Three More Questions For A School Leader (With Suggested Responses)
The following notes are intended for someone engaged i...
with various pressures. Modification and adaptation of standards in these cases will not be
selling them short.
Part of th...
Again, the school must not underestimate the first impressions created by those tasked with
front office functions. Negati...
children’s lives and will have much more meaning when communicated, negotiated and
defined in the context of a meeting wit...
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Three More Questions For A School Leader (With Suggested Responses)

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The following notes are intended for someone engaged in leading and managing a secondary school. I have identified six areas for development, which I believe are generic concerns for most schools, then made suggestions for drafting strategic plans. The scope is not exhaustive. The areas for development are posed as questions which could be used in various contexts, but as headteacher or deputy headteacher, they are the sort of questions you should be able to answer! If you are the person doing the leading (or helping the person who is supposed to be doing the leading but just needs some support) the following points, based on my positive experience of Ofsted, may be of interest.

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Three More Questions For A School Leader (With Suggested Responses)

  1. 1. Three More Questions For A School Leader (With Suggested Responses) The following notes are intended for someone engaged in leading and managing a secondary school. I have identified six areas for development, which I believe are generic concerns for most schools, then made suggestions for drafting strategic plans. The scope is not exhaustive. The areas for development are posed as questions which could be used in various contexts, but as headteacher or deputy headteacher, they are the sort of questions you should be able to answer! If you are the person doing the leading (or helping the person who is supposed to be doing the leading but just needs some support) the following points, based on my positive experience of Ofsted, may be of interest. 4 What strategies would you employ to improve attendance? High quality of teaching & learning. If young people get a good experience in the classroom they will be more likely to value their education. Extra-curricular opportunities. For example an after school football club may be the one thing that ‘hooks’ a young person into attending school. An effective attendance officer. He or she will need to have the opportunity to work effectively with the senior team to be provided with the data to identify the school’s vulnerable pupils and access some of the strategies for intervention. This role will involve action-planning with senior leaders to identify targets for attendance, strategies to be implemented, people responsible, timescales and methods for evaluation of impact. This person will need to exercise interpersonal caring skills in order to meet the basic needs of students. Also, provision of advice and guidance on the operation of attendance and exclusion related issues and procedures relative to specific circumstances or problems such as being at the forefront of policy development or local and national initiatives. An effective educational welfare officer (EWO). These roles are managed by the LA (if it still exists) and can vary hugely in value. The best EWO is someone who proactively champions the child and challenges the school to ensure the best educational opportunities are available. The worst EWO is someone who waits on the school to be accountable to him or her and fails the children and parents by acting passively and assuming all is well. The attendance officer may need to be assertive and insist on gaining the kind of support from the EWO that the young people actually need. Vulnerable youngsters often require bespoke packageswhich provide the appropriate curricular stepping stones to success. Don’t be afraid to discuss with the parents a radically modified curriculum which has the essentials to enable the young person to access their next educational steps. Quantity not quality matters most when a young person is struggling
  2. 2. with various pressures. Modification and adaptation of standards in these cases will not be selling them short. Part of the role of the attendance officer would be to build links with the primary schools and ascertain patterns of attendance which could cause a child’s education to be vulnerable. These patterns of attendance could be part of the action plan. Good communicationis essential with all involved and would be the basis of how parents must be engaged in the process. Again, the role of the attendance officer would be crucial here but also the roles of heads of year and form tutors. The school must not underestimate the first impressions created by those tasked with front office functions. A distraught parent will need to be welcomed and supported either in person or by phone. Attendance should be given significance and good attendance should be celebrated and rewarded. Good attendance should not be assumed and ignored. Just as poor attendance can culminate in punitive measures applied by the LA the school can gain the financial support from the PTFA and governors to set incentives and rewards for good attendance. These rewards and incentives can be modified to include ‘most improved’ and relativized according to circumstances. Attendance should be monitored at the level of the quality assurance plan. Interventions should not only be triggered but monitored for impact. Specific plans for improving numeracy and literacyshould be made for those students whose progress is vulnerable. Parents should be engaged in these plans where appropriate and their roles in the plan should be clarified. 5 What strategies would you employ for engaging parents? As already stated above, good communicationis vital. Parents need to be able to access information about their child’s education in various ways. Obviously, the information from a well-maintained and modern website is not only vital but demanded of schools. The newsletter or bulletin must provide regular and useful information about the school. The information provided by the headteacher must reflect the highest expectations and demonstrate consistency with the aims and mission of the school. Those tasked with reporting should ensure data demonstrates real integrity in its communication of pupil progress in fact rather than fiction. Parents should be regularly consulted on how positively they are receiving reports from the school.
  3. 3. Again, the school must not underestimate the first impressions created by those tasked with front office functions. Negative emotions are often dissipated when people feel welcomed and supported either in person or by phone. Parent governors and the PTFA should establish real links with the parent community and ensure there is good two-way communication with the school. Resources within the parent community should be engaged by the PTFA and opportunities for socialising and consolidating the community should be planned in the school calendar. Parents’ information evenings should be planned for each stage of the student’s school career. There are expectations about learning and progress, learning habits, revision skills, exam board information, careers information, transition plans, curriculum pathways that should be shared with parents rather than reserved as a mystery. Parents need to know what their role is in their child’s education and often can be powerful advocates to provide ‘extra tuition’ at home. Outcomes of quality assurance planning should be shared with parents especially if their child is targeted for intervention. Above all, the parent should always be considered as having the most significant role in the education of their child overall. In Catholic schools the parent is viewed as ‘the first educator’ and, regardless of circumstances, a school should respect that. With so many children living with separated parents*the school should have the capacity and dynamism to ensure separated parents are given every opportunity to receive all educational information about their child and be welcomed to participate at all stages of their child’s career. Children’s needs should be paramount and parental separation should not be a bar to this. In the modern day context where Local Authorities have little or no power over schools and a diocese may actually be confused or even prejudiced on the issue of divorce and remarriage a school would be best advised to be prepared to be accountable for parental complaints on this issue. *28% of Catholic marriages end in divorce 6 What would you do to improve the progress of the more able child? The more able child is often defined by his or her attainment at the end of KS2. The DfE has data that demonstrates the likely progress of children KS2 to 4 which are commonly described as ‘flight paths’. This data helps define the ‘expected progress’of pupils and demonstrates how more able children can be expected to achieve as well as attain more. However, despite the data, expectations have to be set in the concrete situation of
  4. 4. children’s lives and will have much more meaning when communicated, negotiated and defined in the context of a meeting with a mentor trained in coaching for success. The more able child’s progress must be on the wider agenda of inclusion. Compared with the past, the school should operate a system which provides effective intervention for all pupils whose progress is vulnerable. Obviously, labels such as FSM6, school action, statemented and G+T are useful flags for triggering attention but the modern school should have a system which examines the progress of all children with or without a specific need or label. (For further details on what I mean here see my article on quality assurance planning Raising Achievement Through Deep Collaboration and Fifteen Tips for Effective Quality Assurance.) In this way, securing the progress of the more able is about deep accountability but it may mean a re-structure of staff responsibilities especially if the culture of the school has been to dwell on the ‘special needs’ category and allocate funds accordingly. The approach of creating a SEN department for the ‘SEN children’ and allocating a TLR for a teacher with a penchant for G+T is probably best consigned to the past and the concept of inclusion properly embraced once and for all. The issue of assessment levels at KS3 should not undermine this either (see my articles Assessment Without Levels 1 and 2). For those staff who have responsibility for inclusion there are various things they can do to ensure the progress of the more able is supported. For example a parent would feel their aspirations are particularly being attended to if their child is included in specific transition programmesand other activities at the Y6 to Y7 point of transfer. This certainly should not be limited to the Y6 to Y7 transfer as it would also be relevant to beginning KS4 courses, preparation for working at post-16 level and then college or university. Parents’ information evenings could be specifically provided for pupils and their parents explaining expectations of progress, what it looks like over the years between KS2 and 4 but providing specific information on how the parents of these children can enhance the process from their end. Imaginative use of visiting speakers and ex-students with a story of their success and how they managed it should be used specifically for the more able just as it is for raising the aspirations of those who may be in danger of rejecting their education. Finally, but not exclusively, there should be evidence in every teacher’s lesson planning that the progress of all children including the more able can be clearly demonstrated. Seating plans which show an awareness of who the different groups are is a good starting point. A good starting point would be to ensure that each lesson should allow children with L5 at KS2 to make progress at a rate which is typical of their profile. If quality assurance is effective then the pupil/s who are not making this progress will be flagged up as a concern and the appropriate interventions for the child and the teacher will be made. If this isn’t the case then the school is wasting time and public money. Peter Eccles Ex Headteacher, St Boniface's Catholic College, Plymouth

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