Journey towards outstanding

August 15, 2013
Glyn Barritt


Rachel Hudson writes this Vision 2040 think piece:

When I reflect on what drives us forward, I am reminded of our moral purpose – consideration of what is right in our context, for our students and community as we move into a future which is difficult to predict.

School led accountability is linked to moral purpose and professional integrity.  School to school support offers challenge, accountability and the chance to improve standards without the pressure of OFSTED in its current form. After spending the last 8 months waiting for `the call’ (finally received on 14 May) and feeling that relief every Wednesday at 2.00 prior to this, we have been on a journey of improvement, innovation and transformation.

Our moral purpose drives us forward – consideration of how in our context, we meet the needs of students and the community as we move into a future which is difficult to predict. We need to celebrate what the profession does so well and use the expertise to support and challenge each other to develop and improve further.

We need to recognise and celebrate different ways of improving performance, raising standards and improving the life chances of our students whilst demonstrating creativity and flexibility in how we teach and how our students learn.  It is absolutely right to consider what school-led accountability might look like and how schools can lead this agenda.

Professional Development

“We need to ensure that we can nurture and retain the talent in our profession while improving outcomes for pupils.”   David Weston, Teacher Development Trust

In order to improve outcomes and maximize student potential, we need to focus on effective and sustainable professional development.  The Teacher Learning Academy modelled a system in which we were heavily involved from the outset - David Weston’s ideas resonate with me in terms of varying strands of a Royal Teacher’s profession where we enable colleagues to continue being recognised formally for professional development and training similar to systems in law and medicine.

We have focused very much on professional development and training with departments, and colleagues have been encouraged to bid for action research grants to develop aspects of assessment for learning in every day practice.  Developed by our Advanced Skills Teacher with responsibility for learning and teaching, this blog encourages teachers to share good practice as well as providing resources and approaches that can be used by all teachers in our local and international partnerships for helping to raise attainment.

Rural Excellence Partnership [REAP]

Over the last few years, Neston has developed a REAP  with three other Cheshire schools of similar context.  This began with the Headteachers of each school submitting a proposal to the Secretary of State for Education on how to refurbish and update the buildings within the partnership; whilst the initial plan was noted with interest, Neston High School has since been successful on the Priority Schools Building project.

The deputy headteachers with responsibility for professional development and training have been involved in network meetings over the last 18 months to share good practice and encourage collaborative working; this culminated in a joint REAP training day for all staff in the four schools, in October 2012; middle leaders across all four schools are now working together on subject-specific training as we strive to move from good to outstanding.  Impact of the collaboration has also been shared across Cheshire, at headteacher conferences in March 2013.

Neston High School has been accredited with the CPD Quality Mark in February 2013 as a reflection of our innovative approaches to professional development and training.  The University of Chester is currently undertaking research to evaluate the impact of collaborative approaches to professional development and its impact on students’ learning.

The REAP partnership provides the platform for debating the Redesigning Schooling agenda as we plan to develop our strategic approach to curriculum development and innovation, using creative ways of meeting the needs of our learners for the changing world in which we live.  At the heart of our work is the commitment to providing equality for all in terms of access to learning and opportunities; understanding the differences in cultures and contexts locally, nationally and internationally, and developing opportunities for talented learners through creative ways of working.

Just before Easter, I led our leadership team and Governors through a review of our 2015 strategic plan and a 2020 vision for the school which coincides with plans for our new building. Key strategic themes emerged; learning and teaching, professional development, student skills and potential, learning environment, curriculum development, cultural literacy and finally, achieving equality for all through narrowing the gap.  The challenge now is to turn this vision into a reality with measurable outcomes, understood by all those in the community.

Rachel Hudson Rachel Hudson is Deputy Head at Neston High School, Cheshire with responsibility for learning and teaching, self evaluation, appraisal, safeguarding, professional development and training.