Many teachers were now using mixed ability apart from guided reading, with children working with their talk partner. Work was still differentiated at times, but children were no longer grouped in ability tables. This has, in every case, raised the attainment, especially of lower achieving children who are now more prepared to take risks. There were some concerns about getting children to choose the appropriate challenge level in maths challenge choices.

Children are now less aware of where they are in the class in their level of achievement.

One school still has ability grouping for maths, because the teacher feels she still has to focus her input on a particular group.

Sometimes teachers are now wandering around to talk to children rather than sitting with a group. This has had some positive impact on lower achievers.


Some teachers have been observed by other teachers as a start to ‘lesson study’ with the head or deputy covering the class for 30 minutes. Teachers also go on learning walks to pick up strategies.

Two teachers observing meant there could be more meaningful discussion.

One teacher was filmed and this shared in a staff meeting. Other staff are keen to share their practice but it depends on the culture of the staff. When watching the video the teachers were given a focus – looking for aspects of formative assessment. It wasn’t nearly as bad as the teacher thought it would be and was very valuable.

In another school teachers are randomly chose to plan a lesson together. Two teachers teach and the others observe and then feedback in teams. By focusing on the planned lesson and not the teaching, valuable discussions have evolved.

One school has an open door policy for watching maths lessons.

One Year 4 teacher got rid of ability tables. Children are now making better, more informed choices about which level of maths to choose. Other colleagues were very nervous about having mixed ability tables.

Formative assessment had been used in one school, for PE and ICT. Children can supervise rather than coach and have made fantastic improvements.

It was felt that mixed ability talk partners had to be part of a growth mindset culture, having a constructive attitude to learning.

Tower Hamlets

The layout of the classroom had changed in teachers’ rooms so they could talk to individual or pairs more easily.

In maths, success criteria take up a whole lesson, which has led to children being clear about the process before they attempt the maths.

All children can now generate their own success criteria.

There are lots of resources on each table for maths, so children work in talk partners but there is differentiation by resource.

One school, had half termly staff meetings, starting with questioning, tried with teachers at a Teacher Learning Community meeting then trialled in classes. Peer observations with teacher feedback were arranged. Effective questioning now is part of the learning culture.

One school had dabbled in lesson study with 2 teachers planning and team teaching and an audience of two or three others.

The post lesson analysis focused on:

This was effective so might become part of schools’ professional development framework, with good practice disseminated to others.


Some people had stopped ability grouping and children are more engaged but need to embed the growth mindset first.

Teachers were drip feeding to the staff and are now starting to embed more formally. The staff are eager to take on ideas.

Children are now writing individual maths success criteria then looking at one child’s etc. at the visualiser. Children are now sure of the steps to take to meet the learning intention. The teacher can see where there are misconceptions. In some classes they was harder to write than literacy criteria.


After teaching how to use a protractor, the children wrote their own criteria. We all came back together to create a class set of criteria. We looked at and referred to the criteria on the board throughout the lesson across a few days.

The repetition and reinforcement allowed children to retain the criteria. They didn’t need to write it down; they just knew the criteria they had to follow to be successful.

Y6 teacher

In one school there are mixed ability groups, but the teacher decides who will be the ‘expert’ of the group for different things (so they are all experts). Each child feels good about being an expert and they generate ‘family’ rules (e.g. to have a growth mindset, to magpie things etc.).

One teacher gave children choice of what they could write. 32% of the class instantly jumped a sub level’s progress. All other children achieved a higher target within their band. All were on task and all were excited about showing the teacher their learning in a way they could choose.

Lessons need to be longer but editing and improving in the same lesson has produced quality work.


Claire Hodgson | clare.hodgson@hertsforlearning.co.uk

Tower Hamlets, London

Stella Smith | ssmith88.211@lgflmail.org


Stella Smith | sheiladentith@warwickshire.gov.uk


Pauline Hill | phil@geoffreyfield-jun.reading.sch.uk