Dominic Salles


I was educated in 11 different schools, in three countries.

By the age of 13 I’d been bankrupt, deported and homeless for a year and a half.

I know a thing or two about schools, about getting over disadvantage, and about seeing a different way.

I trained as a primary school teacher, changed my mind to study an English degree, became a graduate tax inspector for 4 years, before being lured into teaching English with a 50% salary cut.

I know a thing or two about managing change, understanding the story of data, and loving what you do.

I run the UK’s second largest English teaching channel, Mr Salles Teaches English, and am the author of The Mr Salles Guide to 100% in AQA GCSE English Language.

I know how to get students to grades 7, 8 and 9. I know how to show English teachers and students a better way.

I’ve been training teachers for fifteen years. I used to teach lots of whizzy, fun ways to create engaging lessons, which felt great. Teachers were entertained, took a few ideas to play with, and the impact on the progress of their students was probably nil.

Now I’m in charge of teaching and learning at Chipping Camden School, whose value added has gone from the 52nd percentile to the 12th since I’ve been in post. Yet there’s so much more we could do.

When I gained responsibility for whole school CPD, I asked myself, what makes the difference? The answers are all in educational research. So I’ve written The Slightly Awesome Teacher. Now every teacher can achieve great progress from their students without working any harder, and that is slightly awesome.

I know a thing or two about educational research, work life balance, school improvement and how to teach so students learn.

This is why my training to all schools now is so different. What are the top schools doing that give their students so much greater progress? What should we do across the whole school? What should your department do, regardless of the rest the school? What should you do, if you just want your students to shine?

At its simplest it means focusing on learning, not teaching. It is counter intuitive, meaning students work harder and teachers work less hard. But this is much more challenging than you might think, because you are the victim of terrible habits in differentiation, group work, lesson planning, curriculum design, assessment and feedback.

My CPD is therefore both liberating and challenging: how many of us want to change our habits, even when it reduces our workload and increases the progress of our students?

I know a thing or two about why teachers find it so hard to change habits, and how to help them choose better ones.

Welcome to my website – I hope there is something slightly awesome for you to take away.

Things which need to be considered

Things I am least likely to sayThings I am most likely to say:
In my experienceI know what the research says about that
Progress 8 is fatally flawedWhat's the impact on student learning?
This is the way I do itI don't know. Let's try it and measure the impact
I get brilliant results so you have to do what I do
What if my opinion is completely wrong? Where can we find some evidence?
Your school/my school is uniqueThis is what the schools with best progress in the country are doing. What can we adapt?
Focusing on progress stops us developing the whole childWhat if we taught our students to master the subject, rather than just pass a GCSE?
Make a poster, do a word search, finish it for homeworkWhen you last wanted to learn something, what did you do?
Two stars and a wishShow students model answers from the beginning and teach from them explicitly
Let me differentiate that for youShow students model answers from the beginning and teach from them explicitly
Find a hook to engage your studentsShow students model answers from the beginning and teach from them explicitly. Look how much closer the student is to the model now
Here's your target gradeShow students model answers from the beginning and teach from them explicitly
Get into a group See, Try, Apply, Secure
Yes, butYes, let’s try it and measure what happens
But what if the child feels..?
We need our students to feel they aren’t learning until they start to make mistakes
What does Ofsted want us to do?These are a dozen ways the research might work in practice, in the classroom. Let’s try that.
No, I never have problems with that class/studentWhat routines might help improve their expectations?
Let’s just keep the status quo. I bet we can get the same result in a much simpler way.
It’s complicated. Things are a bit more nuanced than that.That’s brilliant or it’s rubbish. Nuance doesn’t help us make a decision, it helps us fudge one.
Teaching to the test isn’t proper teachingLet’s sit the GCSE exam as teachers, so we know what the pitfalls are, and our students can get 100%
We are an Outstanding School because Ofsted say soThis is what the data over the last 3 years suggests we need to improve
If you wait long enough, that idea will come back againHere are six solutions, which one do you think is best?
Hands up…Let’s find out what students don’t know. Here’s a test or quiz.
This cohort of students is differentLet’s find out which teachers are getting the most progress from them, and ask them
We have to make the curriculum accessible for these studentsYes, it is difficult. That's why you have to try so hard
In my school…What if there is a better way?
In my opinion…How do we know?

To find out more, read The Slightly Awesome Teacher, follow my blog, or contact me directly.