Tag Archives: #SpecialSchool

Time to say goodbye!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mary Isherwood

Headteacher of Camberwell Park School

September 2006 – July 2020

 

 

#Talkingheadsblog

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

Name: Mary Isherwood

Phase: Primary

Sector: Special

Region: North West

Years Served in Education: 30 years

Years Served as a Headteacher: 16 ¬Ĺ years

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

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

Twitter Handle: @Mishwood1

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

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

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

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

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

How do you create a culture of wellbeing?

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

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

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

What makes you get out of bed every morning?

The children!

Leadership Advice

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

 Leadership Inspiration

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

Leadership Mantra

Remember to be:

Passionate,

Respectful,

Organised,

Understanding

And

Dedicated

‚Äď PROUD in everything you do!

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

Curriculum under the spotlight

The summer break is a good time for reflection about key aspects of school as well as planning next steps. I am taking this opportunity to blog as I reflect on our school curriculum, after all it is central to the day to day experience of our pupils in school so worthy of high regard and consideration.

I am writing this from the starting point of our school having been inspected by Ofsted in January 18 and am pleased that our curriculum was praised in terms of¬†offering¬† “a high-quality curriculum to pupils. It is both motivating and exciting.¬†In addition to English and mathematics, you offer a rich, imaginative and varied, learning experience that significantly contributes to developing pupils‚Äô self-belief,confidence, personal development and life skills”. Ofsted Jan 18

I embrace some of  the increased freedom which is being offered to us around curriculum and assessment Рthe autonomy of being able to respond to the specific needs of the children in the school and establish a bespoke curriculum which meets their needs and an assessment system which effectively demonstrates progress and achievement. Understandingly however, with increased autonomy comes enhanced accountability and in addition to whether our assessment systems have the rigour and accuracy required, we are now finding our curriculum increasingly under the spotlight. Curriculum is likely to become an increased area of focus in Ofsted inspections

Amanda Spielman, Ofsted’s Chief Inspector,¬† has talked about how¬†Ofsted would be looking at how schools‚Äô curriculum is impacting on pupils‚Äô school experience and what makes a ‚Äúreally good curriculum‚ÄĚ.

The school’s curriculum is organic. The position we are in today follows many years of review, changes and adaptations in relation to our school population first and foremost as well as local and national requirements. It is also not the work of one person. The curriculum is a whole school endeavour. Our senior leadership team are supported by forward thinking subject leaders and value staff meeting discussion giving input to the whole school team on aspects of curriculum development and how this is experienced by the pupils each day . This includes meetings of curriculum teams which include groups of teachers and teaching assistants planning and working together on curriculum areas including STEM, K+U, Health¬† and emotional well being, communication and language, Expressive arts and design and EYFS.

Our curriculum is relevant to the group of pupils and the context we are working in as well as underpinning the ethos and philosophy of  our school in terms of what we believe is important for our pupils to learn and therefore I would not expect it to be automatically transferable to other schools,  however I find it useful considering how others approach aspects of school improvement as a stimulus for review and discussion and I hope that maybe reading this might give others a similar opportunity to reflect on their own curriculum in a helpful way.

Where we are now

Core curriculum: We believe our children have an entitlement to a core curriculum of National Curriculum subject areas. In addition to Maths, English and Science, Foundation subjects are delivered in a topic based way through our spiral curriculum

Enhanced curriculum:  The school enhances and enriches the core curriculum offered to the pupils in a range of ways including Open Futures, Rights Respecting Schools, ECO Schools, Forest Schools, Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural, British Values, Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning, peer massage, yoga, pupil voice, school council, and Friday Fun Clubs.

Personalised curriculum :

All children attending Camberwell Park School have an Education, Health and Care Plan. These outline their individual educational, health and social care needs, the provision they need to meet these and outcomes expected across the next stage of their life.¬† We see the EHCP as an integral part of the children‚Äôs curriculum planning and use the outcomes to identify the children MLT‚Äôs (my learning targets).¬†The areas of personalisation include: Mobility, Behaviour, Characteristics of Learning, Communication, Life skills, Personal and social development and sensory skills. Our highly skilled staff then use the MLT‚Äôs and their own knowledge of the children to plan a personalised curriculum offer for each child.¬† This can include but not exclusively ; support plans from our multi-agency partners; pediatrician, school nurse, SaLT, Physio, OT,¬† specific subject intervention groups, opportunities for social development or opportunities for emotional development.¬† This was also acknowledge as a positive aspect of our work in our January inspection as in relation to our pupils’ EHCPs it states : “These goals are then broken down into small achievable steps, and a personalised curriculum is¬†developed to enable the pupil to work towards achieving the goals”.¬†¬†Ofsted Jan 18

As the needs of the pupils vary across the school and in different classes, teachers have autonomy over the structure of their timetables and the weighting they give to different areas of the curriculum in their timetables however they must be able to evidence how their timetable meets the individual needs of each of the pupils in their class.

Our next steps

The needs of our pupils are changing and it is essential that we continue to respond to this in terms of our school organisation and curriculum and therefore our ongoing programme of curriculum review will support subject leaders and curriculum teams to work with the leadership team in ensuring that the Intent of each area of the curriculum is clear, we implement the curriculum in a way that is meaningful to the pupils right across school and that we are able to measure the impact – the important ‘so what’ question¬† to make sure what we offered our pupils has made a difference in a way that is relevant to them.

 

Thank you for reading

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 Рit 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 ūüėČ

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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

Measure what you value not value what you measure – our case studies

Some time ago I blogged on the issue of Measure what you value not value what you measure as it is increasingly a topic of discussion with regards to our pupils with SEND – how do we evidence progress in some of the areas we are so proud of for our learners and celebrate their achievement?

This blog focuses on one of the ways which we are doing this which is through Case Studies. I am blogging now as in recent discussions a few colleagues have asked me for information about how we put together what we are describing as a ‘gold standard’ case study – one which is rigorous and clear in evidencing progress. In the spirit of sharing – here is what we do!

At Camberwell Park School we are keen to evidence holistic pupil progress and have discussed and agreed 9 areas we feel are essential areas of learning for our pupils

i.e.

  • Core Subjects
  • Foundation Subjects
  • Mobility
  • Life skills
  • Personal and Social Development ( PSD)
  • Social, Moral, Spiritual and cultural education ( SMSC)
  • Communication
  • Behaviour
  • Characteristics of Learning

In order to demonstrate progress in these areas we have developed a set of case studies which includes a range of evidence sources.

To ensure the same rigour and high expectations are applied to our case studies as are with all other aspects of assessment, we have discussed and agreed what for us is a ‚ÄėGOLD STANDARD‚Äô for putting together a case study:

 

  1. Overview of pupil info: Start by giving a very brief overview of the pupil (e.g. age, ethnicity, pupil premium) and their needs (e.g. SLD, Downs syndrome).
  2. Telling the story : The case study must tell the story from start to finish ‚Äď clarity on the starting point ‚Äď how was the child presenting? Needs / goals? How did we meet the needs and what were the outcomes?
  3. Easy to read format: The case study should be clear in presentation ‚Äď use of headers, imagines, bullet points, bold and italicized writing to ensure all information is accessible and clear to the reader. The school logo should be included at the start and the key area of focus from the 9 areas above should be identified. ¬†Arial font, size 12 should be used.
  4. Include real data: The case study should include real data ‚Äď quantitative and qualitative. Quotes from others e.g parents / carers / members of the multi-agency team and where ever possible the pupils themselves.
  5. Links to evidence documents: Links to evidence documents e.g. end of year reports, EHCplans, video clips should be used. Word documents can be embedded.
  6. Summary A conclusion to draw the case study to a close ‚Äď what was the overall impact?

 

I am sadly not able to share any completed case studies due to pupil confidentiality  . What I can tell you is that they now form part of a comprehensive both quantitative and qualitative assessment system in school and they have been successful both in terms of process as well as product Рthe professional dialogue of colleagues working together to write them has been invaluable as well as the amazing product of the completed case studies which very clearly demonstrate progress in all of the areas detailed above.

Hope this information is useful to colleagues

Thanks for reading

Mary

 

 

 

 

 

‘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? ‚ÄėI liked it and was excited.‚Äô

¬∑         What did you like? ‚ÄėI like the radio room they had a real microphone and I like the cafe‚Äô

¬∑         What did you not like? ‚Äė I liked everything‚Äô

¬∑         Are you worried about anything?  Why? ‚Äė I am a little bit nervous it will be hard to know where to get the fruit and milk from‚Äô

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? ‚ÄėYes‚Äô

¬∑         What do you really like about your new school? ‚ÄėThe ‚Äúcafe, mugger and the football‚ÄĚ‚Äô

¬∑         Did you have enough visits to Northridge when you were at Camberwell? ‚ÄėYes‚Äô

¬∑         Would you have liked some visits to last longer? ‚ÄėNo ok‚Äô

¬∑         Could Camberwell Park have done anything else to help you move to your new school? ‚Äė ‚ÄúA nufer day‚ÄĚ

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

 

 

Being an investor in people

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mary Isherwood

Headteacher

 

 

 

 

 

To P or not to P? That is the question : My response to the Rochford Review final report

So after a long time waiting the Rochford Review final report has been published bringing with it a series of 10 recommendations to be considered for implementation by the DfE (summary on page 7 of the report).

The report and it’s recommendations has been a big topic of conversation ¬†with practitioners on SLD forum¬†and some colleagues have blogged on the report already such as this helpful review¬†from @cherrylkd. I am sure it will be something we will want to chat about on¬†@SENexchange¬†too!

It would be hard to disagree with the underlying ¬†/ guiding principles outlined on page 11 of the report – principles which underpin the work we are so passionate about with our learners with SEND. I appreciate however how they are spelled out for us, reminding us of their importance. It is hard to pick out ‘favourites’ from the list of 11 ¬†guiding principles however, the ones I highlighted reading through were that ‘every child should be able to demonstrate his / her attainment and progress’, ‘Parents/ carers should receive meaningful information about the achievement/ progress of their child and should be involved appropriately in assessment procedures’, ‘ Curriculum should drive assessment and not the other way round’, ‘It should be possible to assess the application of knowledge, understanding and skills in a range of different contexts’ and ‘The language used to describe the achievements and progress of these pupils should always be positive, inclusive and should be jargon free’.

The central focus of the report and the one we have all been waiting for is the recommendation regarding the future of P levels. We have been grappling with trying to use P levels for summative assessment of our pupil’s progress and this has become increasingly challenging with their mismatch with the revised National Curriculum. The majority of respondents to the review consultation agreed that P levels are no longer fit for purpose and it has been music to my ears to hear recommendations that any future system should acknowledge lateral as well as linear progress made by our pupils. Removing the statutory requirement to assess using P levels (recommendation 1, Pg 13 – 14) is welcomed. ¬†In addition, Recommendation 3 ( Pg 16 – 17) ¬†which ¬†acknowledges the value of achievements in all 4 areas of need. At Camberwell Park School whilst continuing to use P levels as the statutory measure for core subjects, we have invested in developing our enhanced ¬†curriculum¬†( how aspects such as being a Unicef Rights respecting school add value to our school) and our¬†personalised curriculum ( giving teachers autonomy to be more flexible ¬†in their timetables to respond to individual and small group pupil needs). This is particularly important to my mind when ensuring that we work towards the outcomes outlined in the child’s EHCP – something we are proud to say is embedded into our every day practice as identified in the peer review ¬†we commissioned¬†on this aspect of our work last year.¬†Our holistic assessment therefore includes what for us is a ‘Gold standard case study’ which demonstrates progress in 9 areas: Core subjects, Foundation Subjects, mobility, Life skills, PSD, SMSC, Communication, Behaviour and Characteristics of learning. Our job now is to align these to the 7 area of engagement outlined in recommendation 4 (page 18 – 19 of the report).

I whole Р heartedly agree with the review with the review group members that where ever possible pupils should be included in the mainstream statutory assessment arrangements and as a school we had already adopted the recommendations from the interim review  including using Pre-key stage expectations for pupils working above P8. I also feel lucky that we have a good network with both mainstream and special schools in Manchester and with special schools across Greater Manchester where practitioners from our school moderate assessments / judgements made about pupil progress and attainment.  Recommendations 7 and 8 ( pages 24 / 25) reinforce the need for sharing good practice and quality assurance processes to be rigorous as we move forward in order for our judgements to have any credibility. I would urge mainstream and special schools to forge and strengthen these challenge and support relationships Рthere is so much we can learn from each other.

At this stage the review findings are recommendations Рwe await consultation and agreement from the DfE which I understand will be  in early 2017 with a view to implementation in summer 2018. There is clearly lots more work to be done Рnot least to decide as a school / school sector how we will apply the principles of assessing the 7 indicators of cognition and learning ( page 22) and assess these for pupils not engaging in subject specific learning ( a danger  if we are not careful of replacing one inappropriate linear assessment system with another!) Рhowever Рmy vote is definitely Рnot to P! The Rochford review is a step in the right direction so come on DfE Рgive us the go ahead so we can get on with our work!

 

 

‘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 Рhow do we know? Importantly too if we are making a judgement of outstanding Рwhat 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 Рkey 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