Thursday period 3 – UCAS deadline, hey maybe that can change.

ucasThere are some jobs you miss in the profession when you move on (up, sideways or down) and some you don’t. I am ambivalent about missing UCAS references. At my school sixth form tutors do references and do them spot on (pretty well) – another of the sixth form pastoral staff polish, check etc. Over the last 20 years I have done all that, and I enjoyed writing and most of all talking with students about opportunities perhaps not enjoy because some , most are very stressed. I saw it as a bit of a privilige really. So it was always good to add a calm voice, a sensible view but of course not magic wand. It was also a collosal amount of work for me, for tutors and for students and a massive pressure pot for staff, students and parents. I daresay HE might feel the same.

Even with a new job as Head I still did three references and forms this this last week. One of those was a “Please Sir do you remember me, I left years ago but… can you lastminutereference help me out?”. Soft that I am I did – just by hours!

Meanwhile in another Universe I am trying hard with subject leaders and SLT to work out how we manage the ‘dogs dinner’of a curriculum for post 16. Whilst some changes feel bad (please don’t ask I’m a Chemist, we change to new specs, new assessment and no practical assessment but at least the spec for teaching in 6 months is now approved (as of December!). Some specs change so AS does not count in the end but at least remains coteachable, some do not. I think the staff are pretty clear on their own subjects but across the piste? Mmmmm. And what they need to consider, not much chance of that because you politician types forget we aren’t sitting around waiting your latest ideas we are…teaching a generation now.

I have always been bothered to explain to our Y13 that it is harder than Y12 because it brings the sharp end of A Level , stretch and challenge, and final exam chances, but also all those big decisions. I am also convinced those decisions can motivate and if we help students get them right they can achieve well, and aim higher than they might imagine. That has been my experience. Despite this here is my suggestion after 20 years as a Head of Sixth form

  1. Get HE to decide IF they want AS or not ( I do remember working with UCAS predictions before the advent of AS – I can tell readers it isn’t easy!) Maybe it doesn’t matter, we seem to be in a new world already whereby AAA or better gets you into most subjects in most places and probably AAB – and it feels like the rest get that same offer even if we know they may not make it. [don’t scream at me about medicine and English and RG Uni and Oxbridge I know I know]. However have these decisions clear. For example
  2. Give staff time to plan their schemes understand assessment and nuances, get to exam board training and have time to talk with each other to decide the very best way to carve up teaching and learning. Consult with SLT to design a great curriculum offer. Four subjects or three; extended essays or not, and please can someone look at the funding.
  3. Halt the AS/A2 changes now. Get the new specs for all subjects sorted for start in 2016 not 2015. Do AS and let it count or do AS and don’t let it count. Teachers and learners just need the rules ( and preferably the same rules to each subject!)
  4. Be radical on HE entry. I’ve never much favoured PQA ( post qualification application) because of the motivation I mentioned above but try this:
Which way?

Which way?

  • Minimise Y12 AS exams – one paper ( maybe or maybe not cwk) whether it counts or not. Preferably forget them as we are abandoning predictions see below! [Save some time]
  • Start the end of Y13 exams ( A2 +/-AS) at start of May. This drags exams on longer in school but staff can stagger their work in terms of revising with Y11 or 12 or 13 and all that means for schools and Colleges.
  • It takes 6/7 weeks to results, replan this. These exams start May not mid June so can have results early July?
  • After Y13 complete exams maybe mid June schools and colleges start all the practicalities of UCAS PQA. We help look at courses, we have Open days visits and we prepare statements and references BUT no predictions because the button is pressed mid July when we all know results. We will do background stuff but not forcing so many decisions so early on
  • E. do not know need to think “how many will get the grade?” “how reliable is the referee?” The form arrives with grades.
  • Over the summer there can be interviews and if not the time for HE colleagues just start term a bit later for first year UG.

    Maybe a Chemist maybe an astronomer, maybe a paeleantolo Oh hang it. I can't even spell that

    Maybe a Chemist maybe an astronomer, maybe a paeleantolo Oh hang it. I can’t even spell that

I am sure readers will say what about medics etc BUT we all see many students who think they should apply for X or Y but their results make us think they may make it and it’s hard to say a definite you won’t for some. WE also see an element of immaturity at application time, uncertain ideas which is fair enough and we make some decide by October 15th. In this new world, this all evaporates, no student will apply for the AAA course with predicted AAA ( which might mean AAA or AAB ( stats show most grades predictions are correct within a grade or two overall I recall) now they apply with AAA. I can imagine many courses offering a range of grades and I suspect they could, surely they know students with AAA down to BBC do or do not cope with this course etc

As for motivation I do like my students to do some visits in Y12 – well they can do, they can visit and be inspired to aspire, they can be helped to understand the basics by which I mean to get into this course you need….. these grades/this interest/these skills. Entry profiles take on a new highly significant meaning, this is what you aim for. It might benefit a subject like mine Chemistry maybe others where Y12 still feels like we are teaching much basic stuff and some of the more interesting work comes late Autumn and Spring of Y13. As we now stand it’s a bit late for a student who having had few ideas of what to study but been badgered by home and school to decide, and now finds a real interest in Chemistry. In fact we might all have that responsibility in our Y13 work to trumpet our subjects even more with this is what HE looks like and being nearer than a present applicant we might get those choices right and get a few more young people into the right courses and see better progress in HE.

There I’ve said it


You might like to read other posts from my timetable of teaching – each is set out from lesson in the school week, before or after school or at the weekends, appropriate to the time of day. I have also started a  class lists or “set lists” which was to answer the questions: “why be a teacher?”or “why have other responsibilities in a school?” Shortly I am starting a new area about progress from one role or experience in teaching to another with hints and tips about successfully moving on in the job and your teaching career.

Some Questions:

Q1 Might this make an optimistic call over what feels like an unwealdy future for post16?

Q2 HE Univeristy Providers what do you think?

Q3 SChools and FE Colleges what do you think?

Q4 Most important, Students what do you think?


 

Links
UCAS

Complete University Guide

Push University Guide

Telegraph article on choosing HE

Guardian choosing University – ideas from students

Unistats support data for making informed choices

The Student room advice


 

For those in a Church school:

Psalm 25:5 Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Saviour, and my hope is in you all day long.

Psalm 139:10  even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.

Romans 12:6   We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.

2 Timothy 1:6 For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you

1 Peter 4:10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.

YBA Governor Guest post by @5N_Afzal

I have always had an interest in education, working, in the past, as a primary school teacher and a university lecturer. I stopped working when I became a mother. When my youngest was old enough not to need me constantly, I decided to go back to part time work and started working as an adult literacy tutor.  Unfortunately, due to budget cuts, the class was cancelled. At around the same time there was a vacancy for a parent governor at my daughter’s school. I decided to stand for the post. Having been a governor for over six years now, this post gives me chance to reflect on “YBA Governor”.

What is involved in becoming a governor?

Governors are the largest volunteer force in the country. So, if you are thinking of becoming a governor, you’ll be in good company, but will need to know what’s involved.

Governance is not something which can be accomplished easily over a few evenings in the year. It may be a voluntary post but it does demand time and hard work. Governance needs people who are passionate about education and about giving the young in our schools the best possible chance in life. Yes, there are two or three meetings per term but a great deal of preparation needs to be done before you can attend the meeting. There will be papers to read and digest and monitoring visits to be carried out. As a governor you should also make an effort to attend school functions so that students, parents and staff get to know the person under the governor hat. Juggling hats is another thing you need to learn how to do. If you are a parent of a child at the school or are a staff member then you need to learn when to wear which hat! You will be expected to attend induction training upon joining and then other courses as and when needed. These will help you understand you statutory duties and how to perform them. The one thing which we must remember is that governance is not something to be treated as a badge of honour! You have to work hard at it and be totally committed to the role.

What do people get out of the role?

Despite of all of the above, people do become governors, with many of us serving more than one school and many stay on for more than one term. So, there must be a reason (or several!) why people give up their time to join governing bodies.

Becoming a governor is one way of establishing/maintaining links with the education sector. Do remember, however, that you do not need to be an educator in order to be an effective governor. As a governor you would be serving a community. It could be your local community which is served by your school or it could be the community of an area which is not your place of work or residence. You would also be serving the school community, the students, parents and staff of the school. As a governor you bring a fresh perspective to the table.  Schools can, sometimes, become set in their ways. Governors come from different backgrounds and bring different skill sets. These can be beneficial in helping the school look at new ideas. Sometimes in order to “think outside the box” to solve a problem it may help that you yourself live “outside the box”. Part of the job is to monitor the performance of the school and ensure that the students are being afforded the best opportunities to realise their potential. Governors can use their day job skills to make sure the school is performing well. They can provide an objective and unbiased viewpoint. A governor’s role is to help set the vision and the strategic direction of the school. This means that you allow the Headteacher and the school’s senior leadership team to concentrate on the day to day running, the operational side of things. Both bodies, working together, can then help make the school into the type the school the students and staff deserve and parents desire. Like in other sectors, good governance will lead to good strategic decision making which will result in good overall performance. Lastly, becoming a governor is a very good way of gaining new skills. You will learn how to read and analyse data, how up set up long term goals, how to interview and appoint to senior positions including that of the head, how to appraise staff and how to conduct meetings and lead a team and get the best out of each member of the team. The skills you bring from your day job will be very useful in the boardroom and similarly you will find that the skills you develop by becoming a member of a board will be useful to you outside the boardroom.

So, although becoming a governor is a huge time commitment and requires dedication, it is a very worthwhile thing to do. The question, for me, isn’t why be a governor. The question is why not be a governor!

 

Naureen Khalid

Governor at a secondary convertor academy

11 YBA Head Guest post by @jillberry102

Head2In the early years of my teaching career, I couldn’t really see the appeal of headship (or, in fact, senior leadership) at all. I was aware of the pressure, the responsibility, the stress – dare I say, the unpopularity? The heads I knew (and I worked for 10 heads over a period of 20 years in five different schools) usually didn’t teach. They seemed to have relatively little contact with the students which, to me, was the joy of teaching – though it was often, of course, the root cause of the challenges too. These heads were, in the main, relatively remote figures (one was nicknamed ‘the hologram head’ by the pupils). I remember watching the head and senior team dancing at a school Christmas party in my first school, and consciously thinking, “I’ll never be a head. I really can’t dance like that.”

In retrospect, in the arrogance of youth I think I was over-critical (teachers tend to be – have you noticed?) and lacking in real understanding and empathy. Over the years, as I moved to be second in department, Head of Department and then Head of Sixth Form, I worked more closely with the heads and senior teams and developed my awareness and appreciation of their role and how different individuals fulfilled it. I learnt from some good examples and, arguably, I learnt even more from negative examples. And over the years I honed my vision of the kind of head I would be, were I to get that far.

As a deputy head I was fortunate in the two heads I worked with, from whom I learnt a good deal. It was when I was a deputy that I realised I really did want to be a head myself one day. I recognised that when the head was out of school and I was ‘it’, increasingly I enjoyed the challenge and the opportunities that gave me. The experience of being a deputy also helped me to decide what type of school I would like to lead. After five years as a deputy I moved to lead such a school, and over my ten years there I have to say I had a ball.

Yes, it is challenging, the responsibilities are considerable, and you have difficult days and demanding situations to try to find a way through. You are a public figure and if you get it wrong (and, inevitably, there will be times when you will) it will be obvious and you will attract criticism – sometimes unfair criticism which you have to be able to cope with. You have to develop your resilience, keep your integrity intact and remember what your core values are, even when (especially when) they may be sorely tested. You will work harder than you have ever done, and you can never complain about that – who would sympathise? You have to be aware that the job is potentially overwhelming and all-consuming and you have to protect yourself (and your family, friends, and your life beyond headship – you really do need one) from that. For me, ten years as a head felt like enough, much as I had enjoyed it. I paced myself throughout the ten years and was ready, at the end of that time, for a different challenge and a different balance in my life. I have no regrets about making that decision, and know that my life is richer for all headship taught me.

It was definitely the best job I did over a 30 year career, and I recommend it to anyone who has the temperament and the drive to do it. The skills will develop (you “build the bridge as you walk on it”, as Robert Quinn says) – you can prepare in a number of ways, practically and psychologically, but ultimately you learn the job by doing the job. And you never stop learning – you have never, in my experience ‘cracked it’. This is part of its appeal.

I do think it’s important that heads (and senior leaders too) consciously try to be positive role models to teachers who are at an earlier stage of their career if they are to encourage and inspire future generations of school leaders. We need to be mindful of how others see us, and if we never smile, seem constantly stressed, unapproachable and remote, we risk giving the impression that headship only has a downside. I wouldn’t want to mislead anyone into thinking the role is easy, but I have to say I found great joy in it, and considerable satisfaction when you DID resolve an issue and move forward. As head you have the capacity to make a difference on a scale unlike anything you’ve ever known before. You have the opportunity to improve teaching and learning, to protect the well-being of the staff (teaching and support) and to lift others. You can support parents and make a positive difference to some of their lives, too.

You won’t win them all, and you have to accept that. It isn’t a popularity contest and, although you need a degree of strength and self-confidence, you have to be able to leave your ego aside and recognise it is about the school and all in it (past, present and future) and not about you. Towards the end of your time, in particular, you have to think about the legacy you are leaving and what you can do to ensure the school continues to grow in strength and success after you have moved on. We are all, in fact, caretakers of the vision for a finite period and there should be a degree of humility that comes with that. We should do all in our power to try to leave the school a better place than we found it, and that involves supporting, encouraging and inspiring leaders of the future.

That’s a privilege.

head1Jill Berry

Former head

Here are some additional posts to add to this one on why be a head

  1. The Head’s briefcase.

December 2014

 

10 YBA Senior Leader

I need some sort of confessional here, not because I work in an RC school but because there will be colleagues who can tell the reader I might aspire to many of these aspects, but have failed to achieve them, and I will have let down colleagues, pupils and parents at times. However my posts were designed as an antidote to the secret teacher moans (often justified) about the job of a teacher. I am sure there are a lot more criticisms of SLT including me but here goes:

We need you, schools need you, children need you, parents need you. image10Succession planning is important and it might be you!

You might see members of SLT and think you can do the job better, then you should consider heading there; you might see members and think you can’t do the job but talk with them, learn it will make a difference to you. There are though, a few things to consider about what you might not be doing in the role, for example you might not be doing so much teaching, you might be doing tasks which are not really your favourite but significant in the life of a school, they need doing and most need doing well. Anyway here goes:

 

A new role, and title: you get more money, maybe status and pretty certainly an office, maybe even your own secretary or a PA (though we don’t in my school). You get a new title, but watch out you still earn your stripes by the job you do, the respect you earn, the aimageuthority others give to you. A badge with a title or an office sign are not matters you can refer a child or parent or colleague to. Almost certainly the day you haveimage to say “do you know who I am?” you’ll know it’s not working the way you are doing the SLT bit. BUT  there is a clue in the title “team” make sure you work with and seek support and challenge and plenty of good jokes from the team. I’ve been so fortunate to work with great SLT colleagues and can honestly say without them I’d have given up.

 

Day 639They say you must have a vision or at least be very clear on ethos, on short-term and long-term goals and articulate that ethos. In the 1980’s when I started, a teacher with vision would probably be put away but now we all need a vision. Have a moral compass, a vision, knowledge of “this is the way we do it” here. Then decisions, little and big must try to support that, we all make mistakes upholding it but if you say you won’t tolerate X and Y, then don’t, you don’t help teachers. If you say extra curricular is vital, put resources behind it. Then articulate your vision, the school’s vision and Heads vision, do it for parents meetings for pupils in assembly, on corridors, in classrooms.

Little things can make a big difference. You have some power over minor things which can make a difference: your staff not being exploited by a particularly awkward parent or pupil. You can say “I’ll deal with them”. Staff might be spending ages due to outdated tech, can you find a budget? They might need to rush home in a free – let them. I think its right you uphold the principle of the default position but you know staff who are busting everything, look after them, and as for the others who seem to take advantage – have a conversation at the very least. You move from middle into senior leadership, from possibly criticising SLT to being one of them. From moaning about decisions to actually making and defending and explaining those decisions. Oh and sometimes you might actually disagree with an SLT team decision but collective responsibility means you will do your bit to deliver.

Stay focused on the core job: teaching, learning and behaviour ( including child protection). The day you have spent hours sorting out the litter or the vitamin C content of the puddings in the canteen or signing documents, feels like the day you are losing the plot. You are a key operational person and all these little things do matter but you can’t do everything, you can delegate. SLT have to learn to treat pupils as pupils and treat teachers as teachers, I have often slipped up here, I hope that’s inevitable but I always try to learn to do this better. There are also personal stresses, work with the rest of the team to help you learn to manage workload too.

gd to g8Appointing staff. In the Jim Collins book ‘From Good to Great’ there are two significant early chapters. One is called getting the right people on the bus. This is your role with other SLT and the Head and middle leaders, to market the school, recruit, train and retain staff. But the other chapter is “Getting the wrong people off the bus” this is much more difficult in schools and a reminder that getting the right people on is critical. Inevitably there will be staff, teaching and non teaching who are not doing the job as you wish. It’s a sensitive but important task to tackle, it’s not the extreme of capability or sacking it’s also about the way SLT point out and offer help with weaknesses. Your staff bill will be the most expensive of budget at 75 to 80% so this is critical in your role. You will have to support and you will have to challenge and you will have to learn when to do which, especially with the pressures of workload. We probably all recall going in on a Monday feeling a bit under the weather thinking it was manageable as we had a free after lunch, get in and see your name on cover- agh. SLT need to try to look out for people, as our job is to get the best out of colleagues today and for the next n years. You have to monitor, but do it nicely, staff and pupils will understand its your job but it need not to be like Ofsted. So many SLT moan about Ofsted “marching in” then…….well they march in. Don’t, if you can manage it. Develop your terms, evolve sensible system.

Keeping up to date. SLT need to stay knowledgeable about developments in schools, in Education – teaching , learning, behaviour, child protection, assessment progression, changes for children coming in (ie in primary) and for those moving on ( FE, HE, apprenticeships, employment). Now here is a trick knowing what is going on but picking what makes a difference, what is legal or statutory and what can and should be ignored. You might (like me) often feel overwhelmed with the pace of change. BUT this is but nothing compared to the teacher n the classroom. Your job is to try to protect and help them. Never forget the days of full timetables, marking and mocks and reports and prep. Before you ask for another piece of paper another task, ask if it is necessary and if so why. Make sure when others ask you if we can get the staff to……that you challenge…is it really necessary? It’s your job to try to protect from demands. Early on in my career a parent got hold of my home phone number and called me one evening, nothing major just a “chat” I felt a bit uncomfortable, mentioned to the deputy, he rang the parent said his call was quite out-of-order. I got an apologetic letter but as important I knew this deputy was wise and on my side. Where you have to embrace change, do it with enthusiasm, work out what are the disadvantages (often all too easy) and the advantages – trial the ideas with trusted colleagues and then with those who might oppose, chat one to one with them – then present.

SLT the problem solver. Have High expectations of teachers and pupils get to know teachers well encourage teachers hear them out, help them out. And hey the same with pupils. There are great things you can do. encourage those good ideas, resource them, release those people and see their ideas blossom though watch they make a difference and don’t impact workload, including your workload. Often schools breed people with great ideas……for someone else. FullSizeRenderThere is a challenge to maintain focus and effort on student learning. Make sure it’s not too interrupted with trips, visits or assemblies. Part of your job is to encourage stuff, stuff like trips and visits and speakers and the sort of stuff which goes down well with pupils and teachers. EXCEPT it also impacts on work. those four year 10 missing an English lesson mean someone else has extra to do. Work out how to balance and explain decisions and create a fair and effective system if possible

Be a role model. Staff and students and parents will look up to you, That’s great but you need to fulfil the role. Watch the football, go to the play, help the PTA. Little things show your true colours, so make sure the little things are set right. untitledand if you are fed up by all means share that with SLT but probably not with those at that sharp end. Never ever forget the real job happens in your classrooms by dedicated staff working their socks off. They don’t really want to know about your boring meeting with the LA. They need people of honesty integrity

communicateCommunication – probably couldn’t write a post about SLT without saying communication is vital. Many a time I have decided an action which seems obvious and yet in forgetting to communicate that effectively I get a load of complaints-sorry forgot to add it to the calendar, check that bit of sims was set up properly, overlooked that event. Hold your hands up and say you went wrong but if there is one rule of SLT it is communication, communication, communication.

Discipline – do your bit, do more than your bit, maintain high behaviour standards, think well ahead on exclusions, what will you be saying to a) the child b) the parent/carer/supporter and c) colleagues. Different audience different responses but get the right outcomes for all. Manage an orderly place.

Inspire, maybe be a maverick, whatever you do, inspire them to do better (pupils, teachers, SLT, even the head) inspire with stories carefully articulated, and presented.

Protect the vulnerable – a teacher or a pupil, maybe a parent. Chat with others understand the person at the centre. They may have been let down, your job is to rescue for the best. as the saying goes ‘some people lead complicated lives be kind’. This is not a ” at any costs ” matter , its more about seeing a way through a crisis. Sometimes others might never get to know there was a crisis, they might even be highly critical of you but you know, deep down it was right. I recall a very difficult situation with a very ill teacher who a) didn’t want anyone to know and b) wanted to teach classes to the end. We changed the timetable around and some staff were very fed up, we couldn’t say why, so just put up with the moans, eventually it became obvious, sadly. Sometimes we need to develop a thicker skin but in the end they will probably understand (actually a few won’t!)

imageMentoring, coaching and training. Believe it or not you are wise, well at least knowledgeable and so people turn to you. You cannot micromanage but you can help. Know your school inside out – pair up the right people, staff and pupils, staff and staff; Support staff also. This leads back to the d word delegate.

IMG_1891Thank you – say it and do it, give appreciation, look our for the child who turned out for the practice but didn’t get the role. The quiet teacher who never moans, does the job sensibly, who you really appreciate -tell them. Th governor who is always there at a do, thank them look out for them value their opinions. Compliment, show gratitude and put money where you can. Don’t praise the PE dept for all that work then refuse them a trampoline. Recognise – believe me a word from SLT, a card, a note can make a difference, you wanted power that’s’ where it is. Pupils who help show someone around for you, write home, pass over a book token, make a quiet fuss.

Whatever you say or do, always try to be ambitious and aspirational. I recall going to a LA meeting over employment. I saw our Head ask a local employer if he would take some pupils for work exp. ” Have you met any of our pupils?” The head asked. “They are great, well-behaved, well-mannered, 100% reliable, diligent etc” I asked in the pub later, had he someone in mind? No he said but if we tell employers and then we tell year 10 we can make it happen….the rest is history.

IMG_7086

Reflections

You will get to work closely with a Head. I think you learn most in the role from working with a good headteacher you learn from what they do well and what they inevitably do wrong. It’s an important partnership however you look at it. Listen to everyone, pupils (school council, on the corridor, after the play, during a cover, parents ….teachers). Act on the things you hear pass on the good news, think carefully about the bad, talk over with others, then decide the actions. If they are important decisions and discussions give them enough time. Influence is probably a key element of leadership so establish ways to influence, to manage and to lead, and try to evolve systems and policies to benefit the school. BUT not bound up in an office. You will have to try and do both, the paperwork and the peoplework, guess which takes priority? You can’t? then forget SLT. Listen and reflect, you know those things we ask staff and pupils to do.

Relationships – you knew that would appear it does. One recent tweet I saw said “Congratulations on getting a deputy job, just remember its 75% about relationships and the other 25% well…..that’s about relationships” Quality contact and interactions. perhaps the most critical are those with other SLT, make sure they are embedded in humour, in generosity and appreciation – the job can be tough but it doesnt have to be tough 100% of the time, ensure creativity and teamwork support those meetings.IMG_1698

Adapt– you will have to do jobs you don’t like, speak to colleagues about stuff you would rather forget. Maybe teach one lesson a week of X, when your subject is Y. You might need to adapt and learn – hey that’s what good teachers always do.

 

There are some great rewards being a member of SLT, there are frustrations too. In much the same way as my other blogposts such as being a teacher or head of year, and I come back to them first point, your school might need you; and a school definitely will do…..and the next step…………..aha
The old NCSL videos are available on youtube and are very good.

There are lots of sites and blogs on leadership if you recommend any I’ll happily add them here.

image

“Where there is no vision, the people perish”

 

Thursday Period 7 – Celebrating Success. What, reward for doing the job?

imageI was at school when there were extensive discussions about banning the cane. One fairly significant argument was: “well I was never caned at school and it never did me any harm”. The implication being that the cane kept us in good order and thus helped the majority. This blogpost is about rewards, and frankly, I was rarely praised or rewarded at school. Maybe it did or maybe it didn’t do me any harm. I’ll finish my story later. I am definitely not someone who thinks we offer some financial cash rewards for each GCSE ( as a school or as a parent) and will fairly despair if our job of education only seems to get done by offering financial rewards. There is much research showing this is pretty redundant, moreso for many of us, it’s not likely to instil lifelong learning skills and the kind of education we want for the generation .So how do schools celebrate success, in fact what do we mean by success and how to reward excellence? It’s not the winning but the taking part, so do we just reward all who take part or just winners? Then we find it difficult to decide winners, oh hang let’s do nothing to anyone in case someone is offended or upset or overlooked.

Here are my top five of thoughts on rewards

1. The big occasion

image

I recall my own school’s prize days in the 70’s, long speeches I never followed, and a day off in lieu granted by the speakers wife usually!. We will shortly hold our school presentation evening, we use the local “Albert Hall ( Nottingham sorry not London). We have an evening with a few short speeches, aimed at the pupils, parents and teachers. We imagehave our honours, about 75 pupils for subjects, for contribution, for effort for battling against the odds and for achievement. Every year will be represented, every ability but sure emphasis rests with the Y13 and Y11 who will be the role models others can aspire to. The pupils who watch can see that they too can ‘make it’ yes they can, they reallimagey can, because these are our pupils from our school who have enjoyed success. The bulk of the evening will be a musical celebration with the best of our orchestras, music groups and choirs. It will be top quality and uplifting for all in a way only music can do. The audience will be staff and parents, grandparents ex students guests. When our previous Head suggested the event, many of us thought it would last a few years but here we are 22 years worth of celebrations on.

imageWe used to celebrate sport that evening too but this made for a very long evening. So we now have a separate sports event on a Friday afternoon in October – local sports stars generously come and help us celebrate. Our competitive teams, our sports stars, our selected pupils and our internal house teams ( swimming gala athletics football, rugby cricket cross country….you know the sort) video clips and some good humour from the imagestaff too. A great event to mark the work of hundreds of pupils and of course PE staff and all those who take teams and go the extra distance literally.

 

2 The extraordinary occasion.

imageNot so long ago we worried that our post 16 students were getting lots of advice, lots of suggestions as to how to improve and messages from me and others to ‘work harder’. We felt the need for a rebalance and introduced an ‘Oscars” – students nominated by staff not just because they were achieving but because they were trying, they had listened and learnt, and they were progressing. A message publicly that we have noticed and we say well done. We repeat these medal awards at the very end of the year on the day they dress up as Y11 and we say farewell. In other year groups we applaud the sports teams weekly, we offer the certificates for getting into a special place.

3 The bread and butter.

Our Y7 to 9 have merits, they have varying degrees of enthusiasm to collect them and I guess the same is true of staff who show varying degrees of enthusiasm to hand them out. Despite the fact we can’t quite create fully workable rules the system works and pupils do work to collect them. They do try and the things we ask them to do are recognised on the bigger stage. Certificates, presentations in assembly and what I do really love, their peer group applaud as they recognise something special themselves. We have only recently introduced rewards in Upper school Y10 and Y11, pupils collect them and after gathering a number complete a card. Once complete this becomes a chance for a bigger reward as we have a draw for some prizes like book tokens, meals etc We recently had a group of Brazilian teachers visit school, a few of our Portuguese speakers helped out showing them around and interpreting in lessons. When I thanked the pupils who did great job, written all over their faces was “Sir any chance of a merit?”. There can be great ways here to involve school councils and the proverbial ‘pupil voice’

4 The regular routines.

In lesson time and form time and extra curricular time there are merits but there are also significant responses. The pupil giving the subject a good go, the one who really tries to learn for a test, the one who listens to what was said at their parents evening , or maybe the one who happily takes the CAFOD box around or the poppies. imageA recent report said ‘lavish praise’ doesn’t work, I think the headline should be ‘false praise’ doesn’t work. It is important in schools to say thank you, well done; to ring home with good news as well as with concerns. It is nice, it’s appropriate and it’s probably important to send and receive a letter from school just to say something slightly out of the ordinary has been noted.

5 The most effective – the informal.

The teacher who notices. Notices the pupils tried, notices there has been improvement, notices that the task was actually quite a big challenge and it was managed. We recently had our swimming gala and the races are hard fought. Some younger pupils filled with enthusiasm volunteered to swim but unknown to us they were not the fastest of ‘fish’ in the pool. How wonderful to hear a whole audience of Y7 to 9 cheer and clap and appreciate the last person home as they gained…just the point, that really was the ‘taking part’ and the PB ( personal best). The “pincer” movement is even more effective, pass the little message to a Head of Year or to a form teacher and let them also pass on gratitude or thanks – watch the smile and see it encourage even more contribution, and effort.

imageA lot of our pupils, whatever we may think, really do lack self confidence, they are growing up in an uncertain world and I have always found it a challenge to convince them they really are good, capable and can aim even higher. Keep an eye out for those five ways.

So to my story of school, at one of those Grammars oft touted as bringing social mobility ( which it did for me but by accident methinks! Top of my class in Y7 I was rewarded with a book, an atlas. In Y8 I didn’t come top, but second and my report said: “Now even Dexter has learnt that there is no substitute for hard work” a phrase I have occasionally used myself. Despite not a single absence, a clutch of decent O Levels and A Levels and a place at a fairly prestigious University; the first in my family to even stay on past 14 let alone get into HE – well just one more book in Y9, and hey the lack of reward never did you any harm Dexter! There is a spectrum of views about rewards, from overdoing them to under-doing them. I still say to all my classes or year groups, don’t expect rewards for doing what I ask or for turning up for school That’s what we expect, but extra efforts, fulfilling parts of the schools ethos, and maintaining persistently high standards should always be recognised.

Rugby world cup winning captain M Johnson

Some questions to consider

Q1 Should we give rewards, or do they offer the wrong incentives?

Q2 It is often them same (few) names who get nominated for rewards and prizes, as they are the best should they keep winning, or how do we share out rewards?

Q3 Are we all winners, or does that make us all losers?

Q4 What ways do you have to reward, celebrate and promote successes?

For those in a church school

Matthew 5:46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?

2 Kings 23:21 The king gave this order to all the people: “Celebrate the Passover to the Lord your God, as it is written in this Book of the Covenant.”

Proverbs 9:12 If you are wise, your wisdom will reward you; if you are a mocker, you alone will suffer.

1 Corinthians 9:24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.

Luke 15:23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate.

You might like to read other posts from my timetable of teaching – each is set out from lesson in the school week, before or after school or at the weekends, appropriate to the time of day. I have also started a  class lists or “set lists” which was to answer the questions: “why be a teacher?”or “why have other responsibilities in a school?” Shortly I am starting a new area about progress from one role or experience in teaching to another with hints and tips about successfully moving on in the job and your teaching career.

Thursday Period 2 – Second Chance? Third Chance? Any Chance? No Chance.

monopoloyMy wife told me I needed to listen to woman’s hour radio 4. (@BBCWomansHour) I am a big radio 4 fan ( @on_radio4) only top and tailed in the weekdays but in those holiday moments I do admit to catching more. However this was a command “you need to listen to” . So I did. The story was about Leeds University alumni annual lecture to be given by V. Craig Jordan  You might not have heard of him, he discovered tamoxifen the drug used to help in treatment of breast cancer, now nicknamed the Father of Tamoxifen. According to wikipedia in 2004 it was the world’s largest selling hormonal treatment for Breast cancer and in 2001 prior to  coming out of patent it made $1024m profit. there must be literally millions of people alive today thanks to Tamoxifen.tamoxi

He is a chemist so I was naturally hooked but moreso he is a truly great chemist, and it all started back at home when his Mum allowed him to have a chemi lab in his bedroom in Cheshire. Wow. He admitted to setting fire to curtains and throwing the odd reaction out the window, but he had a kindly curiosity and steely determination to find a cure for cancer. Back in the late 60’s when cancer wasn’t so well understood this was a great mission and huge credit to him for the discovery. A drug which is on the WHO list of essential medicines. I hoped to find the lecture and kindly @DrNMistry kindly tweeted me the link to a truly great lecture from a wonderful man telling an inspiring story.

So what interested this Chemistry teacher beyond the chemistry was that he didn’t do so well at school. Despite his obvious talent and ability, back at school he only passed 3 O Levels not enough to get into the sixth form. After a visit to ICI with the possibility of becoming a lab tech, a clearly determined Mother and a sensible Head seemed to agree to give Craig a second chance -the rest as they say is history, and not lost on me is the fact his discovery has given many a person a second chance.

bennettAnother Chance …Please?

So there is the challenge for schools, when do we give a second chance, or a third? Here the end of the story so so justifies the decision to give a second opportunity and I can think of students I have given a second chance to who got through – though I must quickly add that they haven’t yet discovered a new drug treatment to my knowledge, though at least one I recall became a medic. There are other students who my colleagues could quote back to you (and they do regularly to me) who we gave a second chance but sadly there was no change of attitude. I am sure there are also those we denied a second chance and that some way or other they made it. There was a moment in the Jordan interview when he said ” There isn’t anything wrong with a setback early on” I think most teachers are optimistic, give a child a second chance esp before the end of compulsory school. Second chances when…homework not done, work not up to scratch, an out of characteristic reaction but there must be a change of attitude, forgiveness yes but change please. Then comes that rather horrible moment equalling “Sorry no more chances”. For most of us that comes when other students are still being disrupted from their learning by the second chancer or when teachers spend a disproportionate time trying to get someone to conform. A challenge though is to look at our systems, to intervene, support, help bring change and make ethos and expectation clear. As I have said elsewhere this isn’t simple but it is desirable and I think it’s what a good school should be able to do. Pupils and students do sometimes need a second chance, they are growing up and learning, they need to learn to give second chances and well to forgive too.

yellow card

Second Chance more common post 16?

Post 16 may be a different matter, not on the No No but on the second chances as students find AS Level a different situ to what they anticipated or a subject is not how they imagined or maybe they hit a difficult time in their own developments. Recent funding changes might make second chances very difficult. Recent examination changes also make second chances difficult – the summer of 2014 also saw a greater media highlight of those who did badly and them being told they could not continue. In future the potential loss of AS and the use of internal data might make these decisions more difficult so where do we draw a line? I don’t want to be responsible for wasting teacher time with students destined never to make it, neither with the students time nor with taxpayer money BUT I wouldn’t like to say ‘No’ to a future star, or even a future plodder. At heart it’s about knowing your pupils well, and trusting teachers. I daresay some decisions on giving a second chance will reflect a teachers own story or a school history …I was given a second chance so….

We could rehearse the arguments over league tables, pressure on schools to do well ( and with PRP for teachers too, second chancers might become rarer). Perhaps we can have a performance table for those we gave a second chance too?

monopoly2Are you listening? No really listening?

Perhaps the radio4 story needs to be heard by our students not by our teachers. A message so often given out to pupils: take opportunities; work hard; need to be genuinely heard not just listened to. On the other hand perhaps we get too neurotic about it all, pupils will rise up to the surface, maybe leave a school and get a great deal at a College, or bounce back when they mature or face their destiny. I am sure some would argue the second chance prevents facing up to errors, though personally I doubt that. So for those who do turn over the proverbial new leaf, their story ends well BUT for some the pressure of being a failure and “not allowed’ might just send them in a different direction, not just in studying but maybe in wasting a talent that schools just couldn’t quite untap if second chances get rarer. In some ways te matter is about forgiveness and a second chance, but can we go on forgiving blindly, and seeing other lives affected? Can we make restorative justice work in schools? I think we can, and much of our nature wants to give a second chance but just sometimes we have all had enough!

I have one sticky questions I feel my post should face
red cardpngWhat about permanent exclusion? We might all allow a second a third chance etc but there are some incidents a school community probably cannot forgive, possibly cannot allow to blight the rest of their work. They cannot be seen to tolerate or to condone certain extreme behaviour or persistent bad behaviour. We need perm ex, we need to use it rarely, we probably need an appeal system, but we also need a system that can pick up and offer a second chance, but it can’t be back in the home camp where such an offence takes the student beyond restoration with their present community.

You can listen to the original programme via itunes or from the BBC

Some Questions to think about?

Q1 Do we give pupils too many chances?

Q2 Is there ever a limit to how often we should help young people start again?

Q3 Can the proverbial “Leopard” ever  change its spots?

Q4 Are some more deserving than others?

Q5 Is permanent exclusion ever justifiable?

Some references to contemplate for those of you in church schools or interested.

Matthew 18: 22,23   Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times

Luke 15:7    I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

John 8:11   Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

Leviticus 26:18    If after all this you will not listen to me, I will punish you for your sins seven times over.

 

You might like to read other posts from my timetable of teaching – each is set out from lesson in the school week, before or after school or at the weekends, appropriate to the time of day. I have also started a  class lists or “set lists” which was to answer the questions: “why be a teacher?”or “why have other responsibilities in a school?” Shortly I am starting a new area about progress from one role or experience in teaching to another with hints and tips about successfully moving on in the job and your teaching career.

9YBA Head of Year

imageimageIn many schools pastoral work has taken a new twist as tutor groups are arranged vertically with a few pupils from each year. I cant really comment on that , others might by clicking reply. My experience is in schools with horizontal pastoral work, tutors caring for a tutor group of 25+ pupils and a Head of year possibly an assistant head of year working with them. So this short post is to give a few reasons you might consider this middle leader role:

imagePastoral experience is useful if not essential for senior leadership posts and hey a Head of Year role brings a TLR, more money and a title. Unlike a Head of department you will almost certainly get an office, in my school that is usually a converted wardrobe/cupboard with enough room for a computer, a desk, a filing cabinet, a box of tissues, a notepad, a phone and second chair. In some ways that sums up the role of HoY

If middle leaders subject staff are the engine room of a school this role is the engine oil keeping the school running smoothly. You will be expected to help monitor and to intervene in behaviour issues, attendance issues and a broader view of pupils achievement. These aspects lead you into a new understanding of the background of your pupils and definitely a greater understanding of subjects and staff. our Heads of year are actually called Progress Co-ordinators which I think is a bit clumsy but sums up the expectation.

Iimagentervening
One way or another there are simple things you can nip in the bud, but soon issues will bring a level of complexity. HoY are expected to intervene, to work to improve attendance, punctuality, performances and to do so without a magic wand. It’s about wisdom, experience, problem solving, oh and infinite patience.

It’s sometimes complicated.
Lets consider punctuality, some pupils are just lazy and late and a HoY can sort this either directly with the pupil or by speaking with home and a balance of discipline and reward. However some lateness is more difficult, dropping off a younger sibling at a local primary, caring for an ill family member. So what the HoY begins to notice is the complexity of family life and what some young people face from home. You’ll be surprised how an appropriate conversation can actually improve matters.

Top negotiator
imageGreat training to be a diplomat or peace keeper. HoY sometimes have to advocate on pupils behalf, see them through a rough patch, and get work sent home and check they settle back in on return, and don’t forget them, Try and note or remember a significant anniversary. Sometimes a teacher complains and there is another side. Sometimes a parent has heard one side (!) and wants to tell you so

Bridge back?
IMG_6254Sometimes the HoY has to help reintegrate pupils after incidents, maybe from being withdrawn from lessons or back from exclusion. Staff will be watching, other pupils too, as a HoY maintains some sort of bridge back into the school community, not at any cost but trying to ensure the issue is sorted and of course the issue does not raise itself again. Learn from senior staff.

Monitoring
One of the most rewarding tasks is too help see a pupil “turn the corner” it might be a report card, it might be a conversation where a colleague tells you how well X is now doing. It might be a successful way to help a parent with a challenging child. Working that team to success is very rewarding.

Rewards
imageNever underestimate the letter home, the positive call home, the quiet word on a corridor to say you’ve heard how well… But you might have to seek that out. A proper scheme of merits or a reward system can help and if you get it right enjoy the rare staff confessional “your new rewards – that is really working well”

Setting standards
I think effective HoY set out their expectations and those of the school clearly and keep referring to it over the year. Assemblies, gatherings individual conversations. Scanning reports and data, maybe the rank order of effort for your year group is compared at each report and you seek out those who climb and …well, yes decide what to do about those who fall.

The go betweenyellow cardred cardpng
In particular parent – pupil. When a parent is worried they are likely to contact you, when you have a concern you contact them. You sometimes have meetings with parents and might actually chair the meeting between a colleague and parent and pupil. You will learn a lot but observe how experienced staff do that. There will be formal meetings too like parents evenings , you’ll prob get a bit of extra stuff to follow up from them. Oh and of course there are very difficult meetings with parents, observe and learn.

Running a team
Your tutor team unlike the subject staff you probably didn’t choose them, you have some you are pleased to see on your list and you have others. There is the pastoral work and in many ways the standards of behaviour uniform and so on at least set out clear expectations and get tutor support and support them when they crash into issues. You might have a bit of pastoral curriculum (PSE /PSHE) to plan and this is a big challenge, prepping a topic for others to use. Plan carefully, look for big impact and get the feedback, above all show gratitude.

Dealing with SLT
Inevitably as a HoY you need some help some coaching and some ideas. I recall thinking myself that I had seen every situation a pupil might encounter after about 15 years in the job, and then around the corner would be an issue I had never dealt with. You need wisdom and help but also sometimes need their support. A good relationship with your line manager eg your Head of school is critical but nothing better than solving a tricky issue between you.

Dealing with agencies.
A host of outside agencies look to a HoY to help on a host of issues, from looked after children, through children’s services to support agencies possibly the police. Learn the proper protocols, systems and statutes.You will learn how some are really good and others surprisingly poor. However they performed you still see a pupil every day and therefore might be the most important part of a jigsaw in their life. Try never to forget that some pupils have complicated lives and perhaps we should be kind.

imageKeeping a perspective
Be prepared – some colleagues will think you are too soft, that cup of tea in your office after Rudolph did that; others will be the opposite and think you were ridiculously harsh to force the detention over that so called trivial event. So sure sometimes you can’t win but you are the reality of loco parent is and tough love needs mixing up with the bridge back.

Advice and help
Pupils will come to you for advice maybe careers maybe personal. After all you it was you who actually said if they had any problems to come and talk to you, but you just didn’t think they would talk to you about that! Listen, listen a bit more and then help, just that and if you can’t help it’s fine just be prepared, like we always should be, to pass it on.Help Support Advice Assistance and Guidance on a signpost

Ultimately the success of a number of pupils is definitely down to the pastoral system of which they hoy is the critical position. Knowing your pupils and families. This job is about relationships relationships relationships and a frequent stepping stone into more senior roles in school.

Links
Nice blogpost reflecting on this role from Andy Lewis.

8YBA Head of Department

imageAfter while in the profession  (a while being a three years methinks) many teachers will seriously be considering where their career is heading. It is easy to forget even a new TLR is a small % of a teacher’s pay but it’s not so much the money it’s the status and the next rung of a ladder. So if you are thinking about being a Head of a Department here are some reasons why you definitely should do so :

 

You are going to be helping others, not just the NQT or PGCE students but your own colleagues. In fact all of them young and old; enthusiastic and grumbly (and sometimes both) nothing better than helping though.likewise children, you might be HoD but you will be helping children, your classes and other classes.

You might be able to pick and choose the courses for your curriculum subject. You are too sensible to change everything all at once but in the nature of education, changes will come and instead of being told what to do, you can do the telling. But you won’t make any quick decision, you’ll do the research, the thinking and the presenting of options and then consult, listen and get to a decision you are confident about and as for colleagues, for the most will agree with you and then run alongside you. Don’t contemplate the alternative.

You will have a few new challenges, the awkward member of staff, the supply teacher needing work and needing to find their way around your Dept. Oh and you’ve been teaching long enough to know it happens on the day you already have a lot on – welcome to the world of HoD.

image

You will have a budget and you don’t want it overspent as a shiny new HoD but you want to hear those pupils saying ” that helped us to learn using ….” in your lessons and you want it to make a difference to staff and hear they are pleased. Oh and the odd parent who will pass praise too.

imageYou will have to learn to use data. You might be good with your own data but you move on now from concern about the data for your classes to the data for the subject, and teasing out what that data and other stuff means. This opportunity, like others will need a mentor and coach and someone senior to help. A new and closer relationship which can be a great spur in your career.

 

You will probably be doing appraisals and certainly observations and expected to support and challenge in a professional way. this is a great way to help maintain and raise standards. But also something of a warning here, with responsiblity comes accountability. So think how you will use all the tools ( data, observations, work scrutiny, your educational nowse and your own methodology etc) to hold yourself and then others to that account. Do it in the nicest way, because you will know the staff (soon) and who (a) does the job and worries or (b) who doesnt do the job and seems not to care. You might have to sort a colleague through a difficult patch personal or professional, whatever the crisis your school needs those children taught, your input is invaluable.

You might well feel the need for some added training, you have probably learnt what not to do from some people but knowing what to do isn’t easy. Pick your CPD carefully and plan with a senior colleague over a few years, you can’t expect to be the finished HoD at the end of the first term. Spot or seek those other great middle leaders and get some coaching from them.

You get to do some innovative things, but check out which will work, do your research, do some pilots or trials and in this you’ll learn the art of delegation, but do not use that phrase “it will be good for your career”! Teachers know when they are being dumped on, treat them as intelligent beings, not as daft pupils. In fact learning to treat colleagues properly is a vital and lifegiving aspect of this new job.

You’ll get some surprises – make sure they are not critical by checking your  systems. Entered for the right exams, studying the right spec, doing the correct texts. Yes, you will need to start “checking up” on colleagues maybe an unexpected call from a parent for good or for ill. You will also need to expand your own repertoire – you might not have taught SEND pupils or the whole Y13 course, or spoken with governors.

You will get some “influence” which is , in fact, all that leaders really have. So lets say some new idea comes along ( and can be from lots of places DfE, government, TES, a book, a blog, SLT etc) will you embrace it fully? will you ignore it fully? Assuming it’s not statutory, how will you work out what to do with this apparently clever initiative?

you get to lead meetings! Ha, you recall how you have moaned about those meetings full of business, or boringly wasting time? well you are in charge now. You want them to be focussed, upbeat, short? Great that’s your call but “stuff” has to be done – after school meetings, INSET time, twilights. Of course with a boot on other foot, you now also attend meetings. My advice: watch and learn. ( check my blogpost wednesday period 6)

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One tiny warning if you move schools as a HoD I think it’s one of the most tricky moves in education, expectations will be high and it’s a whole new school with new systems and new children. Plan to be gentle on yourself, take as much time as you can to learn about the children and show you can teach, then bring on the HoD stuff.

I think it’s a great role in school, the start of a wider influence (Middle leader) and learning to manage and lead a team. You become a role model, you’ll probably attend middle leader meetings and in time be expected to contribute, to the direction of travel for your school, appointing colleagues, working with governors, solving problems and maybe defending your subject and considering wider school issues you had never considered.  You might get a bit more money, a new title and a small corner for an office. Oh and you’ll soon see why senior leaders think of middle leaders as the engine room of the school.Go for it.

Further reading:

Instutute of Education London on middle leaders

Teaching leaders on Why middle leadership?

The Guardian Making the most of idlle leaders to drive change in school

National Professional Qualification for Middle Leadership (NPQML)

Sec-Ed Three keys to middle leadership

From Professional development: leadership for learning for middle leaders

Monday Period 6 – Extra curricular? NO – vital lifeblood

A previous Headteacher at my school set out our 1265 hours (in the days that it applied) he carefully calculated that after teaching supervision and meetings we all had 65 hours left and announced to us to “do something with children” clubs, sports, music trips. It began a culture of what was then called the ‘hidden curriculum’ is now called extended day or extra curricular.  I’ve come to see it as part of an essential and vital oxygen supply to the life of our school.

0913-230913-23Clubs activities and trips and visits have huge value in their own right. Great wonderful opportunities: Places visited, skills learned, social mixing and making new different friends, role modelling and aspirations, teamwork, independence, curiosity spurred, performance demands recognised and celebrated. But it is much more than that – most activities bring ‘volunteer pupils’ along, well maybe some arm twisted pupils but the keen and enthusiastic. Then of course there is no   the activity, no league table pressure on pupils or staff. I’m not saying sports teams don’t have some pressure, we all know it’s not the taking part but the winning. It’s not as if we would accept a sloppy musical performance so we still have standards but not exams, not grades.Then at the heart of these activities just as at the heart of the school are relationships and they are somehow a bit different. I don’t know I can describe the differences:

  • Teachers still monitor behaviour
  • Teachers still work with parents ( they get cross when parents turn up late to collect their children and forget the old “thank you)
  • Teachers still do health and safety checks
  • Teachers still plan and think of the worth of the details drawn from the activity (hey and some activities take so much planning and paperwork we all wonder that they ever happen)

0913-23But there is something magical about this relationship, pupils often really love those activities and therefore their teachers. Older pupils do for the most learn to genuinely appreciate the effort, the time and the contribution and so too do their parents ( OK not always I know). I wonder if we (me) as SLT appreciate the effort , energy and contribution. It’s not just about publicity, the head being able to say we do DofE and sport and yoyo club…and …and…..obviously that does happen and should do with a huge pride, because it is a source of rich cultural endeavour. It’s not just about the school website looking attractive with photos of trips and music and sport ( you can check ours!) In my view it helps with a much deeper question.

0913-23A lot is written about behaviour and behaviour management and we all have to learn our own ways to keep discipline. I sometimes disagree with SMW but he is right about discipline and low level disruption he just doesn’t articulate his complaint so well or the media distort it.

If children like school and like the staff and like the activities surely they are beginning to like school to such a point that they are therefore less likely to disrupt, to mess about to skive or be absent. The extra curricular life blood is critical. Pupils begin to appreciate their institution because of the people, not the building.  So those caught up, attend school and then when they find themselves in a geography lesson, well they might try and might just learn, a skilled teacher can exploit their commitment to the school. So we all benefit from the contribution of those who run after-school, or lunchtime clubs or weekend trips. Recently SMW and OFsted have published materials about low level disruption and if you have ever had to work out which ‘benefits to remove’ or ‘punishments to give’ to a pupil – an after school detention, or isolation, or even lines, there is nothing to compare with the statement “you can’t go on the trip, you can’t play football this week” Express this morality will have a powerful effect.  Even if you have to explain the vitality of taking these opportunities by spelling it out to pupils and parents do so and some poorer behaviour will become less of an issue.

0913-23I often look at our pastoral staff, and they are good, very good I think and they can be excellent with some potentially difficult pupils getting them to conform. Why? Often because they took the same pupils in y7 in a sports team, or encouraged them to learn an instrument and congratulate them on successes within the school day but beyond it too. They went with them on the battlefields trip or the trip to France or organised a trip to LIncoln, hey supported their interest in the HET visit to Auschwitz. Or just maybe stand alongside them digging in our allotment, or….

0913-23Our old head was spot on. Don’t use teacher hours in endless meetings, encourage them to do things with children. After all for most of us doing things with children is why we came into this job in the first place. It makes for a rich experience, and it helps pupils learn to really love school and love teachers and that done behaviour will be better and then learning improves and teachers can get on with that other job – teaching and learning.

Some links:

Sutton trust articles on extra curricular consequences

BBC on tuition and hobbies helping richer children

Some questions to consider

Q1 How can we share and highlight the importance of extra curricular opportunities to parents, pupils and teachers?

Q2 Is it right that the worth is greater than the intrinsic value of the activity?

Q3 What do schools do to ensure staff have the energy and resources to sustain extra curricular activity, when they are under enormous pressure already?

For those in a church school

Matthew 5:40

if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

Galatians 6:10

Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people

Ephesians 5:16

Making the most of every opportunity

Ecclesiastes 7:27

“Look,” says the teacher, “this is what I have discovered:

 

Wednesday Period 4 – Data rich, information poor

Schools are data rich, but are we information poor? How do we balance the data, the numbers and dealing with real live children and helping them learn. Is data more of a dark art than a scientific methodology?

This is a dangerous blogpost because some people love data, and some hate data. I think politicians love us to have data. FFT Raiseonline, LAT and PANDA. Then there is the data we put into sims or other IMS systems for collecting school data, and I’m not even getting to life with or without levels. Then we have analytical tools such as 4matrix and ALPS. Hey and that’s just my school.

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There are other layers too – most teachers collect data, most departments collect data. I used to dread my HoD checking my mark book in case I had to explain all my codes ( late work due to illness and absence; late work due to lazy etc) then there were my inconsistencies such as a blob meaning I was worried about that pupil on that topic, then the gaps where I forgot for a few weeks to keep a register – nothing anarchic just had so much to do in lesson counted heads asked where X and Y were and cracked on. Whatever mess my mark book was in it was a data tool, it recorded data, in a limited way it analysed data.

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It could have been better, but it served my purpose I knew pretty well who progressed, who didn’t and my predictions were usually correct. I played a few games, telling some they were likely to get a D knowing my conversation would galvanise them into work for a C – others needed cajoling and constant encouragement but hey they made it. My classroom has always been all about relationships, me knowing them, them understanding my expectations, me knowing Chemistry and them learning it, with my help. My data telling me who was getting along OK and who wasn’t. Data, plus thinking, plus conversations plus educational nowse.

Now we are in an overwhelming data dominant world. If you ask me as an SLT member how X is getting on, well we can check attendance and compare it to others in classes/year/school/nation with all manner of codes and % stats. Shall we look at behaviour or achievement data across my lessons, across the year group the whole school. Progress data or attainment? Or marks, mine or my dept or what I consider my critical marks such as assessments and tests? Dealing with data for parents and pupils is a whole different blogpost.

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I recall back in the day we had an analysis of SATs called anSAT and a local subject adviser asked me to check out some new ( expensive software). It analysed skills and knowledge in the subject in huge detail for each pupil. He showed us ‘Petunia’ ( not her real name) she had a whole A4 chart showing lots of bars, her marks now apparently converted from her responses to show her understanding of topics compared to the class, the year, the nation probably the universe. It showed she really got this topic and really was lost on that one. The head of subject was getting very excited, he loved numbers. “So are you keen?” said the advisor. “One question” I said, “yes”said the advisor. “No, not to you but to the head of subject – thinking about Mrs Ordinaryteacher ( not her real name) who teaches your subject, if we went in her class could she tell you that information about Petunia?”- “yes, more or less, maybe not linked to the year group but to the class and to the national and to their targets etc”. So why bombard her with so much overwhelming data and with that data the added worry piled on a deeply conscientious outstanding teacher?

Data has immense power and value-we can pick out patterns and themes maybe a topic no one has really understood, maybe an area we need to make new resources. We can and should help each other with it, but not get obsessed by it. I am a teacher, I like creating resources and helping learners, much better than tiring over data and worrying I haven’t missed anything. You see the job is an art not a science. Let the good teacher get on and teach, ensure they have enough data but do not overwhelm them.

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In the 90’s I met a fairly senior History examiner whilst I was attending award meetings for A Level chemistry, I said to him that our award was challenging and complex but reasonably objective, how did he feel about the accuracy of History? Oh, he replied, we are good, I am confident, when we award a C grade for example it really is a C grade, or maybe a B or a D but it’s definitely around there. I often think just how scarey is our dependence on data and results with their massive consequences for pupils, and teachers and schools. Is it time to say exams are more of an art than a science and just plan (and judge) on that basis? Use data to help identify issues but tackling the issues is the challenge. SLT we need to make sure our teachers have enough of the right info.

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Well back after August it’s that hugely time consuming job – ploughing through results data and soon revisiting FFT etc Oh and then the surprise of an update, or the governors data dashboard showing something a bit different to what something else suggests. It’s back to pouring over Raise and remind myself which colour is which because in ALPs the colours are different. One of my favourites 4matrix with another upgrade and new tricks (check out their video intro) but giving me the feeling there is so much more hidden away-help you’ve intimidated me. I know that data analysis which is demanded by so many accountability measures is crucial to the job, and I know SLT need to know the data but really a we need to know our school and what information the data reveals and then make good decisions about our school.

All of this can suck out our time, and energy and then when I talk with colleagues and we discuss data there are further complexities. I hugely appreciate the contribution of data managers but occasionally I just need to check we have a balance. In all honesty I could spend all day doing data but the pupils will not benefit as much as they might if I sat and taught them or even listened to them or just took a bit of genuine interest in them to lift their self confidence and to encourage them to learn. Right that’s it shutting down my computer to go amd watch the year 9 boys football team.

imageSome questions to think about
Q1 What data is the critical crucial data needed by the teacher in the classroom to maintain and raise standards?
Q2 How do we ensure we do not overwhelm class teachers with data but that we so point out patterns and themes which need addressing?
Q3 Are we too driven by data, or is it the magicians wand to point out what has to be changed, kept the same, or transformed?
Q4 Those who want to get on with teaching and leave the data other than a mark book behind are being naive-discuss!

Q5 just how much of FFT Raise ALPS Panda does any given role need to understand?
There is an even more vexing question – just how good is the data. Have a read of this blog by @Jack_Marwood

Not much for us in church schools on data in the BIble but some on how we approach the job!

Matthew 22: 16

They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. “Teacher,” they said, “we know that you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are.”

Psalm 119:66
Teach me knowledge and good judgment, for I trust your commands.

Ezekiel 34:12

As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness.