Category Archives: Investor in People

Time to say goodbye!

Working with children with special education needs  and their families is in my blood!

From being a 6th form student studying for my A levels, I volunteered one day per week at a local special school. I was one of those people who always knew what they want to do! I applied and was successful gaining a place at Westhill College in Birmingham where I completed a B Ed with ‘special needs’ as my main subject. My teaching placements were in both mainstream and special schools. on one of the summer holidays during my degree course I went to live with a family who had a young person with ASD so I could deepen my understanding of the experience of a family with a child who has SEND ( they advertised in college for someone to be placed with them to support over the long summer break) . I am pleased to say I am still in touch with them as I am with a small number of families of other children I have taught over my career.

I was lucky to find a teaching job in an all – age special school close to where I then lived in Blackburn, Lancashire where I taught classes of mainly secondary aged pupils with a range of special needs and was also subject leader formusic teaching music throughout the school including to classes in the primary department. I was there for just over 10 years. During that time I was also teacher governor leading the curriculum committee and held a responsibility post for assessment throughout the school.

I was delighted to be appointed to a deputy head post in an all – age school in Rochdale for my next post where I enjoyed teaching in every class in order to cover PPA time for the teachers. During this time I completed my NPQH – I had no intention of becoming a headteacher – I was doing it to become a better deputy!

I gained my first headteacher post in a small special school in Manchester in 2002. The school was established as an assessment centre for children for whom it was uncertain whether they would need specialist or mainstream provision and whilst they were with us we completed their statutory assessment. The school also had a mainstream playgroup as part of the provision allowing full inclusion of children playing and learning together. It was fab! During my time at this school I also  became very involved with Chernobyl Children’s Project and had the opportunity to go on a visit to Belarus to support the work they were doing. During the time I was headteacher there I also completed my M Ed in Educational Leadership.

I took up my post as headteacher of Camberwell Park School in September 2006. Since being at the school we have grown in size from 85 to 146 pupils with plans in place for further expansion, we have been judged outstanding by Ofsted 3 times  and have gained the Gold Award for Investors in People 3 times. The school has an amazing hard working and committed team of staff and the children are most certainly at the heart of the school.

During my tenure as Headteacher at Camberwell Park I became a National Leader of Education which has earned me the privilege of working with a supporting a range of other schools across Greater Manchester. From 2015 to 2019 I also enjoyed setting up and co- running a weekly SEND themed discussion on @SENexchange on Twitter alongside @Cherrylkd

After 14 years as headteacher of Camberwell Park School and 33 years working with children with SEND and their families, I have made the decision that it is time for me to take early retirement.  I will be leaving the school at the end of the summer term. Dora, who has been at the school with me for the last 2 years is retiring with me ūüôā

Last year I was honoured and privileged to have been awarded an OBE by the Queen in her New Years Honours list. It was a humbling and emotional  and special experience which for me captured how important children with SEND and their families have been and will always be in my life.

The advert for my post will go live at the end of this week – will start making it real at that point! I know that Camberwell Park School will continue to be an amazing place because of the amazing people that work there!

I have not made any plans for my retirement as yet – I will see what opportunities come my way. What is for sure is that I will always remain Passionate about advocating for Children with SEND and their families, Respectful of the families I have worked with over the last 33 years, Organised in continuing to advocate for SEND after I have left the school e.g. through social media, Understanding of the challenges faced by our families of children with SEND and Dedicated to doing whatever I can to support SEND in the future. I will always be PROUD to have had the opportunities I have had the privilege to work with so many special people.

Mary Isherwood

Headteacher of Camberwell Park School

September 2006 – July 2020

 

 

#Talkingheadsblog

I was pleased to have been asked by Hannah Wilson to add to the Talking Heads blog. Here is my contribution:

Name: Mary Isherwood

Phase: Primary

Sector: Special

Region: North West

Years Served in Education: 30 years

Years Served as a Headteacher: 16 ¬Ĺ years

Leadership Journey: In my earlier career I had middle leadership responsibilities including subject leader for music and whole school assessment lead. I worked as a deputy headteacher in an all age special school where I taught all classes to cover for teacher‚Äôs PPA. During this time I completed my NPQH and also my Masters in Educational Leadership. I was headteacher at a small special school in South Manchester for 4 ¬Ĺ years before moving to my current headship where I have been for 12 years

Leadership Coach/Mentor/Inspiration: A headteacher I worked for was a really positive role model which in itself was inspirational. In addition she spotted the things I was good at, praised me, encouraged me and facilitated opportunities for me.

Twitter Handle: @Mishwood1

Blog: https://maryisherwood.wordpress.com/

Why do you think we need to develop a coaching culture in our schools?

I have a passion to empower and to develop others and feel that a coaching culture is the best way of achieving that ‚Äď the idea of transformational leadership to make that shift in individuals and really move things on in the school. More often than not others already have the ideas and solutions and just need that encouragement to develop and have confidence in themselves.

Why do we need to be outward-facing as leaders?

As leaders we have a responsibility for the good of all children not just those within our own school and we are in a great position to be able to influence change on a wider scale so by networking and being outward facing generally, we are in a much better position to be able to do so. There is so much we can learn from others too – it is a privilege to go into others schools and learn from them as well as spend time in professional discussions with others whether that be on line or face to face.

How do you create a culture of wellbeing?

We are a team and as such need to be there to support each other as human beings with things that happen in our lives as well as staff colleagues. I am a big believer in being an Investor in people in the widest sense of the word and that includes health and wellbeing / work life balance. We have a number of things in school to support staff wellbeing including a subscription to the Employee assistance programme https://www.employeeassistance.org.uk/, a school counsellor who is available to staff on certain time ‚Äď slots during the week and an appraisal system which includes a health and wellbeing discussion as an integral part of the process.

 What are the values that your shape you as a leader?

The children! At the heart of every decision ‚Äď asking myself what would be the difference / impact on them

What makes you get out of bed every morning?

The children!

Leadership Advice

Don‚Äôt feel that you have to give an instant response to every query ‚Äď people will often expect that as you are the leader. It is ok to respond with ‚Äėleave it with me and I will get back to you‚Äô when you need time to reflect.

 Leadership Inspiration

I am currently re-reading one of the books by Paul McGee (The SUMO guy). ‚ÄėHow to succeed with people‚Äô. ¬†I have bought and enjoyed all of the books Paul has written and found them invaluable in my personal as well as professional life. I am using some of the aspects of his SUMO approach when I am delivering NPQML training as there are so many ‚Äėcommon sense‚Äô ways of looking at leadership challenges through the SUMO lens

Leadership Mantra

Remember to be:

Passionate,

Respectful,

Organised,

Understanding

And

Dedicated

‚Äď PROUD in everything you do!

 Please follow @TalkingHeadsBlog #TalkingHeadsBlog and check out other posts here: https://talkingheadsblog2017.wordpress.com/

Not doing it just for Ofsted….

We were inspected by Ofsted on 16th January 2018. It is the 4th inspection I have experienced as headteacher of Camberwell Park School  but my first experience of a Section 8 inspection. A section 8 inspection for us meant one day with two inspectors Р1  an HMI and an additional Ofsted inspector.

There is no doubt that having an inspection, brings pressure to bear on the school and I would be lying if I said I did not feel the immense pressure and burden as headteacher – the weight of responsibility of maintaining our Ofsted badge of success . After all, Ofsted is the common language in an external judgement of the school which is publicly available and used as a measure of how good the school ( and by default the headteacher) is in so very many ways. There were some things we had to do the afternoon , evening before in preparation – most of it logistical around timetabling and organisation of the day so that all aspects of inspection could be included. Whilst the documentation required was all present in school there was some gathering to be done too so that it was readily available when needed.

All this being said, we do what we do because it is the right thing to do not because we were being inspected.¬†One of best things I heard in the days following inspection was from one of my teachers who was talking to some of the governors¬† and said “we were calm because we were prepared – it is what we do all the time anyway.”¬† I felt calm, school was calm and the attitude we took was that it was was an opportunity to share what we do and have professional dialogue in context of challenge and support

As part of our programme of self – evaluation, we are used to having external quality assurance – we¬† welcome it as part of¬† a bank of ways we self -evaluate our work as there is so much to learn from the challenge and support from others outside of the school including peer challenge and support such as cross- moderation of assessments as well as school improvement colleagues who undertake activities such as classroom observations and document scrutiny. Ofsted inspections are part of that bank of¬† internal and external monitoring and checking which helps us to have an ““accurate, reflective and honest view of the school’s strengths and priorities” (Camberwell Park School Ofsted inspection report, January 2018)¬†and ensuring that¬† “There is a strong sense of school improvement never standing still in your school” (Camberwell Park School Ofsted inspection report, January 2018)

Whilst there are core expectations¬† of things every school should have in place (quite a list of them!) e.g. statutory policies , core curriculum , thorough assessment of pupil progress, rigorous self – evaluation and clear school improvement planning to name just a few , we wanted to tell our own story as a school . Through our website, self evaluation processes and self – evaluation form and therefore during the Ofsted inspection we wanted to take the opportunity to give recognition to and to celebrate¬†the things that are important to us. We have worked hard as a school to consider the words of Mary Rayner HMI when I heard her speak about the Ofsted framework early in 2017 when she told us we have the autonomy to tell our own school story about achievements in the widest sense as long as we could provide clear evidence. We considered as a school how we could ‘measure what we value‘ in a credible way and have since produced a series of case studies. For this reason the comment that¬†“You break down barriers to learning, ensuring that pupils feel safe and confident to flourish, both academically and in their personal development” ( Camberwell Park School Ofsted inspection report, January 2018)¬† means alot to us.

The school curriculum is the foundation of what goes on in the classroom and of the children’s experience of learning and our layered approach of core, enriched and personalised curriculum for our learners ensures a¬† ‘motivating and exciting’ ‘rich, imaginative and varied learning experience that significantly contributes to developing pupils’ self -belief, confidence, personal development and life – skills” ( Camberwell Park Oftsted inspection report, January 2018).¬†Dora ¬†our school dog even got as mention!

I found  our Section 8 inspection a collaborative process . It was  rigorous  and thorough as it should rightly be but as we are not doing it just for Ofsted it was an opportunity to tell the school story through professional dialogue, interviews with stakeholders, time spent in school and review of range of information and QA sources.

If anyone is interested and would like to read our report here it is:

I am lucky to have a hard working and dedicated staff team and delighted that it was acknowledged in our report that¬†“Staff share your aspirations for pupils”¬† and that “Everyone lives up to your school acronym ‘PROUD‘, by being ‘Passionate’, Respectful’, ‘Organised’, Understanding’ and ‘Dedicated'” ( Camberwell Park School Ofsted inspection report, January 2018)

This is a school full of smiles and laughter” ( Camberwell Park School Ofsted inspection report, January 2018)

I am PROUD to be the headteacher of Camberwell Park School

Mary Isherwood

Headteacher Camberwell Park School

February 2018

 

Being an investor in people

It is often said that staff are our greatest resource in school. I couldn’t agree more!

This week we have had a review of our Investors in People award however I am writing this blog post deliberately before we receive the outcome of our assessment as for me, as a strong advocate of being an Investor in People, it is not about the badge of recognition as much as the process and review of the work we do with our staff that enables the accreditation to happen.

What the Investors in People award process does is give you a framework and a system of progression to consider where you are at in 9 key areas of involving staff in the organisation and offers a clear benchmark against other organisations both in education and business. I am sure no – one would argue that the 9 areas outlined by the IIP standard are all equally important. They are:¬†Leading and inspiring people,¬†Living the organisation’s values and behaviours,¬†Empowering and involving people,¬†Managing performance,¬†Recognising and rewarding high performance,¬†Structuring work,¬†Building capacity,¬†Delivering continuous improvement and¬†Creating sustainable success.

The children are at the heart of the school – rightly so – our core purpose is about meeting their holistic needs. The school is more than that though – we are a community – an extended family and in order to achieve what we set out to achieve we want a workforce who is the ‘best they can be’ in terms ¬†of being knowlegeable, skilled, involved, empowered, trusted, resilient, have good health and wellbeing and enjoy their work. In the case of our school, we want a workforce that has all signed up to be PROUD: Passionate, Respectful, Organised, Understanding and Dedicated. ¬†Being PROUD is the stick of rock which runs through everything we do from recruitment and selection of new staff, in all of our policies, through the appraisal system…through everything we do!

As a headteacher I have a clear role together with my leadership team to establish an ethos of aspiration and collaboration based on policies and procedures which enable all of the above things to happen.  It has been interesting when reflecting on where we are at in each area as we prepared for our review this week on how much has changed since we were last assessed 3 years ago. That is how it should be Рas a school we do not sit still Рeverything we do constantly evolves as we are both proactive as well as responsive to changes going on within school, locally as well as nationally.

I am a PROUD headteacher. I am Passionate about supporting my staff team. I Respect that they all have different needs and ways of working. I am Organised in ensuring the systems and structures are in place to support them. I Understand that staff are also human beings who have their own needs / issues / lives outside of school too! I am Dedicated to ensuring the staff team can be the ‘best they can be’ .

Having said that the process is the most important part of being an Investor in People Рabsolutely right, however, having put in for assessment we clearly are hoping we have achieved the standard! The assessor spent two full days in school talking to individuals and different groups of staff. All staff were invited to complete an IIP  questionnaire. The assessor has also taken away a bank of school based evidence to review including staff, parent and multi-agency questionnaires, minutes of meetings, staff handbook, key policies, the school improvement plan and self evaluation form etc etc etc. He has to match whether the experience of staff he talked to matches what is in the documents we provided. Are we walking the walk as well as talking the talk?!

We have twice previously achieved the Investors in People ‘Gold Award’. Here’s hoping we will retain the Gold standard for the 3rd time! We find out in about a month time when we receive the report.

Of course that won’t be the end of it…there will always be developments we can consider, improvements we can make to ensure our school remains a school to be PROUD of.

Mary Isherwood

Headteacher