The once a year blog – and hopes to improve…

I have been away from the blog for a year again. I am still quite amazed by the teachers who are able to blog frequently and imaginatively. The last year for me has been very busy, with a new headship and a number of things to get in place.
There are a number of things that have got me blogging again – one, the great blog by @thinkfollower here who has nailed precisely the issue that I have experienced over five years of headship and over nineteen years in senior leadership. Next the thoughtful recommendations in this blog by Secretheadteacher and finally the energy of Clive Hill whom I am hoping to meet in the new year at #BrewEd

The majority of my career has been in environments that have needed some fixing on arrival. These can create a worrying climate for all and it is vital that the first thing that happens is to build trust with staff. This has been quite a challenge when there have needed to be staffing reductions at the same time, but I have felt fortunate in being able to negotiate this territory successfully. At the same time it is vital to ensure that staff know that they are supported – I have been in the situation of inheriting a school where there has been little trust between slt and classroom teachers and this created the most difficult of climates.

A clear approach to behaviour has been always important to me. From the really challenging days of working in three inner city schools in the east midlands I know that a calm and safe environment is essential before you try anything else. I have been so pleased that students at my current school have seen the impact of what we have achieved over the last year – I wrote to parents in November and shared with them the following:

Year elevens feel that the new year sevens are settling in well. They are getting the support they need and the new stricter rules seem to have helped them with this. The basic expectations are being met, because the rules are stricter.

Year elevens have welcomed the new rules, including the “no phone” rules and the new uniform guidelines.

Students feel positive regarding support offered and are happy to approach teachers for help and advice.

Behaviour across the school is improved and behaviour in lessons is much better. Some pupils who were disaffected have re-engaged with school.

Year nines feel there is a massive improvement in behaviour. They feel more respected by teachers and that support is being provided more when asked for. Students felt that homework is appropriate and reasonable in amount given. They also that the new policy of giving whole class feedback is much more beneficial.

Year sevens are enjoying learning new ‘stuff’. They enjoy the fact that teachers are recapping knowledge from primary KS2. They also enjoy having an assembly just for year seven- the focus is on them. The library is very popular – at lunch and before/after school, the ability to book rooms in music and there are lots of clubs,
Finally the year sevens recognise the importance of lining up ‘outside’ for lessons as it reduces congestion on corridors.

At the same time, I continue to look at how our curriculum does what it needs to do. I moved to the school as it shared the same philosophy in terms of curriculum that I have followed throughout my career, to ensure that a solid and broad foundation is in place before attention moves to an assessment regime. I have watched with interest the schools who moved to a three year key stage four try to unpick these decisions. Unfortunately decisions like these do not sit well with buiding a really effective curriculum of learning and so the superficial unpicking must be masking a great deal of internal contradictions!

I attended both #ResearchEd and #CurriculumEd conferences, the latter being one where I was involved in a bit of a stir after I tweeted the content of one of the speeches. Having also attended a Hattie conference in November and planning to attend a number of #BrewEd next year, I plan to ensure that the commitment to developing our practice at school is clearly signalled from my actions.

Next week will be a time of ensuring that our community feels safe and secure returing to our shared educational home. My own Christmas has been overshadowed by two funerals – one of a family member and the other of a young person with so much energy. All of us have challenges to face and schools need to be places where we look after each other, through a safe environment and one which offers clarity and support.

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