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New year, new head teacher

January 4, 2016

This year, my school has a new headteacher. It’s @chrishildrew and he has a good following on Twitter with a blog over at Teaching : Leading Learning. A number of staff have been to training sessions on Growth Mindsets and it’s fair to say that those I’ve talked to about it were impressed. There’s a good bit of excitement about Chris bringing some new ideas to teaching and learning.

Starting in January is, perhaps not the usual time to start but I can see some advantages. I’m in an [O]utstanding school (Ofsted came in the last week of the July term last year) and things are obviously well underway for this academic year. It could be argued that we don’t *need* any changes as such and any major structural changes obviously won’t be possible until next academic year now. However I’m sure Chris will want to make some changes and presumably initiate some moves to start steering the school in the direction he’d like it to head.

What’s the point of this post? Well, there are a few things I’d like to be considered as areas for improvement. I’m a classroom teacher so I don’t go to the ‘important meetings’ and this is a space where I can put forward some thoughts.

CPD We’ve had a variety of ideas and approaches and there have been a few interesting trials. For example, in the maths department, we tried using an online dyscalculia course . However, there still needs some tweaking. I would like to see much more of a focus on teaching and learning as the main point of INSET days. I don’t really object to having one for appraisal and capability and the one on the first day in September is practically a necessity. That leaves three other days that, in my view, really should have some impact on teachers’ teaching in some noticeable way. I’d also like to organise a teachmeet as I really enjoyed and got useful ideas from the ones I’ve been to but they seem to have fallen out of favour in my area. The teachmeet could well be part of this CPD program.

Technology We’ve had a very cautious approach to technology use so far. This has definitely come from a place of Child Protection and, indeed Teacher Protection and I am well aware of the potential for issues since it’s one of the areas I focus on in our sixth form specialist tutor programme. In my session with students, I obviously flag up the potential issues but I also show examples of the internet and social media being used positively. I’m certainly not advocating the idea that we all rush out and get tablets while setting up individual class blogs and insisting on faculty twitter accounts but I’m sure there’s a larger opportunity here. I would like to make use of Youtube more freely for example.

Target setting We have a pretty good system set up where we have vertical tutor groups so there’s about 5 students from each year group 7-11 per tutor. This means that on a regular basis, after data collections, four year groups from a house can go to assembly, leaving a small number of students with the tutor to look at progress and set some targets. I’m a sixth form tutor now and it’s a little different for us but my memory of being in main school was that that wasn’t enough time to actually meaningfully agree targets with students and that too much emphasis was put on the tutor getting the job done and entered into the system. There needs to be more work done on helping students (and quite probably staff too)  set meaningful targets that gives them a reason to take ownership of them and actually want to meet these goals. The structure we have is good but the content could be better.

Observations There has been the start of a change here this year and this has lead to observations of single lessons not being graded 1-4. I’ve not been observed in the new way yet so can’t comment really but it sounds like a positive move. However, I think we could still do a better job of making sure they are welcomed rather than feared. I’d like to see observers approaching these in an overtly positive way. Most importantly, it’s great when you hear teachers saying things like “I really learnt something from that, thanks” so I think it’s essential that feedback allows an opportunity for that sort of statement to be genuinely true.

I can’t even begin to imagine what it’s like to come into a school as a new head teacher part way through a year. I suspect there’s an awful lot to take in and 1001 thoughts and ideas to prioritise. So, the above four are a starting point and I’m sure everything else will just fall into place 😉

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