Bobby Moore Academy's tips on picking the right school

Children from the Bobby Moore Academy enjoying the newly opened footbridge connecting the Olympic Pa

Pupils from the Bobby Moore Academy enjoying the Olympic Park - Credit: Ken Mears

As parents and students across Newham are looking at school and sixth form choices for the next academic year, I am often asked about how to choose the right school.

Working out what the actual teaching is like can be challenging - what should parents and students ask about teaching?

At Bobby Moore Academy (BMA), we follow a simple recipe, but one which we see working every day across the school.

The first item is subject knowledge - teachers really have to know their stuff. The second is a secure grasp of the process of learning (cognitive science). Thirdly, teachers need to adopt the right values and approaches in terms of their commitment to young people and their progress.

So, how to test schools out on these three? First, ask about the subject expertise of the teachers. In primary, are they supported by knowledgeable subject leads? In secondary, do they teach right up to sixth form level?

One of the reasons why I’m such a passionate advocate for all-through schools like Bobby Moore is that subject expertise can be shared from those who teach to the top grades at A Level right through to those helping pupils to make their first steps in learning maths, or history or whatever it may be.

As we open our sixth form in September 2022, this will strengthen our subject knowledge provision right across the curriculum.

Bobby Moore Academy principal Daniel Botting highlights the positives of schools during Covid crisis.

Principal Daniel Botting knows how daunting choosing the right school can be - Credit: Archant

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Secondly, ask about how teachers are trained in the science of learning.

As well as their actual lessons, BMA staff spend extra time every week learning about memory, attention, and other areas of educational psychology, so that they can build up their knowledge of what really effective learning looks like.

This helps to support all pupils, regardless of their level of attainment when coming into the classroom.

Finally, ask staff (and especially leaders), about the vision and values of the school. Everything stems from these - the curriculum, the school’s aspirations for learners, the approach to behaviour, the opportunities for pupil leadership.

At BMA, we’re very up-front about our vision for an education which will transform the life chances of our young people, and this is something which is shared throughout the school by staff and pupils alike.

If the values are secure, then alongside teachers’ subject knowledge and understanding of the science of learning, this points towards a school which is developing great teaching.

So, as you look around schools and sixth forms, be prepared to quiz staff about these themes - and school staff always enjoy talking about teaching!