage gap;
• teacher expectations can affect pupil outcomes; setting goals that challenge and stretch pupils' knowledge, skill, application and ambition are essential;
• setting clear expectations can help communicate shared values that improve classroom and school culture; therefore, great teaching is a key driver for the continuous promotion of equality, diversity and inclusion;
• teachers can affect and improve the wellbeing, motivation and behaviour of their pupils; this means that great teaching helps keep children and young people safe in school and in the wider community; and
• teachers matter. They are key role models who can influence the attitudes, values and behaviours of their pupils; pupils’ resilience and beliefs about their ability to succeed are enhanced by teachers and the opportunities they provide for pupils to experience meaningful success.
We ensure our practice, including implementation of new approaches, is evidence-informed through an ongoing commitment to research and professional association. At Aquinas, we draw from the experience of colleagues, the national teaching standards, findings from the Great Teaching Review Toolkit, Rosenshine’s Principles and the ‘WalkThrus’ materials created by Tom Sherrington and Oliver Caviglioli to use as vehicles for teacher development and improvement.
Building alignment around an intentional Trust culture that views both curriculum development and the quality of teaching as our primary priorities, creates coherence and gives direction and purpose to the work of teaching pupils.
Our school-based Teaching Leads:
• Possess expert pedagogical knowledge and can demonstrate their knowledge and experience of highly effective teaching, learning and curriculum design, rooted in current evidence-based research;
• hold the strategic oversight of teaching (and curriculum design, as appropriate), ensuring best practice within their academies through expert leadership of other professionals with teacher development and curriculum responsibilities e.g. early career framework mentors, induction tutors, subject leaders and phase leaders;
• utilise a range of leadership skills, including instructional and transformational coaching and mentoring strategies;
• represent their respective academies within the Trust and wider networks;
• work with members of the Trust Education Team to ensure their work impacts on teacher development, curriculum implementation, the quality of education and the outcomes of all pupils in the Trust; and
• ensure a culture of mutual trust and respect between colleagues to foster effective relationships and supportive professional environments.
In Aquinas academies, teachers foster a love of learning that goes beyond the superficial. We nurture curiosity and strive for genuine joy in learning core knowledge.
Effective teaching is only possible in an environment where pupils feel safe and able to thrive. Our best teachers promote interactions and relationships with all pupils that are based on mutual respect, care, empathy and warmth; they avoid negative emotions in their interactions as well as being sensitive to pupils’ needs, emotions, cultures and beliefs.
Teachers create a climate of high expectation, with high challenge and high trust, so pupils feel able to take risks; encouraging pupils to attribute their success or failure to things they can change. They ensure that rules, expectations and consequences of behaviour are explicit, clear and applied consistently.
They maximise time effectively and prevent, anticipate and respond to potentially disruptive incidents; reinforcing positive pupil behaviours, signalling awareness of what is happening in the classroom and responding appropriately.
There is no preferred lesson, planning or delivery style in our Trust. We equip our teachers with the tools to teach well, enabling them to select the best strategies to suit the lesson content and context. However, extensive evidence-based research over the years tells us that several essentials remain intrinsically linked to good and great teaching:
• Teachers understand the fragility of working memory and the importance of ensuring core knowledge is practised to the point of automaticity, so it is embedded in long-term memory.“If nothing has altered in long term memory, nothing has been learned” (Ofsted 2019).
• Teachers identify core vocabulary needed to access curriculum content, as well as any concepts that underpin this vocabulary. Vocabulary is taught explicitly and revisited regularly giving pupils the maximum opportunity to apply what they have learnt.
• Teachers know the end goal of a learning sequence and plan the most efficient way to achieve it. To do this, teachers must have a deep knowledge of their subject matter and enhance their knowledge through professional development.
• Teachers take care to ensure that all pupils can access the same learning through careful and deliberate use of scaffolds. Teachers map out the components of a task and decide which scaffolds are appropriate and when to begin removing them.
• When planning, teachers identify common misconceptions to ensure they always reinforce the correct underlying conceptual model.
• Teachers explicitly and expertly model tasks step by step and do so regularly. Tasks are then set that emulate this modelling, so pupils can practise and master new knowledge.
• Teachers know that pupils are more likely to learn and remember new content when it is tied to previously learnt material, therefore build in opportunities to revisit and build on prior knowledge.
• Teachers use questioning extensively throughout lessons in various ways to check and deepen pupils’ understanding, to allow them to make connections, to inform immediate actions and to identify next steps in learning.
• Teachers allow time for pupils to respond appropriately to feedback about their thinking, knowledge and understanding; to formulate high quality responses, pupils are given time to think and develop oracy skills.
• Teachers recognise that performance does not equal learning. Pupils are given ample opportunity to practise until fluent; to repeat and apply what they have learnt over time in a variety of different situations to deepen understanding.
• Teachers weave open ended and independent learning opportunities into their curriculum to ensure that pupils have time to make choices and work collaboratively.
• Teachers help pupils to plan, regulate and monitor their own learning, progressing from structured tasks to independent learning as their expertise increases.
Great teachers know their students well as individuals, are well informed
about the nature and requirements of their students’ specific needs and have
strategies to accommodate them.
Coe, R., Raunch, CJ., Kime S., Singleton, D. (2020) Great Teaching Toolkit Evidence Review section 02,
Creating a Supportive Environment.
Reviewing effectiveness and accountability
The terms of reference of the Trust Education Scrutiny Committee (ESC) state the Committee should “know and understand how academies are using appropriate strategies to improve the quality of teaching in schools and to hold senior leaders to account.” Alongside curriculum development, the Committee fully understand the importance of the development of teaching and of teachers to transform children and young people's lives and improve each academy. The Education Team ensures open dialogue about the quality of teaching with Trustees.
Our teacher appraisal process (reviewed 2022/23) supports this core belief; using teacher standards to hold colleagues to account and the language and techniques from ‘WalkThrus’ to ensure teachers develop continuously and improve practice.
School Improvement Plans prioritise the quality of teaching as a key driver for improvement. The Education Team liaise directly with Teaching Leads and Headteachers about the quality of teaching in each academy, holding them to account for high standards and expectations, carefully considering the training and expertise needed to guarantee the great teaching which allows all pupils to flourish.