Tag Archives: #headteacher

Introducing Dora – our school dog

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Having a school dog is not a new idea – there are many schools now that have school dogs and there is a raft of evidence online that tells of the benefits for both staff and children.

Having a school dog @camberwellpark is not a new idea either – it is something we have talked about on and off for a number of years. I am grateful however to @cherrylkd who having acquired her fabulous trainee therapy dog Doodles, spurred me into action once more  and was very supportive in linking me up with the breeder from where Doodles was born and I was able to get our little superstar puppy Dora.

As it is national pet month, and Dora has been in school for 3 weeks now,  it seems a perfect time to introduce her to a wider audience.

Dora is a miniature labradoodle, and as with Doodles, she has been particularly chosen as a breed as she is hypoallergenic and an intelligent, calm and friendly dog breed. Perfect for being with our children. At the time of writing this blog she is 13 weeks old.

Dora lives with me and travels into school with me each day. She has a crate in my office so that she has a quiet and safe place when she needs it, particularly whilst being a puppy.

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She has a big job ahead of her in school and we have shared information about her role and responsibilities on our website. She is a fully fledged member of staff and even has her own signing in and out to be done 😉

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In order to support the children learn about her we are developing a range of social stories. We will extend these out to a trip to the vets, going to puppy school and other things that Dora gets up to.

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We have photos of her dad , mum and one of her sisters so we can do ‘about her family’ for the children.

Dad 2                                  MumDora and her sister

 

 

 

 

 

 

She even has her own schedule in the office so that it can support the children to understand about routines and using their own schedules!

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We also have  a Dora object of reference as well as symbols to go on the children’s schedule when they are going to work with her.

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We are obviously managing Dora’s introduction to school very carefully for her sake and for that of the children in order for it to be successful. She is only a puppy yet so has lots to learn. She has started puppy training classes with me now and is doing really well. Once she has completed her basic training the trainer is going to work with me on particular skills as a therapy dog e.g. sitting still in her bed whilst being a reading dog for the children.

She has already proved her value however, she has a pet – gate at my office door and has a regular stream of children looking out for her and saying hello as they pass as well as asking loads of questions, wanting to draw / colour pictures and bring them to her. We have had more than one occasion when our pupils who have multiple learning difficulties have either stopped crying when they have held her, stilled and raised their heads and on another occasion one little girl whose hands are always clasped tight, immediately unfurled her hand , turned her eyes towards Dora and started blinking. On another occasion a year 6 pupil in crisis was able to de-escalate his anger very quickly by coming and telling Dora what had made him angry and then returning to class to continue his learning. Staff too are loving having her around and she is a therapy for them too. Dora doesn’t like anyone being sad and ran and comforted a member of staff who was upset about something from home when sat in my office. Dora cuddles were just what was needed at the time.

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She has visited lots of classes already and has been to assembly and is already the stimulus for lots of classroom work. Sadly,   due to pupil confidentiality I cannot share photos which show the children’s faces however  here is some of the fabulous writing one class has produced this week

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So Dora Camberwell – it is early days but you have already proved your worth.

School council are meeting next week to discuss and set out  ‘Dora rules’ – be gentle etc and write a list of things she needs so that classes can research and buy things for her.

She is very much part of the school

Thank you for taking the time to read about her

Mary Isherwood

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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 – as a school we do not sit still – everything 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 – absolutely 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

 

 

 

 

 

‘Measure what you value not value what you measure’ . A special school context

 

The context

In my last blog I shared the presentation delivered by Mary Rayner HMI  when she spoke at a recent Greater Manchester leadership conference about the implementation of the Common Inspection Framework in the special school context.

One of the key messages we all took away with us was that in our schools there are many things in addition to Core and Foundation subjects which we value and want to celebrate, however, the onus is on us to ensure we are able to provide evidence of impact. It is not enough for us just to say how outstanding we are at for example personal and social development – how do we know? Importantly too if we are making a judgement of outstanding – what is that in relation to? How would it compare to other similar pupils in other similar settings?

Following the presentation, as a leadership team and then as a group of teachers, we have begun work on ensuring we have clarity on this in our own school.

The key questions for us were:

  • what areas ( in addition to Core and Foundation subjects) were we agreeing were the key areas we want to focus on / celebrate in terms of pupil achievement?
  • What are our existing sources of evidence for progress in these areas?
  • In what format do we want to present our evidence and who to? ( parents / governors / website)
  • On what basis are we making our judgements?
  • How do our judgements / evidence compare to that in other schools?

Where are we up to and what are our next steps?

The staff and governors have now agreed 9 key areas of achievement for our school. They are:

  • Core subjects
  • Foundation Subjects
  • Mobility
  • Social, Moral, Spiritual, Cultural (SMSC)
  • Behaviour
  • Communication
  • Characteristics of learning
  • Personal and social development (PSD)
  • Life Skills

We talked about how many of these overlap but can also identify key distinctions in our definitions of each one.

We then went onto deciding on and listing existing evidence sources for each area as we do not want to get into creating additional checklists for the sake of it! Many evidence sources are generic for each area e.g. formative assessment records, classroom observations, displays, end of year reports…however there are some evidence sources which are bespoke to individual areas e.g. for PSD / SMSC / Characteristics of learning – school council minutes have been included on the list of evidence sources.

We are now in the process of compiling case studies for each of the areas to which evidence sources which exemplify the progress made by some of our pupils will be attached. When complete, the table indicating our 9 areas of pupil progress with their evidence sources and anonymised case studies will be included on our website on the curriculum / assessment page.

Rather than relying solely on our own judgement however, in order to benchmark against other schools, we are working with special school leaders across Greater Manchester (in the established network   working group we have already which includes cross moderation of assessments), we are agreeing as a group what a ‘Gold standard’ case study should look like and then during 16 – 17 are planning to cross moderate each other’s case studies – a professional dialogue which will be really valuable.

On 13th July, we are going to discuss this topic between 8 – 8.30 p.m. on @SENexchange – a chat which I @Mishwood1, co-host with @cherrylkd and we would really love to hear from other schools about how you are tackling this issue? Let’s share good practice and ensure together we can make sure we achieve the best possible holistic outcomes for our children and young people with SEND.

Whilst this has been a conversation in this blog about learners with SEND, I am sure mainstream colleagues would agree that there are so many achievements other than core and foundation curriculum in all of our schools for all of our pupils so I would welcome views from all settings.

Thank you for reading and I look forward to hearing from you

Mary

 

 

 

 

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:

 

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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

 

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.