What makes Day Waterman College an Outstanding Learning Environment?


The quality of teaching is at the core of school improvement.

‘Great teaching is easy to recognise, but hard to define. The truth is that there are as many great teaching styles as there are great teachers. The effort to find a one-size-fits-all recipe for classroom success is therefore fruitless’ (John C Jeffries, Virginia Law School, 1973).

At DWC a key factor in becoming outstanding and surpassing all standards anywhere in the world, is the quality of teaching and learning. The criteria we use are that outstanding teaching includes a focus on students making exceptional progress as a result of inspiring teaching, from teachers having excellent subject knowledge and the innovative use of new technology.

Outstanding teaching looks different depending on the circumstances and context. An outstanding maths lesson on algebra will look very different to an outstanding PE lesson. However, outstanding teaching and learning underpins every effective area in the school. Research shows that all the best teachers motivate their students to work hard and they assess them regularly. How teachers use student assessments to plan and shape future lessons is an important factor in outstanding teaching. This is one aspect of the culture of outstanding schools. This is the culture we that you will find at DWC.


Whole-school factors contributing to outstanding teaching

Highly effective teaching is usually only consistently seen in schools where there is positive and thoughtful leadership. At t DWC you will find:

  • A structured environment, which provides stability and purpose.
  • An environment which develops self-belief and confidence.
Teaching our students the things they really need to know (by taking charge of the curriculum) and showing them how to learn for themselves.
  •  A place which gives opportunities, responsibility and develops trust (for both students and staff).
A place which listens to students and acts on what they say.
An organisation which builds bridges with parents, families and communities, working in partnership with other professionals.
  •  An organisation which has high aspirations, expectations and achievement and has a positive ‘can-do’ culture, where praise and encouragement prevail and self-esteem is high.

At DWC there is an ethos in the school and in exercising strong pedagogical leadership. The focus is on an outstanding lesson.


Indicators of outstanding teaching

In Ofsted terms an outstanding lesson is one with many significant strengths and no areas for improvement. This should also be very closely linked with clear evidence of effective learning and progress for every learner in the class. It is often more important to focus on what the students are doing than what the teacher is doing. What the students do and learn in a lesson is often a better indicator of the quality of a lesson. The key factors include:

  • Are the students highly engaged?
  • Do they move from listening to being positively motivated?
  • Do they learn and make progress?
  • Do they obviously enjoy the lesson and have fun, and are they keen to they have learned and what they might be doing in the next lesson?
  • Do the students ask appropriate (and challenging) questions?
  • Do they show a keen interest in the tasks?
  • Are they proud of their work?
  • Are the students involved in deciding any part/content of the next lesson on the topic?

The teachers at DWC ensure:

  •  the involvement of every student in the learning process
  • the use of intelligent questioning involving every student
  • the use of a wide variety of resources as appropriate including new technology
  • the involvment of students in the learning process and developing independent learning.


What makes an outstanding lesson?

Ask an average class teacher and they might say, ‘A lesson which is well planned, has the buzz factor and in which the students behave well.’ Ask a student and they might say, ‘A lesson which is fun and in which we learn something.’ Ask some headteachers and you may receive the answer, ‘A lesson which carefully follows the school teaching and learning policy and fulfils all the Ofsted grade criteria.’ Ask an inspector, and you might hear, ‘The teacher displays outstanding subject knowledge and challenges and enthuses students, and assessment indicates that the whole class have made significant progress.’

This shows how difficult it is to succinctly define the outstanding lesson, but many of these features are found in very effective teaching.

An interesting model on what contributes towards an outstanding lesson can be based on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. An outstanding lesson can be described as a lesson where appropriate resources are used by a teacher who is enthusiastic about their subject in delivering a learning experience which takes into account the varying needs of each student and inspires them to take risks, make connections and learn while constantly checking that they are meeting high expectations and are becoming independent learners.

Relating this to Maslow’s hierarchy would indicate that the base of the pyramid would include appropriate resources and subject knowledge and enthusiasm.

The next layer would include planning and differentiation to ensure personalised learning. The next would relate to communication and motivation and would emphasise learners evaluating their own progress. The apex of the pyramid would include high aspiration and expectation with the overall aim of developing independent and reflective learning. This indicates the varying skills that the highly effective teacher needs to demonstrate to deliver outstanding lessons.

For outstanding teaching DWC expects students to understand in detail how to improve their work and that they are consistently supported in doing so. The role of the teacher should have a striking impact on the quality of learning of students.

DWC has created the climate in which effective teaching and student achievement flourishes. DWC has high expectations and sets ambitious targets for raising standards. The DWC leadership team monitors teaching and learning rigorously and tracks students’ progress meticulously. There is more emphasis on monitoring and tracking rather than teaching styles.

There is a focus on ‘classroom practice and developing consistently good teaching and learning’. There is further emphasis on the importance of linking a broad, balanced and relevant curriculum with increased student motivation and better outcomes.


High-quality teaching is further emphasised


  • teachers have high expectations and the ability to motivate students
  • teachers set challenging tasks
  • teachers have excellent subject knowledge
  • teachers carefully assess students’ progress
  • teachers support the needs of all students, including those with learning challenges
  • teachers promote the effective teaching of reading and skills in literacy.

The leadership of a school provides the environment for everyone to strive towards the very best standards of teaching and learning. This includes ensuring appropriate resources (including support staff), developing an atmosphere of trust, an ambitious agenda and a culture where creativity and risk-taking is encouraged: ‘High-quality leadership is essential to promote, support and sustain the drive to perfect teaching and maximise learning in schools’

There is professional discussion of the theory of learning styles, multiple intelligences and personalised learning. The encouragement of kinaesthetic lessons and outdoor learning is part of the educational philosophy of Day Waterman College. There is no one approach which will ensure a teacher will deliver an outstanding lesson at DWC but the following strategies underpin outstanding teaching.

Very effective lessons may well include:

  • an exciting introduction which focuses attention and excites students and sets the scene
  • progression from one body of knowledge to the next step building on prior learning
  • clear expectations based on challenge for every student
  • knowing every student as an individual
  • relationships based on mutual respect
  • teaching methods matched to the content and students
  • buzz factor – which enthuse and surprise students and create interest
  • pace – teaching styles that move the lesson along maintaining interest
  • dialogue – discussion and questioning to ensure everyone is involved and understands
  • great ending – which helps students to reflect on what was learned, celebrates achievement and identifies the next steps.


In conclusion

Outstanding teaching is hard to define but at DWC we have created the climate and environment for excellent teaching to thrive. Sometimes it is more important to focus on outcomes rather than process and at DWC we celebrate diversity in teaching styles.

Outstanding teaching involves using tactile activity, an activity that encourages discussion, some individual interaction with the teacher, a visual stimulus, a written stimulus and a creative stimulus, with the needs of students at the core of every lesson. We have a school structure in which every student is valued, motivated and confident and in which teachers feel supported and able to innovate and take risks.

We inspire young minds to achieve the best that they can with the gifts that they have.