guest post #48 – chris chivers – @ChrisChivers2

Hackney to Hampshire

I spoke for the first time at #FCTeachmeet (Fareham College, Hampshire) on the subject of what a county like Hampshire could learn from schools of all kinds within London, who deal with significantly greater levels of deprivation and additional individual need, yet manage to get their children to achieve at the highest level.

I was asked if what I had seen was underpinned by values education principles and the simple answer is yes.

Schools talk of ethos, principles and values, but, in practice, they meld into an amorphous mass, with the over-riding effect that “Every person matters”, evident through relationships, accessibility and communication, in all forms. Schools make it easy for parents to make and keep in contact. In so doing, they reduce “stewing time”, where a parent waits for a return call, or for a busy member of staff to phone.

In essence, it is a case of “Done with and through”, rather than “Done to”.

My slides for the Teachmeet will support further commentary. There are a number of significant visible methodologies evident across the broad range of schools.

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Teachers and everyone else in schools are exceptionally busy, not only as a result of their day-to-day activities in classrooms and beyond, but also considering the impact of system-wide change. It is not surprising if, in the absence of internal systems that enable easy access, that a hard-pressed teacher might overlook the need to ring “x’s” mum urgently, and in so doing causing harm to their relationship.

However, if you look at those schools in London who achieve and are enabling schools more broadly, they show the following: –

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The self-help culture is an interesting phenomenon, as it results, in some cases, from necessity. Where a Local Authority is unable to offer expertise in an area, individual schools, federations and clusters are getting together to come up with solutions. Solution-finding creates group strength and a growth in confidence.

It is worth considering whether a strong authority creates more of a dependency culture. One phone call solves all problems, so disabling local decision-making. This is not a call for academisation, more wondering if authority feeds on itself and its status, so relies on keeping others in their place.

The rich curriculum is created and available to every child, not just the Gifted and Talented, so it creates significant opportunities for learners to explore together, to share oral language and to bring back to the classroom the same experience to explore further with appropriate guidance and support.

Many of the schools took advantage of the cultural wealth of the capital city, ensuring easy to reach venues were used extensively and harnessing the availability of additional adults through the local enterprise schemes. Some staff came in to read with children, during lunchtimes, while one used city business men to mentor older students into clear thinking about the world of work.

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In each and every school, communication systems were exemplary, commented upon by parents, community members, Governors and external staff experts. Engaging with the local communities was a priority, with strong links in both directions. The communities saw the schools as a heart, a meeting place for many different groups.

Articulation of, often complex systems, was clear, with interpretation available as necessary. The schools went “above and beyond” in the words of parents, what they had been expecting. Parent support for the schools and for learning was a strong feature.

Interestingly, every member of the school community saw themselves as the “eyes and ears” of the schools. They valued what they had and wanted it to be unviolated.

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Most importantly, they knew every child really well. They all had a “no excuses” culture, and, in the words of one head, they explored need “forensically”. In that way, decisions were based on the best available information, so had impact, with “follow through”, as actions were tracked through to the next decision point. Everyone was clear in their roles, carried out tasks diligently and were held to account on a regular basis. The accountability systems were strong at all levels.

The third slide articulates the process that these schools adopt. It is akin to the first slide, but articulates the actions taken.

It could all be summarised in the words of a song; Do what you do do well and as a result; don’t they do well?

Seeking to put all this “In a nutshell”, it can be articulated as: –

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They are, in effect, doing the job at a high level, as articulated in the Teaching Standards 2012, with assessment and adaptive teaching being a hallmark of practice.

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