2015-last term reflections
I have to say that I have really slept well during the Xmas and New Year holiday and have had the long autumn term cobwebs blown out of me by the lashings of Storm Frank on the hills and trails surrounding Threlkeld and Keswick. Time then to turn to school matters and the remaining year ahead. I outlined my vision for the year on September’s inset day, http://blog.meolscophighschool.co.uk/?p=2307 and need to return very briefly to it again on next Monday’s inset, before the people who actually know what they are talking about, get on with their own professional development! Saying thank you only matters when you mean it and there is actually something to say thank you for. Colleagues have been kind and supportive of my leadership but I want to thank them for their support of each other. I know that when they ask for volunteers to cover their lessons when it is nativity season [if we have none available] there is no shortage of helpers and I know that when staff are absent, work is sorted, classes are often taken and student needs always come first. I also know that a host of informal observations and drop-ins have occurred and that ideas have been shared collaboratively without my nagging and chasing and I know that time has been given after school for a range of sporting, cultural, performing arts and academic support activities that many parents and students presume to be the norm and their right! I wonder how many have marked or planned throughout their holidays too. I neither ask for nor expect such dedication but hope to have helped to support a culture where it just happens and I can genuinely say thank you and provide additional time for collaborative work to be tested and trialled. I hope that our systems are flexible enough to meet the family needs of staff and the personal needs of individuals, when required of their school ‘family’
I made it clear in September that I hoped to be ‘happy’ and that hopefully that would ensure that school was a place where people wanted to come and work. Of course, whilst I might try to model desirable leadership characteristics, I’m snookered if other leaders in school don’t follow suit! There is always pressure on all of our leaders and I try to deflect much of it away that comes from national bodies as possible but the day to day management of learning, teaching, behaviour and administration will always raise issues and concerns. Dealing with people fairly and supportively is a skill that doesn’t come easily to all [perhaps not to me!] but I try to avoid certain situations e.g. emailing instead of face to face speaking over important issues, trivialising issues that the person telling me is obviously bothered about, emailing at weekends or the evening that I want something tomorrow, criticising without thought or solutions to offer and not being afraid to say let me think about it and I’ll come back to you later. I could go on and sometimes difficult conversations are tempting to avoid but they must happen. If any member of staff feels that at any time they have been treated unfairly by a colleague, they must say and be clear that in our school they will be listened to and there will be no repercussions. If I don’t know about things, I can’t act!
I really dislike divisive talk that separates teachers from teaching assistants, from support staff, from mentors etc. We all have our roles that support our students and school community and my conversations with all of our support staff, Martin with our teaching assistants and the whole of our teachers in their appraisal conversations should now have brought into the open professional needs and development requests and individual planning needs. I can’t meet them all; you have your responsibilities and accountabilities too but I hope that everybody involved has appreciated the open discussion, has received at least 1 of their requests and agreed that my own shared appraisal objectives and success criteria was the right way for the school to go!
2016-my hopes and priorities
For those of you who don’t frequent twitter, there are many discussions that get extremely heated especially the Traditional/Progressive debate. I won’t bore you with the details if you haven’t a clue about what the issue is but some have tried to argue that folks should move on, the debate isn’t valid and so on whilst others defend the right to discuss and hold views on whatever you want. I have tried to include as many of my colleagues as possible in our discussions, including inviting governors and other colleagues to SLT meetings and some have attended, others haven’t. That is their right and many colleagues are too busy planning and, marking etc. to consider attending or reading documents. However, I do believe that the opportunity should be there. It doesn’t matter to me whether people agree with me or disagree, but I want to give voices the chance to be heard and important issue like increasing our numbers and considering when it is best to academise/lead a MAT etc. need to be aired and considered with the current facts ready at hand.
The new teaching structure is nearly ready to begin to have an impact. Leadership opportunities will be redistributed, faculties will be separated back into subject specific areas to support very specific professional development and teaching expertise and by the end of next week 5 research leaders attached to year groups will be appointed and ready to rock! They will be expected to seek out evidence to inform colleagues of the very best practice needed to support learners and teachers in the year area e.g. transition in year 7, individual or group needs for intervention and to follow their own areas of research. It’s an exciting direction for the school to take and will support our own, and the TSA’s research projects.
6 colleagues received intensive training just before Xmas in ‘Thinking Reading’ and I’m hoping that the intensive support that will be put into place, supported by another whole school push on reading, will have a vital impact on breaking the sometimes impenetrable learning barrier, that poor reading skills brings.
We tried to reach out to other schools via our TSA to share ideas in the core subjects. Numbers weren’t great but grew and I hope that our next meetings-lesson study and humanities will bring more people in to collaborate with each other and us. I have colleagues ready to work with English and maths KS2/3 lesson study projects and hope that our geography and history tweeters are going to bring all of their followers into school! The final show and share brings some great research experts-Rob Coe, Alex Quigley and Gary Jones- into school and I’m grateful to Lizzy, Leon and everyone else who has come along and shared their ideas with our visitors. The TSA has already provided development opportunities for our NLE and SLE with more on its way for our new SLEs. If we can develop a reputation for quality PD and very practical subject specific/leadership support, we will feel the benefits within our own school. The success will depend, as it does with much PD, on our ability to focus on what is really needed based on a thorough evaluation of data and honest talking. Throwing money around will-nilly doesn’t work and tightly constructed, openly discussed, agreed and monitored success criteria have a chance if we open our doors and model for others what we are talking about!
Much of the inset day and professional development is now down to what the staff decide their priorities are. January reviews will be presented in a style of the subject leader’s choice and data is yours to evaluate, analyse and tell us about. You know your data and your students and classes and you know what it is telling you in terms of progress over time and intervention needs. Leon is convinced that this is the way forward and the data should be yours. I’ll do anything to support the most effective ways for you to reduce workload but know that there is no 1 size fits all approach. Teachers are always complaining about the unnecessary use of tracking and data and I would imagine that most of you will be delighted to have a choice but then might panic and think what on earth should I do! Just ask-plenty of support from others is available and having a go and failing is fine too. We’re developing leadership skills and you have to find your own methodology and practice that works for you and your department. If you feel that you have a weak area of knowledge or skills; recognising it and asking for specific PD is the way to go! This applies equally to any of our learning and teaching priorities.
I don’t know yet which areas of research our new appointments will cover but I do want to open up the opportunity for a group of colleagues to begin to gather information/suggestions re work-life balance and workload. I think that we have tried really hard in this area but you may disagree and have some wonderful suggestions to make. As I said at the last inset, I don’t teach 20 lessons a week any more. I get a bit of mither here and there but it isn’t the same and as I want a happy and healthy staff, I will be seeking your advice and words of wisdom. What was that song Ken Dodd sang about ‘Happiness’-time to go methinks and wish you all a successful and happy 2016.