There’s a famous seaside place called Blackpool
That’s noted for fresh air and fun.
And Mr Jones and Bridget, went there to get t’ NTEN audit done
A grand little school was St Mary’s,
With glass classrooms and a bleeper instead of a bell.
We met Mr Tierney, his teachers and governors,
The finest that Woolworth’s could sell!
I recited the lovely old monologue Albert and the Lion at a Boy’s Brigade show nearly 50 years ago. It evokes a picture of a Lancashire family perhaps in Wakes week visiting 1930’s Blackpool and not being too impressed with the somnolent lion in the zoo and the ocean where the ‘waves was fiddlin’ and small’ Albert, their son livened things up for them by shoving his stick, with the ‘orses ‘ead ‘andle, purchased at Woolworth’s into Wallace the lion’s ear. Having watched their son eaten by the lion, Mr and Mrs Ramsbottom saw the opportunity to cash in their insurance of him before, sadly for them, being deprived of their windfall when the lion, feeling sorry for the lad, spat him out again!
I drove past the zoo this week as I visited 2013 Blackpool to meet Stephen Tierney, the executive head-teacher of St Mary’s Catholic College and some of his colleagues. Both schools are members of the National Teacher Enquiry Network which has a requirement that member schools audit each other with regards to CPD and it is a great opportunity to learn from best practice across England and, of course to visit other schools. Unlike Sefton, Blackpool was awarded some BSF [Building Schools for the Future money] and St Mary’s were fortunate enough to have been able to benefit from the government funded project. I last visited the school before building work began and missed out on the difficulties teaching and learning on a building-site must bring, to appear again when it has been almost completed! The school really did look great and there were many features that I would love to see at Meols Cop to support our learning. Interestingly some of the classrooms were almost like glass boxes where you could see the next class through the sound-proof glass and the staff-room had a huge working area for teacher planning and preparation. The old ‘heart’ of the school, the beautiful chapel still remains with a new area for reflection and contemplation looking down on it. This is always an interesting aspect of a faith school that makes me wonder where a non-faith school such as ourselves would call the ‘heart’ of our school. Perhaps it isn’t a physical thing but a moment in time, such as Children in Need Day, when the community pulls together, teachers giving up their planning to cover lessons for colleagues attending personal events, supporting each other as students or adults when support is needed-what do you think?
NTEN asks that as many staff as possible complete an audit about CPD before the visit and on the day the NTEN representative [Bridget] and visiting senior leader have to interview a cross-section of staff which must include NQTs, experienced teachers and governors. Strangely there were no questions expected of support staff and we both expressed a desire for this to be included. We sent our recent TA development work to NTEN to share with other schools. The staff interviewed were all enthusiastic about the great training opportunities they are offered at St Mary’s and told us about their Thursday early finish, which allows 2 hours of collaboration and their volunteer meetings and roles which include teachmeets and fellows; 4 colleagues who teach for 4 days and then have a day to research/support other colleagues. All talked excitedly about both informal and informal discussion of teaching, which is perhaps one of the best ways of continuing professional development.
Stephen himself is an old CTK boy and his parents are church friends of Helen Hallmark so it was a nice opportunity for him to visit our school on the day after for the first time since he had played soccer against us as a teenager. He openly shares many of his ideas on his popular personal blog and is currently sharing his SEF-his evaluation document of the areas of school that the Ofsted inspectors like to see! Sadly many schools, and often the ones who should be looking at best practice, don’t look at the wonderful ideas the world-wide net offers. BUT many do and there is a growing collaborative approach from many involved in education, which can only be a good thing ultimately for the children whom we teach. We have been actively responding, especially in Random Acts of Kindness Week, to schools which have been very open with their ideas by thanking them and responding in their comment sections and sending some of our ideas. Our correspondence has included Passmores school in Essex, Bridgewater College in Somerset, Chew Valley in Bristol and Huntington in York-they may have liked our stuff and may have found it useful [or not!] but it’s our way of trying to support the open flow of ideas.
The questions on the audit [I’ll tell you the results when they arrive] may interest parents and hopefully they will agree that well trained professionally developed teachers should be our key priority here. We were asked if parents were aware of and involved if staff development-hope this blog is communicating this aspect-and about the role students have in evaluating teaching-see last week’s blog. I know that parents will expect us to regularly discuss learning and teaching and to be aware of the best methods, proven by research, of teaching their children-this was the focus of a key section of the audit. One of the key descriptors for the gold standard for me was the notion that “Every teacher is a leader and ‘change agent’-i.e. they feel able to make a difference to the quality of learning in the organisation.” I would actually widen this to include all students and staff-Super Teachers, Super TAs, Super Learners-and my definition of CPD, suggested to our staff when I reflected on my views to them is;
CPD 2013-I believe-do you agree?
Think not what my CPD can do for me; think what my CPD can do for our students!
Adults directly involved in student learning are responsible for analysing and evaluating their own skill needs so that they can continually seek marginal gains in their own performance –result exceptional learning and professional satisfaction and pride. Meols Cop co-educators never stop learning and we are all ‘agents of change’ and lead learners.
Leaders and managers must support and celebrate the process with focused advice, time and constantly model and demonstrate exceptional learning characteristics themselves.
Collaboration and sharing of ideas and pedagogy must include ALL and the opportunities to do so must be created and time to plan and show impact on learning must be given and modelled.
The students need CPD too-key learning characteristics and mind-sets must be encouraged and actively taught.
Stephen and Bridget interviewed our staff representatives Joe Ford, Rachael Moreau, Colin Lee, Phil Johnson, Joanne McDevitt and Jen Filson as well as Adele Wills, one of our governors and Principal of KGV. I could have chosen any of our teaching staff to talk about their own and the school’s CPD philosophy in action but as the interviews were only 20 minutes long, certain colleagues may have simply overwhelmed our visitors with a torrent of ideas [and thrown in a progress check!] Seriously though, colleagues in both schools have been given the chance to develop as professionals to be the best that they can. My first blog ages ago, began with the now well quoted statement from Dylan Wiliam
“Every teacher needs to improve, not because they are not good enough, but because they can be even better!”
Parents, carers, teachers and all concerned with education have to believe this and make it so! Individual teachers and support staff do have an individual responsibility to constantly analyse their own skills and to want to develop them [both sets of teachers included colleagues using their own time for MAs, their own blogs, reading of research etc.] and we as senior leaders have to encourage and create the best opportunities for this to happen. Great teachers reflect on their own practice, they innovate, they research and check out best practice internally and externally and they take risks and are encouraged to do so! We had a great chat with our St Mary’s colleagues about this and what it actually means. You may not have to be an Albert Ramsbottom and go shoving your horse’s head handle stick in to some un-expecting lion’s ear, but it makes for great learning and an engaged and interested set of students!