Opening a new free school is exciting, but very challenging for any headteacher, from building a new school through to recruiting your own staff and getting the assessment systems right. I firmly believe that it’s the process of making these choices that has resulted in us delivering an environment in which our young pupils can thrive.
Our motto is ASPIRE, which stands for ‘Achieving Success Promoting Individual Responsibility and Excellence’, and our overall aim is to provide the children with an engaging and memorable learning experiences.
These values are the glue that keep us focused and we are always seeking ways to realise them. One example of how we have ‘lived’ these values
is our determination to continue to have whole-school assemblies despite the lack of a suitable venue ourselves. Every Friday, we make our way to a partner school down the road for our assemblies.
Another opportunity we had, being a new school, was the chance to look at the whole curriculum and assessment programme afresh.
Research shows that children progress more quickly where there is immediate feedback, so we wanted this to form a central pillar of our approach. We felt that if we could give children more ownership of their learning – so they knew exactly what their next steps and targets were – they would find the process much more engaging.
The next step was to ask teachers what they needed to know to make sure children were progressing appropriately. The answers from this process defined how often we needed to record and report on progress.
We decided we wanted to monitor a child’s progress step-by-step, as this would allow us to create very personalised learning plans for every child. This method could also impact on workload, so we invested in software that would back our approach but keep the administration to an absolute minimum.
With our new system in place, Learning Ladders, each child gets a paper booklet that tracks their progress towards their writing or Mathematics goals, for example, so they can see how far they have come and how far they must go before they can say they have ‘mastered’ punctuation or multiplication.
Children who join at a lower level simply work through a different set of goals until they catch up, so no child is left out.
Sharing the information
As the head of a new free school, I am aware that I am under the microscope and so need to be able to prove that progress is being made. Well now I have everything I need at my fingertips to do that, whether it is the governors or Ofsted.
The journey has been an interesting one. What we have learnt is that with strong values, a dedicated teaching team and pupils who are engaged with their learning, you can create a phenomenal learning environment.
Visit www.Learningladders.info or call 020 3637 0500 for more information on Learning Ladders.