School improvement

The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) guidance report to support head teachers and senior leaders to make better-informed decisions based on the best available evidence they currently have. Links to recently published EEF guidance can be found below.

EEF guidance report on using digital technology to improve pupils learning offers 4 clear and actionable recommendations to improve how technology is used in your setting, particularly for disadvantaged pupils.

Improving Literacy in Secondary Schools

Over 90% of inspected schools are now Good or better (as of March 2019) compared to just over 68% five years ago. Whilst still below national averages: Key Stage 2 progress scores have improved in Reading and Maths; and at Key Stage 4 the Progress 8 score has continued to improve (-0.13 in 2017) and a LA ranking of 105th compared to 126th in 2016 (click here for performance measures).

To make the step change that is needed to improve standards and accelerate the progress of our pupils, will require a collaborative approach whereby all schools (irrespective of whether they are part of a Multi Academy Trust or remain as a LA Maintained school) continue to work together under the auspices of the Portsmouth Education Partnership (PEP) to maximise the resources available, draw on system leadership capacity across the city, and share best practice and pool expertise.

Devonshire Infant School

To this end, the PEP has embarked on a collaborative programme of school improvement which is led by the PEP School Improvement Board and supported by the Portsmouth Teaching School Alliance. The programme embeds shared values and builds on the historically strong relationships between the Local Authority and the education sector in Portsmouth, supplementing, without duplicating, work within MATs and Teaching Schools.

The PEP is establishing clear and accountable arrangements to support sector-led school improvement and capitalise on potential economies of scale.  It is providing a structure to support the transition from Local Authority to sector-led school improvement arrangements.  The Local Authority will continue to deliver its statutory duties in relation to school improvement so long as they continue to exist but in the context of a move to a schools led self-improving system supported by effective system leaders and curriculum/subject networks and continuing professional development (CPD) which encourages school to school support and local and external peer review.

The School Improvement Board has agreed the key school improvement priorities for the city as:

  • Closing the gap for disadvantaged pupils
  • Improving outcomes for pupils on SEN Support in mainstream schools
  • Improving outcomes for the most able pupils
  • Leadership
  • Subject specific support in Maths, English, MFL and Science

School Improvement Update June 2018

School Improvement Case Studies


The School Improvement Board has led on the development of a PEP Performance Dashboard (showing an overview for Portsmouth LA area) underpinned by a set of data based criteria which schools can use, alongside other tools, to help assess where their strengths and areas of development might be compared to national benchmarks for academic outcomes.  The dashboard is also being used to inform the prioritisation of support from the Local Authority in terms of LA Maintained schools, the delivery of which has been outsourced to the Portsmouth Teaching School Alliance. The Dashboard is also informing annual discussions the LA has with MATs and the RSC about the performance of academies in the city.


The Portsmouth Teaching School Alliance is committed to raising standards and improving the outcomes for the young people of Portsmouth.

The Portsmouth TSA’s range of programmes offer the very best in professional development for all staff at all career stages in primary, secondary, mainstream and specialist schools.

Challenge the Gap

The Portsmouth Challenge the Gap programme was commissioned by the Portsmouth Education Partnership as a school improvement initiative focussing on raising the attainment of disadvantaged pupils. The project aimed to show impact for pupils in both academic areas and non-academic areas such as attitudes and attendance.

Eighteen schools, including primary, secondary and special, took part in a programme across the academic year 2017/18, which involved staff attendance at 6 training workshops, the development of a targeted project in school and school visits from the workshop leaders.  120 primary pupils and 86 secondary students were involved initially in the projects across the city schools (approximately 10-15 target students per school).

Summary of impact on pupils: Page 1 Page 2 

Full impact study

For further information, take a look at the Challenge the Gap Summary for Governors and Headteachers here.

A presentation upon Challenge the Gap in Portsmouth can be found here.

Challenge the Gap case studies:

Cottage Grove, Craneswater School, The Flying Bull Academy, Mayfield School, Northern Parade Junior School, Priory School, Redwood Park Academy, St Paul’s, Springfield School


The Challenge Partners (CP) Hub in Portsmouth continues to be expanded.  CP supports in-depth reviews of schools through this nationally recognised programme of peer challenge and support.

Admiral Lord Nelson School


The PEP School Improvement Board has developed a School Support Directory which gives details of local system leaders (e.g. National, Specialist and Local Leaders of Excellence (NLEs, SLEs, LLEs) and National Leaders of Governance (NLGs). This will be extended under the work of the PEP and will provide case studies showing the work of system leaders and the impact on raising standards in Portsmouth’s schools.


Emma Bannister

“For the past two years I have undertaken the role of SLE for Portsmouth and the South East, specialising in curriculum, P4C, music and parenting support. During this time, I have completed rigorous core training within the area of coaching which has enabled me to complete support work in various schools by building relationships based on a mutual and collective responsibility within the wider community.

I recently supported a Year 3 Leader in a Junior School, in developing effective learning environments across the year group, therefore helping to create high quality learning environments in order to raise attainment.

During last year I helped support a year two team in another local school, where I systematically monitored, evaluated and reviewed classroom practice  and offered effective strategies to promote rapid improvement.

I have run workshops for Initial Teacher Trainees and teachers from across the city at various conferences including; The Solent Cultural Conference, the Nelson Cluster and our G&T Cluster, promoting P4C, closing the gap through the use of Boys’ Reading Club and extending able children in music. My work on developing a Boys’ Reading Club was noted in a Research & Development project conducted by Portsmouth Teaching School Alliance & written up in a document produced by the National College (Closing the Gap with the new Primary National Curriculum September 2014.)

I am an accredited Arts Award Advisor and a Level 3 SAPERE P4C trained practitioner. I hope to become a Level 1 SAPERE Trainer within the year.”

Sarah Hilditch and Kate Brooks Northern Parade School

“As part of the SLE role we can offer Inset, staff meetings and training. Recently, in our SLE role, we put on training for Greater Depth Reading at KS2. It was a well-attended course and the schools that attended achieved good outcomes for reading at the end of KS2 this year.

The course’s aims were: to develop a deeper understanding of the eight reading domains; to be able to equip schools with question stems and resources for each of these areas and to provide useful and engaging activities and resources to use in the classroom. Attendees were also given the opportunity to explore barriers to reading as well as reviewing reading structures and routines currently used within their schools.

The course was an opportunity to make sure that teachers and leaders had time to unpick current research, share good practise and to think about future practice in their schools for maximum impact in reading. The course evaluations were very positive.

If you are thinking about booking an SLE in the future, remember that the role of the SLE is varied, it is about being flexible and relevant to your school and its particular needs. For example; Sarah has recently worked with a local junior school to implement a new reading structure and Kate has worked with a local infant school to plan and team teach an engaging literacy curriculum.”

Verity Tilley, Cottage Grove School

“A recent project I have led in school was part of a focus on improving the teaching and learning of maths. The piece of work was driven through data analysis, which took place alongside the school’s assessment manager, following the KS1 and KS2 statutory tests. The data analysis showed clearly the areas of strength in maths teaching and the areas that needed to be developed. The area that was a weakness in both KS1 and KS2 was fractions and this had also been identified as an area of concern when the SLT had conducted work and planning scrutinies.

CPD sessions were delivered to all year groups (Year 1 – 6) focusing on fractions subject knowledge. During these sessions there was a focus on the subject knowledge required to teach fractions in each specific year group and the progression of fractions through the primary curriculum. Following straight on from these sessions, I spent time with each team planning a unit of work that was based around fractions.

After the half term break I then returned to complete observations of the fractions lessons alongside other SLT members. Individual feedback was provided for all teachers with ‘what went well’ and ‘even better ifs’ and then a coaching plan put in place for all teachers to continue to develop their pedagogy. All of the individual feedback was then collated to give an overview of the strengths in the teaching seen and the areas of development which then need to be added into the maths action plan.

Data analysis was then completed during the next round of internal assessments in the school to see the impact of the work completed.”

Jess Paul, Northern Parade School

“Deep mathematical understanding requires children to notice and exploit key relationships and structures in order to produce beautiful solutions to complex, non-routine problems. However, this is not an easy task to achieve! S-Planning is about developing a comprehensive, detailed conceptual journey that makes explicit connections between areas of mathematics to build mini-mathematicians from early years onwards.

At Milton Park Primary, we have been working together to unpick and draw out the key learning that need to be made explicit in each conceptual journey that children experience. An INSET day in January was spent drawing out the key aspects that would mean children experienced a meaningful journey or learning. We established that the journey would need to include:

  • Explicit Links
  • Questions that encourage deep thinking
  • Tasks chosen that required application of knowledge
  • Opportunities for children to expose their mathematical thinking
  • Resources and representations that are chosen carefully
  • Children building up a concept not just the ability to perform a procedure

The other vital aspect is that these journeys are not planned alone. Collaboration happens both within and across year groups. The discussion between teaching staff around the choice of representations they will use and the incremental steps in learning is highly important. It allows staff to share experience and subject knowledge.

S Planning begins by drawing a large S on a page which represents the journey that the children will take. This journey could take a week, or a month, this becomes dependent on the steps needed to achieve the end goal. Teaching staff then spend time discussing the start point, and the incremental steps in learning that they need to guide the children through. No step is too small! At each point, we thought about the representations that would support the concept, the difficult points that would be crucial to achieve before moving on, how we could support children in going deeper and the explicit connections that would be made along the way. Throughout the whole journey, stem sentences are incorporated as key markers, what do want the children to be able to say at each point in their learning?

The teaching staff at Milton Park Primary are now reviewing their first attempt at S Planning. We will spend a staff meeting discussing what went well, and what we have learnt from the first journey in order to plan an even better journey next time. Milton Park Primary has shown a huge commitment to ensuring that all the children are exposed to a mathematical journey that is supporting them to become life-long mathematicians.

At the heart of everything, is the goal to enable all children to succeed as mathematicians.”

Marie Allen

“Over 13 years I have taught French and PE in Secondary schools and now teach both subjects in a Primary setting as well as being a class teacher. In various roles, I have been responsible for assessment, data analysis, tracking, training of staff, health and safety and the coaching and mentoring of staff both new to the profession and those with more experience. In my current school role, I work alongside other class teachers modelling lessons as a form of CPD.

I see the SLE role as an opportunity to make a difference in more than one school by empowering people to implement effective and sustainable changes to enhance teaching and learning.

I have supported subject/middle leaders in a primary school in Portsmouth. This has included:

  • developing the skills of the subject leadership, with modern foreign languages as the focus.
  • coaching colleagues in the audit of existing provision and building the confidence of subject leaders.
  • facilitating the generation of an action plan.
  • creating an overview of learning that links with the whole school overview.
  • creating mid-term planning, outlining the key areas to be taught each half term.
  • creating assessment strands to be used with each year group that feed into current KS3 assessment strands.
  • providing consultative support for monitoring the action plan, measuring impact and supporting sustainability when the initial support phase ends.

As an SLE, I also hold local hub meetings at my school where we share good practice and invite speakers in to deliver CPD. I have delivered various sessions at a number of conferences across the city, mainly based on transition and assessment in MFL.

The fact that I have to use a range of approaches from facilitative coaching to direct modelling in a different context is a real challenge but the process works because of the enthusiasm and collaboration of professionals who are willing to share their knowledge, experience and ideas. One of the most valuable aspects of this role is that I can share good practice with the school that I am visiting to further improve areas in my own school.”

Mel Walton, Mary Rose Academy

“Mel Walton, SLE and Assistant Head teacher from the Mary Rose Academy led a recent RQT seminar on ‘Outstanding Teaching’. This started with an opportunity to discuss, reflect and then draw what an outstanding teacher looks like. Most of the life size pictures had eyes in the back of their head, a big heart and many many pairs of hands! The teachers then experienced seven of the techniques from Doug Lemov’s ‘Teach Like a Champion’ book. These insist upon a high think ratio and high participation ratio from all pupils in order to secure learning. The techniques are simple, effective, require no extra planning and provide staff with a shared language.  The feedback and evaluations from the RQTs was very positive as they felt they were able to use these techniques the very next day and could apply them to their own setting.”

The course improved my understanding and helped with practicing different models for coaching as well as understanding the impact it would have in my teaching and peer conversations. I am already adapting lessons to reflect what I’ve been shown on this course.” RQT evaluation

Jan Lathem and Maria Thorne

“Commissioned as part of the Portsmouth Early Language Programme, this was training provided for leaders and aspiring leaders of pre-school settings with an emphasis on the content being driven by the needs of the pre-schools involved.  We worked in partnership with the University of Chichester to be able to offer certification to the practitioners taking part.  This would provide them with credits towards a Foundation Degree.  Standards for this certification were developed and agreed by us and the University.

A pre course questionnaire sent to pre-school leaders provided information about their perceived strengths and their biggest challenges and these were used to plan the foci of the sessions.

The format of the course alternated formal training sessions on topics like ‘Prioritising’, ‘Difficult Conversations’ and ‘Measuring Impact and Implementing Change’ with planned visits to other pre-schools.  Attendees were required to keep Setting Visit Records, evidence of work completed in formal sessions and reflective work completed in their own setting against the agreed standards.

15 practitioners attended all sessions and 13 of those chose to submit evidence & received certification from Chichester University.  Feedback from the practitioners was highly positive in terms of increased confidence, impact on practice, and meeting their specific needs, with all 15 stating they would recommend the course to other aspiring leaders.  I would also like to add that we all had great fun and everyone made future contacts through the brilliant networking opportunities!”

Sarah Hilditch and Kate Brooks, Northern Parade School

“To create the love of reading and to practise the skills needed to access a highly demanding reading curriculum, we have been working on our own unique reading structure to fulfil these needs.  We make sure that the reading links in with the writing to ensure children are applying skills which also enable children to study the text s used to stimulate writing in more detail or study another text of the same genre/author.

The overview for the week:

On each Monday and Tuesday the children will look at the text as a whole and carry out drama, drawing and creative activities to get to immerse themselves in the text. On Wednesday and Thursday children analyse the text, answering inference questions and using PEE to structure answers. This is again done in a fun context through ‘Prove It’ statement games and court room scenarios.

Friday is the highlight of the week for the children. They carry out a ‘Big Quiz.’ The teachers have microphones, music and wear silly hats. The children answer questions on the text as well as carrying out a speed reading and a reading with expression round. The pupils are unaware that it is an assessment!

As a school, we have noticed that we have a huge reading evidence base and the skill set of the children has vastly improved. Early indicators show that the current Year 6 children are on track to make age expected or better in reading.”

Becky Hussey, Cottage Grove

“The school’s Ofsted inspection identified that to raise teaching and pupils’ achievement to outstanding in the EYFS, staff needed to plan the activities for children to choose more thoroughly so that adults working with them could stretch their learning more effectively.   Over two terms, the Specialist Leader of Education (SLE) worked with the EYFS Leader and Year R team to review current resourcing and practice and implement changes to improve the quality and effectiveness of child initiated learning experiences.  This focused on developing the continuous provision within the learning environments both inside and outside, to ensure all areas provided good levels of engagement and supported high quality learning opportunities.  It also involved developing planning for enhancements to the learning environment so that it provided prompts for adults on how to use the resources to support children to effectively make links in order to progress their learning.

Using evidence based audit tools, the provision and levels of children’s engagement during child initiated learning experiences were assessed before and after the agreed support.  This showed improvements in the way the physical environment and adult facilitation supported child initiated learning resulting in higher levels of involvement and evidence of the characteristics of effective learning from the children in their self-chosen activities. The Teaching Assistants were also interviewed at the start and end of the agreed support to determine their confidence when facilitating child initiated learning.  They fed back that the new planning ‘lets us know why things (enhancements) are there and how these can be used to support learning’.  They also found the key questions and prompts really useful as they ‘help us make links to other learning happening’.  The Teaching Assistants also felt that the improvements to the planning had helped them to become more focused when making observations of children’s child initiated learning.”

Lucy Wilson-Woodham, Court Lane Infant School

“During the autumn term of 2016-17 work began to support the transition process from Key Stage 1 to Key Stage 2 across the Court Lane Schools.   Most children who attend Court Lane Infant School move on to attend Court Lane Junior School, therefore transition procedures for this were already in place.  The focus; however of the SLE work has been to strengthen this transition process to give children increased confidence when moving to a new key stage.

As far back as the 1970s and 80s, national studies identified a ‘dip’ in achievement by Year 3 children.   As pupils moved from Years 2 to 3 across the Court Lane Schools, this dip was sometimes becoming apparent.  Therefore a need was identified to review the transition process and strengthen this to support children when moving from one key stage to another. The focus of this work has included:

  • Considering how to adopt shared approaches to learning across years 2 and 3.
  • Providing CPD opportunities across both the Year 2 and Year 3 teams so that staff are aware of the expectations of pupils before or after the phase in which they teach
  • Scheduling opportunities for joint moderation and standardisation of work
  • Looking specifically at pupils who achieved ‘Greater Depth’ in reading and maths and ensuring that they make at least expected progress in year 3

During the autumn term an action plan was formulated to ensure that the transition work was focussed and timely.  In the spring term the Year 2 and 3 Leaders began to collaborate more.  Visiting and observing in each of the settings has been crucial in identifying areas to work on. This allowed approaches to learning to be analysed and reviewed.  From learning walks and professional dialogue, shared approaches to learning have been agreed, where both year teams have been trialling new things.    It was also important to think about this for all abilities and styles of learners.  Also during the spring term there was a focus on reading at Greater Depth, as this had been one of the areas identified during the action planning stage.   This work involved looking at the structure of guided reading sessions in year 2 and 3 and also thinking about rich texts to use to ensure that pupils continued to be motivated, engaged and developed a love for reading as they moved on.

Another success of the work during the spring term was where year 2 pupils regularly visited the Court Lane Junior School site, this  included taking part in art work, library activities, Wold Book Day celebrations and working with Year 5 pupils for a story sharing session.

The Year 2 and Year 3 teams are currently working together to plan more formal transition visits for the summer term.  A transition project is also being planned for pupils to start at the infant school and then continue in September when they begin Year 3; this project is going to involve some home learning to encourage continued support from parents.

Joint moderation and standardisation has also begun between both year teams.  This process has been beneficial as it has enabled year 3 colleagues to become more familiar with the end of key stage 1 assessment process.  It has also enabled quality discussions of how year 2 teachers can support the transition into year 3.  This work will continue into the second part of the summer term to ensure that assessment processes continue to be robust and judgements are mutually agreed.

The SLE work undertaken has been beneficial to both schools, it is now imperative that the transition process continues to evolve to ensure that pupils are confident and enthusiastic learners when they move on.  During the autumn term 2017-18 this work will be reviewed to analyse successes and further points for development.”