Thursday, June 25, 2015

Welcome to the Headteachers First Blog!

In this first blog I will explain how we have responded to the HMI monitoring visit.

Many of you will have taken the opportunity to read the first HMI monitoring visit letter and will likely have been concerned by the comments about the action plan and speed of progress in addressing improvements to teaching.

The focus of the first HMI visit is on two documents provided to Ofsted – The STWCC Academy Trust Statement of Action and the detailed Action Plan.

The STWCC Academy Trust Statement of Action was approved by the HMI however he found the post-ofsted action plan to be ‘not fit for purpose’. The plan was deemed to have a number of weaknesses including:
  • Actions were not set out sufficiently over a period of time with specific phases
  • The plan did not make reference to the actions of external support providers
  • Identification of how the governors will play their role in evaluating progress
  • The clarity of accountability of senior leaders for actions
Other issues raised by the HMI visit were:
  • A view that insufficient training has been provided for members of staff to address the most pressing weaknesses in teaching including work to ensure assessments are accurate and that teachers’ lesson planning meets the needs of different abilities.
  • That senior leaders needed to quicken the pace of improvement, raise expectations and set out clearly what they expect of all teachers.
Within this blog I would like to explain and respond to the issues raised.

The first visit only involves one HMI speaking to myself, the senior leadership team, governors and the leaders of the schools providing external support. There are no discussions with staff or students or any observation of teaching. I and the team were extremely disappointed by some of the statements in the published letter. Much of the criticism can be explained without excuse, however it has provided, which I am sure was the intention, renewed determination to accelerate the pace of change and development.

It is first important to refer back to the original, full Section 5 inspection report released to the college on 23 February 2015. The lead inspector’s first bullet point under the heading ‘The school has the following strengths’ stated “The new leadership is tackling weak teaching and holding subject leaders to account. As a result, teaching and achievement are improving”. This was evidenced later in the report with examples.

The monitoring of teaching and students work had begun in earnest prior to Ofsted with staff being supported in improvement programmes. This was recognised in the report.

By the first visit monitoring visit, which was six working weeks from the release of the Ofsted report to the college, we had already held a training day on ‘assessment for learning’ and staff improvement programmes were on-going. This was regrettably not communicated well enough to the HMI during his visit. In this period of time support was being brokered with Hungerhill and Hill Top schools and bids made to the national college to fund support. By the visit we had created a new college action plan addressing the teaching and learning priorities from the inspection for a period up to the end of the summer term. We had collaboratively created a separate deployment plan for the funded external support. The HMI’s criticism of the plan was that it needed to be one plan over an 18 months period clearly showing the staff development actions, support deployment and accountability of all leaders involved. We accept that a fully amalgamated plan was not ready at that time; however the intentions and actions had begun including a quality assurance day of teaching to base line teaching with leaders from the support schools.

A new plan has been constructed following an HMI approved template provided by our support National Leader in Education (NLE) Beryce Nixon, which she has used previously for supporting a school in serious weaknesses. The plan is detailed and sectioned in to four phases (initiate, develop, sustain, embed) for each of the twelve Ofsted improvement areas. Each phase covers a term between March 2015 and July 2016.

New policies around the requirements of improving teaching highlighted in the Ofsted report have been created and communicated.

This summer term and next autumn term has considerable training included within the ‘initiate and develop’ phases of the action plan. Already we have delivered whole college training on ‘higher expectations’, ‘questioning’, ‘literacy’ and ‘planning for good progress’, with further sessions planned on ‘differentiation’ and ‘use of additional adult support’. These are complimented by bespoke training for staff to move them to consistently good or outstanding within a period of time. All training has been jointly planned and delivered with colleagues providing support.

It is not appropriate to communicate to the community the detail of personnel involved in support programmes, however we have clear targets for improvements to the overall quality of teaching that have progressive milestones from term to term with clear monitoring and validation procedures. These are set out in the plan.

I have posted an example of a section of the plan - Post-Ofsted Action Plan

Staff, especially in the core subjects of English and Mathematics, have been jointly planning a new curriculum for September 2015 to address the needs of challenge and differentiation, the requirements of the new GCSEs and national curriculum and the new length of lessons to provide for depth and progress in learning. Planning has also involved a new college curriculum share and timetable within the constraints of a reducing budget.

Restructuring and monitoring of staff has contributed to improving effectiveness and to some moving on. We have also been recruiting staff and managing and developing changes in leadership of teaching and support to teaching.

Our next visit from HMI will be in the first autumn term when the team will further review the plan and evaluate its impact to date.

I will endeavour to keep you informed of developments and progress. Watch out for two key communications before the end of term; a newsletter summarising the many successes and achievements of this last year and a new development - our ‘talking prospectus’, involving many of our wonderful students.

I thank you for your continued support. Working in partnership within our Co-operative values driven philosophy will ensure we provide the best all round education for our children.