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Principal’s Round-up

Principal’s Round-up – 21st April 2017

Posted: 24 April 2017

I do hope that everyone took time to have a restful break this Easter. Despite my best efforts to manage workload, we still held a productive Easter School and ran the Sports Tour to Paris. The students gained a great deal from both of these activities, and I am grateful to those staff members who give their time and energy so willingly to make them happen. Included in this Fortnightly Focus is small collage of other activities we have been running in case you missed it in the paper.
This is a challenging time in education. Not least because the funding cuts that have hurt us all so badly have been described as the ‘tip of the iceberg’ moving forward. The changes being made with immodest pace to the examination process and accountability measures are ill-thought out. They are subject to change yet again making any kind of year on year comparison nonsensical and just down-right wrong. Yet everything rests on the school’s outcomes like never before. No wonder teachers are leaving the profession in their droves and the search for school leaders has become problematic to say the least. But it is not all doom and gloom. You only have to raise your head up from the desk and look again at the young people we work with and their supportive parents to see that. And we have a great collegiate staff all pulling in the same direction. There is plenty to be happy about, and there is certainly plenty to be celebrating at Tavistock College. It’s all about your mind set and whether or not the reasons you chose a career in education are still burning in your heart. Mine are. I was reminded of most of these from the reading I did over the holiday and in the work I have undertaken recently for the co-operative movement through Co-operatives UK. Helping in one activity I came across a statement that I have seen before, but thought I would share with you in case you haven’t. It reminds me of what teachers do every day.

The rules for being amazing
By Robin Sharma
Risk more than is required. Learn more than is normal. Be strong. Show courage. Excel. Love. Lead. Speak your truth. Live your values. Laugh. Cry. Innovate. Simplify. Adore mastery. Release mediocrity. Aim for genius. Stay humble. Be kinder than expected. Deliver more than is needed. Exude passion. Shatter your limits. Transcend your fears. Inspire others by your bigness. Dream big but start small. Act now. Don’t stop. Change the world.

We can’t afford to lose more teachers and education staff from the profession. We are all too important. That is why I take seriously the Trade Union advice on my responsibility to help manage workload. At the last staff meeting teachers completed an exercise with me to address some issues. Below is the summary with some action points included. It is a starting point for discussion and I look forward to continuing to work with you all in these areas:

Reducing workload:
Feedback from staff meeting with actions:
1. Staff were asked to identify changes that has had a positive impact on their workload/effectiveness and that they did not think needed adaptation. These were identified as:

  • Show my Homework.
  • Marking policy – including short marking.
  • Fewer observations – limited to appraisers.
  • Less cover and invigilation.
  • New parents’ evening arrangements.
  • Moving options to Y8
  • Tutor group in own classroom.
  • Class plans.
  • Attempting work IN meetings.
  • Move to 4Matix

2. Staff were then asked to identify aspects of their work we should think about addressing and to come up with suggested solutions. Very specific and subject related requests have been passed to HoFs

Returning calls and emails to parents within 24 hoursChange to 48 hours.Implemented immediately
Loss of bespoke CPDBalance CIT team development with more input CPDStart September 2017
More shared time for collaborative planningIdentify more Faculty time on calendarStart September 2017
Reduce the number of unscheduled absences from lessons for student activitiesCalendar all activities (only termly adaptions accepted).Start May 2017
Provide paper calendarPrinted copies will be available on request for remainder of this academic year, and provided in the staff planner from SeptemberStart immediately on request, and September 2017 for all.
Tutor programme preparationProvide tutor programme for the whole year –minor adaptation to be allowed but a term’s notice to be given. (unless there is an incident or major event that is unforeseeable)Start September 2017
Stop changing KS4 targetsTargets will be given in a range – FFT 20 as the lowest and DfE as the highest. NB milestones change as these are flightpath targets.Start September 2017 but no further changes will be made
Stop splitting parents’ eveningsOnly Y7 parents’ evenings will be split.Implemented immediately
Changed policy on markingChange ‘every two weeks’ to ‘every fifth lesson’ to accommodate subject timetable differences.After next Curriculum Governor’s sub-committee meeting in June.
Sending late night or weekend emailsWhilst this is not encouraged as it has an impact on others, some colleagues’ lifestyle choices mean this is preferred. We will add a statement on the bottom of all emails saying ‘a reply is not expected outside of working hours’.End of May 2017
Provide reading ages of all students to assist with class plansAll Y7 will be tested on entry and this will be done in future Current Y7 have RAs- and low RAs are re-tested following intervention Older students that are a cause for concern will be tested as needed. MRO will publish RAsEnd of May 2017
Provide more detail on SEND students to assist with class plans.SIS record sheet will be finished by May 2017. Top ten tips will be provided to all staff in planners for common SEND needs (eg ASD and ADHD)End of May 2017

3. Activities identified but that will not be removed because they undermine the CIP, compromise standards or challenge our ethos:

  • Remove the tutor period from the college day. This will remove any sense of belonging by developing the co-operative values, undermine the college Houses and prevent us from developing the requirements in the curriculum for SMSC, including the British Values. It would also remove the opportunity for assembly.
  • Remove the requirement for teachers to call home for detentions/parking: Parents have a right to speak to teachers if they wish to, and certainly of a child has received a punishment they should be given that opportunity. It also builds strong relationships with parents and these are a critical part of the function of a community school.
  • Reduce briefings: This undermines our opportunity to come together and to celebrate achievements and have a positive start to the day. It removes the sense of isolation felt by some staff on a large site. It also effects better communication – emails are a poor substitute.
  • Are ‘Barriers to learning’ the same as ‘class plans’? No, the first identifies the problem a student might have in accelerating progress in a subject, and the second identifies strategies a teacher might use to overcome barriers. Barriers to leaning are used in a specific way for under-achievement, not for differentiation.

Finally, I would just like to say well done to the Engineering team who won the south-west Engineering Education Scheme design competition for the second year running from a short list of 28 local schools. These were Y12 students Rebecca Banks, Joseph Carver and Steven Isaac who spent many late evenings designing and preparing a presentation on their BCI Twist Seals.

I hope you all have a fantastic term.


Principal’s Round-up – 24th March 2017

Posted: 4 April 2017

“Don’t you just love the use (abuse) of statistics? Now the Government is trying to tell us that they are spending more than ever on schools! The trouble is they are assuming we don’t understand that, because of inflation, a higher cash sum does not mean schools are better off. And schools have more students in them because the population is growing. They also fail to point out that a huge amount of money goes to a relatively small number of free schools, often in areas where they are not needed, meaning other schools lose out. Come to think of it, that also explains another statistic given out by the DfE – that class sizes have got smaller. That might be because free schools have struggled to recruit, but, because of the inequalities in funding, can still afford to hire teachers.” These are the words of Mike Rath, and I fully support all he writes on this topic.

In completing the Teaching and Learning review reports this week I was able to reflect on improvements in pedagogy and assessment that are having the greatest impact, and those that we still need to work on. Class-plans targeting strategies for each half term for students with SEND, LAs and disadvantaged students are having a great impact on engagement, and this will show in progress over time as we assess students’ performance. SOLO is being interpreted through the use of Thinking Maps (not mind-maps!) and through reflection sheets. This is still experimental, but both Social Studies and Humanities can demonstrate the impact of these approaches on providing ever greater challenge which is essential in light of the new curriculum at KS4. Confidence and resilience is improving through independent learning approaches that are almost universal now in the form of end-point-tasks and ‘big questions’.

Of course it is relatively easy for me to review these approaches and to compliment practitioners on their work. Most of the best practice that I see has not been developed through compliance, but through sheer hard work and determination to create something functional and valuable for student progress. In the constant drive to improve standards and develop excellence, we must not lose sight of two important factors. One is the need to manage teachers’ workload, and the other is to help students remain confident and resilient in the face of unknown examination pressures, and their own work load.

With respect to student confidence, we need to balance the necessity of grinding out results with their ability to cope. Enrichment and extra-curricular participation is fundamental to building resilience, inter-dependence and a sense of success. In mapping this recently we have found that students who are doing well and who are not disadvantaged participate more than CiC and disadvantaged students. This is why the provision at Tavistock College has evolved, and a more utilitarian approach taken. The research from the Sutton Trust demonstrates that extra-curricular activities are vital for young people if they are to grow and develop into students who cope with examination pressures. Preparing students well for their examinations is vital, and it certainly does not involve throwing more and more teaching time at students. I have included articles this week that will help answer the perpetual questions about ‘how to revise’. I will include more after Easter.

Workload for teachers is the focus of the staff meeting next week. There are three areas that we will be working together on to find our own solutions to: marking and assessment; data entry; planning. Julian Stanley in this week’s SecEd gives 10 suggestions to reduce workload. These are ideas to help you perform and protect yourself. He suggests:
•There will always be more to do than there is time to do it. Prioritise and speak up when work demands are too much. Consider the impact of what you are doing rather than doing more.
•Always take a lunch break.
•Limit checking emails to three times a day and stop checking at a time in the evening that suits your lifestyle.
•Minimise unnecessary meetings and encourage colleagues to do the same. Keep on track with the agenda.
•Audit your time – where it is spent can reveal some surprising time wasters that could easily be tackled.
•Build up a bank of readily available resources that will engage students without an over-reliance on you.
•Do not fall into the trap of over-planning lessons. This does not mean losing quality, but always look to see where you can simplify.
•Reports can mean a heavy workload over a short space of time, particularly if you have multiple classes. Try to plan ahead and ask for input from others if needed. Build a ‘statement bank’ to use as a starting point.
•You may feel over-directed but teachers have more autonomy than they realise, particularly in class. Make your lessons enjoyable for you as well as your students.
•Ignore the ‘stay late’ culture – if you can leave on time and prefer to work at home- do it. If you prefer to work in school and take nothing home, then do that. It is not a competition to see whose car is last in the car park.

I hope you can take this advice, and have some time to yourselves this weekend, whatever your role is in the college. Enjoy it.

Principal’s Round-up – 10th March 2017

Posted: 10 March 2017

The future success of this country depends, as it always has, on our ability to create wealth. We have to reposition ourselves in a world which is increasingly economically inter-dependent. What we have done well historically is to create new ideas. If ever there was a need to re-create this culture of innovation, it is now. Developed countries have limited opportunities to compete on price; they must compete by adding value; by offering new, high-quality products and by learning and responding more quickly than their competitors.

The key to our future success therefore, lies in our ability to develop these skills in our children. Our approach to co-operative education develops a love of life-long learning, social responsibility and team work. We know that training for specific jobs is not enough. Our young people may have to change careers many times in their working lives. They must be adaptable and able to learn new things quickly and efficiently. They will also need to take responsibility for their own learning and performance. Employers know co-operation matters, because many of their staff work in small, self-managing teams where good relationships are paramount. They must be people-people who emphasise easily with others. They will also need to be motivated self-starters with excellent communication skills.

Our students will have to cope with the accelerating rate of change in technology. They must be confident users of information technology with excellent literacy and numeracy skills. Of course, in the future students will have to invent the new products and services that will keep us competitive. They will need to be lateral thinking risk-takers, with the ability to come up with the solution that no one else has considered. Again, such experiences are not always nurtured alone, but in well managed co-operative groups. All the students involved in the Radio Station, Camps International, sporting teams, and the Theatre Royal partnership workshops, give examples of co-operation and creativity at work.

Beyond the workplace, our students will have to develop relationships and raise families in an increasingly changeable and uncertain world. They must be emotionally literate and able to cope with the pressures life will put upon them. Our pastoral system supports such emotional development and I am delighted to see the growing number of assemblies and tutorial sessions being run by students themselves. The interest in the House system has created a greater sense of belonging.

Sadly, some will also have to cope with periods of economic inactivity and possibly long retirement; they will need to have the creative interests and abilities to enrich their lives outside the world of work. Hence, we lay great store by our excellent extra-curricular provision. Extra-curricular activities are worth fighting for in Co-operative schools and are included in activities that educationalists refer to as, the ‘hidden curriculum’. In other words, we develop ‘the whole child’.

The work that our staff undertake supports all of what I have written above, and it is for this reason that I take seriously the agenda of work- life balance. Recently, a pamphlet was published that was endorsed by all the teaching unions, professional associations and the DfE. It asks schools to consider reducing workload by re-assessing what teachers are asked to do in three main areas: marking, planning and data management. We shall be addressing these at the next whole staff meeting in a couple of weeks’ time.
Have a lovely weekend


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