Category Archives: General News

The nonsense of OFSTED, League Tables and Funding in Education…

I’ve read a couple of interesting and honest posts from Headteacher colleagues in the last week or so, speaking truths about the way the system is at the moment and how it offers no incentive for schools to be inclusive.  They both reminded me why a sense of moral purpose rather than a drive to become ‘top of the pile’ is the most important part of school leadership, perhaps more now than ever before.

Brian Walton (@oldprimaryhead) writes here about the problems we have in the system with career-defining OFSTED judgements and the inordinate amount of emphasis placed on published data from high stakes testing and calls for more integrity and moral backbone from school leaders who, interestingly, he blames for bringing this mindset on themselves.  Whilst I’m less convinced about the root of the problems than Brian (or either whether trying to pin the blame on anyone is important), his post articulates many of the problems with the current regime with both passion and a fearful honesty that only someone sat in the hot seat of Headship will truly recognise.

In this post, Simon Smith (@Smithsmm) talks about his ‘fight to be an inclusive school’ and how the system seems ‘rigged’ against inclusion from a funding perspective.  I feel Simon’s pain as much as I admire both his honesty and commitment to inclusion.

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I’ve written previously about why I think elements of our system need to change and, in particular,  why the OFSTED Outstanding tag should be ditched.  Here are a few more thoughts on a few problems with the current wider system and why OFSTED grades and league tables often aren’t worth the paper they’re written on.

  1. Schools that are top of the league tables are generally those from more affluent communities or those with fewer disadvantaged children include children or those with SEND.  In Northamptonshire (my county) for example, the top 10 performing primary schools in 2016 were all in villages; the lowest 10 were all in towns.  The knock on from this is that many talented teachers and school leaders outside the towns are deterred from taking jobs in the areas of most need and the wrong messages are both written and read about the contribution that many great teachers and schools make.
  2. Schools that are graded outstanding are not necessarily the best schools; they are those who have very low levels of deprivation. In fact, if you have less than 5% of children eligible for Pupil Premium, there’s almost a 50% chance that you will be in an outstanding school and you are 3 times more likely to be outstanding than a school with high levels of deprivation.  The most concerning statistic is perhaps that by taking on a Headship of a school with more than 23% of children eligible for Pupil Premium, you are 15 times more likely to be judged ‘inadequate’ by OFSTED than by running a school with less than 5% disadvantaged children (Source: Education Policy Institute, November 2016).
  3. It is more difficult for schools with higher levels of deprivation to make the jump up between OFSTED grades compared to schools with more disadvantaged children on role.  The EPI report in 2016 into OFSTED inspections in England shows that the least deprived primary schools are twice as likely to improve their  OFSTED rating as those with the most deprivation whereas secondary schools are three times more likely.
  4. A key plank of the ‘self-improving system’ is currently built on the myth that the great practice in outstanding schools is replicable into schools in areas of more deprivation and that somehow, the magic of National Leaders of Education and National Challenge Schools will rub off on failing schools and all will be well.  The reality, however, is that the majority of these schools and NLEs exist in areas of low deprivation and therefore the same systems and practices that work well in these schools just aren’t replicable and often these types of intervention fail or are no more than surface level engagement.  We must challenge this assumption; it’s as daft as taking managers and coaches from Barcelona who are used to large budgets, highly skilled players and silky pitches and getting them to try and introduce a one touch pass and move game at Northampton Town to try and keep ‘The Cobblers’ from being relegated back to Division 2.
  5. There is no incentive in the system for those teachers and school leaders to leave their successful schools and take on big challenges in tough communities.  Why on earth would a Head who is sat on a successful school in an area of low deprivation give up this relative security to go and enter the crazy world of town or inner city headship with its inevitable annual battle with floor standards, intervention and uncertainty over their future unless they are driven by a moral purpose or a personal desire to take on a bigger challenge?
  6. Schools that include more children with SEND receive less money to support these children which creates a perverse anti-incentive for schools to  be inclusive and has, sadly, driven some schools to some disappointing practices around inclusion.  I am incredibly proud to be a Headteacher of an inclusive town school with a Special Unit with 12 children on roll, a further 24 children who have either an EHCP, Statement or High Needs Funding and an additional number of children that you would expect to find in any typical primary school who either receive SEND Support or are in the process of investigation or diagnosis.  When schools receive funding for children with EHCPs or High Needs Funding, there is an assumption that the school will fund the initial £6,000 from its budget via a ‘notional SEN’ amount but in reality there is no more funding in the first place for schools who have more children on their role with SEND.  At our school for example, there are apparently 24 lots of £6,000 ‘in our budget’ (£144,000) which are then ‘topped up’ by the local authority yet we only receive the same base funding as a school that may have 4 children with similar needs and so needs to provide less notional funding into their staffing (£24,000).  This disparity is wrong and unmanageable and, again, creates a disincentive for schools to become great at inclusion and to make this publicly known.
  7. Schools with Special Units do not have this taken into account when their data is published either in league tables, via RaiseOnline and it is not taken into account in measures such as floor targets or coasting schools.  Whilst in reality, good inspectors will always recognise this and take account of it during inspection, it means that these schools always have to start conversations on the back foot challenging an external assumption that the school is underperforming .  Inclusive schools shouldn’t have to exist on a process of being viewed as guilty before being proven innocent.
  8. The same schools who have higher deprivation, higher levels of SEN (and therefore more chance of getting into trouble with OFSTED) are those which are set to lose more money than the others through the proposed funding changes.  Read here about how the biggest losers are those schools in Inner Cities or Urban areas.  in Northampton Town, it’s the schools with high deprivation who are set to lose the most according to the NFF consultation spreadsheet.

So, in summary, our current system rewards those schools, teachers and headteachers both financially and in terms of OFSTED and league table recognition with low levels of SEND and deprivation in their schools and, unwittingly, drives unwanted behaviours and practices around inclusion in some schools.  It then proposes as a solution that the same methods that work in the most privileged communities can be picked up and applied to those in the most challenging areas despite evidence that clearly shows it is a different game altogether whilst, at the same time, providing no incentive for those school leaders in successful schools to get their hands dirty in those schools and communities that desperately need more help and support.

I think perhaps there might be better ways to go about improving schools and social mobility in England and that the ‘self-improving system’ needs a different set of levers to drive the behaviour of schools and their leaders if it is to make meaningful improvements to schools in challenging contexts.

What do you think?

TR

Improving Routines, Relationships & Responses through lesson study, research & The New Teacher CPD Standard…

Reading various posts around behaviour in schools recently has made me reflect on some work we’ve been doing this year on teacher professional  development and improving behaviour at Simon de Senlis.  This is quite a long post which outlines the work over the last 6 months that we’ve put into behaviour and teacher CPD across the school (written by me but led by others).
 Behaviour in our school has been a real strength in recent years: the use of sanctions is not often necessary, exclusions are really rare and you can hear a pin drop as children come in and out of my assemblies. Generally our classrooms are places where teachers teach and children learn, and supply teachers always comment on what a lovely day they’ve had and how refreshing it is to be in our school (perhaps they tell all Heads this?).

Nevertheless, and despite the ‘behaviour and safeguarding is outstanding’ stamp, we felt that we could up our game at the end of last school year and that there were specific examples of where behaviour could be improved to overall impact on learning including:

  • Further improving classroom routines and expectations so that higher standards of classroom behaviour were displayed by all children and so that learning opportunities aren’t missed.
  • Improving transitions and movement around school so that it is  slicker, quicker and that lesson time is maximised.
  • Reducing lunchtime arguments/injustices and resolving them quickly to minimise any spill in to afternoon curriculum time for teachers.

Influences in our Approach…

There has undoubtedly been a shift in tone and thinking on behaviour over the last few years from educational reading including social media.  Previous training that we’d attended for example around OFSTED expectations had given messages that outstanding behaviour was less about being silent in the corridors/opening doors/ folding your arms and more about the learning behaviours in the classrooms such as peer feedback and being self-reflective which probably described our children well.  A new wave of prominent and more ‘traditionalist’ voices in education was challenging this and pointing out that conformity, good order and high expectations were still the right things to insist on and debates around schools approaches such as Michaela were useful for us to follow and to challenge our existing beliefs and expectations.  OFSTED have also made it quite clear that they are not looking for any particular methods when they inspect (follow Sean Harford’s mission to bust all the OFSTED myths here) which really frees you up as a Head to think less about what other people might want to see in your school and more about what works for your children and staff.

Collaboration across our Multi-Academy Trust is also healthy as we get to go and review other schools within the partnership and see what standards are like.  In one of our most challenging schools, I sat through an impeccable singing practice with over 400 children engaging 100% and, at another, I watched as 210 children in the Eastern District of Northampton filed inside, outside then inside again in smiling silence at a lunch time.  What becomes so apparent when you see such well-licked routines, is the absence of distraction and how much easier it makes the teachers job who doesn’t have to start lessons by calming classes down or establishing order.

Whilst searching and reading for inspiration about how to move forward with September’s school improvement, we also stumbled upon two useful documents from the most unlikely source: The DfE.  These were ‘Developing Behaviour Management Content for Initial Teacher Training (ITT)’ and the new ‘Standard for teachers’ Professional Development’.  If you haven’t read these documents yet, they’re really useful and products of DfE expert groups on behaviour and Teacher working parties led by Tom Bennett and David Weston respectively, both experts in these fields and whose work I have a lot of respect for.

September Inset

So this September’s training days were about re-securing some of the basics and paying attention to the two key areas of teacher development and classroom behaviour.  We unpicked the two different papers as described below with staff in order to kick-start a new way of working.

Developing Behaviour Management Content for Initial Teacher Training

Although this document was mainly written to influence Initial Teacher Training providers, we found some of the content really useful – in particular the section around the ‘3 Rs of the behaviour curriculum’: Routines, Responses and Relationships which we used as a lens to view different aspects of behaviour management across the school.  This also prompted us to carry out further reading and use other sources to support some development work under each of these headings as follows:

ROUTINES

We had year groups (Teachers and Support Staff) working together to write down all their different routines that take place (there were hundreds) and then got them to evaluate how good each routine was using highlighters and then picked 5 to improve on.  They then spent some time working on a plan with staff in the year group on what attention to these routines they would give to make them ‘consistently slick’.  Our focus routines included:  coming in to class in the morning, coming in and out of assembly, children going to the toilet, lunch hall, transitioning from carpet time to working at desks, Getting out whiteboards, coming in from the playground, having snack (in reception) etc. etc.

3rs

RESPONSES

The first thing we did here was to evaluate the different responses that already exist within our behaviour policy and check that 1) everyone understands what these mean and is confident to use them and 2) got them to rank how effective they felt each strategy is in different situations.

responses

Next, we revisited some of the principles of 1, 2, 3 Magic which underpin our 1, 2, 3 system in school and unpicked some of the key parts of this around stop/start behaviours and teacher talking – particularly with younger children.

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RELATIONSHIPS

Then we looked at relationships and introduced this model which is from ‘Evidence-Based Teaching’ by Geoff Petty.  This was a great exercise and we got staff to plot their relationships with different classes/children and then asked them to discuss in groups as to how they feel they could develop these in the year ahead.  Staff were really honest and typically felt that they were too cooperative at times, particularly with classes or children they had taught before where over-familiarity played a part.

relationships

The paper also makes some suggestions as to how ITT can be extended into the NQT year so that there is mandatory training and accreditation that happens once teachers are in the job.  I feel that this would be a positive move and would welcome additional measures to strengthen behaviour training for teachers who are young in their careers.

Teacher CPD Standard

This document made a lot of sense to us and we were able to unpick the different parts of the standard and really reflect on where we were using these already and where we had gaps.  An interesting exercise was for us to go back and evaluate some different school improvement initiatives we’d implemented over the previous 4 years and then match how effective they were with how many of the different CPD elements we’d included.  Our handwriting implementation ticked all the boxes and stands as a really successful implementation in school that has impacted standards significantly.  In other school improvement areas which had been less effective, we were able to reflected on where perhaps we hadn’t had the real expert challenge in this area or that initatives hadn’t been ‘sustained over time’.

The biggest change we implemented was around how we planned staff CPD across a term.  Co-ordinating the weekly staff meetings, if I’m honest, used to feel a bit like being air traffic control: trying to land all the different demands for statutory training, Improvement Priorities alongside teacher developmental time, research and reading etc.   A particular challenge at Primary level is the constant need to update teacher’s subject knowledge as the curriculum changes and they have to deliver so many different subjects and inevitably this can lead to limited training time being a compromise.

So we reflected on this and decided that we would just focus on two (which we then reduced to one) area of teacher development which would stick to and only allow one ‘indirect’ professional development opportunity per half term to get in the way.  This meant that we had to get comfortable with saying ‘no’ and staff who were chomping at the bit to get moving with other initiatives would have to just be patient until their turn came around, knowing that they would have a bigger opportunity to make an impact when it did.

cpd

A key part of this was to reintroduce lesson study as the predominate form of CPD which we felt was the perfect tool to use for the ‘Collaboration, Reflection, Challenge’ element.  We have used Lesson Study over the past 4 years in different guises but within this model, it allowed us really see it through and avoid the usual barriers of not enough time, attention and empowerment that get in the way.

Lesson Study

The lesson study triads were set up and after the initial input in September, were asked to identify two or three specific behaviour priorities to focus on over the half term.

Over the half term, two lesson study observations took place alongside various other coaching, planning and evaluation sessions with the idea being that all teachers involved would be able to take away elements to develop their own classroom practice.

Here were some of the areas of focus from the teachers’ lesson study triads:

  • Ensuring all students on task  
  • Getting all students actively listening during whole class input
  • Need to establish culture for learning with effective routines.
  • Transitioning  effectively from teaching activities to the main tasks.
  • Reducing any low level disruption
  • Was the starter engaging and useful for all the children bearing in mind the huge range of abilities within the class?
  • How long could the children apply themselves to a teacher-led task and concentrate for?

How independent are the children in the class?

Feedback from Lesson Study Triads

In order to make sure teachers were accountable for the outcome of the lesson study, each triad was asked to present to the staff as part of our training day at the beginning of November.  This was, without doubt, my favourite training day afternoon as I just got to sit back and hear them present back on the following questions:

  1. What have I learnt so far from the Lesson study about my own practice?
  2. What changes have you made/ will you make to your practice as a result of the LS
  3. What has worked well so far?
  4. What impact have the changes had?
  5. Which pieces of research have supported your change?

Feedback from the staff was of a significant positive impact on behaviour with some of the following pieces of feedback from their reports on their reflections of what they’d developed:

  • The importance of table and seating positioning.  I knew the importance of this but looking at someone else’s classroom made me think about my own more carefully.
  • The importance of routines – they are now more clearly set each day and are consistent
  • Increased awareness of how children respond to clear direction.
  • Need to be explicit and expect 100% compliance.
  • Made me think more about the boys as individuals and the challenges they face. Also, the impact their behaviour has on the rest of the class. Just one action of moving someone’s peg in the cloakroom has had a huge impact on her daily experience at school.
  • I now use ‘do it again’ (Lemov strategy) consistently and children respond well without me having to ‘over-intervene’.
  • Overall classroom behaviour is really good in classes across school with really high levels of engagement and few issues of disruption.
  • There is a common language which is developing well including ‘Track the Speaker’, ‘100%’, ‘Gorilla sitting’, ‘Whole body listening’, ‘Set the Standard’.
  • Assembly routines are now ‘consistently slick’.  432 children enter the hall and leave in silence and behaviour in assemblies is good.
  • More rigorous tracking of behaviour incidents and follow up has meant that where issues happen, they are picked up and dealt with quickly.

Feedforward into Policy Change

As part of their presentations, staff were asked to make any recommendations to the Teaching and Learning Handbook and also to the Behaviour Policy.  These have now been reviewed over the Christmas break and incorporated into the new draft policy which will go back out to staff this half term and help us further improve behaviour in 2017.

I really like this cycle of teacher action research informing policy and we’ve started a new cycle for the teaching of Reading this January which we’re equally enthusiastic about.

TR

Christmas Message from Mr Rees

Dear All

 The end of a term always offers an opportunity to reflect on what takes place in our school and this Autumn term has been yet another busy and exciting time at Simon de Senlis for the staff and children. 

2016 has been such an odd year on Planet Earth and we finish it with so much political uncertainty, conflict and anxiety in the world.  It is against this backdrop that I believe it is so important for us to ensure that our children grow up with more knowledge and understanding than ever about the world they live in, and with the skills and attitudes to work together to form a peaceful and prosperous society.

 A quick read through this edition of ‘Simon Says’ gives us a flavour of the variety of different experiences that children enjoy as part of their school life – something that the staff work hard to achieve.  This term alone we have seen experiences such as farm trips, visits to the gurdwara and our local churches, an overseas residential, the Christmas productions, many sporting competitions, ballroom dancing, the remembrance service and Forest School expeditions.  All these parts of the curriculum, alongside an ongoing focus on creating better mathematicians, readers and writers, are important parts of the rich tapestry which represents what being a student at Simon de Senlis is about.

Whilst I hope that the children enjoy a wonderful and relaxing time over the holidays, I also hope that they will find time to enjoy learning more about William Shakespeare and his plays ahead of our trust-wide project in the spring which will see our children be inspired by ‘The Tempest’.  The teaching staff have been engaged in training ahead of this with the Royal Shakespeare Company and will be on the school minibus later in the week to watch the play at Stratford; we look forward to the children being inspired by this curriculum project in the new year.

 Alongside their Shakespearian home learning, I heartily recommend that all children enjoy a daily festive dose of reading along with practising their spellings/sounds and number facts/times tables as many times as possible throughout the holiday.  A fortnight’s break is a long time away from school and the more that children can practise these important areas, the more helpful it will be for their learning when they return in the new year (I’m even happy for you to use the ‘Mr Rees says you should…‘ line if it helps!).

I hope that the Christmas period brings you all a well-earned rest and some important family time together.  On behalf of the staff and governors at Simon de Senlis, I’d like to thank you all for your support in 2016 and wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a peaceful and happy New Year.

 Happy Christmas!

 Tom Rees, Headteacher

winter-happy-holiday

Show me the money: Why I’m hopeful about a National Funding Formula for Schools

This week, the Government is hopefully about to publish its fairer funding proposals for schools which are planned to be implemented in September 2018 having already been delayed  earlier this year.

As a Headteacher in a  Local Authority which has been chronically underfunded, I am cynically optimistic about this development.  Northamptonshire is one of the lowest funded 40 Local Authorities for education in the country in an unfair system which is explained in a nutshell on the F40 website as follows:

The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) has calculated that the 10 best–funded areas on average received grants of £6,297 per pupil, compared with an average of just £4,208 per pupil in the 10 most poorly funded areas. (F40 – Campaign for Fairer Funding in Education).

Let’s do the Math…

2014-15 budget information provided by the ASCL indicates that the average Local Authority ‘per-pupil’ funding national average is £4550.54.  In Northamptonshire average is £4118.60 which equates to a difference of £431.94 per pupil.

So crudely, in my school of 432 children, if we were to be funded at the national average per child, this would be an increase to the budget of £186,598.08; the equivalent of an additional 4 and a half experienced teachers, 13 Teaching Assistants or 1 stonking staff wellbeing program!

Across our Multi-Academy Trust with around 2700 children, that would equate to over a million pounds (£1,166,238) across seven schools.  Imagine the impact on learning and outcomes we could make with a teaching war-chest like that.

Now I know it doesn’t work just like that and there’s a far more complicated calculation which means that funding wouldn’t be distributed this way but it makes it really clear why there’s such a need to even out funding across the country, particularly as underfunded schools continue to be judged by the same standards as the rest of the country.

showmethemoney-jerry-maguire-1

SHOW ME THE MONEY!

Earlier this year, myself and the other 370 odd Headteachers in Northants were treated to this letter from Ofsted’s regional director, Chris Russell, expressing his concerns about the quality of education in our county.  You can read the long list of data outcomes which compare poorly to other regions and Local Authorities.

Whilst this ruffled various feathers across the county, sadly, this was business as usual for the majority of school leaders; Northamptonshire has historically seen lower educational outcomes in comparison to other counties.  For the last 9 years of my life as a Headteacher, I’ve been shuffled in to a room with other colleagues and been lectured as to how we need to up our game due to poor comparisons with our ‘statistical neighbours’.

Now, I could do the obvious thing which would be to plea poverty whilst also pointing out that, despite having one hand tied behind our backs, we’ve managed to raise standards to above the national average (and therefore significantly above the LA average) both at Simon de Senlis and in schools across the trust but that would be to put egos before a more systemic and more important issue so I’ll avoid that route.

Instead I’ll simply make the point that if we want to raise standards across the country and improve social mobility in some of the areas of the country where historically it’s been hard to do, a starting point would be to make sure that these areas are funded properly to do so.

In reality, the National Funding Formula in the context of a predicted   decrease in real-term funding is only likely to mean that there are losers and big losers rather than winners.  Whilst I’m hopeful that Northamptonshire schools will feel some actual increase in funding, I feel for those colleagues in authorities where there may be sizeable negative adjustments for them to make.

With cynical optimism…

TR

 

 

Remove the ‘OFSTED Outstanding’ label and put system-wide improvement ahead of islands of excellence…

Acouple of weeks or so ago I found myself engaged in a twitter conversation about how OFSTED could change.  An idle tweet sent whilst watching my daughter swim on a Saturday morning and before I knew it I was involved in a debate between OfSTED’s National Director, Sean Harford and various other keen Saturday morning twitterers.

Anyway, my view (developed further from the input of many on that Saturday morning tweet-fest) remains that the OFSTED ‘Outstanding’ tag remains more of a hindrance than a help in improving education for the the 8.56 million children of school age in England.
I should, at this point, make it really clear that there are many schools I know who are outstanding in every sense of the word (we have one in our trust).  They not only give a great deal to the children in their own building but play their part in supporting others in schools who need help.   There are others however, with the tag who just aren’t and I’m not sure what good it does anyone reading the celebratory OFSTED banners as I drive around the country.
keep-calm-we-are-ofsted-outstanding
Others have already written posts which set out a case for change in OFSTED including Jarlath O’Brien in the TES who gives seven reasons why the outstanding grade should be scrapped and Stephen Tierney who this weekend wrote about the huge opportunity for change in the OFSTED system in the years ahead.  Here are some issues that I have with the ‘outstanding tag’:
  1. The schools with the outstanding tags are not always the best schools; they are sometimes those with a more privileged intake and therefore are easier to run.  Remarkably, OfSTED itself has now admitted this.
  2. The vast majority of schools aiming to be outstanding will fail by definition as only a small minority can ever be classed in this category.  Bearing in mind that 9/10 schools are already good or better, that’s a lot of 3 year roadmaps with a destination of ‘outstanding’ that will never come to fruition.
  3. The pursuit of ‘outstandingness’ can drive insular behaviour from schools with little incentive for school leaders to get out and play a part in improving the wider system as opposed to protecting the greens on the RaiseOnline.
  4. Competition for the top grade results in back-door selection taking place in schools such as compulsory admissions tests that take place at weekends which put more barriers in the way of those who are disadvantaged or discouraging those with SEND to apply to the school.
  5. The system is clearly broken if it’s possible to have an outstanding school at one end of the street and an inadequate one at the other.  Surely truly great schools would make it their business to play a wider part in the community?  Take, for example, the recent evaluation  where an infant school is 3 times more likely to be outstanding than the junior school and think of the impact over the years that this has on staff at those junior schools.
  6. Careers are defined by the term ‘outstanding’ and the word appears on bios and CVs of almost every Dame, Knight and  Government advisor as though this is a certificate of magical powers which will transform any unrelated educational setting.
With the outgoing Chief Inspector, Michael Wilshaw, leaving us with parting words that we should prioritise teacher and leadership recruitment and retention rather than tinker with school structures, the HMCI-elect, Amanda Spielman will be assessing how she can make a genuine impact in her tenure in charge of OFSTED in the middle of such radical reform.  Although there will be political challenge and calls that such a move would be dumbing down standards, I think a big step forward would be to remove the top grade and focus on making all our schools good enough.
So I’d ditch the outstanding grade and keep the following 3 categories:
Grade A: Good and Improving 
Good and Improving is what all schools should aspire to be and currently represent around 90% of the schools in the UK (Good & Outstanding).  Clearly, there is a huge range of both context, academic outcomes across these schools and there will be a wide range of different ethos and approaches.  Ultimately, children will achieve good educational outcomes in relation to their starting points, behave well, be safe and leave these schools with a well-rounded bunch of experiences across the currciulum which help develop them as individuals.
 ‘Good and Improving’ schools offer their children a good deal and the taxpayer good value for money.  Leaders of ‘Good and Improving’ schools would base their priorities around maintaining and improving their own schools AND playing a proactive part in system-wide school improvement collaborating and supporting others within a trust, geographical cluster or local authority.
Grade B: Requires Improvement
The school is not yet good.  The teaching at the school is not consistently good and educational outcomes and behaviour is not as good as it should be.
Grade C: Inadequate
As above  AND the leadership of the school does not have the capacity to improve the situation quickly.
Or
Children are not safe.
The bottom line, surely, is that we all want as many of these 8,560,000 children in our country to be in a good, improving and inclusive school where they enjoy attending regularly, develop personally, achieve academically,  with the welcome side effect that parents and the local community feel that the school is great.
I think that not having the outstanding tag would help.
What do you think?
TR

Today in our Multi-Academy Trust: Collaboration, Shakespeare and Minibuses…

Today I reflected on the significant and positive amount of collaboration that is taking place between the 7 schools who are a part of NPAT, our Multi-Academy Trust.

The world of MATs is often viewed through a lens of a business model of education and sometimes with negative assumptions about forced takeovers, centrally dictated policies and lumpy top-slices taking money away from classroom essentials to fund central reincarnations of small local authorities.  We’re lucky to belong to a trust which has an ethos that I’m very proud to be a part of.  It’s about the important stuff: great teaching and learning, inclusion and collaboration with a genuine commitment to excellence in sport and the performing arts.

In just 24 short hours, I had the following 10 interactions and experiences as a result of the collaboration between the 7 NPAT schools.

  1. Email exchanges with Headteachers last night reviewing each others’ School Improvement Plans and giving each other some advice/critique as to how we could develop these and focus our school improvement actions.
  2. Some nice supportive ‘thank you’ emails to wake up to this morning from Heads in the trust for some work I’ve done around the new online assessment system we’re currently introducing to all schools.  Everyone appreciates being thanked from time to time.
  3. A carpark conversation with my Reception staff on the way in to school this morning who were really enthused and excited by the training that was held for all Early Years teachers at Lings Primary School ahead of out trust-wide project on Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’ which all 2700 children will take part in.  This is led by the Head at Lings, Leigh Wolmarons and offers all staff and children in the trust an opportunity to benefit from their work with the Royal Shakespeare company.
  4. A trip for our Year 1 classes at Simon de Senlis to take part in ‘Experience Christmas’ – a great initiative run as part of the ‘Prayer Space’ project by the community at St Peter’s Church in Northampton and offered to us through Weston Favell Primary School, an outstanding church school within the trust.  I was privileged to escape the office and spend an hour with the first class this morning who hasda really special time learning from church volunteers about the Christmas story in a traditional way which I fear may bypass many, on their rush through a modern and focused school curriculum.
  5. The loan of a minibus from Abington Vale Primary which meant, alongside ours, we could ferry the children to the church and back without the costs of a coach that can start to make these trips prohibitive.  I know that minibus loans aren’t ranked highly by EEF in terms of impact on learning, but they’re a life-saver at times when you’re knee deep in the practicalities and logistics of running a Primary School.
  6. An opportunity for all Headteachers and Business Managers to come to my school this afternoon and be involved in second interviews for the position of COO of NPAT – a really significant and important appointment for the trust which, typically, key staff are encouraged to be a part of the decision making process.
  7. Simultaneous staff meetings across the trust this evening as teachers got their hands on the new assessment system; emails flying down the A45 and back between different schools with different questions and things to clarify – at one point, one of the Heads put me on speaker phone with their staff to clarify the finer points of how to record children not yet working at the expected standard.
  8. A chance meeting with the Strategic Director of the trust after the interviews who, in her really grounded and approachable style, camped out in my office whilst I was involved in staff meetings and caught up on her email – she even allowed me to help clear up her technical faux-pas politely as she bravely attempted to create new groups in the trust’s Office 365 system.
  9. An email since I’ve been posting this blog from my Year 1 teacher and English leader organising cover for reciprocal visits with Headlands Primary next Thursday so that she can see their outstanding phonics provision and, in turn, share our successful approach to handwriting which we have embedded in school over the last 4 years.
  10. Another email, this time from the Reception Teachers who were inspired by the Shakespeare training yesterday and want to order various Shakespearian texts for their children ahead of the project in January.

So my reflections today on the way home were about how, alongside the inevitable extra meetings, emails and discussions that are a part of the MAT, come rich opportunities for staff development, children’s curricular experiences and support for school leaders in a way that I’ve never experienced before and am grateful to be a part of.

TR

Wanted: An Inclusion Leader ready to make a dent in the universe…

I am excited to share the following vacancy that we have at Simon de Senlis for a part time Inclusion Leader to join our school this September.

Inclusion is at the heart of what we do at Simon de Senlis and we are passionate about meeting the needs of all learners in our school.  We go the extra mile for all children (including those with SEND) and we are very proud of the provision in the school which impacts on children in both our mainstream provision and SEND special unit.

Below is the advert for this role and you can access all the application documents on our website at http://simondesenlis.org/index.php/contact-us/vacancies

Wanted INclusion Leader

Inclusion Leader Vacancy May 2016

We are looking to recruit a talented and inspiring Inclusion Leader to join our hard-working team where Inclusion is at the heart of our practice. This role is a permanent 0.6 FTE position (Teachers Pay Scale + TLR2A) from 1st September 2016.

The successful candidate will have a sound knowledge of the SEND Code of Practice. They will be experienced in providing effective inclusion in a primary school setting.

They will be able to work effectively as a member of the team, have excellent interpersonal skills and consistently support the school’s values and approaches.

Simon de Senlis is an exciting place to work; whether it be through our work as a Microsoft Showcase School, and IQM Centre of Excellence or via our involvement in the Arts and Sport we continue to strive to further improve the attainment and progress of pupils within a creative and vibrant learning atmosphere.

In return, we can offer you a great team of professionals; children with outstanding behaviour and a supportive school community.

The successful applicant will be required to apply for an enhanced DBS disclosure. We are committed to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of our children and expect all members of staff to share this commitment.

Visits to the school are encouraged; please email pa@simondesenlis.org to book one of the following showrounds:

Monday 16th May @ 10.15am

Tuesday 17th May @ 3.45pm

Thursday 19th May @ 11.00am

To be considered for the role please email your completed application form and Disqualification Declaration to pa@simondesenlis.org.

The closing date for applications is 5pm on Tuesday 24th May 2016. Interviews will be held on Friday 27th May 2016.

Yours sincerely

Tom Rees

 

SATs: Shouldn’t Children Feel the Pressure?

Today the BBC published this story with the Headline that 90% of current Year 6 children feel pressure to do well in tests.

This isn’t news; it’s a statement of the obvious.  My only surprise was that there were 10% who said they didn’t feel under some pressure.

Of course children feel under pressure to do well in tests. That’s all part of it isn’t it? Our children also feel nervous and under pressure in many other school situations such as waiting for the whistle to blow before they start a sports fixture, standing in the wings about to perform on stage, at the top of the abseil tower being encouraged by their peers or sitting on the coach leaving for a foreign country for the first time waving goodbye to their family for a week.

Butterflies in the stomach, seeking reassurance from parents and teachers, nervous conversations with friends; these are all part and parcel of the personal growth that goes alongside a rich and varied school curriculum.  Children should be placed in situations of moderate pressure and stress in order for them to become resilient for future challenges – that’s my view anyway.

This week, there will be an unprecedented clamour about the place of testing in primary schools with many quick to portray SATs as the villain in the piece – responsible for all that is wrong with childhood in modern Britain.  Are the current testing and assessment arrangements perfect? Clearly not, but that doesn’t mean that we should jump on the bandwagon to demonise standardised assessments.

Screenshot (47)

The problem with headlines like this is that their motivation is not to contribute constructively to the debate but to stir up opinion with the end goal of hitting targets of online readers.  And when the news becomes presented like this, it stops being ‘news’ and becomes ‘entertainment’.

Our role in schools is to make sure that the level of challenge and pressure on students is carefully balanced and that we don’t pass down the unhealthy stress of accountability on adults and organisations to the children.  Trying to retain a broad, balanced and (yes) creative curriculum, treading the fine line between a healthy pressure and unhealthy stress is a difficult challenge but one we have to accept; it would be easier to acheive without the country’s news enertainment outlets stirring things up.

TR

We are Recruiting: Come and make a Dent in the Universe at Simon de Senlis!

Class Teacher Vacancies:  March/April 2016

We are looking to recruit two talented and inspiring Class Teachers to join our talented and hard-working team.  These are full-time roles (one permanent) from 1st September 2016 and we would welcome applications from colleagues at all stages in their career including NQTs.  The vacancies are not year group specific however experience or an enthusiasm to teach within Year 2 or 6 may be an advantage for one of the roles.

The successful candidates will be knowledgeable in the use, application and assessment of the new National Curriculum. They will have knowledge of planning and assessing pupils’ progress and be confident in the use of technology. They will be able to work effectively as a member of the team, have excellent interpersonal skills and consistently support the school values and approaches.

Simon de Senlis is an exciting place to work; whether it be through our work as a Microsoft Showcase School or via our involvement in the Arts, Sport and Inclusion, we continue to strive to further improve the attainment and progress of pupils within a creative and vibrant learning atmosphere.

In return, we can offer you a great team of professionals; children with outstanding behaviour and a supportive school community.  There are also superb opportunities for professional development as part of our work with partner schools in the Northampton Primary Academy Trust.

The successful applicant will be required to apply for an enhanced DBS disclosure. We are committed to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of our children and expect all members of staff to share this commitment.

Visits to the school are encouraged; please email pa@simondesenlis.org to book into one of the following showrounds:

Tuesday 12th April @ 3.45pm

Wednesday 13th April @ 9.30am

Wednesday 20th April @ 9.30am

To be considered for the role please email your completed application form and Disqualification Declaration to pa@simondesenlis.org

The closing date for applications is 5pm on Thursday 21st April 2016. Interviews will be held w/c 25th April 2016.

All documentation regarding these vacancies is available to download here or available on our website at http://www.simondesenlis.org/index.php/contact-us/vacancies