Education is powerful. It transforms lives. Getting it ‘right’ is key especially for the most disadvantaged. Deprivation should not determine destination (sadly, it does). As a former free school meal child, I’ve observed this first hand.
This is my first post on my new blog. The aim of the blog will be to codify the success I have had in leading school improvement with a focus on raising outcomes. I will draw on my reading of research, articles and books, which have formulated my thinking and underpinned decision making. I plan to share how I have implemented strategies which have resulted in measurable impact. This includes working as part of team to transform a school from Special Measures (December 2016) to Good (March, 2018) within 15 months. This was followed by securing the best ever GCSE results in the school’s history in Summer 2019.
From the outset, I would like to state, there will be ‘no silver bullets’, no magic formulas and no jazz hand initiatives. That said, I will discuss strategies that are incredibly simple and if implemented successfully, do work.
I have three tips which have been fundamental in my journey of driving school improvement and raising outcomes.
1. Keep it simple, make it work
Improving outcomes is not glamorous. It relies on meticulous planning, focusing on the tiny details and using data effectively to ask the right questions. Rather than hundreds of initiatives, focus on a few in detail and make them work. This leads me onto tip 2.
2. The power of three
Over the years, I have seen teachers working incredibly hard with little to no impact. Often, I have found, one of the underlying reasons for this is that there are multiple initiatives going on, all at the same time, with staff pulled in different directions with little clarity. This results in the age old saying, Jack of all trades, master of none.
Many have said this before, and I completely agree, focus on a maximum of three strategies in an academic year. These three strategies should be rooted in research that is known to have impact. The strategies should be understood by all and implemented gradually overtime (meticulous planning). Quality assurance activities should focus on these initiatives and CPD planning should be informed by the findings from monitoring.
3. Names not numbers
Leading on outcomes, I have often seen the focus on percentages. Pages and pages of data with every subgroup possible. Again, here, I suggest you focus on up to three subgroups (where are the attainment and progress gaps in your school – they may overlap for example White British more able disadvantaged boys). Behind every number is a child, and that’s what the focus should be on.
Of course, published performance headlines matter, but that is the end result. Building up to this point, every child should be discussed across every subject. This led me to launch the names behind the numbers campaign in September 2017. Students were discussed at a teacher level, department level, and whole school level. This resulted in every child being known, valued and understood. The impact, the best GCSE results in the school’s history in summer 2019 including Maths and Science being in line with or above national at Grade 4+, 5+ and 7+. Both these subjects were judged inadequate in December 2016.
I am going to develop my three main tips into individual blogs. Which one do you think I should focus on first?
I am a Vice Principal in a secondary school in a London Borough. By choice I have focused my teaching career on empowering students from areas of social and educational disadvantage. I firmly believe education can be a route to delivering social justice and transforming lives.