Underpinning Principles: Planning for excellence

Planning can be done in many ways, but the most powerful is when teachers work together to develop plans, develop common understandings of what is worth teaching, collaborate on understanding their beliefs of challenge and progress, and work together to evaluate the impact of their planning on student outcomes. One of the major messages from Visible Learning is the power of teachers learning from and talking to each other about planning.
Hattie, 2012, p. 64

Planning for excellence within our Trust is characterised by:

Collaboration and Consistency

Teachers across the Trust engage in collaborative planning to develop their skills and knowledge, to share their passions and to benefit from the expertise of their peers. Expert teachers with specialist knowledge have developed high quality specialist planning scaffolds that can be used by all teachers as building blocks for planning units of learning, to support subject knowledge and reduce teacher workload. PPA is scheduled creatively to support the needs of each year group.  Some being aggregated across a fortnight and others on a weekly basis. All PPA is scheduled at the same time for each year group across the Trust enabling teams to work together as needed.

Engagement and Curiosity

Planning aims to evoke a sense of curiosity and engagement. Teachers carefully consider how to ‘hook’ children in. Provocations such as drama, visits, visitors, questions and real life problems or dilemmas are often used to contextualise learning. Planning connects curriculum areas holistically where it is appropriate and meaningful to do so. Themes to ‘knit the journey together’ are chosen carefully to make learning experiences enjoyable and memorable and reflect the children’s interests and fascinations.

Teaching Backwards

Planning starts with the end in mind. Teachers are clear about the progression of learning within a subject, working backwards from the point that the children should reach at the end of a sequence of learning, the end of each term and the academic year. Sequences of learning are planned so the children have the right skills, dispositions and attitudes to reach these goals. Teachers make time to investigate and understand what the children already know and use this to clarify and prioritise the children’s learning and to focus their teaching. Teachers explicitly refer back to prior learning and support identified children to reduce the cognitive load and difficultly in thinking about new material.

Excellence for All

High expectations are made of all children.  Planning takes account of individual children’s needs. Teachers understand that there may be a difference between what a child is capable of achieving and their current attainment. Teachers strive to understand exactly how each child will make the necessary progress to achieve their learning goals and how potential barriers can be effectively and swiftly overcome.


Planning is underpinned by our understanding of how children learn – through multi-sensory exploration, interaction and collaboration. Children are involved in planning and owning their learning and are supported to move from ‘novice to expert’. Learning is not a linear process. It can be recursive, with deviations and digressions that can lead to unexpected and exciting outcomes. Planning is responsive to this and teachers are confident to adapt and change and lead the learning of key skills in a new direction to reach the same objectives.

Effective Deployment of Additional Adults

Teaching Assistants and additional adults are considered part of the core teaching team. Teaching assistants attend weekly team planning meetings and contribute to assessment and feedback and the development of future planning. Additional adults act as advocates for individual children who may have additional needs and consider how these children might access the learning that is planned for the following week.

Context and Purpose

Teachers plan learning that has clear purpose and context. Children understand how specific learning activities fit into a sequence of steps leading to planned outcomes. Outcomes are meaningful and are celebrated with members of the school community, including peers, parents and the wider staff team. Sequences of learning often end with a ‘fabulous finish’, where children share their learning, progress and outcomes. Planning highlights opportunities for authentic publishing of learning through a range of media including displays, social media, assemblies, sharing with peers and dramatic productions.

Enabling Environments

The environment supports children to learn and demonstrates expectations of excellence. Expected learning outcomes, key questions, learning statements, language frames, vocabulary, questions, artefacts, images and core books are displayed. A wide range of opportunities for children to practise and apply key concepts are provided (e.g. on maths tables, interest tables and role-play areas). ‘Live learning’ exemplifies key concepts and skills.

Quality Feedback

Feedback is designed to support and enhance children’s future learning and focusses on specific learning objectives. Adults act as ‘professional eavesdroppers’, enabling them to ask questions, probe learning and gain valuable insight into children’s levels of understanding. Children are supported to follow up and act on feedback, to answer questions in the moment, to record their thinking or to revisit, redraft and edit their learning as relevant to individual tasks. “Feedback should cause thinking. It should be focused; it should relate to the learning goals that have been shared with the students; and it should be more work for the recipient than the donor. Indeed, the whole purpose of feedback should be to increase the extent to which students are owners of their own learning.” (Wiliam, 2017, p 132)

Quality Assessment

On-going assessment ensures teachers understand which children need further practise, or the concept presented differently, and how this will be best achieved. Teachers use a range of summative and formative assessment strategies to track progress and identify next steps, including the use of comparative judgement for writing. Teachers understand that the ideal type of assessment is different depending on the purpose. “Great assessment is not a single thing. It is a collection of tools brought together in a toolkit, and used artfully by teachers. Great assessment is the servant of learning, not its master. It is purposeful, manageable, efficient and effective. Great assessment is lean and valuable.”  (Kime et al, 2017, p15)

Hattie, J (2012) Visible Learning for Teachers. Abingdon: Routledge
Kime, S, et al. (2017). What Makes Great Assessment? Durham, Evidence Based Education
Wiliam, D (2017) Embedded Formative Assessment. Bloomington: Solution Tree Press