Wednesday, 11 February 2015

A Community of Practice

Cross phase support for a new curriculum model

As primary schools and academies across the country have taken measures to implement the new National Curriculum from September 2014, at Hamford we have relished the opportunity to develop ours by basing it on four pillars:

1.  Academic curriculum divided into Learning Areas (as opposed to more discreet subjects)
2.  Developing growth mindsets and building Learning Power
3.  Vocational experiences
4.  Philosophy for Children (P4C)
Embracing the focus on developing mastery in key skills across Learning Areas, we invited specialist, subject specific teachers from our local secondary school, Tendring Technology College (TTC) to collaborate with us in developing a skills progression/toolkit which would help children become ‘secondary ready’ – this would form the basis of our academic curriculum.  

The sessions began with the subject specialists outlining the skills set they would expect children arriving in Year 7 to have developed.  Next, our primary and secondary colleagues worked backwards to identify some key skills that the children would need to master at primary level in order to be prepared for secondary school.  Upon reviewing the skills, we identified two issues.  Firstly, there were too many (similar to the National Curriculum that we were trying to improve on).  Secondly, many skills were more generic than subject specific.  As a result, we are currently trying to simplify them further in order for children to be given plenty of opportunities to develop fluency and mastery.  Furthermore, we are investigating how to incorporate Bloom’s taxonomy into the skills so that they are progressive and challenging. 

After the final draft of the skills toolkit has been disseminated to the staff at Hamford, we plan to invite the subject specialists from TTC into Hamford to evaluate the effectiveness of the learning of the skills and whether they are the core skills that the secondary teachers believe will make them secondary ready.

Becoming an SLE

Are you ready to become a Specialist Leader of Education

When I was first approached about applying to become an SLE, my immediate reaction was “No way!”.  My view of an SLE’s role was completely wrong, with me imagining that I would have to be an expert in all aspects of my subject and spend loads of time outside of the classroom.       
However, upon investigating it further, I discovered that actually, this role was about using my own experiences and successes and supporting others with this.  It’s not about being all-knowing in every element of my subject but rather sharing things that have worked and supporting colleagues in using the things that I have found have worked well.

The initial application stage of becoming an SLE involved reflecting on my practise and considering where I have had the most impact.  Although working within my own academy was important, having a wider impact on other schools and academies was a real focus throughout the application.  This is definitely something to consider when thinking about applying for SLE status as the role largely focuses on support outside of our own academies.  Taking time to support and collaborate with other schools and academies prior to applying for this role is hugely valuable to the application process and will give you an idea of whether this is a role for you or not.

After successfully getting through the first round of the application I was offered an interview.  This was quite daunting as my interview date came through as the final day of our year 6 residential; a week of camping with 11 year olds didn’t leave much room for preparing for an interview!  The interview involved me giving a short presentation about why I would be suitable for the role and what I had already done.  Having tangible evidence, such as school data, to show impact was really important.  It backed up what I was saying and also helped me to focus my presentation around the reason I was there anyway - to work with schools to give children the best education they could possibly get.  So often we are surrounded by targets, pressure and the sparkle of new positions in schools that we lose sight of what it is all about.  For me, this is why the role of an SLE is so exciting; it is an opportunity to share with others what we are doing well.  By sharing and developing ideas together, it also relieves some of the pressure that teaching staff are under and I am excited to have this opportunity. 

Brave Heads - The TTSA Headteacher Conference

Brave Heads

Having sat in a number of Headteacher meetings it was obvious that we were all suffering from accountability fatigue and that this was leading to a loss of confidence and enthusiasm for the job that we do. There has been an element of fear that has tended to paralyse our innovative thinking mechanism as the new accountability measures seem to undermine the progress that our students make.  Some Headteachers are spending more time dealing with a raft of visitors from a variety of accountability checkers that it is actually distracting them from the most important job of improving pupil progress.

Two specific things prompted our “Brave Heads” conference that was initially billed as “leading a school in times of changing examination performance”. The first was a request by two Secondary headteachers for an injection of some energy and enthusiasm. The second was a Primary Headteacher enthusing me by urging me to be fearless!  He reminded me that this is how I had always been and that it was this approach through difficult times that had enabled both the schools that I have led to successful sometimes against the odds.  This first Headteacher conference was for Secondary Heads. We began by sharing things that no one knew about us which had us laughing irreverently. We went on to talk about the things that keep us awake at night and how we manage ourselves. We focussed on how to be brave, why we should be brave and generally enjoyed the camaraderie of sharing our ideas and passion for education. The next session was led by James Saunders who took us on a journey of leadership and challenged us to think about where we are on our own journey of leadership.   

Finally, Gavin Byford focussed us on a very practical issue of curriculum planning for student progress and accountability. This discussion led to a pledge that Gavin would organise for curriculum planners from the schools represented to get together to share ideas.

My thanks go to all those Headteachers who gave up their time to engage in a mutually supportive and enjoyable session and thanks to my colleagues at TTC who led the sessions.