New: AI-assisted Instructional Coaching & Reflection

Hales Valley Trust Case Study

How this trust built a family of success in diverse schools

Hales Valley Trust, a Multi-Academy Trust situated in Dudley, West Midlands, is made up of 5 primary schools that each range from one to three-form entry, including nurseries, with varying levels of deprivation within their communities. Considering the vast differences in socioeconomic backgrounds of the children, school sizes, and location, Hales Valley manages to ensure each student is given the same opportunities as all others in their community.

How did 5 individual schools become a family of positivity, success and inspiration?

The IRIS Connect Team was very fortunate to have had hands-on experience at all five schools at the trust. Having visited each school, we noticed the pervasive sense of a close-knit community—a genuine family spirit between both staff and students.

Each of these primary schools takes pride in special features: Lutley Primary boasts an adventurous Forest School, Lapal’s students have the opportunity to pick apples in their school orchard, Hurst-Hill features a nurturing nursery room, Priory offers its children an incredible astroturf football pitch, and Woodside has bespoke SEN classrooms.

 All these schools also have vibrant and exciting libraries where students can select a book and explore. The trust has made sure that every student’s experience is meaningful.

Kate Hall, Director of Education and former headteacher at Lutley Primary School, sets the scene: “It doesn’t matter what colour uniform our children wear, it is important that they receive equality of provision across our family of schools- every classroom, in every school, should ensure that the children receive high quality teaching.”

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Success for all

Hales Valley Trust and its five schools all share the common goal of ‘success for all’. Kate: “To have successful schools, teachers need to be proficient and consistent with their teaching. Our job is to promote good outcomes for pupils, and to do that we need to have high quality teaching. To have high quality teaching, you need to have effective professional development”.

IRIS Connect has been an integral part of Lutley’s teacher development programme for close to a decade. Alex Hall, Assistant Head at the school explains how IRIS Connect’s video technology and PD platform has helped the school maintain and further improve already high outcomes:

“We have consistently had high outcomes over the years and that is down to the sharp focus on teaching and learning. We’ve been working with IRIS Connect for the best part of a decade and now it’s a really exciting journey with all five schools using the system.” 

The Trust works hard and develops its staff to enable them to achieve high outcomes across their schools and one particular school is proud to be in a different position since using IRIS Connect. Woodside Primary School was in special measures. Kerry Burns, Deputy Headteacher at Woodside gives us some insights: “IRIS Connect has a great impact on staff and pupils at Woodside. In January 2020, we were removed from ‘Special Measures’ and we now have a grade of ‘Good’ in all areas of quality of education, behaviour

and attitudes, leadership and management, personal development and early years foundation stage.

The impact of IRIS Connect on our pupil outcomes has been phenomenal. Since 2019 -2023 we have seen a 20% increase in reading and writing at the end of key stage 2.

We now have more children at age-related expectations which is phenomenal.”

Josh Brazier, a teacher at Woodside, has now assumed the leading role of continuing to drive the usage of the IRIS Connect system in his school, further promoting and encouraging a collaborative professional learning culture. “The school suggested as the next step for a member of staff to take leadership so we can keep improving pupils’ outcomes. We’ve seen over the last 5 years a massive rise in the attainment of our children. We are in the business of raising children’s attainment. So it’s important that the coaching culture and IRIS Connect is at the heart of that. I took on this role to give it a new lease of life and really put the importance of IRIS Connect up there in our school.”

How exactly is IRIS Connect used to improve teaching and learning?

Honing your craft through video analysis

“Traditionally teachers would have an hour observation once a year. What we wanted was a model like IRIS Connect, where staff could hold up a mirror to themselves and be able to reflect on their own practice. I think staff leading their own professional development is key. Integral to the successful roll-out of the system across the trust was our IRIS Connect consultant – he showed us how everything worked, its benefits and helped us tailor it to what we needed.” – Kate

Alex shares how he got his staff on board: “I use an analogy as to why we would record. I use Usain Bolt and his coach as an example. The coach records Usain Bolt from start to finish for a 100m sprint and then picks apart the video. They will look at each section of the race to see where they can make small changes to make him run a 10th of a second quicker, because if he can run it a 10th of a second quicker, he may win the gold medal at the Olympics. If they notice he’s twisting his foot slightly as he comes out the blocks, they hone in on that with the reflection and it’s exactly like that in teaching. Our coaches hone in on something really specific in the reflections and get the coachee to reflect on their lesson – what their actions were, what the children did and what the outcome was.

Image of Usain Bolt, taken by Marco Verch Professional Photographer

 The coach will then instruct the teachers to change parts of their lesson over time and the impact will be dramatic over the course of 12 months to 2 years. IRIS Connect has given us the power to have a sharp focus on teaching and learning.”

Cultivating excellence with quality instructional coaching

It’s clear that the trust believes each teacher should have access to the best professional development, and this has led to a fast-growing coaching culture throughout all schools.

Kate: “We’re developing a coaching culture where staff can find their own way forward because we believe they’ve got the ability to do that. We have given them a framework through our teacher rubrics and WalkThrus and that empowers people! The coach controls the process and the coachee controls the content”

WalkThrus play a massive role in improving teacher development. Matt Maynes, Assistant Head of school at Lapal Primary School confirmed, “by combining IRIS Connect with teacher WalkThrus we’ve created a synergy between the two which form the cornerstones to our approach to PD. It has provided colleagues at every level within the school with this shared language and understanding of ways to improve teaching, and given teachers the power to do that through quality instructional coaching.”

James Griffiths, Deputy Head at Priory Primary School explains the current plan they have in place to encourage teachers to record their practice regularly: “We have coaching cycles where teachers record the second or third week of each cycle, depending on the focus. If certain staff have targets, they might record more often, so we can refine, support them, and then put coaching models in place. Another way is to watch certain members of staff showcase clips and learn from them. While we are looking at teachers who are confident in certain areas, we encourage them to record more often, so that their practice can be shared and celebrated.”

Going beyond classroom walls: trust-wide sharing and collaboration

Kate envisions a future where the trust has a vast library of reflections that can be shared around the trust: “My vision for Hales Valley is to have a bank of lessons and ideas that we can share widely. For staff to feel confident and empowered enough to want to share their recording to develop others, to share our fantastic practice across our academies and also to be proud of what they have achieved.”

Matt Maynes: “We are now building a library of good practice and tapping into the great practice of others through the use of Groups on the IRIS Connect platform. Staff are now increasingly more open to share videos with others. This has been a key moment for us in our journey from being a ‘Good’, to an ‘Outstanding’ school.”

Josh shares an example of trust-wide collaboration: “One of the benefits of IRIS Connect specifically with subject leadership, is that we can share best

best practices. For example, in one of my roles as a computing leader, we can now bring together a bank of good computing videos. When we have new ECTs or ITTs join our schools, we can then share a video of how we want computing taught across the trust. So this collaboration of ideas and best practices is really great, especially for newer teachers coming into the role.” 

Rebecca Weaver, Assistant Head of School at Hurst Hill Primary School, explains how the trust-wide solution helps them as a smaller school: “CPD before IRIS Connect was all in-house. Being a small school, we heavily relied on the resources available that day. With IRIS Connect, we’re now able to also record training sessions, so if staff have been away when implementing new things like our reading curriculum, we can record and share it and also watch sessions from other schools across the trust.”

A vehicle to success

After two immersive days of exploring five dynamic schools and meeting the wonderful, caring and compassionate members of staff, our experience with Hales Valley Trust was truly exceptional. We could see that they are a family, not just concrete and glass but a genuine home of education, fostering a sense of community and dedication among its members.

Kate is proud of the continued impact they have on 3,000+ pupils every single day and appreciates IRIS Connect’s part in that: “It’s allowing staff in a non-threatening, supportive way to develop their practice, ultimately improving not only outcomes, but the life chances of the children in our care.”

“IRIS Connect is a superb vehicle for mastering the craft of teaching, capturing best practice and celebrating it. I think when combined with high-quality coaching there is no limit to what staff and subsequently children can achieve."

 Matt Maynes

Would you like to explore the use of IRIS Connect at your school or MAT?