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Principal’s Round-up

Principal’s Round-up – 24th March 2017

Posted: 4 April 2017

“Don’t you just love the use (abuse) of statistics? Now the Government is trying to tell us that they are spending more than ever on schools! The trouble is they are assuming we don’t understand that, because of inflation, a higher cash sum does not mean schools are better off. And schools have more students in them because the population is growing. They also fail to point out that a huge amount of money goes to a relatively small number of free schools, often in areas where they are not needed, meaning other schools lose out. Come to think of it, that also explains another statistic given out by the DfE – that class sizes have got smaller. That might be because free schools have struggled to recruit, but, because of the inequalities in funding, can still afford to hire teachers.” These are the words of Mike Rath, and I fully support all he writes on this topic.

In completing the Teaching and Learning review reports this week I was able to reflect on improvements in pedagogy and assessment that are having the greatest impact, and those that we still need to work on. Class-plans targeting strategies for each half term for students with SEND, LAs and disadvantaged students are having a great impact on engagement, and this will show in progress over time as we assess students’ performance. SOLO is being interpreted through the use of Thinking Maps (not mind-maps!) and through reflection sheets. This is still experimental, but both Social Studies and Humanities can demonstrate the impact of these approaches on providing ever greater challenge which is essential in light of the new curriculum at KS4. Confidence and resilience is improving through independent learning approaches that are almost universal now in the form of end-point-tasks and ‘big questions’.

Of course it is relatively easy for me to review these approaches and to compliment practitioners on their work. Most of the best practice that I see has not been developed through compliance, but through sheer hard work and determination to create something functional and valuable for student progress. In the constant drive to improve standards and develop excellence, we must not lose sight of two important factors. One is the need to manage teachers’ workload, and the other is to help students remain confident and resilient in the face of unknown examination pressures, and their own work load.

With respect to student confidence, we need to balance the necessity of grinding out results with their ability to cope. Enrichment and extra-curricular participation is fundamental to building resilience, inter-dependence and a sense of success. In mapping this recently we have found that students who are doing well and who are not disadvantaged participate more than CiC and disadvantaged students. This is why the provision at Tavistock College has evolved, and a more utilitarian approach taken. The research from the Sutton Trust demonstrates that extra-curricular activities are vital for young people if they are to grow and develop into students who cope with examination pressures. Preparing students well for their examinations is vital, and it certainly does not involve throwing more and more teaching time at students. I have included articles this week that will help answer the perpetual questions about ‘how to revise’. I will include more after Easter.

Workload for teachers is the focus of the staff meeting next week. There are three areas that we will be working together on to find our own solutions to: marking and assessment; data entry; planning. Julian Stanley in this week’s SecEd gives 10 suggestions to reduce workload. These are ideas to help you perform and protect yourself. He suggests:
•There will always be more to do than there is time to do it. Prioritise and speak up when work demands are too much. Consider the impact of what you are doing rather than doing more.
•Always take a lunch break.
•Limit checking emails to three times a day and stop checking at a time in the evening that suits your lifestyle.
•Minimise unnecessary meetings and encourage colleagues to do the same. Keep on track with the agenda.
•Audit your time – where it is spent can reveal some surprising time wasters that could easily be tackled.
•Build up a bank of readily available resources that will engage students without an over-reliance on you.
•Do not fall into the trap of over-planning lessons. This does not mean losing quality, but always look to see where you can simplify.
•Reports can mean a heavy workload over a short space of time, particularly if you have multiple classes. Try to plan ahead and ask for input from others if needed. Build a ‘statement bank’ to use as a starting point.
•You may feel over-directed but teachers have more autonomy than they realise, particularly in class. Make your lessons enjoyable for you as well as your students.
•Ignore the ‘stay late’ culture – if you can leave on time and prefer to work at home- do it. If you prefer to work in school and take nothing home, then do that. It is not a competition to see whose car is last in the car park.

I hope you can take this advice, and have some time to yourselves this weekend, whatever your role is in the college. Enjoy it.

Principal’s Round-up – 10th March 2017

Posted: 10 March 2017

The future success of this country depends, as it always has, on our ability to create wealth. We have to reposition ourselves in a world which is increasingly economically inter-dependent. What we have done well historically is to create new ideas. If ever there was a need to re-create this culture of innovation, it is now. Developed countries have limited opportunities to compete on price; they must compete by adding value; by offering new, high-quality products and by learning and responding more quickly than their competitors.

The key to our future success therefore, lies in our ability to develop these skills in our children. Our approach to co-operative education develops a love of life-long learning, social responsibility and team work. We know that training for specific jobs is not enough. Our young people may have to change careers many times in their working lives. They must be adaptable and able to learn new things quickly and efficiently. They will also need to take responsibility for their own learning and performance. Employers know co-operation matters, because many of their staff work in small, self-managing teams where good relationships are paramount. They must be people-people who emphasise easily with others. They will also need to be motivated self-starters with excellent communication skills.

Our students will have to cope with the accelerating rate of change in technology. They must be confident users of information technology with excellent literacy and numeracy skills. Of course, in the future students will have to invent the new products and services that will keep us competitive. They will need to be lateral thinking risk-takers, with the ability to come up with the solution that no one else has considered. Again, such experiences are not always nurtured alone, but in well managed co-operative groups. All the students involved in the Radio Station, Camps International, sporting teams, and the Theatre Royal partnership workshops, give examples of co-operation and creativity at work.

Beyond the workplace, our students will have to develop relationships and raise families in an increasingly changeable and uncertain world. They must be emotionally literate and able to cope with the pressures life will put upon them. Our pastoral system supports such emotional development and I am delighted to see the growing number of assemblies and tutorial sessions being run by students themselves. The interest in the House system has created a greater sense of belonging.

Sadly, some will also have to cope with periods of economic inactivity and possibly long retirement; they will need to have the creative interests and abilities to enrich their lives outside the world of work. Hence, we lay great store by our excellent extra-curricular provision. Extra-curricular activities are worth fighting for in Co-operative schools and are included in activities that educationalists refer to as, the ‘hidden curriculum’. In other words, we develop ‘the whole child’.

The work that our staff undertake supports all of what I have written above, and it is for this reason that I take seriously the agenda of work- life balance. Recently, a pamphlet was published that was endorsed by all the teaching unions, professional associations and the DfE. It asks schools to consider reducing workload by re-assessing what teachers are asked to do in three main areas: marking, planning and data management. We shall be addressing these at the next whole staff meeting in a couple of weeks’ time.
Have a lovely weekend


Principal’s Round-up – 24th February 2017

Posted: 24 February 2017

I hope by now you have all had ample opportunity to read and digest the letter sent by Kevin Wilson regarding the Multi-Academy Trust proposals. If there are any questions regarding the future direction of travel for the college, then Kevin will be happy to answer them, and I am always available if you want to raise any concerns. There is still much work to do to form the Academy Trust and to appoint members and trustees. One of the benefits that I have already started working on is our access as an academy to the EFA’s Condition Improvement Fund. As many of you will be aware, Devon has allowed our building stock to fall into disrepair over the last 20 years, and we hope to accelerate our building refurbishment on conversion. I will continue to update you on all developments and I will be interested in your views as we move forwards to the completion of the MAT.

Whilst most of us embarked on a week’s break at half term, a number of staff were accompanying students on ‘trips of a life-time’ – some in Florida on the sports’ tour, and some in Italy on the ski trip. You will be able to read about some of their exploits in future publications and on our website, but suffice to say here that everyone had a wonderful time. Extra- curricular trips and activities provide chances for students to form life-long allegiances and memories that sustain them in more challenging times. Thank you to all staff who organised and participated in both overseas trips. The sense of solidarity and social responsibility can be brought alive for young people who take part in more localised extra-curricular teams and activities. This was affirmed for me watching the Y7 girls’ football team come running in from the field to tell me they had won their match and are now in the county cup round. Some of these girls struggle a little with social interactions, and I was delighted to see the excitement on their faces in their haste to tell me about their win. I was able to go and watch some other students in action in the holiday. Three of the college show jumping teams were out in action, and I saw them ride to victory at Tall Trees Equestrian Centre. Competitive sport is so important for young people. It’s where they learn what it takes to be a winner- and how to deal with failure. It is where they learn just how hard they have to work to be successful.

Sue Madgwick carried out a review of our work with disadvantaged students in diminishing the difference in their performance compared to other students nationally. She gave us some good feedback, and, whilst there are still discrepancies between the performance in some faculties compared to others, she was able to affirm that the work we have undertaken is making a difference. We must now all support each other to ensure that gaps between faculties do not get wider.

Thank you all for your hard work this week, and I hope you have a lovely weekend.


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