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Principal’s Round-up

Principal’s Round-up – 22nd June 2018

Posted: 22 June 2018

As we draw closer to the end of term, the work keeps on coming. So do the success stories. We have made some excellent appointments recently and I know that this will make a really exciting start to the new term with all the new energy and experience these people bring. We look forward to meeting new starters on the induction day (16th July). This week, I am writing very little. Instead I have given over the Round-up section to Tristan who writes about the importance of  understanding the importance of Emotional Intelligence in school. What follows is his account.

Reading, more specifically ‘reading to learn’, is something that I have grown to love over the years, especially since coming into my new role less than 3 years ago. A topic I am naturally drawn to is understanding the relationships that we build with, around and through our interactions with students and their families. There are numerous references made about individuals who are able to communicate effectively with different people at different times and in different guises that can be wrapped up like the proverbial Christmas hamper, using the phrase ‘Emotional intelligence’.

‘Ah’ I hear you say ‘that phrase again, I remember some CPD in that in 2002 and 2007 and 2014 etc…’ Yes that phrase, however it’s not until you take a step back and a view of varying different situations that you may have been faced with either in person or through conversations in the staff room, that you actually realise how vital ‘that phrase’ is and how much it could change your view of, well, pretty much everything.

For the purpose of ease, I will use Knight’s definition of emotional intelligence as a springboard for discussion. ‘Emotional intelligence is the ability to be aware of, control and express emotions to navigate through interpersonal relationships, thoughtfully and with empathy’ (2016)

For us working daily in school these relationships could be;
• Staff – Parent
• Staff – Student
• Staff – Staff

But of course we must also be aware of the other interpersonal relationships that will undoubtedly have an effect on our daily work;
• Parent – Student
• Student – Student

None of these examples of relationships are simple, in fact their complexities change daily if not hourly in most cases! Hence the need for empathy that can only, through definition develop through
experience. The differing roles that we play out in our routines with young people on a daily basis, cover everything, from teaching of course, the profession we all studied so hard for, to social worker and everything in between.

This all starts each day with tutoring. Julie Greener has recently composed a fantastic summary in her recent Masters dissertation to outline the vital importance of tutoring and emotional intelligence.
‘I think it is not necessarily, or only, what is done during tutor time, but the way in which the tutor carries out these activities. The way they speak to, support and develop relationships with the students and between the students is also important. Tutors are responsible for the atmosphere that in engendered, promoting attitudes and robust ways of coping with the school day’ (2017)

It would be naive however, to think that students only need this in tutor time and in fact in every interaction they have in any given day, they need someone to engender these positive and fostering attitudes. This is where Julie’s words link in so many ways to the emotional intelligence that is required every interaction with every student not simply in tutor time or indeed just once a lesson. There needs to be a clear thought process of how we deliver words, phrases, or indeed various examples of nonverbal communication and how this delivery must meet the needs of the audience, their particular needs, abilities, physically or emotionally to deal with any specific task or set of instructions that we give them.

Let’s take a moment to consider the term intelligence. The Oxford English dictionary defines intelligence as ‘your ability to comprehend something, like calculus or the reason plants grow towards the sun’

I think that we would all agree that if we can understand, measure and even grade intelligence (something we try to do, to all of our students in every subject), we can also agree that certain individuals in certain situations can be stupid, ‘a poor ability to understand or to profit from experience’ (dictionary definition). Therefore through definition we must be able, all of us, at times to be emotionally stupid. Claxon summarised this by giving some interesting examples ‘stupidity is trying to investigate something that is trying to eat you, dithering as your object of desire slips away, or getting angry with the one you love. Sometimes the situation is ambiguous, and we just make the wrong bet. Sometimes however, we misread a situation, engage the wrong emotional ‘mode’ and make matters worse.’ (2005) I’m certain that everyone reading this is familiar with that concept, that kind of emotional stupidity, both at home and at school. This is of course emphasised when we are tired, stressed or of course both!

I refer to this as falling off the proverbial cliff, a point of no return, a point at which you have lost control (or never gained control in the first place) over a set of emotions directed or not to an individual or indeed group. It’s incredibly hard to keep all of these emotionally driven control factors in check and decide on the correct mode for each situation and I myself have found many times over the last 14 years spent at the college that I have fallen foul of being emotionally stupid and spectacularly fallen of that cliff, often having to back pedal, repair and reconstruct relationships with young people as well as staff.

A more philosophical viewpoint from Aristotle states ‘Anyone can become angry – that is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way – that is not easy.’ in other words it’s easy to be emotionally stupid, but to learn from those incidents shows a level of emotional intelligence.

By no means do I want us to be scared of doing anything wrong, by this way of looking at emotional intelligence, just to open your mind to the way that we are in different situations and the impact that this has on both our own and students emotional well-being, as well as an understanding that to not learn from these situations lead us towards emotional stupidity, but to learn, adapt and change our approach to situations shows a move towards greater emotional intelligence.

It is only then, once we have decided to shift towards that emotional intelligence that we can start to talk to students about the same thing. So, why do we need to think about this now more than ever? In society we have lost sight of the differences between being wise (intelligence), logical (practically intelligent) and clever (a mixture of the two) no more so than in education (Claxton, 2005). We need to present the idea to all who work and learn in schools that emotional intelligence is an essential life skill, one that can help navigate your way through life, its challenges and its situations, both day to day or specific, traumatic problems. We also need to be aware that there will be more and more of those traumatic problems for young people now than when we were in school. Figures from the NSPCC state in an average class of 30;
• 10 students will be from a separated home
• 1 will have experienced the death of a parent
• 9 would have been bullied in the last 12 months
• 5 will have emotional or behavioural difficulties
• 6 will have a mental health disorder

It would therefore be impossible for all members of staff to know which students are which and how their specific needs can be met in every class that they teach. However, we have to ensure that the college is a safe place for students, with levels of consistency, routine and boundaries to ensure that they feel safe and secure. The best way in which students feel safe and secure is where they have a connection with their teachers, a connection that allows an appropriate relationship to develop, where both parties can benefit from that daily reassurance that comes from an experience where students are more than just names and targets on a register and teachers are more than those inflatable characters that appear in classrooms at 8am regurgitate assumed knowledge and deflate again at 5pm. It is my aim to look further into the research and class based practice of emotional intelligence and to discuss this further within CPD time next year, so if this has left you thinking it will be my pleasure to discuss this with you then.

I hope you have a super weekend, and hope to see many of you at the dog show that has been organised by Y10 students. Let’s hope the weather is kind.

Principal’s Round-up – 8th June 2018

Posted: 8 June 2018

As we approach the end of the year, with most appointments done and a budget that is just about hanging in there by the skin of its teeth, I reflect again on the unfairness in the system and the impact of the swinging cuts that we have had to absorb. This has not just meant larger class sizes, fewer courses, a reduction in staff and stretched resources. We are not able to provide the quality of provision for children that used to be considered their right. The right to a good education.

Nationally, creativity is being squeezed out of the system and subjects like the Arts and PE, proudly at the heart of education for many generations, are now fighting for survival. This is so wrong for young people. As an Art candidate reminded me at interview recently, 60% of jobs require some kind of creativity. If that is not encouraged in school, where will it be encouraged? She also quoted Picasso, saying “art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life”. At Tavistock College we are doing what we can to retain that soul to protect the kind of broad, principled curriculum that the next generation of young people should experience.

We need to make voters and politicians more sharply aware of the devastating effect the funding crisis is now having. After all, parents are voters and they, rightly, believe their children should be entitled to the same quality of teaching, curriculum and pastoral care that we have successfully delivered for generations in schools.

In assembly next week I will be using the themes of ‘work hard; be nice’ and linking these to our values. Included in this is the need to show sensitivity to everyone, as we never know what people are going through or undertaking in their lives. Not everyone wants to be in the spotlight. In preparation, and in recognition of the 100 year anniversary of some women gaining the right to vote, I remember my grandmother who, born in 1895, became a suffragette in 1913; a fully paid up member of the Women’s Social and Political Union. As a family we only discovered this after her death in 1987. The slogan of the WSPU was ‘deeds not words’. Many of our students and staff understand this. I have lost track of the charity events organised this term: golf to raise money for Meningitis UK, the dog show to raise money for the prom and Gables Cats and Dogs home, a mufti day on the last day of term to raise money for mental health charities… and the list goes on. Deeds, not words.

I often mention in morning briefing that we have had positive and affirming feedback from parents and visitors. This has continued during the week with wonderful emails coming in from happy parents, anxious to convey their thanks to one teacher or another for going the ‘extra mile’ for their child. So, how do we get this level of commitment to succeed? Our most valued teachers, tutors and support staff at Tavistock do not blame students for a lack of enthusiasm, instead they have that knack of making students and their families feel valued. In and around the college great teachers have the habit of making sure they acknowledge and notice children. They use praise wisely and authentically. Students, or their parents, often go out of their way to thank me for having staff that believed in them. They tell me that what stands out, is that they really took the time to get to know them as an individual. Of course, they also appreciate these teachers for setting boundaries and for setting high standards.

Our best teachers at Tavistock somehow convey through word and deed that they really understand the emotional pressure children are under. They understand teenagers as well as their subject. They help children to see opportunities and show them how to contribute to their community. Through a love of their subject, great teachers convince children to take their studies seriously and for ensuring that a love of the subject is not only about passing an exam. They treat students as more than just a number. And yet in these classes, guess what – students do really well in public examinations, and this matters too. Great teachers give effective feedback. Those written comments, sticky notes, that word in the ear, that hint to the group, those annoyingly difficult questions just when they thought they’d got it…the written notes, test results, retest after retest, patience, cajoling and constant encouragement……

Tavistock teachers show children that they genuinely care about them. They take relationships seriously. They understand that relationships take time, effort and care. Relationships are messy, but the best are built on love, respect and trust. When times are tough they persevere. How do our teachers get to know each and every child as more than just a number, more than just a target grade? They talk to students and they listen. Simple. Within their lessons they always seem to have time for each table, for each child. They acknowledge their charges in corridors, on the sports field, in the refectory. They make the effort to go to watch them perform in assemblies, shows, exhibitions, competitions. They always seem to be able to convince children to try new things and push themselves. This gives children the courage to succeed. NEVER underestimate the impact that you have or how much you are valued by the students.

Have a lovely weekend

Principal’s Round-up – 18th May 2018

Posted: 18 May 2018

‘There is no doubt that schools and teachers are fighting chronic national negativity, [policies that create] short termism and a tendency to put ideology above evidence.’
I wish I had said that, but this comes from Paul Drechsler head of the CBI. Never did it resonate more than after the announcement by Damian Hinds last week confirming the decision to allow existing grammar schools to expand through a new £50m fund, including the potential to open ‘satellite’ sites. Tom Middlehurst from SSAT wrote this week, ‘whatever your views on grammars, the announcement on 5th May by Damian Hinds is a slap in the face to most schools’.

Tom Middlehurst continues ‘for a secretary of state who claims to want to listen to the profession, he has failed to do so. For a department who want their schools to be increasingly evidence-based, we have a lack of evidence-based policy thinking. For ministers who value a knowledge-rich curriculum for all, we have an unavoidable dichotomy. Above all, although £50m may not be a huge amount in the grand scheme of things, all schools deserve a cut of this (and more besides), not just a chosen few.’
£50m is not a lot of money in education. But the fact that ministers have decided to focus on the 163 grammar schools in England, at a time when, every other type of school is being forced to reduce their budgets is genuinely insulting to the sector. It’s frankly wrong and it makes me very angry indeed. However, as in all things, it is sensible not to respond in anger, but to find ways to continue to improve the school for the benefit of colleagues, students and for the community.

A little while ago I read a discussion about sustaining change. This was related to leadership style, and specifically the pitfalls of competitive leadership. On the one hand, some say a competitive leadership style and the winning culture is important. On the other, some say that “winning” is a destructive force … especially when leading change. Perhaps, instead, we need co-operative leadership, especially in education. But what does this mean? John Shultz tells us that change should be driven by intrinsic motivators, those things that ‘tug at people’s sense of equity and feelings of service or accomplishment’. I believe that competition and co-operation can work when used together to achieve the right outcome … for the right reason.

In education, winning is potentially destructive. When we think of competition it’s usually a win-lose situation. Competition implies that someone else fails … this isn’t good for relationships. Relationships are crucial when leading change. What’s more, winning seeks compliance. It relies on the manager to persuade, cajole or demand people into accepting a vision for change. Sooner or later this approach fails. In most situations, co-operation is needed, where people work together for mutual benefit to achieve a shared business objective. Basically, success is not achieved by overcoming others but by encouraging co-operation.

Change ultimately should lead to the creation of a service that not only meets, but exceeds customer expectations. As we learn from John Kotter and Dan Cohen in their book ‘The Heart of Change’, employees can readily identify with delighted customers because they want and expect reliable outcomes and attentive services for themselves. In addition, people feel a sense of achievement and often generosity toward others because of association and the will to work together for the benefit of both the organisation and the customer. This is co-operation. Co-operation always works: it is neither soft nor weak. Rather, co-operation is about working with people to get things done. To get results quickly. Co-operation propels the organisation forward. Co-operation succeeds where competition fails because it is positive, tough, forgiving, and clear.

1. Positive
The successful change leader knows the benefits of co-operation and forming alliances. They also know why relationships are important when leading transformational change. A co-operative leadership style is appreciative, positive, confident and flexible. This means the change leader fully appreciates what people are saying and has sufficient self-esteem to hear critical feedback. As such, they are flexible and open in their approach, and are equally happy to follow as to lead.
2. Tough
The co-operative leadership style uses the tit-for-tat strategy. This was first described by political strategist Robert Axelrod in the 1980s. While the goal is always to co-operate, the co-operative leader does need to be tough at times. So, if someone is unco-operative the response is competitive … unco-operative behaviour is punished by capitalising on their mistake. And, when unco-operative behaviour ceases a return to co-operation follows.
3. Forgiving
The co-operative leader knows when it is necessary to smooth over awkward or rough patches to get back to business. They are confident, compassionate, and fair. They portray themselves with honesty and integrity, and have the confidence to share their feelings and to protect the feelings of others. Above all, they can move on and move the team forward. Their example motivates and builds confidence. Progress is made.
4. Clear
The best outcome for organisations and customers is co-operation. Co-operation gets results … quickly. People know what needs to be done because the co-operative leader is clear about the task and so are others. The co-operative change leader knows how to communicate the vision, but also knows how to encourage and listen to divergent points of view. Co-operative leadership isn’t about working together in harmony, it is about finding the best path to a solution. This is achieved when employees have a say in what happens.

Winning is for the athletics field. Serving customers is the job of a successful educational organisation. Talking of which, we have had some outstanding successes in athletics recently. Following on from success at the Plymouth and West Devon championship hosted at the college on Thursday, our athletes performed again on Tuesday at the Super 8 championships at Brickfields.

Shaun reports that the whole team were outstanding, but some notable performances include –
Tyler Hunt (Year 9) – 1st in hurdles and 2nd in shot.
Dan Luckham – 2nd in 1500 metres – running half with one shoe!!!!
Will White – 1st in 800m – running 2:23.
Will Russell – 1st in 1500m – running 4:51
Emily Frost had success at the Devon county finals on Sunday finishing 3rd in the 100m Under 17s women’s competition with a personal best time of 13:24 and 2nd in the long jump with a PB of 5:24m.

We are now in the final countdown to 25th May and the introduction of the new GDPR regulations. Please read the MAT Data Protection policy when arrives, and the new privacy notices. These are in place to protect you, even if they feel a little restrictive. Any changes we introduce are in place to guard against a data breach and will be built upon best practice. All school documents must be stored in Drive and memory sticks and hard drives of any kind will not be permitted. If you have a business case for using an external hard drive it must be made in writing to me and if accepted you will have a device encrypted by the IT team. Other measures in place are now the automatic locking if your computer (although you must still do this if you leave your station unattended) and the need to make all class plans electronic and stored in Drive.

Finally I’d like to say well done to Jenny Harris and Wendy Stephens who secured promotion into internal posts as Associate SENDCo and Head of Year respectively. They were both in a strong field, and as ever, I am delighted that colleagues take internal opportunities when they arise to continue the work we have started.

Have a lovely weekend