Tag Archives: #primary

‘Preparation for the next stage of education’ Supporting pupils with SEND in their transition to high school

Whilst we all accept change is a part of life and change can be a good thing, never the less change can be hard. We all find comfort in things which are familiar and have ways that we prepare ourselves for changes ahead of us.

In the context of school life, transition from primary to secondary school is one of the biggest changes and whilst opening up lots of new  and exciting opportunities, can also provoke anxiety for all pupils. For pupils with SEND, this is particularly the case. It is often in our experience a really difficult time for families too as they worry about their little ones making this next big step.

In this blog I write from our own experience @camberwellpark  school in supporting our pupils and their families through the experience in order to make it as positive and successful as possible.

Whilst this blog is focussed on the change from primary to secondary school, managing change is something we support our pupils with throughout their time in school from day to day changes of time – table  / rooms / activities through to changing to new classes at the end of the year. This can include use of visual schedules, now and next cards, social stories, circle time activities – what ever is relevant, appropriate and useful for individual pupils as like us, all of our pupils respond differently and need different levels and methods of support.

With regards to transition to high school, our positive and collaborative  relationship with @NorthRidgeSch  where most of our pupils move on to is integral to making our pupil’s transition successful. The headteacher or other senior colleague from the school attends the annual reviews for all of our year 5 pupils to start to get to know them and to share information about the school with their parents. She also  welcomes families of year 5 pupils to visit the school. We find families value the opportunities to talk to us about their child’s move to high school as over the years we build a relationship of trust and support, as well as talking to staff from the high school so that they can feel reassured and have any questions they have answered directly.

Whilst the transition plan follows a general format of a programme of visits  for the pupils in year 6 to their high school during the summer term, it is important for us to consider the individual needs of the pupils and where needed offer additional visits / support or indeed recognise for some pupils the programme of visits may be unhelpful in terms of them managing the change. It is our knowledge of the pupils that enables us to work with them in a way which is most helpful to them. We ensure we staff the visits with staff from our school who know the pupils well and who are best placed to share relevant info with high school staff as well as support the pupils on their visits. The visits are gradually increased in length from a short visit with a drink in the community cafe, extended over a period of weeks to include lunch and eventually full days. This is accompanied by relevant work back at own own school in relation to the change – work on feelings as well as practical aspects of the move to the new school.

Pupil voice is very important to us and whilst through our observations of the pupils and informal conversations with them we felt our transition programme was positive and effective, we wanted to investigate this further so we set about doing a pupil questionnaire – completed during year 6 before the move  to high school and repeated during year 7 after the move.

Here is a case study of one of our pupils

Transfer to High School  :  Case study  

M was a Y6 pupil in Summer 2016 who was transferring to Northridge High School in September 2016.

He had been on 7 visits to his new class/school, starting with a one hour visit/tour of the school and finishing with a full day visit. 

M had been asked during the start of his transition visits,  ( Easter 2016 onward) a few simple questions.  Familiar symbols were used to support M understanding the questions. His answers are in bold below written as they were said.

·         How was your first visit to your new school? ‘I liked it and was excited.’

·         What did you like? ‘I like the radio room they had a real microphone and I like the cafe’

·         What did you not like? ‘ I liked everything’

·         Are you worried about anything?  Why? ‘ I am a little bit nervous it will be hard to know where to get the fruit and milk from’

The answers that M gave were then discussed with him, and strategies put into place to further support his anxieties/transition process.

M was then asked some questions in November 2016 once his move to high school was complete.

·         Have you settled into your new school? ‘Yes’

·         What do you really like about your new school? ‘The “cafe, mugger and the football”’

·         Did you have enough visits to Northridge when you were at Camberwell? ‘Yes’

·         Would you have liked some visits to last longer? ‘No ok’

·         Could Camberwell Park have done anything else to help you move to your new school? ‘ “A nufer day”

The responses from M and the other year 6 pupils have been used for us to continue to shape and develop our transition processes for all of the pupils moving on to high school so that we can confidently feel they are effectively prepared for the next stage of education.

We are discussing how we support our pupils to manage changes of all different sorts on @SENexchange at 8 – 8.30 p.m. on Wednesday 14th June 2017. It would be great if you could join us and share your good practice too

 

 

Let the Music Play…..

cps-cd-cover

 

Music is and has always been a big feature in my life.

Each morning when I get up I put music on in the house, I put music on in the car  when on my way to work and I put music on through the sound system when I arrive at school so my staff team will tell you they get  musical welcome to work each day!

I am lucky to have come from a musical family with both my grandad and my mum playing the piano. I also learned to play the piano and guitar. In my first teaching post  I was also subject leader for music and taught music throughout school. As a deputy I covered PPA in all classes and taught music. I love live music of many different types – I usually have at least 1 gig booked in – ‘Madness’ at the Manchester arena just before Xmas is my next one!

When I put the music on in school yesterday morning as I routinely do, I was thinking about how important music is in school and how much we use it for a range of reasons – perhaps even more in a special school than a mainstream setting. So my blog is an account of the different ways we use music and the positive impact it has with our pupils.

Before I begin – there is a caution with music of course and I can almost hear some of you screaming it  at me already – it should never become ‘wallpaper’, on all the time and used so  indiscriminately in school that its value is lost. Now I have got that out of the way – here we go………

Music curriculum

It is really important that as part of a broad, balanced, relevant and meaningful curriculum that music has it’s place and that our pupils get access to knowledge and skills about music. Developing musical skills alongside the appreciation of all different types of music is important to me and the school.

School choir

We have a school choir which is part of a bank of choices for our pupils for  ‘Friday Fun Clubs’ i.e. activities including cheer leading, choir, sports, IT, local walk….that our pupils can choose to join on a Friday afternoon. Our choir is a singing and signing choir and we have been proud to have performed at a range of events including in the Exhibition hall at the 2015 SSAT national conference and singing as part of ‘The Tale of Mr Tumble‘ in last year’s Manchester International Festival. Being part of Young Voices each year at Manchester Arena has given our choir a chance to perform along side many other school choirs and be part of a truly memorable experience

Sing and Sign

We have a weekly whole school ‘sing and sign’ session for which we are joined each week by a group of pupils from one of our local primary schools. We have  ‘old favourite’ songs we like to sing but enjoy learning new songs too. The choir have an important role in leading the singing from the front! Time to come together each week as a whole school in this way is very special.

Music an auditory ‘cue’

Many of our pupils benefit from the use of ‘Objects of reference / Object cues’ to support their understanding of the timetable, support their transitions and access to learning i.e. a set of objects which  are consistently used to relate to activities on the timetable such as a book for English lessons, a cup for snack times etc. We have an auditory cue we use for assemblies – the piece of music ‘A whole New World’ is played in the hall as our pupils arrive which signifies to them it is assembly time.

Music to support timetables / transitions 

Building on from auditory cues a number of songs are used regularly with our pupils to support their access to learning e.g. hello songs, days of the week songs, now it’s dinner time song…… This is in addition to number songs, alphabet songs…….

Song boards / song choices and our school CD

Many of our pupils have favourite songs they like to sing and sign and most classes have song ‘choice boards’ where during a singing session the children can either verbally or by choosing a symbol choose the song of their choice. We have song bags of props for a whole range of favourite songs. Following a request from a parent about knowing the words and signs for the songs their child was singing so they could sing them at home, we produced a school CD and accompanying song book which includes the words and signs to the songs. The cover of the CD is the image at the top of this blog.

Music as a  motivator / reward / to calm and relax

Many of our pupils find music as a motivator and will work towards having headphones and music for example as a ‘golden time’ type reward for doing their work. The right piece of music in the right environment can be very effectively used to de-escalate a situation when a child is in crisis.

Steel drums

We have  set of steel drums in school and a range of other drums. We use our music grant to buy in tuition for a group of pupils in KS2 to have access to learning to play the drums. They sound fab!

Music  to enhance and support learning across the curriculum

Without it becoming ‘musical wallpaper’ , music can be really effective in enhancing learning across all different areas of the curriculum. Dance / PE is an obvious one, however, so many other lessons can benefit when used well. A favourite of mine is seeing the children engaged in ‘Write dance’ where the tables are covered with lining paper and the mood of the music which accompanies encourages different mark – making on the paper

Musical performances

Christmas concerts,  part of assemblies – our pupils are superstars when it comes to musical performances. We love to celebrate the work of our pupils and the school and musical performances are a great way of sharing our joy with parents / carers, families and friends of the school. “Bravo, Bravo, Bravo, Bravissimo. Bravo, Bravo, very well done!” 

Our school song

We our proud to be a Unicef Right’s respecting school and as part of this work we established a school song which we sing during sing and sign sessions and have sung at some performances:

Respect each other that’s the rule,
here at Camberwell Park School
Be kind and listen to each other
Treat everyone as if they’re your brother
Listen to what the teachers say
Help the children learn each day
 
Respect each other that’s the rule
here in Camberwell Park School
Always try to do your best
Treat everyone else with respect
Be the best that you can be
Have fun learning and be happy
Let the music play……………………..
Mary Isherwood
November 2016

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

#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.

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!

#SENreforms: One year on – a special school perspective

The revised Code of Practice for children and young people with Special Educational Needs and Disability has now been statutory for a full academic year. On the publication of the Final Impact research report from the pathfinder Local Authorities I wanted to record the story of Camberwell Park School .

There was a general consensus that the statutory assessment process for children with special educational needs needed to change – an over bureaucratic and excessively lengthy process in which often the child and their needs was a by-product (that was my experience of it).  All of the  messages about the new Code of Practice in which we move away from Statements of Special Educational Needs towards Education, Health and Care Plans -The philosophy of  a more child / family centred process right from 0 – 25 years which is responsive to local need and has all agencies working together for a fully co-ordinated approach – what’s not to love?

Whilst I fully acknowledge it is not yet a perfect system – far from it – despite the challenges we have faced, our overall experience and the feedback we have had from the families, has been of a much more positive way of working – the children, their needs and their outcomes are now much more at the forefront. Let me tell you our successes, challenges and next steps…………………..

As a Manchester headteacher I was pleased that the Local Authority took a proactive approach. They had been a pathfinder for the reforms for young people with SEN from 16 – 25, but also established a multi-agency working party during summer 2014 to prepare for implementation of the reforms the following September.I was pleased to be invited to represent the special school sector in this group. During this term we also wished to be proactive as a school – training key staff in person centred planning and identifying a small cohort of families for us to pilot the revised annual review process. Where ever possible we already included our pupils in annual reviews and they prepared their own report prior to the meetings using symbol communication where needed. We set about updating our pupil booklet however in line with person centred planning tools and requirements for what was then the draft Code of Practice as well as establishing a parent voice booklet.

As a special school, all of our children have already had a statement of special educational needs so our year has been one of conversions of statements to Education, Health, Care Plans. We embarked on an ambitious programme to complete conversions for all of our 93 children in one year!

Our key successes

  • The annual review meetings in the new person centred format have been fantastic! They are very child centred and we have had much more open, honest and informative discussions enabling us to establish meaningful and relevant outcomes for the children and their families. The feedback we have received from parents / carers have included these comments in the most recent parent / carer questionnaire:

‘I think the way the new EHCP have been conducted was a lovely change. Having everyone to contribute was effective and positive.’

‘School meetings have always been informative. The teachers have always wanted to know my thoughts and feelings on subjects that have been discussed.’

  • As already mentioned, pupil voice has always been important but we have worked hard on developing further the tools the children have to express their views  and they continue to amaze us with their ability  to express their likes, dislikes, aspirations for the future and what others can do to help them using their pupil views booklet as a framework. Parents / carers too we have found have valued the family views booklet to help them prepare for discussions in the reviews
  • We grappled with how we relate the outcomes set in the annual reviews / EHCP match to our existing Individual Education Plan programme in which personalised targets focussed on ‘barriers to learning’ are established. The timing of the two things were not marrying therefore the process was not co-ordinated enough. We needed to find a way of setting targets following annual reviews and making sure we follow up  on progress each term including parents / carers and other agencies. We have now established a programme of holding all annual reviews in the autumn term following which all pupils have personalised ‘My Learning Targets’ set using EHCP / annual review outcomes. These are then updated each term including feedback / discussion from parents / carers at parent’s evening and information from other agencies where appropriate and then updated / amended as necessary.
  • We are have worked closely with the high school which most of our pupils move to in terms of the transition reviews to ensure that the move from primary to high school is as smooth as possible for both the child and their family. We have recently included gaining pupil views on their transition programme into our questionnaires to see how prepared the pupils feel for their next stage of education and to inform any changes we might want / need to make to the process.
  • We have worked hard on the SEN Information report on our website – consulting with parents / carers on what they wanted included and trying to make it  as user friendly, informative, relevant and meaningful as possible

Our main challenges

Whilst the results of the changes have been mainly positive, I cannot pretend the year has been without it’s challenges – some of which we have resolved and some are work in progress!

  • Each of the annual reviews are taking much more time – on average one and a half hours, plus all the preparation time and putting together paper work afterwards. Not for one minute am I complaining about giving what is essential and valued time to the children and their families and as has been said, the meetings are one of the biggest successes, however, we feel that the meetings are important enough to ensure it is always a member of the senior management team which leads them, therefore, logistically it has placed a much bigger challenge on our time – not insurmountable but has needed lots of adjustments of roles / responsibilities and timetabling
  • The administration is a nightmare! We haven’t  got this one fully sorted yet and I would be delighted to know if anyone out there has cracked this? We are paying for additional admin time to minute the meetings, however, the meeting format does not lend itself well to direct minuting and doesn’t match directly to the paperwork required by the LA so is requiring a lot of additional time for us proof reading and amending after the meetings have finished
  • Multi- agency involvement continues to be a challenge – one of the central themes of the reforms is that it is a ‘health and care’ plan in addition to education. We have had lots of support from other agencies in trying to find ways forward and for the most part we are now getting multi-agency reports to be included in meetings. There are two key reasons for this challenge – one is that multi-agency team members are much less available than they were due to cut backs in services so often are not able to allocate the time to attend meetings. In addition, when are families are so complex and have many agencies involved, it is difficult to schedule meetings when everyone is available, even well in advance. Working with our multi agency teams we have had some improved success for the forthcoming year identifying the priorities for each child and who it is most essential to attend e.g. nurse, speech and lang therapist, with others contributing a report  – but as the discussion is so valuable at the meetings, in an ideal world they would all be there!

So our next steps……………

I think the honest answer is that it all continues to be work in progress!

Our programme of annual reviews for 2015 / 2016 is already in place and all members of multi-agency teams have had the dates. We will continue to be Passionate about ensuring our pupils achieve the best outcomes possible, be Respectful of all of the individual needs of the pupils and their families, be Organised in making sure everyone has the information they need to contribute, be Understanding of individual circumstances and how we can best support and be Dedicated in ensuring we are the best we can be. Camberwell Park continues to be a school to be PROUD of

The headteacher inspector calls

Both Nick Hague @educationbear and MaryIsherwood @Mishwood1, were delighted to have had the opportunity to meet with Ofsted’s National Director, Sean Harford @HarfordSean, alongside a small number of other colleagues, many of whom have already blogged about the meeting held on Monday, 18th May 2015: debra kidd @debrakiddTim Taylor @imagineinquiryCherryl-kd @cherrylkdThe Primary Head @theprimaryheadOld Primary Head @Oldprimaryhead1 , Emma Ann Hardy @emmaannhardyMiss Smith @HeyMissSmith

We have chosen to explore further an area which was discussed on the day and as heads who have both trained as inspectors, an aspect pertinent to us both – that of serving practitioners as inspectors.

This is not a new concept, in fact there have been serving head teacher and senior leader practitioners on teams for many years, but it is a concept which has gathered momentum over the last few years as the changes to the inspection framework / process have been developing:
– The HMCI, Sir Michael Wilshaw suggested back in March 2002 when speaking to the ASCL conference “one way you can lead the system is to be more involved in inspection”, adding, “Too few heads become inspectors”.
– Mike Cladingbowl who was at the time National Director for Ofsted, speaking to Manchester senior leaders and governors in February 2014 also spoke about the notion of ‘An inspector in every school’ Mary alluded to this in her blog ‘To grade or not to grade – that is the question’ http://wp.me/p4cGdC-w
– It was also raised during discussion at our meeting by Sean Harford in the context of giving credibility to inspections

If the premise is that the principle of having head teachers as inspectors is a good one, then what is the issue? Why is it worthy of debate and further discussion?
For us, including the others who met with Sean Harford and we are sure for many of you reading this, there seems to be a number of questions / potential issues…….

Here are our thoughts…

Do you need to be in an outstanding school to be an outstanding head?

MI: No in my opinion in the sense that it is a very shallow and potentially misrepresentative part of the criteria. There are many outstanding leaders who are not in outstanding schools. Equally, it does not always follow if you have joined an already outstanding school that you are an outstanding head teacher.

NH: I would agree with this. The notion of outstanding is one which has been open to much debate and I would also say ridicule and misuse. It is often used by politicians and others to highlight the supposed best or as the magic ‘Golden Ticket’ which opens a range of doors. We have too often simply defined leadership by a single word or person rather than a defining collaborative act. Let’s look beyond the narrow confines of the word so that access to, and support for, the many highly effective leaders and leadership teams is enabled for all – leadership not label!

Amount of time contracted

MI: This is an area that I raised at our meeting with Sean. There is an expectation for serving practitioners to contract to Ofsted for a minimum of 15 inspection days per year. On top of this there is 5 days mandatory face to face training, online training units particularly as areas of inspection are updated and of course time needed for preparation for inspections. Whilst I whole heartedly agree with Sean as he said when we met that it is necessary to be engaged in regular inspections in order to ensure skills are maintained and developed, for me, the current requirement is too great on top of all of the other demands both in and out of my own school. It is the reason I have made the difficult decision that whilst succeeding in the assessment process to be an Ofsted inspector I have withdrawn from contracting with Ofsted.

NH: This is a key issue for serving practitioners. The minimum of 15 days may not sound a lot when spread over an academic year but there are tasks to complete prior to any inspection (as there should be) as well as additional training days and update reading. Sean has always been very clear about the importance of having serving practitioners as members of inspection teams and now, more than ever, this is crucial to the future credibility of Ofsted and inspections. However, he did state at the meeting that he would be keeping the issue of contracted time under review once the new framework has been embedded and could be reviewed.

MI: This is true. Sean did encourage me to see how it went for two terms and then discuss further, particularly in the context as he said of there being a shortage of special school heads as inspectors. I would be concerned as a professional however about contracting and then ‘withdrawing’ mid-contract so I would welcome a review of minimum requirements which enabled serving heads like me to keep that balance. Also build in flexibility at particular pressure times within a school life e.g. changes to leadership teams or like we are – moving to a new school building next year – things that put significant pressure on Head teachers meaning they may need to temporarily reduce their external commitments.

Unintended consequences

MI: The theme of unintended consequences was raised in the meeting in a range of ways. My reference to unintended consequences is the Head teacher inspector who is so busy doing inspections that they ‘take their eye of the ball’ and standards decline in their own school as a consequence.

NH: This has happened and will be a concern to any senior leader embarking upon work with Ofsted. However, it is to be hoped that it would be seen and applied in context. Your school must and should come first!

Being a headteacher versus an inspector: a very different role

MI: Quite rightly the notion that a head teacher should not expect or impose ‘their way of doing things’ on a school they are inspecting was raised during our meeting. The CfBT training strongly emphasised that whilst the knowledge and experience of being a head teacher is clearly strength, the role of an inspector for example observing teaching in a school they are inspecting is very different from that in their own. I feel this will continue to be an essential element of ongoing training for serving practitioner inspectors

NH: For me it is about the need to leave your luggage at the door! As you say Mary, the knowledge and skills of leadership clearly contribute to your effectiveness as an inspector but you are not judging any particular method or simply honing in on one aspect of available information. It is also a matter of exercising professional control if your thoughts stray from the brief!

An inspector has to be someone working in the same phase or not?

MI: This is an area of contention and again was raised during our discussion. It is a common concern of mine and others that inspectors of special schools do not have the background knowledge and expertise to be able to make informed judgements. The same could be said of secondary trained inspectors inspecting primary schools. An essential ingredient of a team MUST be someone from that phase / background in my opinion. Within a team though, with the right training – maybe someone outside that phase could add value to professional discussions? Possibly.

NH: Mmm… in an ideal world! I do think that the majority of inspectors on any given team should have skills and experiences drawn from the phase they are inspecting. This adds credibility to the process and outcome. However, I am also supportive of the argument that all colleagues can add to any professional discussion – if not, then are we saying that primary, secondary, special are totally different?

Does an inspector have to be a senior leader or should others in school train as inspectors?

MI: Another area of contention – although not sure if any areas are not contentious actually! I feel again there is a value to extending the opportunities to train as inspectors to middle leadership in schools. The key thing in this for me, as currently with Head teacher / senior leaders, is the rigour of the application process – selecting the right people who are applying to be inspectors for the right reasons and then ensuring they get high quality training and there is ongoing rigorous quality assurance. If all of those things are in place then why not?

NH: Some colleagues I have met who are also serving head teachers, really shouldn’t be inspecting. It is about the right leader for the right job. All inspectors should have experience of some aspect of whole school leadership – whether that be at subject, phase or a higher level. The key message should be about the ability to grasp issues on a whole school level and interpret them without fear or favour – this is not solely within the remit of head teachers.

Initial training / CPD and Quality assurance for inspectors

NH: Sean was very clear on the reasons behind Ofsted ‘bringing the team’ back in house but training and quality assurance are potentially still variable moving forward. I am hopeful that the changes made to date will impact positively upon the whole process of inspection. However, I firmly believe that the ongoing training needs to be rigorous and inspectors should be open to the highest degree of professional challenge – this has often been held up as the case but has not always materialised in practice. Further, quality assurance methods should be part of the inspection process far more regularly than at present. Teams should be more frequently quality assured as they are inspecting so that feedback is immediate and developmental. I’ve commented on training and QA in a previous post – https://educationbear.wordpress.com/2014/03/09/ofsted-2-retraining-the-dementors/

MI: I quite agree. The contracting between schools and inspectors must include the provision of high quality initial training and ongoing by Ofsted. The onus is on inspectors to fully engage in the training provided to ensure they are up to date. Quality assurance is imperative and is for me is one of the pillars on which Ofsted will stand or fall by – what gives it credibility. The framework is there for everyone and is clear; however with the professional judgement that comes alongside it there is also professional fallibility. The QA process needs to make sure schools do not fall fowl of that as sadly has happened in the past.

To conclude:

MI: Sean Harford and his colleagues continue to show the openness for dialogue and collaboration with those of us working ‘at the chalk face’ as changes to the inspection framework and process are developed and established. If the inspection process is truly to be a shared experience between schools and the inspectorate then I feel we have a responsibility to equally engage in the dialogue. We share the same end goal which is to improve outcomes for all of the children and young people we work with after all.

NH: We cannot change the past or the sometimes unprofessional and harrowing inspections some colleagues have experienced. To move forward, however difficult, it must be a collaboration between schools and Ofsted. School leaders should and must deliver a strong message about their own school and their context. Inspection teams must fully understand the framework without losing sight of their professional judgement when applying it.