I arrived here in August. It’s my first deputy headship and it’s a lovely school in Scotland. Previously a small girls’ all-through school, it has become a much larger co-ed school. Whilst it absolutely must retain its caring, family ethos it is also in the process of filling its now-bigger boots. Please understand that everything is already good. Results are good, still amongst the best in the region, and can still improve further. Many teachers here are committed to their profession. Pupils here are well-behaved and friendly, although some are too passive or have low self-efficacy.
I’ve been hired to lead improvements in learning and teaching. Given my work with Learning Performance, and my previous job at Tiffin School, then maybe this isn’t such a surprise. But as I’ve got my teeth into it, it turns out to be quite a challenge. I’ve not come up against any resistance, but establishing the needs of the school and the pace of change against a background of some level of change fatigue is tricky. This is not just a case of doing some extra CPD and getting teachers doing more active pupil-centred lessons (which is where I started last term), this is a case of establishing all the parameters.
The Curriculum for Excellence in Scotland – their answer to the National Curriculum in England – is noble. It should be brilliant. But something doesn’t quite sit right at our school. I think the main problem is the lack of assessment frameworks. Without that in place, it all becomes teaching to the group rather than about each pupil’s learning. So it’s just about putting some assessment frameworks in place right? No. That would be a patch-up job. This school is not obliged to follow any of the curriculums proffered by government, and neither should it be judged by them either. This school has a duty to do its very best for its pupils, so we are asserting our independence and going our own way.
The bigger job is to define what we stand for first: a clear set of principles to back up the position on learning and teaching we want to take. So, here goes. Six principles that will underpin what we do here. They will be the core of learning and teaching policy, but moreover they will hopefully give us confidence to move forward in lots of directions:
- Developing skill is as important as developing knowledge
- Pupils have a responsibility to play an active part in their learning
- Teaching should promote the active engagement of the learner
- Assessment should inform the next steps of learning
- Learning outside of the classroom can be as valuable as learning within the classroom
- Learning should equip learners for life in its broadest sense
Maybe these seem rather broad, or obvious. But without stating them in the first place, I think we run the risk of just “getting on with it” and continuing in the same old way whilst still hoping for a different outcome. And they give us the opportunity to hang quite a few revolutionary concepts on; such as Dweck’s Growth Mindsets, Ericsson’s Deliberate Practice, and Csikszentmihalyi’s Flow. So this is just the beginning…