Principal’s Round-up – 7th June 2019

I was reading about successful schools in London last week. I found a school with 6 data drops based on testing for every year group, and a student community that stood in silence at the start of the school day and at the end of break and lunch, which was strangely delightful but disturbing at the same time! The methods that this school is using, replicating the Chinese education system, may well improve behaviour in the short term, but will do little to develop the students’ character. Our approach is to continue to work on creating the ethos that will prepare the students to be successful in their lives. Part of this is recognising the need to embrace personal anxiety and use it for good use: to learn how to become more resilient. In my assemblies next week I will we exemplifying this through the words of Winston Churchill. He is often quoted as saying ‘a pessimist is someone who sees difficulty in every opportunity, an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty’. We need more optimists. This can be taught through a disciplined approach. We need less self-indulgent self-examination that leads to selfish behaviour and more commitment to the common good, of which each individual is only a part. My assembly focuses on the strength from developing the Dunkirk spirit. That is why we must continue to work on our co-operative value of social responsibility. In particular we must focus on the importance of courtesy, manners and appropriate and positive language. I believe that promoting these values through tutor groups, classes and around the school makes us all the richer. This type of positive pastoral work is an essential part of each child’s education and should see them through life.

Through co-operation we nurture the ability to work with others and the power of respectful behaviours. This is not only essential for a fulfilling existence, but fosters precisely the kind of human qualities needed by us all if we are to succeed in any sphere, whether it be business or simply living together. This is where being part of a co-operative school really pays dividends because it accentuates the human nature of learning. As well as ensuring students have an excellent transition to adulthood; we work hard at developing academic acumen. It was interesting listening to a subject teacher recently about the improvements in both quality and quantity of the written work of her students. She said concentrating on depth meant she was not ‘covering’ as much, but that students were more engaged and doing better than ever before. We refer to this as ‘mastery’. She says that by us believing in her professional judgement, her students are now learning enthusiastically and taking pride in the quality of their work. Students were no longer ‘turned off’ by levels and rushing through a syllabus and she rarely had to sanction anyone. “Discipline problems have all but disappeared and short marking means I am taking less work home and students are able to make more rapid progress”. Of course managing the change was hard and she was aware some of her colleagues are still struggling with the concept, but the exercise books were full of shining examples. Very often it is in the exercise books or longer written end point tasks we see the breakthrough. The first piece of real quality academic work a student produces is very often a written task. Getting students to write is one of the key tasks for good teachers. Both quality of writing and quality of speaking can be easily correlated to success in later life. This is not rocket science. Good writing leads to success because it requires that students are able to read, comprehend, think, evaluate and then clarify their thoughts. There really is no other way to do it. Glasser says that when students really start to believe in their ability to write then their feeling of intellectual competence and scholarship lifts. It becomes a virtuous circle as shown by our teachers who have used short marking as a vehicle to elicit high standards of written work. Of course, students embarking on this journey for the first time require well-modelled examples, effective scaffolding and constant feedback.

As the Teaching and Learning reviews commence next week, I look forward to seeing how this work has developed over this year, and especially how HPAs are being driven hard to succeed. This is a key area for improvement and we must take it seriously if we are to radically transform our progress measures in each year group. Mark and I have worked on the CPD plan for next year and the majority of this will focus on strategies to use with students to improve knowledge acquisition and retrieval. In order to give space to these initiatives, the behaviour for learning policy will be tightened with far less allowances given to children who simply will not comply with the rules we must set.

Thank you to all those who have contributed to the wealth of extra-curricular experiences this term, including the support given to students who are industriously raising money for projects such as the Himalayan expedition and Camps International. They have appreciated your support. Thank you also to everyone who supported the annual staff football match against Mount Kelly last night. I am declaring a 4-4 VICTORY as we had to lend the opposing team two of our star players who assisted them in their goal scoring attempts! The match was organised by Tom Galli who managed to secure a fantastic side. We were privileged to be joined by Daryll Chapman whose aged wisdom on the field certainly paid dividends. It’s been a great week in school with Y11 and Y13 remaining focussed and determined. I hope you have lovely weekend

Sarah