Tag Archives | Increasing time and capacity

Delivering personalised, relevant and time-efficient CPD in an independent school

Latymer Upper School

Here at IRIS Connect we value the uniqueness of independent schools. But what challenges do they face around CPD? And how might they overcome them? To find out, we sat down with Will Goldsmith, Head of English at Latymer Upper School and chatted about how independent schools can benefit from being able to deliver more personalised, relevant and time-efficient CPD to staff.

IRIS Connect: What kind of challenges were you facing around CPD?

Will Goldsmith: “There’s just never enough time (although Laytmer is very good at giving us time for engaging in professional development), whether you work in the maintained sector or independent sector and I worked for 8 years in the former and have done 5 in the latter so far. The other real challenge is relevancy – there are a lot of subject-specific courses that I look at as a Head of Department at an independent school and think that’s not going to be useful because we have a different kind of cohort on some levels. So, it’s challenging to find external people who understand our particular environment. It’s also very hard to find filmed lessons which are available in the public arena and feature a school or classrooms similar to ours. We know that the more we can tailor CPD to the environment we’re in, the more relevant it is for the people concerned and that just makes it a lot easier for people to feel like it’s useful for them.

IC: How have you overcome these challenges?

WG:  “Through IRIS Connect we’ve been able to revolutionise access to observations because we haven’t needed to organise cover or even watch entire lessons. It’s allowed us to essentially do a 10 min drop-in (something that quite a lot of senior management do now) without actually being there and focus in on what we want or need to see. So, it’s really helped to free up time.

For example, I’ve got someone in my department doing an on-the-job PGCE through the University of Buckingham at the moment. My colleague is mentoring him and all of his internal observations are being done using IRIS Connect. This has freed up a lot of time and allowed the mentor to observe any lesson and not miss out on anything crucial, rather than just the lessons when he is free. Arranging cover to observe is obviously a big imposition and we try and avoid it.”

IC: That’s great. What about the challenge of relevancy?

WG: “By recording lessons we’re able to use our own classrooms as the context and stimulus for people reflecting on their own practice or each others, so it’s a hundred times more relevant and useful. A teacher in my department did all his PGCE training with me, using video to observe and reflect on his lessons. He’s still quite new to the profession and still needs to develop further, but he was observed by Deputy Head Academic and the lesson was outstanding. I believe that filming himself was a factor in helping him to develop so rapidly and effectively.”

IC: Why did Latymer choose IC?

WG: It was part of a bigger focus on CPD. As well as purchasing IRIS Connect, the school invested in extra teachers last year to be able to give all teachers a slot on their timetable dedicated to professional development that they log in a learning journal. The school values this activity enormously and has invested heavily in it in order to facilitate the professional development of its staff. Although I wasn’t part of the decision-making group to get IRIS Connect at Latymer, I was in my previous school and we ended up choosing one of your big rivals. Having used their system and now IRIS Connect, I wish that we had chosen IRIS because it’s so much better and easier.

IC: You joined Latymer at the end of the last academic year, was your department already using IC then?

WG: It was using it a little but, soon after starting, I asked everyone to have a go and almost everyone did. The last year was very light touch and I really just said: “use it, film yourselves and see how that goes. If you’d like to share it with me please do so, but if not don’t worry.” Thankfully most of them did and actually this year everyone is much more comfortable with it, so they’re using it a lot more.

IC: How is it being used on a whole school level?

WG: “We’ve been asked to do more observations in trios. Initially, it was just in departments but now we’re increasingly looking to share things with people from other departments. So again, just in terms of logistics and timetable, it’s been incredibly useful.

We also run twilight sessions specifically for staff new and record those, so if someone misses one they can still have access. We’d like to do this with more training sessions too. We know that’s it really difficult to deliver good CPD sessions whether it’s internally or someone from the outside coming in, and there’s a lot of work that goes into making those sessions really good. By filming those sessions and sharing them through the platform we not only have a permanent record but are also able to give teachers a sense of ownership over their own development.

IC: Has working with IC impacted on the culture of the school?

WG: We’re certainly working much more collaboratively and transparently. The fact that we film our lessons and then share them is a collaborative act, with collaborative intent behind it.

IC: How has IC affected you and your role?

WG: “It’s made me so much more aware of what I’m actually like. It keeps me on my toes. As an experienced teacher, I think it’s very easy to get complacent, particularly in an independent school because we have students who are quite often a lot more well behaved and are therefore much more forgiving than pupils in classrooms where one needs to be tighter on behaviour management. I use IRIS Connect not because it’s my core responsibility but because it suits my needs as being head of a big department. I’ve filmed myself teaching, delivering departmental and training sessions, all of which have allowed me to become better at those things. It’s also allowed the people I’m responsible for to be much better teachers as well. For me, that’s really fundamental.”

IC: Do you have any plans for other ways you might use IC in the future?

WG: Yes. We have quite a few students who apply for Oxford and Cambridge every year, so we give them mock interviews to help them prepare. Quite often we partner up with other schools to conduct the interviews and make them more authentic by giving pupils a sense of being in a different place or with people they don’t know. I might film some of those to share with the newer members of the department who haven’t done them yet themselves.

IC: So, you would recommend IRIS Connect to other independent schools?

WG: I absolutely would. We’re lucky here at Latymer because we have a big focus on professional development and we are allowed significant time to do it. But I know that’s not the case for all independent schools. For me, the biggest thing that improves teacher performance in the classroom is being able to see yourself on camera. There’s nothing more powerful than that. So, in that way, I think having IRIS Connect could be seen to give us an advantage over other independent schools that don’t use it.

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IRIS Connect is used to run lesson study project with 100+ teachers

One of the best secondary academies in the country, Tuxford Academy, are using IRIS Connect to conduct a school-wide Lesson Study project involving 105 teachers. Ten years ago they embarked upon a national college project in Lesson Study, using DVD cameras to facilitate it. After several years the project fizzled out because the technology proved […]

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Early experiences of video professional learning

Treleigh Community Primary School
Teacher using video in the classroom

Ryan Hanley, a year 5 teacher at Treleigh Community Primary School in Cornwall, volunteered to be one of the first to use IRIS Connect after his school invested in the system in January 2016. In his own words, Ryan shares an honest account of his experiences of getting started with video professional learning and how he is finding the use of IRIS Connect…

With the changes to the new primary curriculum and the raised expectations, it is tempting to say that teaching and learning has been compromised. Do we solely focus on teaching the increased content driven curriculum, or focus on the best methods and vehicles in which to deliver this content?

We believe IRIS Connect will help us as a team to hold true to our convictions and focus on the best methods to deliver this new curriculum. With a balance of video-based activities in the IRIS Connect platform and peer coaching groups, we’re hoping to improve how we teach, encourage and motivate one another to focus on what really matters; the impact our actions have on children’s learning.

Getting started with video professional learning

We are a medium-sized expanding Cornish school that serves the biggest conurbation in Cornwall – Camborne, Pool and Redruth district. After initially seeing the IRIS Connect platform at a local cluster school’s ‘learning-group’ training day in 2015, our deputy-head teacher was keen to investigate further.

Soon enough, we invested in the system and put forward two teachers (myself and the year 6 teacher) to be in charge of getting used to the equipment, ensuring that it was embedded into our practice and a consistent part of our professional development.

We began using IRIS Connect in January 2016. Rather than just being seen as another ‘bolt-on’ or ‘gimmick’ for the new curriculum by our fellow colleagues, we knew it would be important to ensure that IRIS Connect was properly embedded into our school practice.

Working with our deputy-headteacher, we planned a ‘3 half-termly phased’ approach to help us structure the way teachers got used to the equipment; becoming familiar and competent at recording themselves.

We also had a liaison with Richard from Impact Matters, a leadership consultancy that act as regional partner for IRIS Connect, working with schools and colleges in Wales and the South West of England. Richard helped us to think about coaching methodology, and how to encourage peer-to-peer support amongst the teachers to help motivate and encourage this new approach in our school.

Building the confidence to share with others

Teacher using IRIS ConnectInitially, however, we had to get used to the equipment and filming our lessons. They say with IRIS Connect, you need to get 4 recordings done ‘on-the-bounce’ to get over that initial awareness that you’re being filmed throughout your lesson; and we both found this to be true! Equally, after 4 recordings, we found that we became less concerned with our ‘looks’ and how we sounded on camera, and more focused on the impact the lesson had on the children. We began recording lessons just to see if a new idea would work, or how a group would react to a certain task etc.

Once you’ve recorded a lesson, you have the ability to share it internally from your account to that of a colleague. At first, we both found it slightly nerve-racking to share our lessons; it’s a lesson observation all over again! Will he think I went on too long during the input? Were the children engaged? Was there enough challenge? All these questions flooded our minds before we hit the share button.

However, to the contrary, the comments (which can be tagged within minute and second intervals of the video – like a Facebook feed!) were very encouraging and up-lifting. As we were both ‘in the same boat’, we both enjoyed having the opportunity to be the ‘fly-on-the-wall’ in each other’s lessons. More importantly still, we could silence the harshest critics (ourselves) and focus on the positives; a skill that is arguably forgotten in the current teaching climate.

Setting up coaching triads

Once we had set up coaching triads, our colleagues enthusiastically took to video coaching, recording both long and short lessons in order to get over the ‘4 recording hurdle.’

On a staff-meeting feedback session, we found that the feeling of anxiety before sharing a video was common. However, we knew that we didn’t have to share our video and that if the lesson was an absolute car-crash, we could always choose not to and try again the next day.

Currently, we are still in the process of recording lessons with set focuses to help us get used to the coaching process, improving our professional development and overall teaching and learning.

Looking to the future
treleigh community primary school

Although it is still early-days for us, we are hoping that we can build a ‘bank’ of good practice videos that will help not only the staff at Treleigh, but maybe even the schools in our cluster and learning group as well.

We are already seeing how our PGCE students are benefiting from the impact of seeing themselves teach and saving time arranging demonstrations and observations of other teachers, rather than just logging on to watch best practice of a particular focus they need.

We’re in the business of educating, and this life-long education culture needs to be alive and modelled by the teachers to the children they teach.

IRIS Connect is certainly an educational journey for us, one we are only beginning, but are excited to be on.

What is IRIS Connect?

IRIS Connect platformIRIS Connect is a secure, personalised place for teachers to record, analyse and reflect on their practice.

Teachers can take control and arrange their own professional learning experiences and resources. As well as share easily with each other to make collaboration simple, organised and effective.

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Collaborating across a Trust


How using IRIS Connect has impacted collaboration across TKAT:

  • Helped them to overcome geographical limitations of 41 academies spread out over 8 local authorities
  • Enabled peer-coaching between teachers 80 miles apart
  • Made it possible to develop and share resources across the Trust
  • Enhanced their NQT induction programme
  • Increased teacher confidence
  • Improved participation in research and development
  • Allowed for effortless dissemination of R&D findings

Rachel Tizard had already witnessed the power of IRIS Connect when she took on the role of Director of Learning at TKAT (The Kemnal Academies Trust) in June 2014.3_0_tkat-chosen-rgb

“I was already convinced by the potential of IRIS Connect’s unique video technology, both for improving individual teachers’ performance and as a tool for changing a school culture; creating an atmosphere of trust through coaching and feedback,” describes Rachel.”In my current role, I am in a fantastic position to support schools to implement IRIS Connect to drive up the quality of teaching and learning and overall school improvement.

“But the most exciting aspect of introducing IRIS Connect to our academies was, and still is, the prospect of schools collaborating across the Trust through peer-coaching and the creation of Groups.”

Getting the schools on-board

TKAT is currently the largest Multi Academy Trust (MAT) in the South East.  They have a policy of earned autonomy with a few non-negotiables. Rachel explains: “As a Trust, we work by supporting schools to make decisions that are best for them and best suit the context in which they operate. This means that I promote the benefits of the technology and then schools choose if and when they get on-board with it.”

Once the schools decided to come on-board, Rachel’s plan was to adapt and use IRIS Connect’s own Teaching is Learning guidance programme, to create a few pathfinder schools. So far, about a quarter of TKAT schools have implemented IRIS Connect in their classrooms, and this number is rising.

Already some very exciting work is beginning to emerge around school-to-school support, such as inducting NQTs and the use of video technology to complement Lesson Study.

Primary pupils

Using Groups to overcome geography and collaborate more easily

TKAT’s 41 academies are spread out over 8 local authorities across the South East of England. “I very much see IRIS Connect as a solution to the challenge of the geography of TKAT,” says Rachel.

Ore Village Primary Academy is a school on a journey from being in Special Measures at the point of conversion two years ago. They have linked up with Seal Primary Academy in Selsey, to trial a unique approach to school-to-school support.”

“Schools have created cross-school groups in the IRIS Connect platform that allow peer-coaching between teachers of the same year group, some of which are 80 miles apart.”

In Thanet, Newlands Primary School is using IRIS Connect to record CPD sessions within their school and sharing them across a number of other schools, to provide stimulus for Joint Practice Development follow ups. They have created a school Group where they share a wide variety of resources for all staff to access easily.

Rachel also explains how Cleeve Park School in Sidcup are using IRIS Connect to enhance the effectiveness of their NQT Induction programme: “As a TKAT Teaching School Alliance Strategic Partner school, they are carefully evaluating the impact of this and using Groups to roll out a model programme throughout the Trust, supporting those academies who wish to implement it.”

Part of this programme involves using IRIS Connect to support Lesson Study in order for NQTs to use classroom-based research as part of their development. This is an exciting new process and will feed directly into TKAT’s newly established R&D network led by Debden Park High School, one of their two lead Teaching Schools in the TKAT Teaching School Alliance.

The Impact

According to a variety of data sources, TKAT is not only one of the most improved MATs in the UK, but also one of the highest performing. Of 12 Ofsted inspections since January 2015,  9 have been judged as good or better and 75% of all inspections since January 2015 have increased to good or better.

Secondary pupils66% of our academies are good or better now and although the national average is 73% it is important to note that 75% of our academies were Requires Improvement or in Special Measures on conversion.

I am hoping to continually improve the quality of teaching and learning over time to ensure that our children have constant access to inspirational learning experiences,” explains Rachel. “TKAT’s vision is ‘Inspiring Learners, Changing Lives’ and our ultimate aim is to ensure we drive educational standards through the provision of outstanding teaching, leadership and learning for all. I am also hoping to continue to improve collaboration between schools and strengthen the impact of our Teaching School Alliance across our 41 academies.”

As school budgets tighten, it is becoming increasingly difficult for CPD leaders to justify sending staff out of school on courses, especially since research has proven that this is not a very effective form of professional development.

According to Rachel: “In order for schools to be able to continue to provide high quality CPD for their staff and so improve teacher profiles and student outcomes, they need to work together, collaborating and participating in forms of Joint Practice Development based on learning in the classroom.”

“The use of IRIS Connect will support our newly-formed R&D network and enhance schools’ abilities to create classroom and evidence-based CPD.”

She continues: “Teachers using IRIS Connect have reported an increase in confidence as they can have high quality professional dialogue with a colleague, based on evidence from their classroom, in a safe and non-threatening environment. Establishing protocols around the use of IRIS Connect in each school has been essential to create this level of trust between colleagues.

Our academies that have already adopted IRIS Connect are able to contribute to our Trust in a unique way. They are able to participate in evidence-based research and development and play an active role in disseminating findings. As well as share their excellent practice through conferences and meetings with other teachers and leaders across TKAT.”

“We are confident that effectively embedding IRIS Connect in a significant proportion of our schools is contributing to the rapid improvement of our Trust overall.”

The Future

When asked about the future of IRIS Connect across TKAT, Rachel says: “IRIS Connect is an innovative technological solution, enabling schools to collaborate and network beyond their regional boundaries, as demonstrated by Ore Village and Seal Primary. But adoption of IRIS Connect remains a choice for our academies and as the early adopter schools continue to improve across the board we hope that the majority will come on board too, at a later date.

Ultimately, IRIS Connect could be a fantastic tool for TKAT to use as part of our teaching school alliance offer, which includes ITT. This could be a unique selling point of our SCITT in the future if we were able to offer trainees the ability to use IRIS Connect as part of their training in schools.”

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IRIS Connect platform

IRIS Connect is a secure, personalised place for teachers to record, analyse and reflect on their practice.

Teachers can take control and arrange their own professional learning experiences and resources. As well as share easily with each other to make collaboration simple, organised and effective.

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What some of the academies say:

Ore Village Primary Academy

“It gives us the opportunity to tap into coaching expertise anywhere in the country, or even the world. As a school in a deprived area geographically removed from many of our partner schools in the TKAT network, it allows us to benefit from those schools and vice versa, as if they were only a block away. A number of our teachers have chosen to use IRIS Connect to develop their practice by linking up with coaching partners in another TKAT school, 80 miles away.”

Ian McCrae, Headteacher

Newlands Primary School

“Following on from this, as a school, we are now aiming to build a collection of recordings within the IRIS Connect platform as a resource for staff. New staff that join the school will be able to see what ‘Talk for Writing’ and discrete SPaG lessons look like. It will also allow us to share best practice for Read Write Inc. sessions, especially as it can take some time between teachers and TAs joining the school and receiving the Read Write Inc. training. As these recordings will focus on the content of the lesson and how it is delivered, it is another way to remove the initial concerns of teachers being reluctant to share recordings of themselves teaching their class.”

David Bailey, Deputy Headteacher

Seal Primary Academy

“We rolled out IRIS Connect last academic year; first with a pilot group and then across the school (in accordance with IRIS Connect’s own Teaching is Learning programme). It is now embedded and the main component of our CPD, with teachers coaching each other in pairs to achieve a self-defined objective for improving teaching and learning in their classroom.

This year, we have set up a school-2-school support project with Ore Village Academy. This project is now up-and-running with teachers working in coaching pairs, sharing their self-defined objectives and videos in the same way as within our school. We have set up mini (2-person) cross-school Groups to ensure these videos are completely private. As a next step, the lead teachers in both schools will pilot the live in-ear coaching.”

Martin Shaw, Deputy Headteacher

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Overcoming the challenges of limited time for PD

Mount Erie Elementary School, Washington (US)

Teachers of Mt Erie Elementary, Jennie Beltramini and Kevin O’Toole, are improving the efficiency of Lesson Study and overcoming the challenges of limited time for PD using IRIS Connect.

We’ll be catching up with Jennie and Kevin again in the future to learn more about their journey’s with IRIS Connect, so keep checking our case studies page for updates.

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Better CPD at a fraction of the cost

Hearing about IRIS Connect on the education grapevine proved a valuable experience for Fern Federation at Cefn and Craig yr Hesg in Wales. Headteacher, Andrew Manley, explains how since embedding IRIS Connect a year ago they have radically reduced the cost and increased the impact of their CPD.

IRIS Connect: What CPD activities were you offering staff prior to purchasing IRIS Connect? 

Andrew: We were offering course based CPD provided by external companies and some in house training. Generally the courses focused on curriculum content rather than on pedagogy, meaning staff developments were inconsistent.

IRIS Connect: How does IRIS Connect compare to your previous CPD activities? 

Andrew: The federation were spending in the region of £5000 per year and although the courses provided a variety of experiences, rarely were they good value for money because they didn’t cater to teachers specific needs or the federation as a whole. IRIS Connect costs a fraction of what we had previously spent, and the impact has been significantly better.

IRIS Connect: How are your teachers, and the school as a whole, benefiting from IRIS Connect?

Andrew: Teachers are gaining a greater insight into their own practice by using it for self-reflection, group reflection and for coaching and mentoring. It’s also helped senior leaders to moderate judgements, review leadership skills, create interview content to identify candidates understanding of pedagogy, as well as better understand it themselves.

IRIS Connect: What do you hope to achieve through using IRIS Connect?

Andrew: Our main goal has been to develop staff’s ability to reflect on their own performance and the impact that they have on others, which is exactly what’s happening. I think IRIS Connect is possibly the best professional development process available.

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