Principal’s Round-up – 22nd September 2017

Tristan and I have been happily visiting many of our feeder primary schools over the last two weeks, and we still have some visits left to make. Attending parents’ meetings at these schools provide chances for us to talk about Tavistock College, the opportunities we provide and the high standards we expect. This was replicated at the Open Evening yesterday where I received some excellent feedback from parents and children about the college. Tiring to undertake in the middle of the week, but absolutely essential we get a chance to shine to attract the next generation of students. Thank you to everyone for making it a success. One parent admitted that the expectations seem much more challenging now. She was right, they are. We have to continue to ratchet up expectations like never before to hold our head above the water in the tough new accountability regime and to be successful.

Last time I wrote about the foundations of this future success being built upon the values and principles of the International Co-operative Alliance. I truly believe this to be the case. Strengthening Staff Voice is part of that process, and I was glad to have feedback from this week’s meeting from Tristan. The format we used will be similar each time, and ideas that affect day to day practice will be discussed. It means colleagues will have a greater say in the running of the school where appropriate. Feedback from this week’s meeting means that the changes we were proposing to improve afternoon lessons will not be adopted at this time, and alternative solutions to any problems over-spilling from the day into period 5 will be found. I am pleased that we can work this way to find mutually acceptable outcomes. CIT meetings provide another forum for staff voice through CPD. It is a self-development model that enables us to diagnose and improve from a position of mutual support. In the same vein, the formal process of the MAT consultation is now underway. Any comments can be made at or questions can be asked at the meeting planned for 5th October when members of the Governing Body will be available.

There is certainly a correlation, and possibly a causal link, between challenging pedagogical approaches and student engagement, regardless of the time of day the lesson takes place. However, this does not mean that all learning must be fun. Learning does not have to be fun. This is not a controversial statement. Fun, as Jarlath O’Brien maintains, is a desirable by-product of learning but not something that teachers should specifically aim for in the planning of a lesson. ‘How can I make this fun?’ is a question we should never ask ourselves when conceiving schemes of learning. Instead we should be considering how to make it satisfying and rewarding by extending the level of challenge. I bring this up as it has recently been posited that children with poor behaviour should have lessons that are ‘more fun’. This indicates that the underlying reasons for behavioural problems is simply boredom and it is the teacher’s job to entertain rather than teach. This removes all responsibility for learning from the student and results in a poor work ethic across the curriculum. It is stretch and challenge we must look for if boredom is genuinely an issue, not ‘fun’. However, a classroom must also be a safe environment where a student knows that if they do struggle with their learning they will be met with unstinting support. If children convince themselves that getting something wrong, needing help or failing to understand something will be met with a withering look or some kind of sanction will be applied, we will also promote poor behaviour. Put simply, it is achievement, success and progress that drives a student’s motivation, not the other way round. There are some articles pertinent to this idea for you to read in this week’s edition.

Have a good weekend.