What is professional learning?

Student, parents, carers and families often ask us what professional learning actually is, asking what an INSET Day is, and why we have them.  These are sensible questions!

This page aims to answer these questions and share with you some of the professional learning opportunities that all staff have through their work in the GFM, and at Brune Park.

Professional learning is the term we use to describe any learning that takes place as part of your role or job in the GFM.  It is much broader than ‘just’ completing a course or going to a training event.  For us, professional learning is something we are all entitled to, and it makes us better in our role and job.  When each of us are better in our role, students and families of the school and the GFM get a better deal.  We expect anyone working for the GFM to be committed to wanting to be better  – we ask staff at interview and through their job to reflect on their disposition, we ask staff to seek to be better by beig positive and by engaging in professional learning.

Professional learning is therefore everything we do through our work to improve.  It is every meeting we attend, every conversation we have – as well as attending training in school.  What is important is that we all approach learning in a positive way, being resilient when it is challenging, seeking ways to improve, encouraging ourselves and others  – the same expectations we have of children though their elarning, and the same encouragement we give to students.

Why is it so important to us in the GFM and at Brune Park?

Put simply: we want everyone to want to be better.  When we are all striving to be better and engage in learning we are a community of learners striving to be better together – children and adults.  This way we to ensure the school is the best it can be.

What do staff do on an INSET Day?

Each INSET Day is a really important time for staff to come together for learning.  Every INSET Day is carefully planned months in advance and sets out to support how we are improving as individuals, teams for the benefit of the students and schools.  Often INSET days focus on improving the student experience of school.


For example: INSET DAY September – Brune Park Community School ‘Staff Conference 2019’ 

‘Staff Conference’ (INSET Day) marks the start of the new Academic year and brings staff from each team, department and subject (support staff and teaching staff) together to look forward to the year ahead; to reflect on, as a way to reinforce our collective values, and how we will work collectively to secure improvements in every area of the school.

For ‘Staff Conference 2019’ the theme continued from 2018:  ‘To support all to be the best they can be.’

When each of us sets out to try to be better we have a disposition to be a learner, to seek solutions to challenges (collectively and individually) teams support each other to be better, line management and performance are strong.  When we achieve this individually and collectively we support and enable young people to be the best they can be and that is our collective mission:

‘To support the young people of Gosport to be the best they can be; to believe they can be greater and achieve further.’

‘Staff Conference 2019’ focused on these two messages through sessions that focused on collective values, and collective improvement.

Our collective values and mission:  

  • Headship (Kirstie Andrew-Power and Mike Jones)
  • GFM CEO and Chair of the GFM Board (Ian Potter and Paul Lane)

Collective improvement strategies:

  • Improving the curriculum (Faye Thurgood and Nic Twining)
  • Improving assessment (Emma O’Grady and Tracey Lock)
  • Improving the quality of teaching (Kerry Bramley, Rach Adderley and Paul Candy)
  • Improving behaviour  (Jo Duff and Mike Jones)
  • Improving the school day (Faye Thurgood and Tom Morgan)

Collective and individual improvement focus:

  • Choosing to be the best we can be (Rach Adderley and Jo Duff)
  • Being truly inclusive (Deanne Coombes, Paul Candy and Tracey Lock)
  • Expectations of staff with the learning environment (Kerry Bramley and Emma O’Grady)
  • Expectations of staff and line managers (Nic Twining and David Higginbottom)

Team activities:

The sessions were followed with staff working in teams to think carefully about what we will see when we secure the improvements we need to.

Subject teaching teams: What do student’s books look like when we deliver on our improvements?

Support staff team: What is the ‘customer’ experience when we deliver on our improvements?

Individual activity:

Each member of staff completed a ‘Conference reflection record – in ‘my’ words’  The aim of this is for staff to actively engage in writing their own reflections through the day, to ‘own’ their record of the day as a reminder to themselves and each other of the key messages.  Our expectations with having a disposition to want to improve is supported by having a reflection tool to revisit through the year as a reminder / refresher.

Presentations summaries:

Kirstie Andrew-Power, Head Teacher: 

Our purpose as a school, and as educators in Gosport and the GFM is to support and enable every young person to be the best they can be (to be greater and to aspire further than they may have previously imagined possible.) To this end we all need to continue to strive to be better ourselves and therefore our role is to support and enable you to be the very best that you can be.  Through my presentation I wanted to unpack with staff what ‘striving to be the best you can be’ can look like – I strive to be a better leader, I strive to want more for you as a staff and more for our students so my summer reading has been looking at how I might do that. I shared two books in particular that shaped, inspired and motivated me and provided ways that I can continue to improve, and I shared key messages with staff (see detail on the slides.)

I celebrated with staff how remarkable and wonderful our collective purpose; supporting each other to be the best that we can be in order that we serve our young people in the very best way possible so they can be the best they can be.  I played Elbow’s ‘Magnificent (she says)’ and asked staff to consider the little girl who holds a sea-worn piece of glass as if it is a sapphire (‘sets it as a sapphire in her mind’) – seeing something so innocuous as something so precious, some things which others may ignore or simply not see, and to consider that she represents every child that is in our classes or in our corridors.  We must actively refresh our perception of how precious and wonderful each and every young person is, and our responsibility to value them and nurture them because of their contribution to the world. And we have a tough, tough job, and a wonderful job and it will ‘all be magnificent’ when we ‘throw our arms around the world’ and work collectively, collaboratively and individually to be even better. 

I ended with reading a message from a student in year 11 who finished with us last summer – she described how as a result of superb, engaging and caring staff she had learned to value herself, value her education and see her potential – as a staff we gave her  ‘the support she didn’t know she needed.’ What a powerful statement that is and what a role we have and there is nothing better than when we reach a youngster like this, and a youngster like this is in every classroom and every corridor, every day.  

Ian Potter – CEO of the GFM:

The purpose of the GFM is to build a coalition around the notion that schools work collaboratively to bring about local landscape of schooling where there is equity of provision in the area. We model such an aspiration in having a collective endeavour within and across our schools; we cooperate in driving up standards where necessary and energetic in our expectations of each other and for the young people we serve. In order to achieve this, a key characteristic of the GFM is a culture of joint knowledge production, because we are intellectually curious and fascinated by the business of teaching and learning. We want to understand more about it!

Paul Lane – Chair of the GFM Board

‘We have reached a critical mass in the GFM in terms of composition and experience. We can accordingly  now be confident in our ability to apply our own acquired knowledge to generate solutions to issues arising within our GFM family of local schools.

Our Institute of Education is an enabler available as a resource for all who wish to obtain professional support for their further learning and professional development. The Institute has links to external agencies which can provide additional specialist information and guidance when required.

I myself as an Engineer have been a Member of the Institute of Engineering and Technology for many years and I am personally aware of the very wide ranging benefits that membership of such institutions can bring. The IET is of course a leading promoter of STEM in  schools. The UK has a very substantial shortage of engineers at all levels, particularly professionally qualified ones. Engineers design and build bridges, sent manned rockets into space, apply artificial intelligence to self driving cars – the scope is endless. In particular the Institute is trying very hard to encourage more female students to study A levels that will enable them to seek an engineering qualification.

Our GFM as you know is at the forefront of this endeavor. We are very conscious at the Board of the heavy demands made on all staff within our teaching environment and continue to invest in staff facilities and the promotion of well being overall.  Our salary policy is designed to reward those at an early stage in their careers .proportionately somewhat more as part of this approach.

As Ian said in his presentation our GFM has much broader remit that extends beyond school attenders – we aim to enhance the potential life choices of children in our local community.

Thank you – it is a privilege for me to work with such dedicated people as yourselves in our common endeavor.’

Collective improvement strategies:

Improving the curriculum (Faye Thurgood and Nic Twining)


What is the curriculum intent of BP and why do we have it

Curriculum is a core school improvement focus, it encompasses:

  • QoT
  • Assessment
  • Planned curriculum within subject areas
  • Behaviour of students
  • Personal development of all students

It is the overall experience that each student at BP has, we posed questions to all staff regarding each students experience.  We outlined the common inspection framework regarding intent, implementation and impact and how we have developed this at BP and what we want our impact to be and posed key questions: 

  • Are you confident at articulating your curriculum intent within your subject area?
  • Can you explain how you are implementing this and what the intended impact is?

Improving assessment (Emma O’Grady and Tracey Lock)

Improving the quality of teaching (Kerry Bramley, Rach Adderley and Paul Candy)

Improving behaviour  (Jo Duff and Mike Jones)

Improving the school day (Faye Thurgood and Tom Morgan)


The presentation outlined the timings of the new school day, including refreshment break 1, tutor sessions and refreshment break 2

Clarified the early finish times of each year group

Revisited the opportunities and cultural capital that the clubs and societies offer the students at BP

Outlined next stages:

  • Co -planning session Tuesday afternoon to discuss and complete the google spreadsheet in department areas
  • Freshers fair, time, date and location given – staff to prepare their stalls to pitch their clubs/societies
  • Staff support during refreshment periods and extended school day until duties slots are planned and shared with staff

Collective and individual improvement focus:

Choosing to be the best we can be (Rach Adderley and Jo Duff)


  • Punctuality and attendance – emphasizing the importance of OUR punctuality, that we are ready to begin lessons as soon as students arrive at our classroom (for teachers who have to move around to different classrooms, that plans are in place so the students know what you expect from them if they arrive before you).  Attendance – reminded that staff well being is important, but urged colleagues to carefully consider any absence and whether it is absolutely necessary as the impact of one missed day can be significant. 
  • Appearance – the importance of looking professional – reiterating our high expectations in the way that we appear to students, and the message that we are sending, that they are worth our time and effort.
  • Meeting deadlines – stated that we expect staff to meet deadlines.  Reminded staff that there is a ‘bigger picture’, and that one member of staff missing a deadline (for example, for the completion of reports) has a significant knock-on effect for other colleagues.
  • Professional Learning – we expect our staff to be life-long learners – to engage in professional learning sessions, including optional sessions, and to embrace the learning that happens in these sessions and in our own independent professional learning.
  • Verbal interactions – carefully consider the conversations that you have with students – by all means, be human, but students do not need to know everything about us.  We expect inappropriate conversations or language from the students to be ‘shut down’ in a tough but tender way.
  • Non-verbal interactions – think about the way that you are responding non-verbally with both students and staff – an eye-roll, for example, says a great deal about the value that you place on what may be being said to you.
  • Common sense – we expect our colleagues to use their common sense.  Mentioned that we do have a policy about physical intervention, but that using your common sense will serve you will.  Colleagues reminded of STAR – particularly the ‘STOP’ and ‘THINK’ aspects
  • Finally, our expectation of ourselves should be that we will be held accountable, and so we should develop an open and honest attitude to our continuing development.  There is no need to be defensive if someone holds you to account.

Being truly inclusive (Deanne Coombes, Paul Candy and Tracey Lock)


Inclusive education

When youngsters fall under the umbrella of having Special Educational Needs and / or a disability, we recognise that there is something about them that makes it fundamentally more difficult for them to access the education that is on offer here. At Brune Park, we have a small percentage of students on the SEN register. Some have gone through the statutory assessment process and have EHCPs, and there are others who we have recognised need a level of support that is different to the wider cohort and they are coded as SEN Support (SENS).

However, it’s important that we don’t just focus on this small group. It is not unusual for individual needs to become more apparent as pupils journey through the school. We have a growing number of youngsters who qualify for exam arrangements – over the years we recognise that some have thinking skills that are slower than their peers or that written work is better if a laptop is used. We become more aware of anxiety and mental health issues, and for some, the dyslexic tendencies are well managed until the students are faced with the increased cognitive demands of KS4.

If we are going to be fully inclusive, it is important that we can account for all the individuals in our classes.

The world of SEN

One of the challenges we face in the world of SEND is that in an attempt to understand and describe the youngsters we can end up with a whole new vocabulary and a wonderful set of acronyms. Sometimes, I wonder if this in itself becomes a barrier – we become fearful of the terminology and getting our heads around the wealth of strategies is overwhelming.

It is really important that we see our pupils as individuals. They may have a broad diagnosis but how that condition presents is different for each person and we need to work with who they are rather than what the label says that they are.

Take time to get to know your pupils, talk to them, listen, discover what motivates them, what they are interested in. This is the bit that will help you to tailor your teaching to support them with their learning.

Know your pupils

Differentiation is about support. It is not about giving pupils work that they can do, it is about supporting them to achieve the tasks that they can’t. To be inclusive we need to be thinking through how we offer the support, whether it is just reading the questions, thoughtful grouping, getting them to talk through their understanding of the task. 

It is not a case of doing everything but our challenge is to do something. Do something that allows our vulnerable youngsters to take part in the learning, to do something that they couldn’t do before, to understand something that takes them by surprise. If we achieve this then our students will be making progress in every lesson.

Expectations of staff with the learning environment (Kerry Bramley and Emma O’Grady)

Expectations of staff and line managers (Nic Twining and David Higginbottom)

Have high expectations of line managers and line management meeting time! More time during line management meetings should be spent on tasks that are important and urgent.

Colleagues were ‘challenged’ with identifying from a range of daily issues:

  • What are the issues that I could deal with?
  • What are the issues that I would need to take to my line manager?

Be a radiator (of positivity) and beware the ‘Mood Hoovers’

Effective qualities of a good line manager:

  • Supportive, fair, honest – The voice of reason
  • Questions, challenges, suggests improvements or
  • solutions.
  • Relevant knowledge of the specifications of subjects.
  • Regular contact and clear communication
  • Holds to account – positives and negatives. Helps you
  • hold your teams to account.
  • Problem solving – forward thinking.
  • Clear in requests and deadlines – high expectations.
  • Coaching, mentoring, facilitating leadership / career
  • development.
  • Helps to steer the focus.

‘People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it.’

And …

At ‘Staff Conference 2019’ we continued to use the language of the new Education Inspection Framework.  The new framework uses the terms: intent, implementation and impact.  This has further helped us to think about why we are doing something, what we are doing and how effective it has been.  Our next stage of improvement is to secure the impact we desire consistently:

‘By explicitly articulating the ‘ethos driver’ behind an activity, Subject teams and SLT have grown in confidence in explaining why we are doing something ahead of thinking about how we are going to do something.  These are ‘intent’ statements and have started to guide improvements.

Subject teams and SLT recognise that we are not yet sufficiently confident or ‘good’ at taking our intent into implementation so that there is impact.

As a staff we recognise that we are driven and have good ideas, but these are simply not enough.  The language of intent, implementation and impact has helped take to a next stage our drive to be simple and clear, to be ethos driven and to want to be better.  When we are clear on the ethos of what we are doing, and are focused on what we want to do, we now need to be explicit in ensuring we are achieving the impact that our intent and implementation sets out to do.’  

Contact Info
  • Brune Park Community School, Military Road, Gosport, Hampshire PO12 3BU
  • (023) 9261 6000
  • enquiries@brunepark.gfmat.org

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