It’s great to be able to blog about how I’ve shared the stage with John Hattie, John Tomsett, Barry Hymer and the real David Cameron; more rhetoric than reality. Speaking at the same conference isn’t quite the same as sharing the stage but since I spoke in the same room I thought a bit of exaggeration for effect might be allowed.
The following is based on short notes I took at the time; I can’t be totally sure they are one hundred percent accurate. As with all great conferences it affirmed our overall direction of travel whilst challenging both our current and future practice. In short there is a lot more to do before we are fully aligned and truly coherent in both policy and practice.
“The Greatest Power You Have is Controlling the Narrative of Your School”
John Hattie kicked the day off with the call for teachers to be evaluators; know thy impact. Basically just about everything works so it’s no good saying “I’ve evidence this works”. John’s meta-analysis has now looked at 12000+ research projects and apart from the obvious, e.g. bullying, moving schools too often, not much harms children (95-97% of strategies or approaches have a positive impact)
The question is what works best; what has most impact? Three big questions leaders should be asking and seeking to answer are:
What do you mean by impact? We need to be clear what we mean by progress; we can’t leave this to chance nor assume that we all have the same definition in the same. Using the phrase “progress or growth” suggested that there is something in addition to purely academic outcomes that we should be providing in a great education
What’s the magnitude of the impact? Are we getting a year’s progress or growth for a year’s input? How could we get more and what to do if we are getting less are obvious questions. What does the progress of low, middle, high or high attaining pupils look like in classes? For example, looking at pupils’ work and its improvement over time – a week, month term or year – is a relatively easy task for each and every teacher to do. Don’t wait for a leader to come along and complete a book scrutiny; take the lead. What aspects of progress are you pleased, content and disappointed with? This forms the basis of evaluating and reflecting on what is the impact of your teaching.
How many children are getting a year’s progress? It’s the equity question and collectively we are struggling to find the answer. The gap just keeps getting wider the longer children are in school and the disadvantaged pupils with high prior attainment are the ones losing out the most.
“Building a Coalition of Success”
The phrase just sings to you; no teachers left behind, take them all with you. Given what looks like an increasing and deepening crisis in teacher numbers focussing on development and retention is becoming a must do for school leaders. If teachers are having a high impact leave them alone; don’t start firing silver bullets at them or insist they use your pet theories or ideas. Look for evidence of which teachers are having impact and insist they share their practice; people who are doing good and great things need to share. The role of the leader is to get people together, within a trust based culture, and build the confidence and belief that together we can impact; collective teacher efficacy.
“Cluster Bombs of Distraction”
What a perfect one liner coming on the day Nicky Morgan MP, Secretary of State for Education, announced a U-turn on forced academisation which in hours looked more like a Z-turn, as described by Laura McInerney. We are faced with forced academisation via a different route and timescale. Labour controlled councils in the North first, courtesy of Ofsted judgements, followed by financial tipping points for everyone else as more schools decided to become academies and cuts to the Direct Schools Grant reduce capacity to practically nothing in all other local authorities.
We’re largely focusing on the wrong things; teachers, school leaders and politicians shouldn’t confuse personal education preferences (I rather like this approach/way of educating children and young people) with strategies and approaches that have significant impact. Once you’ve completed massive structural change, with all the costs, upheaval and angst, you are still left with a school to run; sound of hammer hitting the nail on the head.
“What CPD has Impacted Significantly on Your Practice?”
The above was John Tomsett’s question to Alex Quigley (@HuntingEnglish) as part of the process in which he was appointed as Director of Learning & Research at Huntington School. Think about it for a moment; it’s a killer question. Add in so “what evidence do you have of the impact over six months to a year later” and it’s a question not many teachers would be able to answer.
“What is the problem that your CPD is trying to fix?”
One of the parting shots from John Hattie was about the problem that your CPD is trying to fix alongside the fact he has only found three pieces of research about how to scale up success in schools? One of the things that fascinates about John Tomsett’s work is how he is trying to find practical answers to such massive questions. Once we’ve invested time in something as school leaders it has to work. We’re not seeing failures as successes; great we won’t spend time doing that any more or doing it that way. Stopping doing something, we’ve implemented, even if it doesn’t have significant impact is really difficult.
Leading Teacher Learning & Development is the Head teacher’s main thing and John has gone about it in a systematic and evidence informed way. He has changes structures and systems to meet the school’s purpose rather than the other way around. With lots of talk about what doesn’t work around these days it was good to hear about what does work. Using the much maligned one day course John explained how using the criteria below from Developing Great Teaching (Teacher Development Trust) the potential impact could be transformed from a 2.5 to an 11/14.
- Collaborating in ongoing improvement together
- Focus on specific, valued outcomes for specific pupils
- Practical in own class/school & engagement with theory
- Sustained (30-50 hours) and iterative
- Expert facilitation
- Formative Assessment
- Subject/topic-specific content and pedagogy
As teachers and funds become more limited great CPD, which has an impact on pupils’ outcomes, is a way of keeping the first and maximising the impact of both.
The Hymer and Cameron bits will follow; just need to get them typed up first. Thanks to Osiris for a great Leadership Conference Day 1 and if you’re interested in Day 2 there are details here.