Conclusions from term 1 at my new school

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  1. Ofsted is a COMPLETELY different experience if you have nothing to hide/fear.
  2. Children are different in every school and you cannot generalise in all aspects from one to another.
  3. SLT in a well run school are different to those in one that is not.
  4. Email does not have to be the only form of communication & a school can run just as/more efficiently by talking & notice boards/briefings/newsletters
  5. GCSEs are failing to challenge some children. I’m teaching top set year 9 A Level style/content and they’ll have a big drop if they choose GCSE.
  6. How I teach works. It’s not conventional. It fails all tick sheets. It’s natural. But students learn & like it.
  7. The ethos of a school is crucial and it comes from everyone in it.
  8. Giving power to middle leaders is the driving force of a school ( I knew this anyway but just hadn’t experienced it)
  9. Year 7 are so funny, heart warming and great to teach  (I haven’t taught them for a few years)
  10. I love teaching. I love marking. I love having my own classroom. I love my school.

oh yes and 11. Money isn’t everything. Happiness is.

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Ultimate CPD – the CPD community model

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Following from posts on CPD and discussions on Twitter I’ve decided to come up with the ‘ultimate’ model for CPD based around a school that is in some sort of federation/chain/pyramid. In my limited knowledge I believe that ‘Teaching School alliances’ had a similar remit but in my own experience can see little impact for all individuals across the alliance. I also think that the requirement to be ‘Outstanding’ is unhelpful. I think it’s naive to think that just because a school isn’t ‘Outstanding’ it can’t offer expertise.

These are first thoughts. I will add/edit as people inspire and comment.

One coordinator – several leaders

In this model I suggest the following roles:

CPD Community coordinator – Their role is to bring all school’s needs together. To oversee all sessions. To book and organise external consultants. To analyse the CPD needs fed in from schools to ensure that all are catered for. To make possible matches where needed. To maintain the directory of people and development sessions.

CPD leaders – At least one in each school. They pull together all their staff’s needs and feed them into the coordinator.  They monitor participation. Where necessary, they authorise time in school hours when needed.

‘Experts’ (need to think of a better title)- these are the people who are included in the directory. Teachers, HLTAs, TAs, middle leaders, senior leaders, Governors, everyone! They offer their areas of expertise. They run development sessions. A clear, simple accessible database of the expert profiles is sent to all staff termly.

Subject teams – specialists who represent a specific subject. Hold a subject webinar/network meet once or twice a year. Have significant expertise/experience in their area. The ‘go to’ people for that area.

Use what you’ve got

There is a huge amount of expertise within a school. If you are working with more than one school than this rapidly multiplies.

How do we share our expertise so the right people are supporting those that need it?

Firstly, I suggest a simple but clear record of who can do what. Everyone in the CPD community should have access to it and it should be updated termly to keep it ‘live’. If I want support in ‘questioning’ for example, I should be able to easily search all the people in my CPD community that have offered ‘questioning’ as something they can advise/coach on. I should be able to contact them at any time. I shouldn’t have to go through a bureaucratic process. Giving their email is the simplest way of doing this. If I’d like to meet with them then we can arrange at a mutually convenient time or if necessary, my CPD budget ( I suggest giving teachers their own CPD here) can pay for supply/travel costs. There won’t be many cases where a whole day is needed.

All staff on upper pay scale could be asked to create a profile of what they can offer. Other staff can volunteer.You may wish to use ASTs/SLEs/SLT/Leading practitioners in slightly different ways but it is essential that they too get personalised CPD, they don’t just offer it for others.  They’re often missed out.

Here is my example of what my CPD community profile might look like:

 

A suggestion of what I might be able to offer

It looks like a Top Trump but it isn’t supposed to make one person ‘better’ than another.

Staff can also offer development sessions focussed on what they can offer. For example, I might offer a session for teachers ‘Using data to support your learning’. I may get 1 or 2 colleagues but if this links to their development it is useful.

If you record these development sessions or even better, make them a live session so even if your CPD community colleagues are too far away, they can log-in and join the webinar session, you can then re-use them and start a bank of CPD videos.

This may even become part of a school’s appraisal system. As a CPD target you could offer development sessions and/or coach/mentor over the year and/or attend them.

Cost effective, quick & easy

One problem I can see with the teaching school model is that it is bureaucratic and expensive.  This system means that you can contact anyone in the CPD community quickly and easily. Communication may just be one email and you get the answer you were looking for. Where  longer amounts of time are needed this can be checked by the school CPD leader but if you are in charge of your own CPD budget you can work out costs and see what can be achieved.

There are many people who are willing to give their time and expertise for nothing. Whilst we shouldn’t exploit this, it is a hugely underused resource in schools.

The CPD community could consider what sort of ways people can be appropriately recognised for the work they do.

You may never meet

I’ve been harping on about this for a while.  I think the power of CPD comes in sharing with people you may never meet in person. This is because technology has enabled us to share around the world without the need for travel.  I truly believe that webinars are THE way forward for ensuring that CPD is appropriate, targeted, cost-effective and time-effective.

If the CPD community invest in online webinar software it will mean schools can collaborate from around the country.

Think of an academy chain scenario with schools around the country. You could ensure that every single English department collaborates and shares in an hour, between 4-5pm. I believe the power of this is yet unknown but I believe it has huge potential for minimal cost and time. They could do this for ALL subjects and beyond into key teaching areas including assessment, questioning,  behaviour management etc The focuses are endless and as long as it is appropriate  for one person it is a valuable use of time.

Buying in is cheaper

In situations where there may be a need for an external consultant or expert needed, schools can share the cost and the time.  Some courses cost £200+ and with supply cover and transport can cost £500 for a member of staff to leave school. If the consultant can come to you and work with several members of staff, it will cost less and the programme can be personalised to the needs of the schools.

This doesn’t have to be a whole day of staff off timetable. If the consultant can come from 12pm-6pm then you can divide this up and avoid cover. To make the extra hours humane, ensure there are snacks and drinks for staff.

Ask the consultant if you can record the session. They may say ‘no’ however if they agree it will be for internal purposes only, this session can be available to all the staff in the CPD community that want to watch it. It is also then a valuable resource for the future.

Research across contexts

Whilst it may not be for everyone, these CPD communities would enable teachers carry out educational action research across contexts, with different students and if willing, involving different teachers.

There is a good chance that across a network of schools there will be someone who is interested in developing the same thing as me. We can share, collaborate and support each other.

Putting the individual in charge

The important aspect of this model is that individuals are in charge of their own CPD. They should only be involved in CPD that directly impacts their practice. No more whole school CPD. In this post I explain how CPD can be personalised and this would fit directly into this model.

There will also be limited need for ‘one off’ training that isn’t followed through. My areas for development should be tracked and monitored. In some cases, a teacher may have one thing they want to focus on for the entire year. In other cases, there might be some short term goals every term or less.

This model is not a “choose 3 development sessions each term” menu model. In this model, although teachers may choose what are the chances that throughout the year, the sessions will fit every single member of staff’s goals? The offered sessions should come from the CPD needs audited by the school CPD leader including appraisal targets. It needs to be montiored and rigorous but humane and reasonable.

This can be shown through the professional portfolio explained here. An individual can keep a log of everything they do, how they use it, whether it was effective etc all in one place. They can keep their appraisal targets, observations, webinars, notes, blogs, reflections all in one place.

I propose all members of staff engage in this model including support staff and governors.

Impact? Did it work?

This is the crux. Have the development sessions/coaching/mentoring/emails worked?

It is often impossible to evidence this but we can try. David Weston (@informed_edu) from NTEN has listed what makes effective CPD:

From @informed_ed David Weston

I also think that all evaluations, evidence of impact etc should be shared in an appropriate format with everyone involved. It shouldn’t just be the CPD coordinator or CPD leaders saying ‘it all worked really well’, it needs honest, reflective and helpful feedback that should be used to inform the next year of training.

I think the CPD community model could meet most if not all of these. It’s a huge proposal but I think that if done properly it would save schools money and time and overall provide more effective CPD than some do at the moment.

I believe that at the end of each academic year all staff should be able to say:

” This year I developed my teaching/role by doing X it has made impact Y. I have used CPD time wisely.I have not been ‘told’ what I’m doing but have designed my own programme. I have enjoyed my CPD”

Exam factories

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I had a very interesting conversation with my niece yesterday. She’s in year 11 in a secondary school, which has just come out of special measures. She is a bright and articulate young lady and told me the following things that I could only sit and nod at, out of frustration & empathy rather than with agreement.

In September of year 11, her school decided that they would enter the students for iGCSE English ( I’m not sure if it was as well as normal GCSE or instead). The plan was to enter them for the November exam. For this to work they had to complete iGCSE coursework in this very short period of time. They were ‘made’ to stay behind after normal school hours to get this coursework done in time. But then of course, in October the Government decided to change the rules about early entry GCSEs and that the results from these would not count in the schools headline figures in the summer. Because of this, they dropped the iGCSE for all the students. They’d just worked incredibly hard on coursework to be told it wasn’t worth anything. As you can imagine this didn’t make the students feel valued. She even asked a member of staff about it and their reply was along the lines of ‘we have no choice’.

I think this was the beginning of her realisation that actually she wasn’t an individual for whom the school wanted to develop and nurture, but a number. A statistic. Her following anecdotes supported this hypothesis.

She told me that in the year 11 assemblies leading up to the exams, the assembly leader has made a big deal of the ‘count down’ to how much time they had left. “You’ve only got two months now” etc I think this is probably an understabable method of trying to get students focused. However she then told me that an assembly leader said something like “the school has paid a significant amount of money  for you to do these exams. If you let us down by not doing well, you’ve wasted our money”. This is horrific emotional blackmail. I was seriously unimpressed.

Also, the school has not run any trips for students since they went into SM. Her memories of her year 7-9 trips are the type of memories you recall twenty or more years later. They are, for most, some of the most memorable times ‘at school’.  Why have they stopped them? Do they feel under pressure to have children in the class room every day possible?

Finally, she explained how she felt that everything in the past year was about ‘how to do an exam’. She explained all the techniques she’s been taught. She felt that whilst she now knows how to write exams she hasn’t been prepared for life beyond secondary school. She said that she and her peers don’t know how to write a CV, apply for a bank account or to write their application for college.  Whilst discussing politics she admitted that she hadn’t been taught any of it.  It was my sister in law who has told her the basics.  This is the part that really saddened me. Schools are required to present a balanced and broad curriculum. It doesn’t sound like she’s had that in the past two years.

She was so clear about how these things made her and her peers feel. She suggested plausible alternatives on how to make the experience of year 11 balanced but effective.

So, whilst I’m sure the school is hoping for better results this summer, I really hope at some point someone in the organisation or failing that, an inspector speaks to the children about their experiences. I hope that they take on board that we have the privilege of working with these bright, articulate students who do want the best for themselves in terms of results but also in terms of being prepared for life. Otherwise we’re just running exams factories.

 

 

 

 

 

 

These are her and my opinions and interpretations.

Results vs quality of teaching – part 2: The questions

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Following on from my post about the case of Miss M who gets fantastic results but doesn’t do anything you might expect from a teacher, I planned to address the key question of results vs quality of teaching however as I’ve thought about it further, many more questions have been raised by this case.

Lessons & Teaching

  1. If a teacher is getting consistently good/outstanding results, does it matter what happens in their lessons?

  2. Does student opinion of a teacher matter?
  3. Do all lessons have to have shared objectives, starter, plenary etc for them to be effective?
  4. What does ‘quality’ teaching mean?
  5. If a lesson doesn’t need to have a teacher in it to get ‘good’, do we really need teachers?
  6. Is it acceptable for every lesson for a class to be exactly the same?
  7. Was Miss M actually using pedagogical methods without realising?
  8. Is 100% A*-C enough?

Whole school & professional duties

  1. What is the purpose of a school?
  2. What is the purpose of a teacher?
  3. Should all teachers have to take part the same CPD/meetings?
  4. Other than teaching in a classroom, does a teacher have a professional duty to engage in anything else in school?
  5. Should teachers that get good results be ‘left alone’ by senior management?
  6. Should teachers that get consistently good results be ‘made’ to lead or support other teachers?

More questions that are probably for another blog..

  • Should a teacher ever leave a class?
  • How did these students learn without teacher ‘input’?
  • Does it matter what a classroom looks like?
  • Should we be suspicious of a subject that gets 100% A*-C?

 

Please feel free to add any further questions as comments to this post.

In part 3 I will share some thoughts and invite you to comment.

What is the secret formula for a successful school?

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I am lucky enough to be on the SSAT leadership course ‘Leading Outstanding Schools’. We basically visit four ‘Outstanding schools’ and see how they run things. I’ve been to two so far and they’ve been fantastic opportunities to analyse what makes success.

Surely there must be something that connects all successful schools?

What is it?

Here are my thoughts…..

1.Strong leadership – ‘My way or the Highway’?

Not just strong leadership. I mean really strong leadership. Someone who knows HOW to lead and HOW to manage. Not just someone with great ideas. We all have great ideas but many lack the skill to manage, develop and support staff. In my career so far I could count on one hand those who’ve done this well. I really admire and respect those people. You’ve got to be an incredibly strong person. But it’s not just ‘my way or the highway’, it’s more than that. ‘My way’ needs to be an effective and workable way.

2. A balanced team

It takes a strong person to create a leadership team that covers all the skills needed to run a school including those that are your weaknesses. I guess few Head teachers have the opportunity to start from scratch. Do enough Head teachers strategically appoint in their team or do they just fill a vacancy?

3. Trust

In the schools I visited the Heads very clearly told us about how they trust their staff to get on with their jobs. It was clear they did. It doesn’t mean leaving them to go alone but also it doesn’t mean micromanaging. They expected their team to ‘perform’ but it wasn’t prescriptive. I’ve heard a Head say ‘I don’t care how we make progress but I expect us to make it!’. This allows for innovation, collaboration and development but with independence and morale boosting trust.

4. Know your audience

In both the schools it was very clear that the senior team knew their students, parents and catchment and the school had systems and rules that worked for these children. At one of the schools all delegates were quite shocked about the systems and couldn’t see them working back in our own schools but it worked for these children. It provided them with what they needed to succeed. This is very much a case of ‘one size’ doesn’t fit all.

5. Recruitment

One of the Heads told us that at interview if a candidate does not teach a lesson that is at least ‘Good’ they don’t go through to interview. He also said that he told candidates from the outset what the expectations are at his school and if they’re not prepared to meet these then they should withdraw. Extreme? Actually probably not. So why don’t all Heads do this? because they would end up without a full complement of staff. We struggle to get certain subject teachers even to come to interview. And then lessons are not often anything spectacular. It’s a risky strategy.

The other school has a less risky strategy. ‘Grow your own’. Several staff had been to the school themselves, gone away to study and come back to teach there. Who else knows a school as much as a student who has been there?! So, pushing this model further, is it worth investing in students at Key Stage 5 who could be your possible teachers of the future? It’s a long term strategy but it could well work.

So they are my first 5 thoughts. I’m due at school number 3 after the holiday so I think I will add further thoughts then.