Tags: Curriculum Manager | Teaching & Learning Coordinator | Teaching and Learning

Working as a Teaching and Learning Fellowship as part of the University of the First Age.

Ingrid Gallagher, Head, and Justine Sims, Assistant Head, Perry Beeches School, Birmingham.

In September 2003, Perry Beeches School partnered with the University of the First Age to develop its own Teaching and Learning Fellowship (TLF).

The fellowship is a programme that has been set up by the UFA with partners all over the country to develop the equivalent of 10 days training for teachers, adults other than teachers, and young people with the aim of building people’s capacity to transform their own learning and the learning environments in which they work. The fellowship is a practical, and interactive programme that encourages participants to research their practice and share their findings. Beginning in Birmingham in 1997, the fellowship programme has now been rolled out across 43 local authority areas across the country. The TLF at Perry Beeches was established in partnership with the UFA team, the Quality in Study Support (DfES, QISS) framework, and Thinking Matters (see: www.thinkingmatters.com).

The aims of the Teaching and Learning Fellowship are to enable everybody to take part in their own learning, to develop understanding about how we learn and how best we can design learning to more closely match what we know about the brain and learning. The aims were also to raise the level of aspirations within the wider community through involving young people and their parents in this type of training.

Perry Beeches has a very good partnership with the UFA and has regular dialogue and meetings together. A member of the school’s senior management team (SMT) is responsible for the support both in school and liaising with UFA. This member of the SMT is responsible for both the Teaching and Learning Fellowship and the Student Learning Team. The UFA offers whatever the school needs. It does have ‘packages’ available, invaluable for study support, summer schools and in-class learning, but as they are at the cutting edge of educational development they will cater to individual needs taking into account demographic, social or educational needs. Their ethos is unprecedented in the enthusiasm and commitment that they have to success and learning, which has contributed to our TLF programme being such a success.


Practical ideas have been developed through the Teaching and Learning Fellowship and these have been used extensively in classrooms. There has been concrete evidence of their effectiveness in raised attainment, better relationships, and improved working practice. These activities, for example the use of different starter and reviews in learning and a range of thinking skills, and the benefits from them have been spread through professional development across the Leadership Incentive Group (LIG), involving 15 local schools. The LIG group was set up in 2003 through a specific grant stream to significantly strengthen leadership at all levels, foster collaboration among groups of schools, enhance teaching and learning, and establish a culture of high expectations. This has led to joint training days between secondary schools, and Saturday morning workshops for parents and students.

We have been fortunate to have successfully gained Technology Specialist School Status, which has allowed the school to purchase 90 new computers and the computers that were in ICT have now gone into whole-school curriculum areas. Fellows developed ICT-based resources for the delivery of their subject areas and used interactive whiteboards with their students’ presentations, which were also ICT based and helped us to share learned experiences from the fellowship. Small-scale action research has been undertaken by fellows and has included such topics as using Alistair Smith’s accelerated learning cycle (see: Accelerated learning in practice, Network Educational Press, 1998), using Howard Gardner’s model of multiple intelligences (see: Multiple intelligences: the theory and practice, Basic Books, 1993), reviewing techniques, and departmental assessment policies.

Improving learning

Through the review of current understanding of developments in teaching and learning, the fellowship group (including team leaders, heads of subject, and teaching staff) identified and agreed a personal vision for the fellowship. Group building activities and energisers, including ‘brain breaks’, helped to build the supportive learning environment. The development of thinking skills within the national curriculum allowed personal subject development for individuals but with a common theme throughout. Our new Year 7s, on their first day, were taught in two half-year groups on accelerated learning. They learned about the brain in learning, and completed a learning style assessment to help their secondary learning career.

Student involvement

The pilot Student Learning Team was set up in September 2003 with the main aims of smoothing transition, understanding more about themselves as learners and helping others to learn. The students shadowed the TLF in terms of content, the approaches to learning and some activities. The remit was to recruit 20 students, 10 from Year 6 and 10 from Year 7. They followed a 30-hour training programme, taking place over a series of weeks in holidays and on Saturdays. Pupils applied to be considered for the course, following a recruitment drive and were selected on the personal statements they gave in the letters returned. The work carried out included learning styles, philosophy for children, and the course culminated with the students leading learning for others in the group. One part of the original remit was for young people to become researchers in the school, working alongside the teacher fellows. This opportunity was not realised due to the workload pressures of the teachers involved. It is intended that future cohorts will be able to carry this work forward. The project helped to boost students’ confidence moving from junior to secondary school and enabled them to influence what happens in Perry Beeches. All students reported a benefit from undertaking the training and were enthusiastic to transfer their learning into mainstream lessons.


The Teaching and Learning Fellowship not only benefits the fellows directly, but they have been encouraged to cascade their training and learning to others in their own organisations. To date, eight schools out of 15 in the LIG group have been directly involved. All of the fellows have reported increased confidence and motivation and in some cases involvement has led to the fellows gaining promotion and career development. It has impacted on students in the fellows’ classrooms and through the Student Learning Team. The fellows have applied the principles and theories across the age and ability range and have begun to consider how to spread the influence in the wider community. It is too early to say whether the fellowship has had a measurable impact on standard assessment task (SAT) and GCSE result. But we intend to continue to collect and analyse the data as the fellowship develops.

The Teaching and Learning Fellowship has embraced continual professional development (CPD). It has taken modern theories including accelerated learning, Teacher Effectiveness Enhancement Programme (TEEP) (for more details see: www.cchsonline.co.uk/teep/index.htm), thinking skills, assessment for learning and emotional intelligence, investigated and questioned them and explored how these can be transferred into effective classroom practice. The fellows at Perry Beeches have combined these with the school ethos and the UFA ethos to put learning at the centre of teachers’ and students’ development.

The use of out-of-hours learning in a whole-school study support programme has also been essential to the success. Staff and students have committed themselves to time out of school and on weekends to improve their teaching and students’ learning.

Perry Beeches Secondary School is the first school nationally to have successfully been redesignated with Quality in Study Support (QiSS) Advanced Status (for more details, see: www.qiss.org.uk). QiSS works in partnership with the University of the First Age.


The fellowship is regularly evaluated by participants at the start, throughout and at the end of the programme. Individual materials have been developed in line with the evaluations.

Improved communications between Perry Beeches and other schools in the LIG and the UFA has helped to enable fellows to feel they are in a supportive learning environment.

At the end of each cohort and rotation of the Teaching and Learning Fellowship, an annual report is written that evaluates attendance, the impact on their teaching and learning, the impact on their exposure to new ideas and wider reading, and the quality of the course itself. The reporting process has helped to sharpen up the focus of the topics covered so that they are really relevant to what teachers want and need and to define tighter criteria for judging the impact of the training on achievement in the schools.

Taking stock

In hindsight, the project would have been even more effective if we had been able to run the TLF and student fellowship in parallel. The school and the UFA took a risk in piloting this project and finances were tight. Sponsorship and marketing could have been more focused at the outset. However, the Student Learning Team has benefited from a grant from the Innovations Unit, which covered the costs of the pilot year. This was secured by submitting a report to the DfES highlighting the positive impact of the work already in progress.

Developments are being planned that hopefully will include widening the participation across the LIG network, across the school and into the wider community. This could involve merging both the Teaching and Learning Fellowship and the Student Learning Team into a collaborative group that works cooperatively to develop the learning and teaching that takes place at Perry Beeches and eventually all the schools involved.

Justine Sims, Assistant Head, and Ingrid Gallagher, Headteacher, Perry Beeches School, Birmingham.

School context

The prior attainment of students at Perry Beeches is below the national average points score for Key Stage 2 of 27.5, only just getting into the 26 to 27 benchmark category. This is demonstrated by comparison with national benchmarks for schools in a similar context: our students are in the bottom 25% for maths and English and the bottom 40% for science. Action plans are in place to raise attainment. The school takes its students from more than 40 primary schools, spanning a wide area. Our students come from Kingstanding, which is traditionally a white, working-class area in Birmingham, Aston where our African-Caribbean students come from, Handsworth where our Asian students come from, and a growing percentage from the local area. The ethnic mix is 23% African-Caribbean, 22% Asian, the rest White, English and a small percentage of other. A total of 28% of our students are on the special educational needs (SEN) register, of whom 28.9% are female and 71.1% are male. The proportion of students having free school meals is 28%. We have a large number of one-parent families and have 8% more males than females in the school. Kingstanding, Aston and Handsworth are in the lowest deprivation areas for Birmingham.

A total of 85% of our students are recorded as living in the lowest two quintiles in the multiple deprivation index as compared to 40% nationally. Attendance is currently 91%. There are many instances of the school accepting mid-term students with behavioural needs without adequate support. The LEA is aware of the burden that this has caused to certain year groups.

Benefits to students and our community

  • Creating a success culture
  • Providing new learning opportunities
  • Raised achievement and attainment
  • Better partnerships linked to school, students, parents and community needs
  • Raised confidence and self-esteem
  • Increased opportunities for advancement
  • Opened pathways for careers
  • Providing opportunities for lifelong learning

This article first appeared in Curriculum Management Update – Oct 2005

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