28 Jun A typical atypical week as Head of KEGS
Too many fingers in too many pies! This week has been immensely busy but captures the range of activities and issues I get involved in as Head so I thought it would be interesting to share it. It is not a typical week at all and there is one key thing missing – teaching! This year I have only taught Y11 and Y13 so I am in the odd position of not having any lessons at all at this time in the year; I normally teach four hours a week.
So, here is a run down of the main events of the week:
Suzhou Teachers: We’re working with Passmores Academy in Harlow to deliver a training programme for 30 English teachers in Suzhou. Four are on a four-week placement with us but today all 30 arrived for a training session on MFL strategies led by KEGS staff. I had interviewed all 30 teachers in April on my visit to China so it was good to see them in England and fascinating to join the session later in the day when they were wrestling with the notion of collaborative group work as an MFL strategy for encouraging speaking.
Meeting with Head of Art (Also an Assistant Head) was the first of several one-to-one sessions to discuss our approach to Departmental Review and how this links to Professional Review – which is our term of Performance Management. The pay progression issue is live and I am keen to ensure each Head of Department has a shared understanding of the spirit of our policies: we want to ensure that accountability processes allow teachers to be evaluated in the most complete way, not focusing on one-off sets of data or a few snap-shot lesson observations. We want our Professional Review targets to be ambitious and challenging, with an emphasis on career development rather than meeting basic standards. These meetings explored all of these issues; – how we assess, how we know how well individual students are doing, how we handle under-performance if we identify an issue and how the pay progression question only kicks in certain specific circumstances. I had similar meetings with Heads of Maths, PE, Philosophy and RE and Technology later in the week.
I spoke to Alison Peacock, Head at The Wroxham School and member of Cambridge Primary Review team, for half an hour or so. We discussed the Primary perspective on curriculum and assessment in response to our work on a Bacc model. Our conclusion was that a dedicated Primary conference would be needed to bring people together to explore the territory around keeping a broad curriculum whilst only having measures in Maths and English. My interest in this has grown out of the work on the HTRT English Bacc model and the idea that assessment of the curriculum should be progressive and seamless across phases.. so it is exciting to be working with Alison who is a leading figure in this area.
Later, in London, I met with the lovely and talented SSAT team behind the Vision 2040 group. We plotted out the next steps of the work of the group which is seeking to compile evidence of excellent practice and interesting thinking in all of the SSAT’s Redesigning Schooling strands over the next two years. This will be shared more widely in due course. It’s exciting to be part of a process that draws ideas in from across the country.
I met Amanda Spielman, Chair of OfQual, in a cafe in the City. She arrived with a Brompton which I thought was pretty cool. She arranged the meeting to give some advice about the English Bacc model. I must admit that this was exciting news..OfQual are interested! It was a great meeting. We discussed the interplay between accountability, qualifications and curriculum. She advised me to take care not to create more perverse incentives for schools to compromise the curriculum in favour of the other two areas and suggested we gave more thought to this. She sketched out some bell curves and we discussed a range of issues around grading and comparing standards over time; we considered the scope for using points instead of grades and the chances of educating the public to accept the true inherent margin of error in assessment processes. Her take on the English GCSE fiasco was very interesting.
Back at KEGS, just time to see our Y9 Enterprise day in action… A hive of activity in the hall with teams of students making production lines and trying to maximise productivity.
Governors’ Planning Meeting. This is where the committee Chairs all gather to plan the next full GB meeting. It was efficient and productive…my Governors do their jobs very well. We’re dealing with a new building project, PRP, and a reducing budget so there is plenty to talk about.
I dashed back to London for the German Teaching Awards at the German Embassy. This was a celebration of speaking and teaching German; two of my superb MFL colleagues were there too. Minister Liz Truss turned out to be the Guest of Honour, which I hadn’t realised, and her speech was worth hearing. Her commitment to language learning was sincere and there was a promise of more resources for primaries ahead of 2014. However, I winced as she championed the EBacc; that pale imitation of a proper Bacc, and generally trumpeted the successes of Government policy. I hoped to button-hole her…but she was spirited away all too quickly.
Evening: To cap off a mega-day, I met up with John Blake (@johndavidblake..a former KEGS History teacher), John Taylor (@labourteachers) and Chris Waugh (keeper of the mighty @Edutronic_net) to plan a TeachMeet style fringe event in Brighton ahead of the Labour conference. A lovely gathering of edu-policy enthusiasts…we hatched a plan that is soon to be unveiled.
Early morning meeting with another Head of Department before Whole-School Assembly; the first one since before the exam period. We gave out various awards – DofE Silver Awards, Jack Petchey Awards – and reflected on successes of various KEGS students, past and present: Alex Dowsett (cycling), Grayson Perry (now a BAFTA-winning artist) and a former student set to be the next UK Ambassador to Panama. One of our students has just been offered a place a RADA and we celebrated news of various students gaining degrees.
The day included separate meeting with both of my extraordinarily dynamic Deputies around a range of strategic issues focusing on the getting things in place for next academic year so that the systems don’t weigh us down whilst also giving greater transparency to Governors – who take their accountability responsibilities seriously.
A short meeting to push forward plans for KEGS DigIT Festival in November; we’re busily gathering up people interested in showcasing their products and ideas for a community celebration of technology and innovation in Chelmsford.
A working lunch with four representatives from the teaching unions. We went through our draft Pay Policy and ironed out some issues around wording and emphasis. However, thankfully, we broadly agree on the principles which was a relief to me. I think we have a strong policy in hand so if was good to have the affirmation. It is still in draft but a blog post on this is in the pipeline.
A Threshold Assessment meeting was a joy – as it is an opportunity to recognise the fantastic contribution a member of staff makes to the school and to the profession. Then, a meeting with our Director of Leading Edge – a post dedicated to our research work. We discussed recent activities, future activities and the plans for future publications and a website.
In the evening I went to my son’s new school…so interesting to sit on the other side and see how other schools do things. This was about music tuition featuring performances and a chance to try out lots of instruments. Fab idea.
This began with a meeting with a newly appointed NQT as part of his induction weeks. Great to see someone full of enthusiasm and anticipation about what they can bring to the job. Lovely. Then a couple of disciplinary issues:
Firstly, a gathering of Y11 students about to go off on a Silver DofE weekend who needed firm boundaries set after a previous escapade had created some trust issues! The classic peer-pressure scenario where people do things in a group that they would never do alone!
Secondly, a formal disciplinary to consider an exclusion. Our process is to hold a meeting with parents and the student prior to making a decision to exclude. This give parents a voice and helps us gauge the level of contrition and support. On this occasion we has strong support but, as the student was a repeat offender, we give a two-day exclusion. We ask parents to withdraw while we weigh it all up before telling them the decision face to face. It works very well as a process – and luckily we don’t have to use it too often
I had a long call with a Heads’ Roundtable colleague talking about some details of a forth-coming consultation on alternative school accountability systems. We were trying to get the wording right…never easy but hopefully we’ll capture enough ideas to take things forward.
Later, I met our PSHE Coordinator, I wanted to run through our Sex and Relationships Education policy. It’s an area of interest of mine, but I felt our policy was out of date. We up-dated a section about teaching about homosexuality so that we embrace the language of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender more fully and positively. We also planned some input for Year 7 to tackle phone-porn at a disciplinary level alongside our PSHE work on SRE. It is easier for them to relate to initially in terms of rules.. understanding it will come later.
We had a packed SLT meeting followed by a routine Finance and Premises committee meeting… looking at the budget for next year, line by line. But, joy of joys, this was followed by the Summer Concert. Our school concerts are simply amazing. Junior orchestra, strings, Year7 and 8 singers, some solo performances and the Wind Band as a finale. A clarinet-piano duet (Brahms clarinet Sonata in F minor) was a personal highlight – stunning.
The day began with a typical KEGS staff-led assembly, pitching high with an account of the debate around a book and film about Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann. The central theme of the potential for ordinary people to do evil things was conveyed powerfully.
After a couple of hours doing references, lesson observation write-ups and starting on my termly Headteacher’s report, it was time to adjudicate some entries in the KEGS Global Blog Challenge. This involved meeting students who talked me through their blogs and stats. The entries are stunning. We have another session to conclude the judging next week.
A short afternoon meeting with two local Headteachers was planned for us to complete the legal work behind the formation of a company to serve the Mid-Essex Headteachers’ group representing 14 schools. Now all but one school is an academy we’ve decide to formalise a company structure to help us deal with shared resources, grants and procurement.
Finally – my turn on the weekly whole-school detention, where I have written most of this. A small handful of students who have accumulated enough strikes on our behaviour and homework monitoring system to warrant a whole-school sanction. They are required to sit and read a philosophy book for an hour.
It’s been quite a week…. and now it is home time.