Principal’s Round-up – 8th September 2017

Welcome back! This term we welcome new staff to Tavistock College: James Stroud (Team Leader Science), Helen Orbidans (Science), Paul Reynolds (Science), Hannah Owen (Geography), Roger Leaver (Music), Lee Mills (Cover Supervisor), Rhea Gayle (TA), Abigail Hawkins (TA), Nicola Washer (TA).

The return to school after the summer break has been a relatively smooth one, with many of the battles previously fought over 6th form punctuality and the annual uniform confrontations very much subdued. I have been delighted with the very enthusiastic new Y7 and Y12 students’ attitude and look forward to working with everyone to maintain this standard. We are able to start this year celebrating the many successes that Y11 and Y13 achieved. There is no comparison to use for Progress 8 measures and these cannot be calculated accurately until we have the national data, but the non-commutable Basics measure sits at 72% which is way above the national average, and we were delighted to discover that 10 students gained a grade 9 in English which is remarkable when compared to similar schools. Our results in Y11 were above national average in the percentage of students achieving A*/A and A*-C (with some in both) for many subjects including History, Art, Photography, English, Business Studies, Japanese, Resistant Materials and Construction. This pattern is replicated in Y13 with Art, Photography, Computing, History, English Language, Business Studies, Psychology, Sport and EPQ performing above the national average. Our value-added measure for KS5 was significantly positive in both academic and vocational courses for the first time in many years. This resulted in the majority of students gaining places in their first choice universities. There are too many students to mention individually, but the Tavistock Times ran some lovely stories that I have included in this week’s Fortnightly Focus.

That is not all. We also start the year having accelerated the performance of students who were low achievers on entry to the college. This was the result of a rigorous and deliberate policy of focused support and methodology surrounding class plans and associated pedagogy. We must now turn our attention to accelerating the more able students and we will do this through planned CPD and by raising the level of challenge in class. The SOLO taxonomies will be essential if we are going to bring about a consistent approach. Targets for all students must be taken seriously. These are not ‘aspirational’ they are real. We must also diminish the gap in performance with SEND and ‘disadvantaged’ students.

The impact of the rigorous disciplinary policy has shown good impact, and recruitment has been good. We are fully staffed with subject specialists and are training seven colleagues on the School Direct programme: Alexi Mariaire
(MFL), Astrid Fischer (Science), Kieran Davies (Computing), Liam Ring (Geography), Kate Baker (Maths), Niall Murphy (PE), Kate Wyatt (Art). Our numbers are up significantly with over 255 new starters across all year groups in the main school, resulting in some busy times in the Refectory!

As we embark upon the work this year we need to keep in mind just how many changes colleagues are facing that we must embrace. The key ones are:
• Comparable outcomes for examinations
• Point scores have changed and are not comparable
• Weighted grading on P8 (and A8)
• Entries of EBACC versus outcomes
• 9-1 grading-phased in
• Grade 5 is the new expectation (so we need to look at B and above to predict)
• Disadvantage measures added to post-16
• GCSE and A level reform – phased in
• Changes to the persistent absence measurement
• Development of the ‘mastery’ curriculum
• New statements in the Ofsted framework
• Reducing workload
• Multi-Academy Trust conversion
• A very high likelihood of an Ofsted inspection.

So how do we meet these challenges? We must keep in mind that our work is to focus on keeping the main thing the main thing – and the main thing is learning. In this ever-changing world of education, we still have control over our pedagogical approach, our ability to keep those in our school safe, maintaining the outstanding ethos for learning, and our ability to provide a personalised curriculum and pastoral programme. These factors will enable us to succeed. We will continue to foster an ambitious climate for learning, and make genuine and sustained progress towards our goal of achieving world class standards in the classroom.

I talked on Monday about how this might be achieved and how we can future-proof our school. It cannot be done in individual classrooms with individual approaches. It requires us all, no matter what our role is within the organisation, to pull in the same direction and to be committed to everyone else’s success. It is only in co-operative and ambitious effort that we will all succeed. There is no room in this school for egotistical individual exhibitionists. We have to truly care about each others’ worth, and weaknesses, in order to drive up performance further. Individual success will never trump group effort. The first leads to destructive competition where success is determined by being better than someone else. The second leads to a real sense of accomplishment that can be attributed to all. This is important in a co-operative school where no-one should be left behind. The College Improvement Teams are there to ensure we exploit our talent pool and ideas that exist in our staff to enable purposeful change and transformation of teaching and learning.

We know that in order to achieve our goals we must have a well ordered and disciplined school. So, while we embrace inclusion, we must work hard to create a good climate for learning. This will involve a no-nonsense attitude to good learning behaviours and co-operative approaches that support others. Working hard on improving character education will become important. The ‘Golden Threads’ that hold the curriculum, teaching and learning, tutoring and extra-curricular work together will be more thoughtfully defined this year and we will use co-operation and co-operative strategies as tools to enable us to make sense of what we do. This will involve growing our participatory and democratic processes by reforming staff and parent voice.

This year I want to encourage a new way of thinking that focuses on excellence rather than compliance; impact rather than effort; learning and progress rather than teaching. All staff have a role to play in this cultural shift. Consistency matters but it is superficial if we do the same things the same way. Rather, it is consistent high standards we should be interested in not unvarying practice. I am looking forward to working with you all this year, and wish you well in your endeavours.