What is a Teaching & Learning Policy?
A teaching and learning policy promotes best practice and establishes consistency in teaching and learning across the whole school. It aims to ensure that all children are provided with high quality learning experiences, leading to a consistently high level of pupil achievement and attitude.
While a teaching and learning policy is not statutory (schools are not obligated to have one), it is nevertheless important that when schools are in a good place, they can communicate and publish other policies to support staff and raise standards.
A teaching & learning policy is also an extremely helpful document to present when a school is being inspected by Ofsted. The policy helps to outline how the school plans its curriculum, and the plans they have in place to implement it.
Once created with the input of teachers and leaders from across the school, a teaching & learning policy will typically go through various levels of consultation, including that with the school’s governing body. Once ratified, it will then become a standard document to promote consistent classroom practice.
Though policies vary from school to school, they will generally cover many of the same values, aims and actions. It’s likely your school (or child’s school) already has a teaching & learning policy in place, but there’s always room for improvement.
This guide aims to explain the main elements your teaching & learning policy should include, as well as some valuable examples shared from schools across the UK.
Tips for Writing a Good Teaching & Writing Policy
1. Start with what’s not working
Ross Morrison of Teacher Toolkit describes the process his school went through to create a clear and progressive teaching & learning policy.
“We started off with what was not working and what needed clarifying. Once we had defined the starting point, we first discussed what our expectations were under a ‘Mark-Plan-Teach’ methodology,” he says.
There are various ways to discover what’s not working or what requires more clarification among teachers. Whether it’s using the feedback pulled from CPD training sessions, or holding special voicing panels so that teachers can raise concerns and share their own best practices, involving all teachers in this early stage of the policy-making process will identify inconsistencies it needs to address.
This will help shape the potential structure and aims of your learning policy going forward.
2. Decide on your school’s learning objectives
Every school will have different ideas regarding their own learning objectives should be and what should be made priority. The most important thing is that these are defined and presented early on in the policy, as these will likely affect all other aspects of the policy.
For some schools, it helps to divide the policy into two parts – Part A covering learning and Part B covering teaching, for instance.
Learning objectives can be defined by consulting with teachers and governors to accurately summarise expectations and common working practices. They might include:
- Providing a supportive and positive learning environment
- Providing rich and varied contexts and experiences to help students develop a wide range of skills
- Offering a curriculum that promotes spiritual, moral, social, cultural, physical, mental and emotional development
- Providing a high level of literacy and numeracy teaching
- Encouraging imagination and creative expression
- Encouraging a supporting home learning environment by providing ways for parents/carers to get involved.
See our teaching & policy examples below to get an idea of how learning objectives can vary across schools.
3. Keep it simple
It’s no use creating a policy that grows into a monster of a document nobody wants to read or touch. Keeping it simple and succinct not only makes it more accessible, but also leaves less room for inconsistencies and potential contradictions.
Quintin Kynaston school successfully created a one-page summary, which defined the three main components of teaching and what the school’s educators wanted to achieve. Keeping it to one page was important so that it remained clear and accessible, and while getting the wording right amongst teachers was tricky, it was essential.
Ross explains: “The harder task was to keep the policy to less than 20 pages so that it remained a training manual and not an unwieldy document that nobody ever used!”
You can download Ross’ school’s one-page summary here.
4. Decide on non-negotiable expectations for each component
Nina Siddall-Ward, an associate education expert for The Key, explains that a teaching and learning policy can be considered a “core policy” that underpins all others.
She suggests leaders should include certain ‘non-negotiable’ expectations for areas such as:
- Learning behaviour
- The learning environment
She also says that the T&L policy can be based on the teachers’ standards, with explanations of what each standard would look like in practice.
5. Moderate & modify
Once your T&L policy is complete, that does not mean that the job is now complete. In fact, it’s very much only just beginning!
The next question is whether or not the policy will work, and the only way to know that is by testing it over the coming months or year. A policy must be quality-controlled in numerous training sessions with teachers, as well as quality-assured across the school by middle leaders, before it can be utilised in all its glory.
After that, it’s time to moderate and modify. What works well? What doesn’t work so well? What can be made clearer, or changed to better meet the needs of students and teachers? Have there been any new developments or changing needs and priorities?
You may even wish to include a page in your policy that explains how the quality of teaching will be monitored regularly. This can be through means such as:
- Book scrutinies
- Lesson observations (drop-ins and informed observations)
- Examination review and progress checks.
Teaching & Learning Policy Examples
Probably the best way to understand a teaching and learning policy is to see one in action.
Below are a few of our favourite teaching and learning policies from schools across the UK. By looking at these examples, it’s easy to see just how much policies can vary, depending on the age of the students in question and a school’s individual needs and priorities.
Rosetta Primary School
On page 3, the policy says that pupils learn best when “they are encouraged to form positive relationships with their teacher, peers and other members of the school community”, among other factors. It explains that this involves pupils:
- Reflecting on how their behaviour affects themselves and others
- Working with adults to establish and meet rules and targets for both learning and behaviour
- Being intelligently critical of their own work and that of others
- Taking pride in shared and personal successes.
Quintin Kynaston Academy School
As mentioned earlier, Ross Morrison took the reins at his school when he helped craft and create its teaching & learning policy over an 18 month period. The policy includes a one-page summary, which explains the ‘Mark, Plan, Teach’ structure of each section throughout the policy.
Whitworth Community High School
The 2016/17 teaching and learning protocol from this community school in Lancashire is divided into the following sections:
- Planning and implementation of learning activities
- Setting appropriate home learning across the whole curriculum
- Marking, assessment and feedback
- Spiritual, moral, social and cultural (SMSC) development of pupils.
Parents are strongly encouraged to support their children with their home learning by creating the right environment and routines at home to enable home learning to be completed. It adds that a school planner used to encourage parents to liaise with the school.