Institute of Education


Burntwood School: Professional Development Quality Mark

Whole school action research groups embedded into the school day with a departmental focus.

(Photo: Burntwood School)

26 June 2018


There were national changes made to KS3 assessment levels, and the GCSE and A’ Level curriculum. Staff communicated that they required more time to effectively implement these new changes beyond the regular calendared meeting slots.

Action research groups to explore whole school issues had already been trialled in the previous academic year. This had been a success but a fresh approach to research with a departmental focus was sought after.


With the recent changes to performance related pay, Burntwood wanted to ensure that there were opportunities for staff to take on whole school leadership responsibilities to meet the post-threshold standards.

What is the Professional Development Quality Mark (PDQM)?

Professional Development Quality Mark
The PDQM was developed by experienced PD Leaders in partnership with specialists at the UCL Centre for Educational Leadership to improve professional development practice in schools and settings across London and beyond.


During the first half term of the academic year staff from different departments were put into small groups and were provided with a book/recent research on a pedagogical area such as behaviour for learning, formative assessment, mindsets, differentiation, EAL or gifted and talented provision. A facilitator was appointed to lead weekly discussion of the issues raised in the material. These groups were embedded into the school timetable so took place during the working day.

The group agreed on 5 possible action points that they would be interested in exploring in their own departments.

After the October half term, the original groups were rearranged into department groups. The focus of these groups was to improve teaching and learning in subject areas and respond to the new changes in curriculum and assessment. Each member of the newly formed group had read a different book during the first half term so the first few meetings were used to share their discussions and recommend action points.

The department groups decided on a focus for improvement. Guidance was given on the need to take a baseline for the research. Staff used evidence such as learning walks, student voice, book monitoring, lesson filming equipment, exam results and Lesson Study to do this.

The directed time was then spent trying out new ideas and assessing impact. The impact was recorded and reported back to the senior team and governors.

After the May half term, staff met back in their original cross-department groups to share what they had trialled in their departments. This ensured that good practice was disseminated across the school.

Ideas were also shared at the Wandle Teaching School Alliance Joint Professional Day.

Students performing a stage adaptation of 'Beauty and the Beast' (Photo: Burntwood School)


The impact of this project has been very positive.

  • Staff have taken the opportunity to informally observe each other purely for developmental purposes. This has received positive feedback at middle management meetings.
  • The quality of marking has improved across the school. This was verified at the recent Ofsted inspection.
  • The PE department reported an improvement in the hand-in rate and quality of homework following their research on ‘Unhomework’
  • There has been more opportunity for staff to collect evidence for the post-threshold standards. Some of the facilitators of the action research groups have since been given formal leadership positions.
  • More active engagement strategies have been introduced in Humanities subjects – evidenced by learning walks
  • To improve literacy an online library service has been implemented so that students can download an app and borrow virtual library books.

One impact of this project is that discussion on pedagogical issues is even more central to professional development. Since the groups are embedded into the school timetable they are given prominence and provide opportunity for staff to meet in departmental teams and also in cross-subject groups; this is especially important in a large school where staff may not always have the opportunity to make connections beyond their own subject and pastoral teams.

(Photo: David Anstiss CC BY-SA 2.0)

The findings of the research groups were also shared with partner schools within the Wandle Teaching School Alliance at a joint professional day. The evaluations indicated that 86% of delegates felt that the day would impact on their practice in a positive way.

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