Mitch Moore writes this think piece for Vision 2040
In September 2011, 13 days into my Headship, Ofsted placed Foleshill Primary in Special Measures. The job advert had said ..Take our good school to outstanding. One look at the data (not shared as part of the interview process) told me that the school was due for a different journey - the school community was devastated but determined to improve – and so, we set off on that journey …
In the first term we focused on systems, structures and processes ..and things started to look up. HMI visited us and judged that we were making satisfactory progress. It was a relief not to be inadequate that soon turned to disappointment at not making good progress. HMI noted in their monitoring report that we needed to …
- Ensure that children are able to make decisions and choices which will help them to improve their own learning, and not be too dependent on adults
- Teaching assistants to be consistently deployed actively to maximise learning
- Improve feedback (particularly in mathematics) so that it gives specific pointers for improvement and pupils are given the opportunity to address the points raised
- Ensure that all pupils are meaningfully engaged when not directly working with an adult
We used paraphrases of Steven Covey in school that has become our mantra -
‘The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing, and the main thing is learning’
‘__Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall.’
Along came TEEP …
We had the ladder but needed to find the right wall. Serendipity took charge and the day after our HMI monitoring visit we had the first two days of our Whole School Level 1 TEEP (Teacher Effectiveness Enhancement Programme). We were part of the very early phase of the SSAT / Education Endowment Fund project. I had heard about TEEP from colleagues in various schools so jumped at the chance to be part of the programme. It gave us a common language and framework to use when talking about teaching and learning but more importantly it is a holistic approach, more than just a set of ‘top tips’ for teachers (although there are plenty of those in the programme). It also enables teachers to enhance what they are already doing – rather than expecting them to throw out years of practice and experience. The programme really met our expectations. What did it achieve?
- It took the focus onto what children ‘learn’ rather than just what they ‘do’ in classrooms
- It enhanced how we used assessment for learning
- It gave us a structure for children’s active learning
- It excited teachers – the training reminded them that they too are learners and that learning is fun
The impact? HMI visited again in October 2012 and said of the teaching
‘There have been marked improvements in the quality of teaching since the last monitoring visit. Good-quality training has led to teachers sharing good practice. A common approach to planning means that lessons are most often well matched to the needs and abilities of all pupils. Teachers are acutely aware of any gaps in learning that need to be filled so that pupils do not get left behind.
Teachers make sure pupils are clear about what they are going to learn, and how they will know if they have been successful. They ask searching questions and more regularly check for misconceptions so that plans can be modified swiftly when necessary. Teachers are more effective in helping pupils develop the skills they need to learn successfully on their own. Teaching assistants are making a much better contribution to pupils’ learning. Some excellent examples of marking and feedback were seen.
TEEP continues to be a driving force …
In January 2013 we were inspected again and not only taken out of Special Measures but judged to be good. The impetus that TEEP created continues to be driving force in school. Four teachers have done the Level 2 training and as a result have set up a programme of enrichment for all staff and are establishing a whole school approach to coaching. We have a regular item at the start of all Staff Meetings where a member of staff leads their colleagues in a ‘TEEP’ learning activity. We’ve set up a new room in school called ‘The Hub’ where our training takes place and where we have the TEEP materials on display (including the resources that we created as part of the training). TEEP has also had a big impact on how we deliver professional development for our staff. All of our CPD sessions and Teacher Days are now TEEP-styled and staff know that they will be active and having fun as the pictures below show.
Alongside the improvements in learning that we achieved through engaging with TEEP there were two other major factors in our success.
Firstly, we developed leadership at all levels within the school, including governance. As a result we were able to implement a strong programme of self-evaluation; we really know our school now. As a consequence we were able to maintain ownership and direction of our programme of school improvement. We developed effective partnerships with schools in the local area and beyond where they had the expertise that we needed. Maintaining a sense of ownership of the improvement process did lead to difficult conversations with the Local Authority who at times seemed determined to impose a ‘one-size fits all’ school improvement model on us.
Improvement doesn’t mean sterility in curriculum …
While our original inspection identified a pressing need to raise standards in English and mathematics, we were determined that this would not be achieved through a narrow, sterile curriculum. We have developed a vibrant, thematic curriculum which engages children’s interest and provides rich opportunities to develop literacy and numeracy skills. We have also expanded the range of sporting and creative arts activities available to our children. For example, every child in Key Stage 2 learns a musical instrument.
We owe it to our children, communities and colleagues to stand up for what we know to be right and to be the gatekeepers.
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] Mitch Moore started his teaching career by teaching music in London schools before moving onto headships and advisory roles. He was the Director of the National Strategy Narrowing the Gaps programme from 2009 and is now Head of Foleshill Primary, Coventry.