Is the Tide Turning? Hope for Struggling Schools

Justine Greening’s speech at the Sutton Trust’s Mobiity Summit must have given a glimmer of hope to every leader currently serving in schools with challenging contexts.
It’s been a long time coming, but as James Bowen, Director of NAHT Edge, wrote recently in the TES ‘Greening’s signals for a less ‘punitive’ approach towards struggling schools’ could be the ‘light we’ve been waiting to see.’

It has been well documented that disadvantaged contexts impact hugely on both educational attainment and school quality, which are typically lower than that of other schools. This is primarily due to the difficulties with the recruitment of high-quality teaching staff, limited ‘short-life’ funding, high levels of pupil mobility and the increasingly low starting points of children, who are ‘quite frankly’ just not ‘school ready’ upon entry. Yet, despite these facts being widely cited, schools continue to be battered by high-level, punitive accountability measures. Is the tide about to turn?

Greening acknowledges that: “We do need to move away from a perception of a reliance on a pure punitive intervention approach. We need to, moreover, move towards a culture of having the right support in the right places at the right time, and I think for too long our strategy hasn’t had that breadth to it, and perhaps that clarity around it.”

Yes, Ms Greening, we do indeed need to move towards a culture of support, rather than this prescriptive, short-sighted approach that sees some leaders reduced to ‘playing the numbers game’ rather than incentivising them to play for the long-term gains that can only be achieved when ‘time’ and ‘money’ are factored into the equation.
As someone who has the privilege of working across schools with some of the ‘highest levels’ of deprivation in the country. I see first-hand just what our ‘amazing leaders’ are doing for the life chances of the children in their care. Actions, that simply cannot be measured under our current, narrow ‘data driven’ system. For the 3.7 million children living in poverty in the UK, their most basic needs must be met first – before the learning process can start.

I don’t know of any leader who would argue against the need to improve. We just need to be really clear about what we mean by ‘improve’.

Leaders, in particularly challenging contexts are generally ‘pretty special people’ who go above and beyond the call of duty to ‘improve’ the quality of life for the children in their care. They know, that success for our poorest children cannot really be measured ‘fully’ until they reach adulthood. When it is hoped, that despite the challenges they faced as children, of low aspirations, low income and unemployment, poor housing, poor health, tiredness and hunger, they emerge fully prepared from our education system, with the knowledge, skills and understanding to take their place in society. This can only be achieved, when leaders of our schools in challenging contexts, across all phases,  ensure that our poorest children are fed during term time and through the holidays; make provision if they need a place to sleep during the school day; enrich their lives through engaging learning experiences and above all, keep them safe, loved and nurtured – because that is what our poorest children need.


It is with this relentless focus on ‘improving’ the life chances for our poorest children that will give them the fighting chances as adults, to compete against their more privileged counterparts in securing a sustainable income through long-term employment and a longer life expectancy. Surely, that is the real measure of success?

Most leaders are guided by a strong moral compass who genuinely want to make a difference for children. Yet when you hear of dedicated leaders exiting the profession due to the stress caused when a set of results does not meet the ‘required standard’ and the context of the ‘why’ is pretty much ignored. You know that we haven’t got it right YET!

We all need to work together to secure school improvement in our most struggling schools. This improvement must be contextualised because there is not a ‘one size fits all’ solution to the challenges they are facing. Schools serving depriving communities need ‘time’ to improve outcomes for children.

Fund them well – and let them lead the way!

#5priorities

  

Scintillating Sketchnotes!

Mike Rohde, author of The Sketchnote Handbook, defines Sketchnotes “as rich visual notes created from a mix of handwriting, drawings, hand-drawn typography, shapes, and visual elements like arrows, boxes, and lines.”

For me they are  a succinct, visual summary of key ideas, connections and hierarchies. Really great sketchnoters can capture and communicate the true essence of a presentation. I love them. So, should we be encouraging students to make sketchnotes in the classroom? Would they give us a greater insight into their understanding of concepts/ideas? Are they an effective way to make learning truly visible? To make thinking visible?

Katrina Schwartz, who writes for KQED’s education blog MindShift, published the article ‘Making Learning Visible: Doodling Helps Memories Stick’ in 2015.


Katrina writes that the use of sketchnotes ‘makes student learning visible and provides a valuable formative assessment tool. If a student sketches an interesting side note in the lesson, but misses the big themes, that will show up in her drawing. And when students share their drawings with one another, they have the chance to fill in the gaps in their knowledge, and drawings, while discussing the key ideas. Going over the drawings also solidifies the information for students.’

Sarah Wood @woodsar, Technology & Media Integration Specialist for Godfrey-Lee Public Schools blogged in The Bulletin that ‘Sketchnotes allows students to make their thinking visible, it is important as the teacher/facilitator that you model and be willing to share your own work.’

Sarah’s blog has links to class sketchnotes. Check out the Graffitti Wall below. Such a great idea!


I wonder how many educators are using sketchnotes in the classroom. It would be great to hear from you.

Some of my favourites from the fabulous Sylvia Duckworth!



Featured image by Silvia Tolisano, Educational Consultant GloballyConnectedLearning.com 21st Century Learning Specialist- Technology Integration- World Language Teacher.

The Revolving Door of Headteachers

We are facing a recruitment crisis. We all know it – despite having to constantly hear from the government that teacher numbers are rising and that it is the unions talking down the profession. As a member of the NAHT Executive I take particular exception to this. When you sit in a room with colleagues from around the country and hear how they are all struggling to recruit. Let’s be clear about this. Houston we have a problem!

Yet, this crisis is not just about teachers. We are facing a crisis in recruiting headteachers (not just this side of pond either). The Times recently carried out research that revealed that one in ten schools is losing its headteacher each year. Some schools have been left without a head for up to three years and that some local authorities have seen more headteachers leaving the past five years that the number of schools in the area.

‘Schools are blighted by a revolving door of head teachers as many of them retire or take early retirement, leave the profession, take up opportunities abroad…’



The million dollar question of course is – what is the answer to this crisis? I was at a recent event listening to an Ofsted Inspector talking about leadership and succession planning. Herein lies the challenge. In order to plan for succession you need teachers to stay in education for more than a couple of years and you need experienced leaders stay in education, so as to role model great leadership to them. When asked if Ofsted had a solution – it was neatly batted back to the profession as our problem to solve. Great! Leaders are leaving in droves – we are struggling to recruit teachers – budgets are being slashed. Thanks for that! Fortunately, we are a driven and solution focussed profession!

Yes, Mr Ofsted Inpsector we can identify talent. Yes, we can fast-track this talent. Yes, we can take the altruistic approach and applaud when our teachers and leaders leave schools and join others knowing that they are still in the system. If only this was a true reflection of the educational landscape. In reality, if you are trying to turn a school around and you also happen to be located in an area of deprivation and in a known hard to recruit area – it is a mammoth task trying to get teachers in schools and then get them to stay. Leaders of these schools are taking ‘resilience’ to another level, when constantly faced with having to rely on the revolving door of supply teachers just to get someone in class (at least someone is profiting). I’m not even going to go into the numerous other challenges faced by our increasingly stressed headteachers.

So, and the reason for my blog. Let’s champion our leaders. I would like to invite leaders to share their success stories with the world via the twittersphere using #talkupleaders (here I must thank Paul Garvey of Talk for Teaching who started #talkupteaching you can follow him @PaulGarvey4).

Let’s spread some light and positivity on our epic profession! #talkupleaders


21 Tips for Connecting Learners to Their Community by Becs Boyd via Getting Smart

http://www.gettingsmart.com/2017/01/21-tips-connecting-learners-to-community/

This is a really interesting article written by Becs Boyd who explored place-based education programs throughout the Pacific Northwest through a Churchill fellowship. She resides in Scotland.

The article explores how ‘Community Based approaches can be transformative for students, teachers, schools and communities. Making these approaches work means taking a fresh look at the school community, the wider community and the environment, and working out how they can best support each other. Change takes time, and success, naturally, relies on a healthy physical and social learning environment with good relationships between educators, administrators and students. Many schools will already be connecting students with their local Place and helping them discover how to make their own place in the world a positive one.’

This blog identifies some pointers drawn from the experiences of real schools, students and teachers to help plant the seeds of Place in new school communities.

I have just listed the headings – click on the link above  to read more.

1) Learning and Caring About Place

2) Responsible Citizens

3) Active learners
4) Effective contributors

5) School in community

6) Relevant for the real world

Key questions arising:

How do you promote a culture of care?

How do you empower your students to make a difference in the local environment and community, creating caring local and global citizens?

Do you encourage ‘whole school’ learning that involves all students across all ages and classes.

How do you encourage students to learn by doing and be ‘creators’ of knowledge, with the teacher as a guide and co-learner who may not have all the ‘answers’.

Do you make students’ concerns and questions central to the learning agenda? How do you capture this? How often?

Is your school a model for a sustainable community that can act as a learning hub and role model for the wider community? If not – how will you make this happen? Are you outward looking and ambitious for your school?

Want to know more about Place-Based Education?

www.gettingsmart.com/categories/series/place-based-education/

www.edutopia.org/blogs/tag/place-based-learning

What is place-based learning?

Learning and Leading: A Lifelong Journey via @bethhill2829

https://bethanyshill.com/
The blog ‘Leading and Learning: A Lifelong Journey‘ is well worth a read. Bethany identies the following key areas for ‘Moving from a Classroom of Kids to a Community of Learners’. You can follow Bethany on WordPress and on Twitter @bethhill2829

Strong Relationships

Clear Expectations

Respect

Empathy

Procedures, Procedures, Procedures

Student Voice

A response to ‘Improving Teaching: A classroom teacher’s guide to formative assessment’ @HFletcherWood #visiblelearning #edchat #ukedchat

This blog from IMPROVING TEACHING is a must read! It brings to our attention that AfL is under scrutiny and being challenged by some in the educational arena. For me, AfL underpins great teaching and great outcomes for children. Is it always carried out effectively? Therein lies the challenge [IMHO]! I would suggest to anyone struggling with what great AfL looks like… get yourself into EYFS because they have nailed it!!

A reminder of why assessment for learning is so important? (Click link for source)

Classroom-based research has shown that assessment for learning makes a difference to both pupils’ attainment and their levels
of engagement and motivation.
In Assessment for Learning – Beyond the black box (1999), the Assessment Reform Group usefully identifies the key characteristics of effective assessment for learning.

Assessment for learning:

– is embedded in a view of teaching and learning of which it is an essential part;

– involves sharing learning goals with pupils;

– aims to help pupils to know and to recognise the standards they are aiming for;

– involves pupils in peer and self-assessment;

– involves feedback which leads to pupils recognising their next steps and how to take them;

– involves both the teacher and pupils reviewing and reflecting on assessment information and data.

Assessment for learning depends crucially on teachers and pupils actually using the information gained to benefit future learning.


(Quality Improvement Agency)

Improving Teaching proposes seven principles of formative assessment:

1.Determine exactly what students need to know and be able to do.

2. Align every aspect of lessons to their purpose.

3. Show students what’s expected.

4. Respond to students’ understanding between lessons.

5. Respond to students’ understanding within lessons.

6. Provide feedback which causes improvement.

7. Guide refinement.

What do you think? Join the conversation!

The great John Hattie…

Because I love a sketchnote…