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Leadership & innovation., Teaching & Learning

Book Looks – Inclusive, Developmental & Reflective

Book Looks Blog

Work scrutiny, well that’s nothing new I hear you say, and you’d be right. However, the question I ask is, how and where does this sit within a schools teaching and learning strategy – to what extent does it relate to targeted CPD and inform sharing of practice, involving all staff and not just benefit those with a leadership position. This blog explores how we can move away from a work scrutiny becoming an ‘on trend’ box ticking exercise and instead make it worthwhile, informative and inclusive for everyone involved with teaching and learning.

For many and most certainly myself included, it could be suggested that the ethos and culture of a work scrutiny has been tarnished by its exploitation from some school leaders using it primarily as an accountability measure, leading to a perceived reputation of a clear way to ‘check up’ on staff. Don’t get me wrong, as Teaching and Learning lead in our school, I have to ensure that we have consistency and typicality, but not to the detriment of staff morale and professional development opportunities. If schools can strike the balance between the two then I believe we can really start to use this process as a vehicle to enhance CPD and ultimately student progress.

A change in culture can also require a change in language, hence ‘Book Looks’. Now I know students don’t only work in books, but I felt the word scrutiny potentially had negative connotations, and book rhymed with look (marketing has never been my strong point!) I am of course open to suggestions on the title.

A knee jerk reaction to the analysis of the latest data collection or a once a term random SLT flurry are just two common examples of how a book look can become a disjointed and largely uninformative process if conducted in isolation from the bigger teaching and learning picture and not clearly communicated to all staff. Here’s a strategic overview of how we include all staff can within the book look process:

Book Looks overviewThe key here is to stress the importance of engaging all threads within the school structure, both whole school and subject specific. For example, how often do teaching assistants, form tutors, learning support coordinators and governors get the opportunity to undertake book looks? I know that previously in our school two common approaches were; SLT whole school looks and faculty specific ones, each taking place on a specified day/date.  Again, this leads me to ask; do/are all book looks needed at the same time by the same people? and where’s the autonomy and flexibility? hence the school policy driven, box ticking task. I’d like to thank Ross McGill for his blog on Taking A Look At Books‘ enabling me to adapt the criteria used within his diagnostic approach.

This model allows for a demand led and forensic exploration of students work and provides an approach that doesn’t require a pre-calendared event once a term in isolation, this becomes an ‘off-the shelf’ kit ready to go when staff need it. In terms of what I call back room systems, there are two documents to record the outcomes, both focussing on diagnostic marking leading to student progress. There is one for each of the above strands:

Book Looks_SubjectTo download, click here: Book Looks_subject specific

Book Looks_Whole SchoolTo download, click here: Book Looks whole school

In my blog Marking – Effective, Developmental & Time-SavingI shared approaches to making feedback to students effective and above all time-saving. So the book look strategy also becomes a mechanism to support staff workload and ensure they are effective in their approach to marking, in what has become nationally, a time of the ‘marking frenzy’. Where effective practice has been identified, this will be shared through targeted CPD to support and enhance the work of colleagues who feel this is an area of development, you can read more about this in my blog ‘Sharing is Caring’ Here’s how crucial and integral book looks are within our whole school approach to Teaching and Learning:


Hopefully this will chime with your approach to ‘book looks’ and sharing of practice within your school.


About garysking

Deputy Headteacher - leader of Teaching & Learning. Change maker and believer in quality first teaching.

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