Principal’s Round-up – 13th November 2020

This week saw us commemorate Armistice Day with a very reduced remembrance event, unlike in previous years. With poppies up and down the country and moving and lavish displays on some buildings, we are all aware that in November the nation marks the gruesome wars that have scarred our past and present. Last Sunday, over 3000 bells rang out across the United Kingdom with half muffled tolls… the sound of a slow march to help us remember those who lost their lives. The act of remembrance is important in schools and should always be embraced. It sometimes seems to me that war is still too easy a thing to talk about. Luckily most people do not experience war outside of what we see on the news or in films. Few people actually share a collective memory of the 20th century wars. To many they can seem nationalistic and romantic, promoting the idea of the good guys versus the bad guys. War is really much more complex than this. Whilst we remember those who bravely gave their lives in conflict, we must also remember everyone else who is affected. The words ‘lest we forget’ may ring hollow when we see how war continues and holds us in its grip in so many places. We really have yet to learn the lessons from the fallen. In modern war we hear stories of collateral damage and loss of assets – actually, these are power stations, schools, hospitals, roads and homes. People’s loss of loved ones – children and parents. 1000s of lives are still being lost as victims of modern warfare. People are making perilous journeys across land and sea to protect their families, to flee from famine and persecution. We no longer speak of terror in the trenches but continue to experience inhumane conditions everywhere. War de-humanises people. What fools we are to make war a computer game for our children and to allow it to be glorified on social media. In remembrance, we commit to making the world a better place. Wars do not start with someone deciding to bomb a country. They start with actions and words. Words are some of the most powerful weapons we have. Words can be used to create conflict, unrest and hate. Or they can be used for good, for creating peace and conciliation. Messages for us all.

The first teaching and learning review this year was also a very different event, relying on work scrutiny and remote learning checks, student voice and parental feedback. There were strengths and areas that need acceleration, not last in the area of feedback that has suffered due to the nature of teacher movement around the site. However, a review can only really dictate the ‘bottom line’. I understand that teaching is a very personal business and so one student might rate you and another might hate you. It is idiosyncratic, subjective and it is all about personalities and getting the best fit. Being effective is elastic but relationship-effects between teachers and students play a huge part However, getting a consensus on what being a good or effective teacher is can be extremely hard and we cannot rely on Ofsted inspectors, what Sarah’s mum says, or the twitterings of social media.

There is no formula, but there are some pointers in the research showing us what traits or approaches are most likely to be effective. The research that is out there on effective teaching tends to mix together what effective teaching looks like and what qualities an effective teacher has. Barak Rosenshine’s (2012) Principles of Instruction have certainly got a lot of attention in recent years .His work largely underpins our Teaching and Learning policy. He presents 10 research-based principles from cognitive science, studies of master teachers and the research on cognitive support to help students learn complex tasks. His research focused on learning instruction, teacher performance, and achievement. Working with Norma Furst, he identified five characteristics of teacher behaviour which have served as a framework for research on teacher performance. These are: clarity of exposition, enthusiasm, task orientation, varied approaches, and opportunities to learn. The 10 principles are all based around the model of explicit instruction:

  1. Begin a lesson with a short review of previous learning.
  2. Present new material in small steps with student practice after each step.
  3. Ask a large number of questions and check the responses of all students.
  4. Provide models.
  5. Guide students’ practice.
  6. Check for student understanding.
  7. Obtain a high success rate.
  8. Provide scaffolds for difficult tasks.
  9. Require and monitor independent practice.
  10. Engage students in weekly and monthly review.

A 2014 Sutton Trust report, ‘What makes great teaching? (Coe et al, 2014) identifies six common components that constitute good quality teaching. In order of effectiveness, they are:

  1. Pedagogical content knowledge – teachers who have a deep knowledge of their subject (strong evidence of impact on outcomes).
  2. Quality of instruction – effective teaching and assessment methods (strong evidence of impact).
  3. Classroom climate – creating a classroom that encourages students to recognise their self-worth (little evidence of impact).
  4. Classroom management – a teacher’s ability to make use of lesson time and resources (moderate evidence of impact. Resources have the least impact).
  5. Teacher beliefs – why teachers adopt particular practices and the purposes they aim for (some evidence of impact).
  6. Professional behaviours – how teachers reflect on their own development, supporting colleagues, and engaging with parents (some evidence of impact).

When you compare the two reports, it is clear why we focus on cognitive tools rather than behaviourist approaches that pay scant attention to the constructivist nature of learning.

The feedback from the teaching and learning review is ready to be shared in Faculties As in all things, the greatest joy in our work will be achieved not through indulging each other or colluding in excuses and self- pity but through seeking to succeed at the highest level. Tim Brighouse calls us to adopt an attitude of unwarranted optimism. Now is the time to review this approach.

Principal’s Round-up – 23rd October 2020

Well, we made it to half term! We have laughed, cried and held each other up over the last 7 weeks. I have to start with some endings, and that is never easy. Yesterday we had our final ceremony for George Mudge with the planting of his apple tree in the orchard. We have a bench arriving soon and anyone who wants to reflect upon the lessons George taught us can now spend some time doing just that, looking at his favourite view. One of those lessons was the need to be more compassionate in this busy world we inhabit. The care shown to George has been a measure of the man…. I hope that we can all remember to show that to the living. Writing our thoughts in a book of condolence is important. How often do we say those words to the people around us when they are still with us?

As we approach half term, there are some sad and some exciting events taking place. Today we are saying goodbye to a much loved colleague, Sylvia Preece. There is a tribute to her on the next page. Sylvia asked for as little fuss as possible, but 24 years is a long time to serve a school and she deserves a few words at the very least! Sylv has been a remarkable colleague and we will miss her greatly. Victoria Bartlett is leaving us for a short while as she starts her maternity leave. We are sending her off with our very best wishes and look forward to seeing her again soon. There are two long-awaited weddings taking place in the holiday: Hannah Holbourn and Niall Murphy are getting married …but not to each other. Congratulations to both of them.

Working in schools is hard. Sometimes it is very hard. At the moment it is extremely hard. For schools with significant numbers of disadvantaged students (we have 36% of our school community) it is harder still. Occasionally working in schools with its constant and biased media criticism and ill thought-out political interference, it can feel like a battle against all odds. But it’s a battle worth having. And we have done exceptionally well this half term. Teachers, Assistant Teachers and all other staff are the ones who cannot give up: they are the ones who that must pick up the pieces when everyone else has gone. When the budgets of support services are cut, forcing them to retreat, schools are still there. Because they have to be. Even when school budgets are slashed, those that work in schools will not withdraw. Instead we shoulder the burden. To let children down is simply not an option.

We provide the vital calm in society’s storm. Intolerant views and ‘hard line’ doctrines abound at the moment in the public discourse over our work for Black History Month has been felt recently in school. Stridency seems to be in vogue politically, and this filters down through families and in the community. Compromise, subtlety and ambiguity are perceived as weak. Battle lines are being drawn, even in education, between ‘hard’ choices.(‘grammar schools are the only solution to mediocrity’ versus ‘grammar schools represent the return to a totally divided and elitist past’). Ann Mroz describes how, in whichever ‘side’ you are on in these societal hard choices, you are encouraged to ‘gaze in horror; feel the fury; feel the righteousness. It becomes good to know your arguments are not only evidentially right but also morally superior’.

But moral superiority does not entertain doubt. Without doubt, there is reluctant change and precious little improvement. Moral superiority does not seek answers to questions it hasn’t asked. This is all part of our newly intolerant age, and it will not help us mend the holes in our arguments and imperfections. It is against this intolerance we must now rage. The very thing we have worked so hard with young people to put right. We will fail to help them create a better world if we do not encourage them to embrace other peoples’ points of view. And we must do the same. Responses to parental criticism should not be defensive and conversations about impact in teaching rather than efforts made should not be dismissed. Sometimes workload can be reduced by embracing change. Student voice is not to be feared – it is a valuable developmental tool. This week, for example, my student voice group told me how much they value the relationships that they have with staff but that some teachers are slow to respond to disruptive behaviour and that they needed to be stricter over some issues. The two stances are not ‘hard’ opposites of each other – there is some middle ground.

Let us then pursue debate. Let us encourage discussion and opportunities to create. Let us shun the intolerant and closed minded approaches, and reach out to finding middle ground solutions by examining all the evidence. Let us celebrate the compromises that enable everyone to benefit. This is how we will grow as a school, and how we will regain the energy to cope with extremely challenging times in schools.

I hope that you all find the time to rest over half term. We certainly need to recharge our batteries.

Sarah

Principal’s Round-up – 25th September 2020

It is with great sadness that I announce the passing of our dearly loved colleague George Mudge. George joined Tavistock College around 30 years ago as a ‘county cleaner’. He very quickly became part of the Tavistock family and was quite a character. There is not a member of staff who, today as we come to terms with our loss, has not got a funny ‘George’ tale to tell. It was only two days ago that he was helping me rescue a bird trapped in the Refectory. This was done in his own unique style, and using his own inimitable language!

As a caretaker, George got to know everyone. Colleagues have said over and over that they ‘only spoke to him yesterday’. That was George – going about his work in a productive and friendly way. It is utterly heart breaking to think that we will never again see his cleaning trolley rumbling along, or hear his broad Devonshire accent resonating through the corridors.

Despite his hard life spent caring for his parents and more latterly his sister at home, George never forgot to be kind. There is a lesson in this for all of us. Never demonstrative and never egotistical, George would help with anything you asked of him and he was so incredibly compassionate with our children who struggle, particularly physically.

Linda Coe was his closest colleague. She told me this morning “I only had to ask George once for something and he would do it. He always had a smile on his face and time for everybody. He was a dear colleague who was so supportive of me. I do not know what I will do without him. He was my mainstay.” She added “ Who is going to go and collect the dead rats on site now….and throw them at me!” That was George. She went on to describe his love of nature and his turkey farming. He was certainly a country boy at heart. Maybe that’s why we would lose him in the run up to Christmas? The least said about that the better.

George was very proud of his work. He loved his job and he loved Tavistock College. We loved him. To lose a man like that at only 57, has rocked this school today. Simply, George was our friend. The condolences have rolled in from Governors, ex-colleagues and others. We appreciate them all. His passing is not only a loss to the school but also a loss to the world .We cannot support each other in the way we normally would, but we can still remind ourselves that we are not alone, even in our most difficult times and most challenging days. Whilst many of you have seen it before, I would like to share this.

The man doesn’t know that there is a snake underneath. The woman doesn’t know that there is a stone crushing the man. The woman thinks: “I am going to fall! And I can’t climb because the snake is going to bite me! Why can’t the man use a little more strength and pull me up!” The man thinks: “I am in so much pain! Yet I’m still pulling you as much as I can! Why don’t you try and climb a little harder?”

The moral is— you can’t see the pressure the other person is under, and the other person can’t see the pain you’re in. This is life. We should try to understand each other. Learn to think differently, perhaps more clearly and communicate better. A little thought and patience goes a long way.

We are all pushing hard for success. George’s passing reminds us that empathy, kindness and compassion must also be part of our  journey together.

Support Staff Vacancy – Teaching Assistant

Opportunities for 4 enthusiastic, committed individuals to work as Teaching Assistants in our thriving SEN department.

This role is varied and we are looking for adaptable, flexible and resourceful individuals who are able to cope in a high-pressure environment and deal with constantly changing priorities, whilst keeping the needs of our students at the forefront of everything on a daily basis.

The purpose of the job is to work under the direct instruction of teaching/senior staff, usually in the classroom with the teacher, to support access to learning for students and provide general support to the teacher in the learning and progress of students in the classroom. Work might occasionally take place outside the main teaching area and may involve intervention and mentoring type activities.

 

Tavistock College can offer you:

• a supportive professional development programme offering high quality training

• a co-operative inclusive academy ethos with high expectations for all students and staff

• a professionally stimulating and supportive working environment

 

You will be:

• a motivating and inspiring role model demonstrating high expectations for all of our students to achieve their potential

• passionate and committed to improve the lives of young people

Safeguarding Statement:

Tavistock College is committed to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of young people and expects all staff and volunteers to share this commitment. We particularly welcome applications from under represented groups including ethnicity, gender, transgender, age, disability, sexual orientation or religion.

Support Staff Vacancy – Part time cleaner x 2 posts

• Start date: as soon as possible
• Job term: Permanent
• Location: Tavistock College
• Salary: Grade A £9.25 per hour
• Hours: 10 hours per week, 41 weeks per annum
• Work Pattern: 15:15 – 17:15 Monday – Friday
• Closing Date: Friday 25th September 2020 @ 9am
• Interview Date: w/c 28th September 2020

Tavistock College is part of The Dartmoor Multi Academy Trust (DMAT), a MAT consisting of 3 secondary and 13 primary schools. As a college we actively promote the values and principles of the International Co-operative Alliance.
We are looking for enthusiastic, organised, trustworthy and self-motivated individuals to provide cleaning in Tavistock College.

All schools in The Dartmoor Multi Academy Trust are committed to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children and young people, and expect all staff and volunteers to share this commitment.

The successful candidate will be required to undertake an Enhanced Disclosure via the Disclosure Barring Service (DBS) and expects all staff and volunteers to share this commitment.

For further details please visit our website
www.tavistockcollege.org or
call 01822 813282 between 9am – 2pm Monday to Friday to request collection of an application pack

Please return your completed application to recruitment@tavistockcollege.org