Down to Brass Tacks – What Really Makes a Difference?

Earlier this Month, Steven Tierney (@LeadingLearner) wrote a ‘Saturday Thunk’ post about focussing on priorities in the New Year:  Stop Wasting Time. In it he used the phrase “It’s down to brass tacks on this one.” that got me thinking about the things I think really make a difference. Those aspects of the sharp end of teaching that make a real difference to students and staff, and so turn a vision into a reality.

Here’s my list. It isn’t about vision, or the ‘big picture’ but rather the things we do that stem from our vision as a school and that I believe are driving improvement day-by-day.


  • Daily late gate with same-day follow up
  • Call home within 1h of unexplained absence
  • Tutors enquiring after absent students


    • Frequent quality verbal feedback to students
    • High Quality written feedback to students
    • Dedicated improvement & reflection time so students can act on feedback
    • Differentiation including both support and challenge
    • Planning and teaching that responds to student need
    • Targeted support to students with specific needs

      Quality of Teaching:

      • Concern for health and wellbeing of colleagues
      • Collaborative working within and between teams, focussed on a desire to improve outcomes for students
      • Numerous regular opportunities to engage in CPD

      Wellbeing & behaviour:

      • Daily contact with tutor
      • Relationship with teachers – starts with welcome at start of lesson
      • Ready access to nurse / counsellor / chaplain
      • Consistent recognition of achievements
      • Modelling of expectations by staff
      • Consistent use of consequences system
      • Immediate follow-up of incidents by Relevant staff

      Doubtless there are other things that could be added to the list – I’d welcome suggestions of other elements readers think make an impact.

      At the moment our focus at school is to persist with these and to develop other areas including more effective use of collaborative learning in lessons; a future addition to the ‘progress’ list, I hope!


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