As I write this I am still thinking about the two late evenings this week, and reflecting on their success. The options evening for Y8 was very well attended and I was delighted with the positive attitude of parents and students to their option choices. The new organisation of the ‘market place’ was much more valuable for the students, and parents had the opportunity to engage in their choices. Each Y8 student will now receive an individual appointment to finalise choices. Last night we hosted the wonderful Sports Personality of the Year celebration, I was delighted to see Luke Cressey announced as Tavistock College’s Sports Personality of the Year 2017. I was so impressed not only with the organisation, professionalism and talent at the event, but by the way the students supported each other. As I have said before, I am as excited and motivated as any other school leader by fantastic examination results because these open doors for young people. But it is events like SPOTY where staff, students and parents come together to celebrate other kinds of success, effort and performance that makes me proud of Tavistock College. The lasting memories that are created by events like these and by the previous hard work and dedication to sport, performing arts or any other endeavour, will last a life time. I am so grateful to all staff who give up time to run extra-curricular activities, work with students on a personal level, and organise trips and events.
I have recently been examining the current ‘working level’ data for KS4 students. Whilst the data itself does not reveal much, it is on the patterns across micro-cohorts and year groups that our discussions should centre. Having completed the first Teaching and Learning review this year, patterns are emerging. It is evident that whilst some improvements have been made, we are still working hard to ensure disadvantaged students make the same progress as other students. In all lessons it is important that we do not confuse eligibility for FSM, or a generic ‘SEND’ diagnosis, with low ability. We must understand the importance of ensuring that day-to-day teaching meets the needs of each learner rather than relying on interventions that take place outside the classroom. Our intervention strategy comes alive in the classroom. This is what we mean by Quality First Teaching. It is an expectation that all teachers know and value every student they teach and cater for their needs in their entirety. This support takes place from the moment a student joins our community and our students should be tracked and monitored throughout their school career by their tutor and teachers to check whether progress is being made and to ascertain whether our interventions are working. This data is used to help us make adjustments where needed, to ensure that all students receive the support they need, to achieve their potential and enjoy their school experience.
A valuable tool to accelerate progress is the class plan which should be reviewed frequently, and certainly every half term. When making decisions about using the class plan it is important to consider the context of the subject and subsequent challenges that students face. This is now being done well for SEND students. There are more generic comments made for disadvantaged students, especially those who are high achieving disadvantaged students. Common progress barriers for our disadvantaged students can be:
• Lack of support from home
• Weak language and communication skills
• More frequent behaviour difficulties through poor regulation strategies
• Low aspirations
• Attendance and punctuality issues.
• Greater social or economic barriers resulting in poor extra-curricular participation.
There may also be complex family situations that prevent students from making sustained progress. Our key objective in using Pupil Premium Funding is to narrow the gap for vulnerable groups. Through targeted and focused lesson planning we are working to eliminate barriers to learning and ensure progress for our students. We must all have a clear vision for narrowing the gap and as a school we reflect on what elements have had the greatest impact in the previous academic year and make changes where necessary, to better support our students. Impact is measured through our rigorous tracking and monitoring of data through weekly RAM meetings. Additionally, alongside Teaching and Learning Reviews, Heads of Faculty should be undertaking regular learning walks and work scrutiny to monitor students’ experience and academic journeys, ensuring our work has the desired impact.