Welcome to our blog if you are reading it for the first time! Our parental survey for year 7-9 parents on Thursday’s Review Day [shown in full on the bulletin after the holiday] showed that out of over 150 responses 25 parents read the blog sometimes, some weren’t aware of it and some didn’t read the bulletin where we advertise the blog. Firstly, I’m delighted that some parents have read it and like it but obviously would like it to reach more of our own community to tell you about our learning and teaching. If you could contact me to tell me the sort of things you would like me to tell you about, in more depth than I can on the bulletin; that would be great. The blog is just one of many ways of trying to engage with our parents and will always have a much smaller audience than the other methods-you are a very select bunch-congratulations and thank you!
I also began to share our ideas to not only engage with parents but with other schools who we were supporting and working with. We absolutely believe that ‘great’ schools shouldn’t jealously guard their secrets and should share ideas and resources across the whole world of education-we are all responsible for the education of our children and despite obstacles to collaboration, we are trying to be as open and honest as possible. Some blogs have been read by over 500 other people and hopefully our ideas have proved to be useful to these new friends. Of course, not everybody behaves with a moral purpose and competition forces schools and school leaders into an unfortunate lack of consideration for others BUT we feel that there are a growing number of schools who do offer a different vision for the future and we want to be part of that. Why shouldn’t our small community school mix it with the best and great to offer our students the very best learning and teaching!
So how have we been collaborating and sharing? If you have read previous blogs you will have seen that sometimes I report and feedback on student activities and surveys, sometimes I collate ideas that our staff has been sharing with each other and on occasions I comment on national initiatives or new educational ideas. Over the last couple of weeks we have welcomed colleagues from both local and national schools into our lovely new library. On Tuesday, we held a literacy conference and I was amazed to see schools from Penzance, Whitby, London, Norfolk, Birmingham and others I hadn’t even heard of! We shared our literacy across the curriculum ideas and resources, providing each visitor with a memory stick full of goodies before unleashing our students on them! Hannah Jordan and Lisa Cain organised their resources and spoke with great passion [so our guests didn’t have to listen to me all day!]
Often courses and conferences can be death by PowerPoint or a couple of hours of being talked at [or down to!] so we try to involve our students and visits to lessons when we can. The literacy leaders visit each tutor group to explain the importance of literacy and they actively support lessons across the curriculum. The year 9 leaders explained their roles and spent half an hour with each group talking to them and being asked questions. After lunch our year 7 and 8 leaders took our guests around to different lessons where they conducted a student voice survey to see if what we told them happens to support literacy, actually does! I really enjoyed meeting new schools and my colleagues and the students were wonderful and welcoming hosts-thank you.
We were approached by Edge Hill University last summer to become a facilitating school in the delivery of leadership courses for middle leaders, senior leaders and prospective head teachers under the auspices of the National College for School Leadership. Alison Heaton and I received our training and we began the first senior leader training in November. There were no takers for the head teacher course! Since then, I’m delighted to tell you that colleagues from the other Southport high schools have joined our own Annette Peet and Mark Brownett to deliver even more training for prospective leaders. Mark entertained 10 middle leaders 2 weeks ago for a full day whilst I followed the literacy conference with 15 senior leaders visiting us this Wednesday. We are provided with a script and guidelines-which is very helpful-but when training is in our school we naturally want to create a great impression and I certainly prefer to deliver training as near as I can do, to what our own staff would expect to receive. I do like to build in lots of reflection time and opportunities to read some of the latest research-teachers rarely have time amidst planning and marking to do this [and they need to!] I will share our own ideas, if asked but my main aim is to get my guests to talk to each other and share their ideas. These occasions are wonderful opportunities to talk to 14 other people about their schools, each of which is often very different and to feast on our bacon butties and bountiful lunches!
Yesterday was our inset day and many students were in school working on projects or revising, year 11 geographers [when the coach eventually came!] headed for the east coast and an overnight stay and I know that school will be busy over Easter with students and staff working together on revision, Easter school and a trip to Paris. The commitment shown is appreciated-thank you so much to all involved. When Yvonne Winstanley spoke in her retirement speech she mentioned how she had decided to become a teacher after being inspired by one of her primary teachers and she said that she felt ‘blessed by God’ to have been given the opportunity. It still is a marvellous job despite much of the nonsense that descends from government [and I’m sure from SLT at times!!] Good luck to Yvonne and thank you for 29 years of service to Meols Cop.
Our next inset day at the beginning of May will involve all of our teaching staff discussing 2 major development areas. The first one will see individual teachers evaluating and collating evidence for a portfolio of their own professional development and contribution to the quality of teaching across our school. For quite a few years, when Ofsted visited, they asked schools for a list of their observation grades over the previous 3 years for each teacher. We feel that outstanding teachers should be judged on far more than lesson grades [which can be arguably inaccurate] and include book monitoring, lesson study, peer observations, informal observations, exam residuals, student/parental voice, support for others, research, professional development and so on. These can be different at different stages in the teaching career and so we have different pathways for NQTs, developing teachers, subject leaders, progress managers so that all can evaluate where they currently are in terms of our key areas and then what they need to develop next and how we can help them and they can help themselves.
From September there will be no requirement to report to parents using national curriculum levels which many have found difficult to comprehend, especially with the use of sub levels [-+a,b,c] There has been no national decision on what should be expected [there’s a surprise!] and the consequence of schools going it alone, transition between primaries/secondary’s/other schools and the rigour and moderation of standards is mind boggling. HOWEVER-we see it as a glorious opportunity to think long and hard about what we should be assessing, how we should assess and how we should measure any assessment. Any discussion and any ensuing framework must be clearly understood by parents and students, must challenge all abilities of student and be accessible to them so that they can be successful and clearly understand how they can be successful.
It isn’t easy to construct individual student pathways so we will tend to look at 3 broad groups, low attainers, middle attainers and high attainers-we can then work on more individual needs within those. In each year group 7-9 the subject teachers will think of all of the subject specific knowledge and skills that each year group and each broad group of students would need to achieve a ‘mastery’ of their subject. They would almost work backwards, if you like, from year 11 G.C.S.E knowledge and skills that will be needed to thinking how can those key skills be introduced into year 7. They will then add in knowledge and skills that they professionally know our students need.
Rather than NC levels 1-9, each band of student would have a target of developing knowledge and skills, developed knowledge and skill sand aspirational knowledge and skills to aim for and this can easily be reported on in progress reports for parents to see and on flight paths for the students to take responsibility for. The need for subject specific CPD to support this development will become crucial, as will time for teachers to plan, develop, evaluate, moderate etc.
Great learners also possess other key skills and there will be a separate Meols Cop developing, developed, aspirational set of overarching skills including our current 6Cs, literacy, behaviour for learning, marginal gains, mind-sets etc. and that will also be reported on. Some of the names and descriptions may change as we discuss and I’ll let you know what has been decided a.s.a.p.
I hope that this up-date has been interesting enough to encourage you to come back and read more! School topics can be dry and it isn’t easy to explain some of our work, trying to miss out the jargon and boring bits without dumbing down too much! Even amongst teachers I forget that not all understand the myriad of acronyms and new ideas-a lady whispered to me on Tuesday to remind me when I had been explaining some of our tactics that, “I don’t think anyone knows what DIRT is”
Has DIRT intrigued you? I won’t be dishing any up but might explain in another blog! Thank you for reading and have a great Easter.