Measure what you value not value what you measure: Some key messages for SEND

Yesterday was our annual Greater Manchester special school leadership conference and we were really pleased to have Mary Rayner HMI there to speak to us about the implementation of the Common Inspection Framework in the special school context, the implications of national working groups on achievement and evaluation of progress and the Local Area Inspection Framework with regards to schools being part of the local area.

The 50 or so people that attended the conference found Mary’s presentation informative, helpful and reassuring and therefore I felt it would be useful to share the key points she spoke about to a wider audience.

Mary is one of Her Majesty’s Inspectors ( HMI) and is one of Ofsted’s National Leads for SEND. Mary’s substantial leadership experience in the special and mainstream sector gives her immense credibility and her knowledge and experience of the full range of childruen and young people we work with was evident throughout her presentation.

Mary began by emphasising her belief in ‘removal of labels’ such as SLD / PMLD in the sense that geographically these can mean different things to different people. What counts is the individual child, their individual needs and how we can meet them. How could anyone disagree with that?

Common inspection framework – key messages from Mary

  • The CIF is intended to provide coherence, clarity and comparability – schools judged against the same set of standards

Teaching Learning and Assessment

  • Assessment is now in the right place as assessment SHOULD be informing Teaching and learning
  • As inspectors must take account of learning, Mary challenged us as leaders to really consider what it is we value in our school ( e.g. in special school context independence / self help skills, developing of friendships etc) and if we value these things – how do we measure them / show evidence of progress? We need to decide what is good progress for our learners. Inspectors can only take account of information if it is evidenced and moderated to ensure judgements are consistent. The CIF gives us an opportunity to be able to state what we value as part of our ethos – but we have the responsibility to evidence how it impacts on our pupils.
  • We need to tell our school story very clearly and concisely – e.g. if our cohort of pupils has changed and it has meant we have responded and changed our practice – how? why? impact?
  • There is no requirement for ‘data’ to be in a certain format – it can be in many forms – including where relevant and appropriate video evidence for example. As long as you show and evidence progress in a way that is relevant and appropriate to your school and your pupils – that is fine. Important to also take account of pupils for who may have conditions which mean for them there is regression in skills. Make sure their story is told.
  • Define in your own school what pupil ‘work’ is – what does it look like? where would you find it? where would you look for evidence of progress over time? DVDs? Displays?
  • Most important – school practice MUST reflect school policy! e.g. there is no requirement for particular systems of marking – however – if policy says particular requirement then that is what should be seen.
  • Assessment – doesn’t matter what you call it in your school – how do you know it is right? How do you baseline? Measure? moderate to ensure consistency? – using trusted professionals from other schools is sensible to support the process. Don’t avoid moderation with others in other schools even if using different systems – using them to check your systems are robust
  • Need to ensure breadth / depth / range of evidence – if teaching some curriculum areas within others on the timetable – that is fine but needs to be clear
  • Are you sure that all your teachers have the same high expectations?
  • Who are your groups in school – you can decide  within your own context – how do you define them?
  • Baseline is really important. Age, starting points AND time in school are all important as part of measuring and judging progress. Make sure for your own school you have considered what the judgements are and why
  • This is our opportunity to measure all the things we value and present them in a way that is meaningful  AND informs next steps
  • Assessment is linked to curriculum but doesn’t define it

Personal development, behaviour and welfare

 

  • Think about what is must be like to be a pupil at your school – kneel down – see it from their perspective
  • Ensure you are considering preparation for the next stage of education
  • Only use B code in register for actual teaching when you as a school know what is happening and you are monitoring it as a school
  • Improvement in behaviour? How do you know? What are you measuring?
  • You can consider resilience, self – help and independence in this category

Outcomes

  • No longer rule of 3 years of data
  • Professional judgement is important alongside other information you will provide
  • Rochford review – interim report – tried to fill gaps between P8 and what were National curriculum levels. Rochford review have been considering P levels – recommendations currently with ministers and should be published soon
  • P levels can be just a reporting tool. Many schools also use as an assessment tool but don’t have to.
  • Use networks to create comparative information which can be used to evidence progress
  • Can talk about regression and for some children sustaining  achievement

Leadership and management

  • What you do, why do you do it and what is the impact?
  • What is uncompromising ambition in your school ? Define it for yourselves.
  • Do governors share same passion and understanding? Do they understand pupil groups? Do they challenge and support leadership ?
  • What is the effectiveness of SMSC
  • Is vision and ethos clear on website? What information is on your website and what messages does it send about your school. Remember – inspectors will look at this before coming into your school to consider their ‘lines of enquiry’

With regards to Local Area inspections, Mary was just urging us to play our part in the overall information gathering in relation to SEND when inspectors come into school to look at EHCP plans and talk to various stakeholders about their experience of the process.

What was interesting was that after Mary had spoken, there were very few questions. The reason for this was that everybody had felt that Mary had answered the questions they had wanted to ask during her presentation. I hope sharing this with you has answered some of your questions too.

With my best wishes

Mary Isherwood

 

 

Inclusion ( Insert definition here)

inclusion
ɪnˈkluːʒ(ə)n/
noun
 1. the action or state of including or of being included within a group or structure.
“They have been selected for inclusion in the scheme”
Oxford Dictionary

Maybe I am slightly late to the party, however over recent weeks there has been alot of discussion on Twitter with regards to Inclusion of pupils with SEND in mainstream education and a number of blogs which have followed. I am grateful to @JulesDaulby for collating many of them on her blog site here: https://mainstreamsen.wordpress.com/

As I write this I am fully aware of how controversial and emotive this topic can be and how definitions of what ‘Inclusion’ actually is can vary so much, hence, as pondered what it meant to me, it led me to the title of this blog.

Time for me to put my two penneth in………………

I would personally like to approach inclusion from the perspective of all of our pupils being on a continuum of learning needs. In this context, for me inclusion is about a personalised learning package which meets each pupil’s individual and holistic needs. That would include their learning environment whether mainstream, special, part – time in each, unit etc but also their personalised curriculum. For me it is not about one or the other being a preferred option  – it is about what ever is the most appropriate for the individual to meet their needs.

I get frustrated in many ways when I hear links to mainstream schools for our pupils with SEND being referred to as ‘inclusion’ as if they are not included in the system without this. Don’t get me wrong, we work closely with mainstream schools to support them to be as ‘inclusive’ as possible in terms of educating as many pupils with SEND in mainstream settings as possible, however, for some of our pupils, the most ‘inclusive’ setting to meet their needs is actually a base in a specialist setting either for all, most or some of the time.

I know there are many imperfections in the system in terms of being able to achieve the  optimum of personalisation however, my personal position is that I do not see the existence of specialist provisions as being a barrier to inclusion but an essential part of a multi- faceted education system in which I will continue to advocate on behalf of all of our pupils in ensuring their individual needs are met in the best possible way.

 

 

 

A strong voice ‘building’ for the future

new school and bus

Tomorrow is a big day for Camberwell Park School  (@CamberwellPark) as we welcome our pupils to our  new school building.

We learned back in 2012 we were finally destined to get a new building as part of the Priority School Building Programme . The news could have not come soon enough as the building we have been inhabiting was in such a poor state of disrepair. During my tenure as head teacher we had experienced a complete ceiling collapse in the hall, a fire in the electric cupboard and a gas explosion never mind the leaks into the school every time it rained! Our pupils and the staff were finally destined to get the building they deserved! You can read the DfE press release about our new building here

As headteacher, right from the start it was important to me to ensure that the whole school community had a voice in the development of the new school so staff, parents / carers, governors and members of the multi-agency team were all consulted:

But what about the pupils?

They have been involved and included all the way through in ways that are relevant and meaningful to them such as:

Drawing pictures of the things they wanted in the new school and voting for colours for the feature walls in the classrooms.

ramp and bigger bikes     voting for colours  shapes pupil

Our pupil’s work about the vision for our building formed a significant display on the school corridor

Building display

It was essential that all of our learners had a chance to have their priority needs for the new school represented in our vision, including those with the most profound and multiple learning needs:

 

pmld

My staff team as always have been hard working,  creative, imaginative and ensured appropriate access for all of our pupils to engage in the whole process. My staff team are fabulous – all due respect  and huge thanks to them!

I collated all of the views which were collected from our school community and made sure they were represented in our vision statement and what it would mean for the building as shown in the short sections below.

Section of vision

We have continued to involve the pupils during the autumn term with whole school topic work on ‘Buildings’ and ‘Change’ as we help to prepare them for the big move. We also celebrated our life at the old site with a very special assembly which included a balloon release ( we have the balloons ready for tomorrow morning to tie to the railings of the new site ready for when the children arrive)

balloon launch 1              balloon launch 2                    balloon launch 3

So here we are in January 2016, slightly later than we originally anticipated, but with an amazing building which has given us everything we could have hoped and wished for. A building which will enable us to build on our existing already outstanding practice and be even more Passionate, Respectful, Organised, Understanding and Dedicated. Ensuring Camberwell Park continues to be a school to be PROUD of. At an open afternoon for our parents and pupils on Thursday afternoon, around 20 families in total attended and seeing the responses of the parents, hearing the number of times the word ‘WOW’ was used and seeing the confidence and smiles of the pupils is what it is all about and makes it all absolutely worthwhile.

There is still work to be done – in addition to the snagging list we are having interactive elements fitted to the hydro pool as well as a brand new Immersive learning room ( work on which is already underway)

On 11th January 2016, our vision really does become a reality however as our children have their first day in their new school and I for one can’t wait!

There are lots and lots of photos on the media section of our twitter account @CamberwellPark – a couple of them are below. The photos really do not do not do the place justice though – why not come and visit us!

The hydrotherapy pool:

From this                             To this

pool before    pool after

The building

From this                                To this

building frame   OUtside new building

 

Mary Isherwood

Very PROUD headteacher at Camberwell Park School

January 10th 2016

 

#StarterForFive Advice for new teachers

I have taken up the invitation to contribute to the ‘Starter for Five’ blog – collating advice from a range of practitioners for new teachers. It’s a great idea so if you have not already written your  ‘Starter for five’ – perhaps now is the time?

Starter For Five

Name:  Mary Isherwood
Twitter: @Mishwood1

Sector: Special School

Subject: All subjects

Position: Headteacher

5 bits of advice about:  Supporting a child with Cognition and learning difficulties in your class

  1. Consider use of visual prompts to support routines and understanding. Examples are visual timetables; visual equipment mats showing resources for lessons.
  2. Labelling of cupboards for resources including photos / symbols where appropriate can support with making resources accessible and promoting independence.
  3. Use of minimal language focussing on key words / concepts can support a child’s understanding of information or instructions.
  4. Finding motivators appropriate to each child can really help with engaging them in their learning – finding a reward to work towards and breaking their learning down into manageable chunks.
  5. Remember alot of good practice for supporting pupils with learning difficulties is good practice for all of your pupils.

1000 years of Experience : My contribution

I have finally taken up the challenge set by @ChrisChivers2 and added to by many others to reflect and record some of my thoughts as an experienced educator as part of his collection of ‘1,000 years of experience‘ So here goes………………….

I have over 20 years experience as a teacher and senior leader in Special Education ( Early Years, Primary and Secondary). I have been headteacher for a total of 14 years in two different special schools.

On you as a person:

  • Be consistently Passionate, Respecful, Organised, Understanding and Dedicated. PROUD of what you do.
  • Stay strong to your moral purpose – know what you believe in and stick to it!
  • Do the right thing for the right reasons
  • Always have that quest and thirst for learning more – challenging yourself to go that one step further, make things that little bit better.
  • Have a life outside of work making sure you take care of your health and well-being too

On children:

  • Know the children really well – think carefully about their holistic needs
  • Spend time observing, talking to and listening to the children
  • Know that they must be at the heart of every decision – always ask yourself the question – what does it mean for them?
  • Recognise that we learn as much from them as they learn from us
  • Make use of professional dialogue with colleagues and most importantly with parents / carers to reflect on how best to work with the children

On leadership and management ( working with people):

  • Treat people as ‘they’ would want to be treated – don’t make assumptions
  • See the ‘other side of the beach ball’ when working with people – what does the situation look like for them?
  • Use emotional intelligence ……. with abundance!
  • Listen ……………..and hear what is being said
  • Don’t always feel you have to respond immediately to queries / issues – sometimes you may want / need time to reflect.

There is no ‘I’ in team: Responding to a school tragedy

The importance of support from your colleagues within the school environment, indeed in any work place, is something none of us would ever underestimate I am sure. Having positive working relationships, collaboration and support is of course important at all times, however, at a time of a school crisis or when facing a tragedy it magnifies the need for the support of others all the more.

Those of you who have read my blogs before or who read my tweets will know very well our school set of agreed professional behaviours of being Passionate, Respectful, Organised, Understanding and Dedicated, making Camberwell Park a school to be PROUD of. I have a fabulous team of nearly 80 staff who this week have shown these qualities in abundance.

On Tuesday 1st September, we returned to school for the start of the new school year and launched straight into our training day initial meeting at 8.30 a.m. We had been sharing school news , updates on our exciting new school building and the priorities in our School Improvement Plan. Staff were enthusiastic and were engaging in small group discussion about their hopes, for the year for the pupils and for themselves when just before 9 a.m. I was called out of the meeting to hear the news that one of our teaching assistant colleagues had died a 8 a.m. that morning. Whilst she had been ill, her loss was not expected. She is a long standing member of the school team who has many friends both inside and outside of the school and indeed many staff who are related to her.

As I walked back into the hall to stop the meeting and to tell the staff the news I was only too aware of the impact it would have and how as the headteacher I wanted to do everything  could to support people. In schools we do have really difficult news and situations that occur  of all different types and sadly in special schools including at my own school , death of pupils is something we do on occasions have to face. Death of a much loved colleague has got to be up there are one of the most difficult scenarios and as human beings first and members of staff second – people need understanding and support.

This blog is an accolade to my staff team who could not have supported each other more. In a sense, that the tragedy happened on a training day allowed us the flexibility to manage the day in a way that was helpful to us as a community. That we were able to have the time to come together as a team during the day to share some of our happy memories and funny stories for example was both positive and healing.

Whilst clearly the sadness has just not disappeared over night, in true P.R.O.U.D. form, the staff were all in ready for the 8.30 start the next morning and have given our pupils a fantastic first week of the new term. It has been a pleasure and privilege to walk round school and to see the work going on and to see the children engaging in some great learning. Also to see the team continuing to work collaboratively and supportively with each other and supporting me and the leadership team, for example on Friday evening, when one of the home-school transport vehicles was late, without hesitation huge numbers of staff offered to stay beyond their hours and support with the group of pupils who were left. As headteacher, I could not ask for any more.

Moral of my story? I guess just to reinforce how for me you cannot undermine all of the work we do as an Investor in People and about being a team. Staff are the most expensive and valued resource and we must invest in them. We must remember though our team are people and human beings first and we must respect each individual as such. Losing a colleague this week has reminded us all that despite our own individual grief and ways of dealing with it,  there is definitely no ‘I’ in team.

I remember her with fondness and am sat here now thinking of some of those funny stories we shared together earlier on this week. May she rest in peace

As we prepare for the new school year…………… #PostAPositive

It is inevitable that at the end of August, our thoughts have been increasingly turning to the start of the new school year. indeed some colleagues have already returned.

I was inspired by the post on Staffrm  by @SeanwelshBacc in which he talks about how much he enjoys his job and also takes up the mantle of #PostAPositive ( thanks Sean), so much so, I decided to write my own.

I am in the privileged position of being a headteacher. The best job in the world I would say ( well most days anyway!). Along with that privilege though comes responsibility and accountability neither of which should be taken lightly. The pupils and their needs must always be at the heart of what ever we do as a school so as I have been sat reflecting, preparing and discussing aspects of school improvement on my own, with members of the leadership team and with my Chair of Governors during the summer, I keep coming back to the question ‘So what? What will this mean to the pupils and their families?

A big year for us

There are so many things I could write about – but the purposes of this blog, for me, three things stand out as most significant:

Our new school building

This is a big year for us, for after many years of waiting,we are finally getting a new school building – purpose built for our pupils. What an amazing opportunity it has been to be able to have an input into designing a school for the many hundred pupils who will attend over the coming years. Pupils, staff, parents, members of the multi-agency team and governors all had an input in what they would like to see in the new school and finally the vision is heading towards reality. There is still lots to do this term as the building is still under construction and is as yet unfurnished. We get the keys to our new school in December 2015 and open to pupils in our new school building on 11th January 2016. How exciting!

It is of course exciting, but I am concious of how difficult such a huge change can be for our pupils, their families and staff, (particularly as we are moving to a new site approximately 2 miles away). To this end, our whole school topic this term is going to be ‘Buildings’ and ‘Change’ with all subjects where ever possible and as appropriate being taught through these themes e.g. in Science focussing on materials and their properties and Life and Living Processes to enable the children to think alot about buildings and their construction and around the environment of our new school. ‘Change’ will enable us to do lots of work on the Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning relating to the move. Visits to the new school site are organised this term for staff and where possible pupils and coffee mornings and for everyone there are regular updates on my weekly headteacher blog and on our school twitter account  @CamberwellPark

Our vision for the next 5 years

I am proud that our school has been judged Outstanding twice by Ofsted.It is important however, that we continue to review all of our policies, procedures and school practice to ensure that we continue to offer the best possible provision for our pupils. The move to the new school, the facilities it will provide and the new community where we will settle gives us an important renewed backdrop and impetus for this conversation. To this end, the governors and leadership team have together begun to consider the school’s vision for the next 5 years – what are our next steps. We have been asking ourselves some very important questions which are:

In 5 years time…

  • What will the children be saying about being a pupil at Camberwell Park School
  • What will the parents of children who attend be saying about the school?
  • What will staff be saying about working at the school?
  • What will other schools who we work with be saying about us?
  • What will people who live in the local community be saying?

Work to advance our initial discussions will continue into this year involving all stakeholders – a shared vision we all believe in and with the commitment and support that I know is there we can together make it happen!

Our partnerships and work with other schools ( Challenge and Support)

We have a number of networks  with other schools which we are really grateful for and I believe add mutual value to all of the schools involved. I wrote about our MC2SP ( Manchester Challenge to Support Partnership) in a blog for NCTL in January 2015. In addition working as an LLE and as part of a teaching school alliance enables us to develop our knowledge and skills by reflecting on our own practice in the context of other schools. During this year though I am really excited that we are part of a pilot project of 12 special schools working with Jessica Nash and the SSAT_SEN @SSAT_SEN on a programme of peer challenge and support using an external adviser working with us across the schools. I have been involved in shaping the programme which is very much about school improvement and support and definitely not about ‘Mocksted’ . Building capacity in my own leadership team it is two of my assistant heads and not me who will be involved in the programme, although I am looking forward to joining them on the launch day on September 10th.

So many things……

There really are so many things I could write about as we enter into this new school year and I have not mentioned – so many things we are working on within school as a result of our own priorities together with those brought about externally such as our continued work on assessment after levels, particularly for our pupils working above P8 and our continued work on implementing the SEND reforms and making the process as child and family centred as possible.

What am I most looking forward to?

Tuesday – seeing the staff team again – hopefully refreshed – everyone pleased to see each other and a renewed enthusiasm to being Passionate, Respectful, Organised, Understanding and Dedicated to the school – professional behaviours we are all signed up to as a staff team.

Wednesday – We welcome 18 new pupils!! Such a big day for them starting school! Seeing all of our other pupils after the holiday too –  how they have grown, new hair cuts, new shoes – lots of smiles! Spending time going round school on Wednesday – privilege is the only appropriate word.

Last word

I am not for one minute imagining the year won’t be without it’s challenges – I am under no illusion that it will be tough at times – but just these few notes I hope will give a flavour about how the really proud headteacher who is sat here writing this blog feels – what a year ahead – how could I not be excited? – BRING IT ON!