I have to admit that I never actually cared for the series that lends its title to this week’s blog-I always mix it up with Early Doors, which I do like and the very honest chat in the latter is much more akin to the collaborative nature of school to school support I wanted to share our views on. I’ve discussed, in great detail, in many of our blogs how we have been developing our CPD for the range of staff, not just our teachers, who work at Meols Cop. However, since our Ofsted inspection of 2012 we have received over a 100 visits from other schools, have openly shared our ideas at conferences, teach-meets, publications and via our blogs and numerous tweeters and latterly, have moved down the National Support School route to Teaching School status. From worrying about the quality of our own training and staff development, we have increasingly opened our doors to offer both informal and formal advice, support and CPD opportunities. I’m just getting presentations ready to share with our staff first, and then either our next visitors, the local head teacher’s conference, Teaching School opening inset sessions and felt that this had to be said!
As a school we can surely only benefit from the opening of our doors to others. We can learn from critical friends and if we are really intent on developing a whole school mind-set, we have to be up for the challenge this brave new world brings. We can’t be precious about others possibly not liking or agreeing with us and as a school we have to always act with humility and show empathy to the situations and needs of others. If we say that we practice certain things and talk about a MCHS philosophy-visitors and new colleagues need to see the evidence in action and need to hear about it from the people who matter-staff and students [and not me!] We joined NTEN, not just for the lesson study but for their CPD audit, so that external visitors could make a judgement and offer helpful advice to move us forward. Similarly we are currently looking towards organisations like Challenge Partners, which will provide peer to peer reviews and give us the critical judgements that we need to consider. Internal rigorous monitoring is great but in 2015 it isn’t enough!
Outward facing schools and leaders are encouraged, of course, by many of the leading educational organisations and commentators from Fullan, EdResearch to the TDA, from CUREE via IRIS Connect to the TSA. Their philosophy is clear but the nitty gritty reality of fellow teachers and school leaders actually coming into your school can prove to be real challenge-they want to dig deep and see the evidence in action. We always ask for a specific set of questions before they come so that we can help them make the most of their time with us and the questions are shared with all of our staff so that they have time to think about a couple of key questions-1] do we actually deliver what we are being asked about and, 2] if we do, is it delivered well enough to stand up to external scrutiny! I then go and round up my volunteers to meet, greet and share practical examples. It’s a great CPD experience for the individuals involved [from both schools I hope!] and for our whole school. Asking our visitors to tell us what they really think can be awkward but we hope that they clearly see that we value and want their views as professional payment!
Over the next few weeks, these are our questions and my initial email to our staff!
We do have some requests to visit from other schools after half-term and I will be coming to grab volunteers to share your ideas with them so they get a realistic view rather than just my passionate ramblings!
Culcheth 3rd June
Three key things:
- School marking/assessment policy
- How each department is allowed to develop effective assessment/feedback strategies?
- Life after levels – liked the blog written by your AHT
Bloxham 5th June
Here are a few questions that I would be interested to hear about:
- When do you run CPD sessions on T&L/Assessment and tracking and how often?
- Do you have any specific teachers’ lead these sessions?
- How do SLT/MLT monitor the T&L/pupil Tracking within a whole school setting/department??
- Do you have a whole school policy on book marking and if so does each department interpret that to make it specific to their department?
- How often does work scrutiny take place on a whole school/departmental level?
- What support is there for any teachers who don’t meet the standards that the school requires?
- How do you use student feedback/reflections to help improve their work/progress?
- How much time in a lesson is dedicated to reflecting on feedback?
- How does the school keep updated with new developments in T&L/Pupil tracking?
- How much responsibility do Middle Leaders have? What CPD is given to the MLT?
Thank you again for allowing me the chance to visit your school – I am really looking forward to this opportunity.
Marple Hall 22nd June
We would like to mainly look at:
- Assessment without levels (I have read your blog in detail but I would like to actually see how it works).
- As you know we have started this year doing some work on growth mind-set. I would like some advice on how to embed it across the whole school and would like to know what work you have done on it. I am also interested in all the systems that you might have in place that underpin growth mind-set.
The first 2 days involve our core faculty leaders, Leon our AHT and couple of our NQTs. My emails to Chris at Culcheth and David at Bloxham with the proposed activities are below. The 3rd visit will include classroom visits to see GM in action.
I have tried to include key middle leaders so they can explain without me being in the room, how things really happen!
9.35-10.05 meet Greg with his book monitoring and feedback hub info [I’ve just monitored his books!] Greg is an NQT and is leading our feedback hub. He is a phenomenal tweeter of feedback/marking ideas!
10.05-11.05 me and then Sarah who is our subject leader for English. English began with one set of ideas re levels and have scrapped them to begin again! They are also preparing a new feedback idea.
11.20-12.20 Jen our maths subject leader-Beth as NQT and hub leader of feedback. Jen tried 3 lots of our BSG assessment before settling, I think, on her current approach. Beth, as with Greg, has tried out a whole range of feedback/marking ideas and they jointly lead our feedback learning hub. Both maths teachers have been involved in interesting lesson study ideas with peer critique and Beth and Greg with the development of student leaders
1.10-2.10-Leon-our data and BSG assessment-coordinator who can show how assessment is used to track intervention, progress and in parental reports.
10.05-11.05 me and then Sarah who is our subject leader for English. English began with one set of ideas re levels and have scrapped them to begin again! They are also preparing a new feedback idea. Sarah also leads our independent learning hub and they have been looking at revision and homework ideas.
11.20-12.20 Me-I can answer all of the questions you sent and share as many ideas as you want throughout the day.
1.10-2.10 Greg, Carmel and Hannah. Greg with his book monitoring and feedback hub info [I’ve just monitored his books!] Greg is an NQT and is leading our feedback hub. He is a phenomenal tweeter of feedback/marking ideas!
Carmel and Hannah Subject leader and 2nd for science- Our widest read blog on feedback/marking was a sharing of their ‘fast feedback’
2.10-3.10 -Leon-our data and BSG assessment-coordinator who can show how assessment is used to track intervention, progress and in parental reports.
3.20 Me again!
Ours staff have enjoyed some great visits this year to South Wirral, Wakefield, Marple Hall, Runshaw, Wellington Academy, Whalley Range, Flixton and more! Some have come courtesy of being a member of SSAT Leading Edge, whilst others have been arranged after reading something interesting on twitter or by personal recommendations. Hopefully our visits will have supported CPD at our host schools and although some schools offer a visit and then amidst the hectic nature of schools, forget to get back in touch, I do believe that this growing culture of peer review and visits amongst like-minded schools will lead to the sharing of best practice which can only support the developmental aspect of S2SS which many of us hope will eventually replace the often punitive current system of inspection.
Marking/feedback [I’ll share our CPD tactics David asked about in part 2]
Apparently I have been ‘volunteered’ to speak at the Sefton Head’s Conference and believe that Alison suggested the topic of whole school marking without a detailed and prescribed policy! I guess that means stand up and tell them why we don’t insist on all colleagues 2 starring and wishing, medalling and missioning, purple penning or pinking and greening paragraphs! This leads to a slightly different explanation of our own CPD and sharing of ideas because, although I may well talk about our feedback policy much of what I have to say is more about our whole school philosophy rather than giving practical examples of feedback/marking. As visitors are always keen to ask about this and often take photos/examples back of our feedback [or just read our big feedback blogs!] after visiting our classrooms- no apologies then for adding an extra part to this post.
Our feedback policy exists because we have a clear view on how staff and students should be developed and it may well be different to other schools present. They may agree with the MCHS way, they may disagree and say so-remember slide 1! As a school leader, this aspect of collaborative S2SS is the most interesting for me and I like to hear other leaders talk passionately about their schools and what it is that makes their school different and special to them. Of course, just like with great blog posts I sometimes read and then find out the stirring words don’t actually equate to what actually happens in the school, I have to base my presentation on sound evidence in readiness for follow up visits!
When schools come from afar they will have probably read our data and know our student profile and progress measures-I may set the scene if they haven’t. At first schools came because of our inspection, then because they were a ‘similar’ data school and lately because they have read our blogs and want to check us out. All are welcome but it is important to consider that although we will share our ideas with anyone who asks, they are initially designed to work and be successful in our school-there is no guarantee that if just taken and not adapted, they will work elsewhere [this health warning also comes with any teachers who leave us for greener pastures!] We should be proud to hold up our beliefs to the scrutiny of others.
I’m not going to fill the blog with all the slides I have ready for our visitors and conferences but remember this is an explanation of our feedback policy-any policy has to reflect reality. The slides are a mixture of past blogs and new ideas.
The exclamation mark by ‘All learners’ is just a sign for me in readiness for a bit of cynicism about the use of the term but hopefully it will become apparent pretty quickly if we are a school where self-development via informed research and focused PPD, lesson study, listening to the students, subject and individual teacher needs all matter to us-it would be somewhat hypocritical if I then imposed a generic marking policy on everyone! Feedback is important to us-the staff at our Whit inset chose it in their top 10 MCHS classroom must have strategies [their choices not mine] and I will share why I think that they felt that it was so important and a couple of points to be wary of. Our feedback blogs have proved to be the most popular in terms of hits by far so schools are obviously really concerned with the issue. By sharing our views, I hope a discussion will ensue. http://blog.meolscophighschool.co.uk/?cat=15
I’m open in my own school about my personal beliefs on any issues and hope that internal colleagues will respond likewise. We may not agree but views are always best in the open and I wouldn’t wish external colleagues to not be presented with my own views. I don’t normally cram PowerPoint slides full of information for audiences to read but have just used these to store potential handouts on! I’m not attempting to insult SLT from elsewhere, just offering considered views and the kind of discussion points NPQSL and our own potential SLT need to think about.
I know that some may not be interested to see why what we believe in and just want to see what we do! I will share a little of that too and offer views on oral feedback, student voice and peer critique. Each of these is worth another blog and they exist as does the evidence back in school should people want to find out more. I will point out my own favourite blogs and research bases for others to read and certainly on my NPQSL courses, stop and provide time for that to happen. Our own staff and feedback hub have been sent great recent ideas from David Didau, Alex Quigley, Chris Hildrew and Andy Tharby and it’s really important that we are seen to give credit where it is due and show how open we are to brilliant ideas from elsewhere-especially if they are different to our own.
I will point people to our own posts on feedback to prove the authenticity of what I’m saying
And probably use recent book monitoring evidence from one of our NQTs to explain how we monitor and support staff development and encourage flexible innovation within a feedback structure. It’s important to finish with a ‘real person’ with real names of students-walking the talk is vital not just for others to see but for ourselves. Under the forced reflection necessarily brought by opening all hours for others to see, we have to keep asking, “Is what we are offering our students good enough?” By being involved with S2SS and peer review, we will find out more answers about our own teaching and leadership, will see great practice we can adapt for our school and will support the crucial movement of a growing desire to give teachers the opportunity to seize their own professional development back from politicisation. Join the cause!