DISPLAYING ITEMS BY TAG: SCHOOL LEADER

The ambition of every leader in education is to meaningfully improve our students’ outcomes. This is particularly important at a time when school budgets are under increasing pressure, meaning we often have to support teaching and learning using the resources we already have.

However, the answer is deceptively simple - and most school leaders are aware of it, but may not know how to harness its power. While extra funding is always welcome, the solution to improving teaching and learning may well lie in a change of attitude... and a dose of extra creativity.

By developing students’ learning habits and thinking skills, school leaders can essentially help them think better. This establishes a foundation for better learning and helps deliver improved outcomes in the long term.

Metacognition, or ‘thinking about thinking’, has been shown to be a key factor in increasing a student’s potential.

At the Thinking Schools Academy Trust (TSAT), we believe that the best way to transform life chances is to actively shape the minds, attitudes and habits of young people using a framework of cognitive education.

Some of the ideas underlying this framework date back thousands of years - Aristotle once said that “You are what you repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” But the application to multi-academy trusts is new. Our approach enables students to consciously recognise their own habits, strengths, and areas for development, and actively seek to improve themselves - thereby creating transformational change.

One of the key ways in which we foster this is by encouraging close collaboration between Primary and Secondary schools.

A recent successful example was when Year 10 students from The Victory Academy and Year 5 students from Cedar Children’s Academy worked together to create a storybook called The 6 Seeds of Cedar.

Inspired by Dr Seuss, with original characters brought to life in beautiful illustrations, the book is a resource designed to promote student engagement and critical thinking across all TSAT schools. It unites creativity with cognitive techniques, to instil positive habits of mind.

The “6 Seeds” represent six key critical thinking skills: persisting, managing impulsivity, listening with understanding and empathy, questioning and posing problems, applying past knowledge to new situations, and taking responsible risks.

For two hours each week, the Year 5 students were introduced to the more advanced learning habits of the Year 10s - or, as they refer to them, “Victory Virtues”. Having older role models in these lessons was inspirational for the Cedar students, who could learn from those who are further along their thinking skills journey.

The younger pupils were not the only ones to grow and benefit from the experience, as the Year 10 students were able to further their understanding of the Victory Virtues by taking on the responsibility of sharing knowledge with a younger audience. Both groups of students emerged proud of and empowered by the finished book.

This collaboration between students of different ages has offered a brilliant opportunity for improving students’ critical thinking skills, using a more creative approach to making the most of the resources we already have.

It has also demonstrated the growing understanding of the cognitive processes involved in learning, and the value of applying neuroscience to our approaches to teaching and learning.

The challenge for school leaders has always been how to make metacognition and neuroscience work consistently at a whole-school level, to generate the impact we know it can have. The 6 Seeds project has done just that.

The book will now be part of the framework for future curricula at Cedar, and its authors will impart their knowledge of the 6 Seeds to their fellow pupils. These 6 Seeds will be planted in Reception, and through lessons tailored to different ages throughout students’ academic careers, pupils will head to Secondary school reflective about their own habits of mind and prepared for what is to come.

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Our 2018/19 Lead LIVE roadshow kicked off in Wigan, with educators sharing a wealth of ideas to address excess workload in schools. The roadshow features talks from innovative school leaders on tackling teacher's timesinks, a prize draw, and a 'speed dating' session with ten of the best edtech providers in the country. The roadshow is now heading to WellingboroughPeterboroughLiverpoolBradfordHertfordshire and Hove, and these happy school leaders explain what you can expect...

‘Innovation’ is an interesting word to me; not just because I’m ‘innovation lead’ at Aureus School, but because I think it is a word which (in education) seems to carry many preconceived images. If I say to you “Oh they’re an innovative teacher”, all too often the perception seems to be of a teacher who’s at home using the latest technology, whose classroom is awash with the latest teaching trends, and who leads CPD on “how to use your interactive whiteboard more effectively”.

This article on innovation covers none of that! I’m not dismissing edtech nor the associated innovations therein, but I am going to talk about the innovator's mindset.

The innovator's mindset is the true way every teacher can innovate in any setting! As I see it, said mindset comprises of four component parts:

  1. Review
  2. Do
  3. Review
  4. Re-do

If you can adopt the innovator’s mindset (and truly anyone can) you can make this academic year, and in fact every academic year, one in which you innovate in a meaningful way!

1. Review

This is about you the teacher, the subject specialist, and the pedagogical perfectionist. Take a moment or two to review your last academic year or even the last few. I suggest reviewing on two fronts:

Your subject. The content you’ve taught, the way it was received, and the impact it had. Make note of what went well, and what you think you could improve.

Your pedagogy. Review the way you taught your subject. Did you deliver content in a variety of ways? Did you adapt work for learners who were struggling? How good was your differentiation? Did you really stretch and challenge all your students? As part of this review, take to the internet and the educational bookstores, choose something on which you’d like to read up and refresh your knowledge. For example, spend an hour or so reading up on stretch and challenge ideas, and make some notes on things you could try to freshen up content you deliver in the new term.

2. Do

Teach. Get into your class and teach your stuff using the ideas you have read about. Adapt your technique based on both what worked last year and what could have been done better. Invite others into your class to watch you! Ask others if you can observe them teaching too.

Photo by Shane Global

3. Review

This time, don’t wait til the end of the academic year to review what is working in your class and what can be refined. My suggestion to support your most innovative year is that you make time in the first weekend of every half term break to pause and review what is going well, what can be done better, and choose a topic to brush up on. Look again at your subject and your pedagogy. Think about what you did in your classroom, what discussions you had with those who have observed you and what you’ve seen in others.

If you read up on stretch and challenge six weeks ago, then choose questioning this time and spend an hour reading up on ideas to better question in your classroom. Use these to develop new strategies that will help you deliver your content in the next term.

4. Re-do

Get back into your classroom with refined focus, content ready to be taught using techniques you have reviewed yourself and with colleagues, and perspective on your pedagogy you’ve refreshed.

It really is as easy as those four steps to keep your mindset innovative throughout an academic year!

...and 5! Sharing what you do to keep you on the innovative path

One extra tip to keep yourself innovating: Share! Sharing what you are doing with others is a great way to keep your mindset innovative! Consider creating your own blog, or even a shared blog with colleagues who agree to share your innovator's mindset this year. At the end of each half term, take it in turns to post about your term, what has gone well, what you’re considering changing, and what areas of your pedagogy you are reading up on. Innovation does not happen inside a bubble. Real innovation happens when you look outside yourself, your organisation, and even your sector to draw in inspiration for afar. To do this well you have to be sharing what you do.

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‘Outstanding’? ‘Good’? ‘Less than ideal, but we’ll muddle along for another year’? How does your timetable fare? Asked to give their new school timetable an Ofsted rating, over 25% of teachers told us that they would place it in the ‘requires improvement’ category. Moreover, almost all described their timetable as less than ‘outstanding’, offering a real opportunity for SLT to make meaningful improvements before it’s too late.

If the summer term is a time of reflection, then the autumn term represents fresh starts. Improvements. New ways of working. Changes that make sense for the school. And what better place to start than the timetable? After all, it’s the most important document in the school, and key to success on every level.

With this in mind, we asked experienced headteacher and Edval consultant, Paul Phillips, how a school can improve its timetables at this stage of the year - with minimal disruption. Here’s what he said:

1. Improve your staffing

“For accountability reasons, it is vital that teachers and school leaders can maintain ownership of pupil outcomes. However, it’s equally important for students to build meaningful learning relationships with their teachers. Too many teachers resulting from split classes mean that students feel that they are not known by their teachers. They also demonstrate stress behaviours when the delivery consistency does not go smoothly.

“Teachers also rightly want planning time with their co-teacher, where split classes are a regular feature on their timetable. Without this, curriculum delivery, homework and marking can be a major issue, for teachers and students alike.”

2. Improve your lesson spreads

“With a far greater emphasis on maximising pupil progress, it is essential that the timetable supports effective learning and teaching practice. The ability to offer short but regular language lessons, double sessions for Science and Technology lessons, and avoiding two lessons on a day, allows teachers to better manage learning, marking, homework and time for reflection.

“Control of this area has for many schools been an ad-hoc affair. The power to reduce occurrences of inappropriate spreads, but also the ability to improve teacher spreads, and class spreads, means I can give teachers and students a better timetable experience.”

3. Improve your rooming

“Rooming can be a real headache in schools, and is often an afterthought in many schools’ timetables. But if you ask a part timer, or member of SLT, who has to navigate through corridors and up and down staircases with trolley and boxes of books, equipment and materials, then you will get a very blunt response to this aspect of the timetable!

“Schools with split sites, complex buildings across a campus, buildings with multiple and narrow staircases, need to put much more care into their rooming requirements. Having the tools on hand to maximise rooming quality can dramatically reduce staff and student movement across the timetable.”

4. Improve your option blocks

“Optimising option blocks is essential for all kinds of reasons. Giving students their options ensures greater satisfaction in offers, and enables students to progress more rapidly in subjects that they have chosen, and want to excel in. By focusing on optimising student preferences, I can have far greater control and understanding of student requests.

“For schools in a ‘deficit funding-led curriculum’ cycle, optimising option blocks allows for lean timetabling, the opportunity to drop classes and maintain high student satisfaction. It’s a vital tool in reducing staff costs, and it’s not too late to improve them.”

The year ahead

So why not take this opportunity to tweak your timetable with minimal disruption to the school community? Edval Improve services give SLT the opportunity to supercharge more than just the timetable, positively influencing staff morale, student learning and budget bottom lines in the process.

Challenge our experienced Edval consultants to work on your chosen timetable improvement area and refuse to settle for anything less than the best. Interested in finding out more? Say [email protected], or visit www.edval.education for more information.

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The usual school grading system rewards and highlights academic success, but as educators, we have a responsibility to prepare our pupils to be responsible, active members of the community, with a moral and social responsibility to improve the world they live in and to fight discrimination and reduce inequality. As teachers, we know that theory is one thing, but to embed a thought behaviour, or an action, one must practise it regularly in a hands-on manner. So how best to go about this in 2018/19?

Careers guidance plays a huge role in supporting students’ aspirations, identifying their strengths, and creating their perfect futures. So how do you ensure that young people are given the best chances of success for life after school?

Without change there is no innovation, creativity, or incentive for improvement.” - William Grosvenor Pollard (1911 - 1989), physicist / priest

I recently received an invitation to chair the Westminster Insight forum in London on the assessment reform in our Primary schools. At first, I felt a little unsure; the word ‘baseline’ was being muttered on everyone’s lips in the staffroom, and I wondered if this could end up being a rather fiery forum to have to control. I realised, however, that the main reason so many teachers and parents - as well as fellow lecturers in the Teacher Education Department - seem so concerned about the new baseline testing for Reception is that there is still much ambiguity about how the testing will be done.

One of the defining characteristics of successful schools is how they deliver assessment. How effective a school is at assessment goes a long way to determining how they are perceived by parents and other stakeholders. Assessment is mission-critical in the constant drive for “school improvement”, a buzz-phrase has now become a key strategy outcome for school leaders.

Reading is incredibly important in supporting students’ overall growth. It’s a predictor of success in further education and life, with achievement in Mathematics and reading significantly associated with academic motivation and quality of life. So it is understandable that education policy largely focuses on developing strong readers at an early age. With that focus comes assessment requirements that can be confusing to parents and exhausting to educators. How do we communicate the value of assessments and the importance of data they return?

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