What would I want from an article about transformation out of special measures? Not anecdotes, not self congratulation, but I would want to feel inspired that doing the right thing as an educationalist works! So it is with this mindset that I write this piece. The right thing being that, as leaders in school, we have a flame to reignite, protect and fan; that is the flame of learning.
I will not use up valuable words writing about where Hamford was as a school, but it was in a deserved category and had been for several years. The flame of learning had been smothered and was a mere glow. The most important area to focus time, resources and energy were in the pursuit of rekindling the love of learning for all. I will now endeavour to share some of the innovations that have managed to spark our transformation to where we are today.
Firstly, in education, our time is precious, very precious, especially if energy levels in the classroom are to be kept high. Too often, time is spent in meetings discussing things that have no direct impact on teaching and learning. Staff meetings were removed and replaced with our ‘Communities of Practice’, where we looked at current research, lesson study and pedagogy. Our time together as teachers were focused and empowered teachers to take risks without fear of judgement. These sessions were replicated in miniature during morning assembly for all staff, so everyone had the same input.
Furthermore, I employed a lead practitioner for teaching and learning. It may sound obvious, but I often see schools where the lead for teaching and learning has several roles. It is the most important job in the school. The individual needs time and resources to ensure all children receive the very highest quality of teaching and learning. They are there to tend the fire and turn it into a furnace, they have to be highly skilled, with a passion for adult and child learning. All adults must be on a learning journey, the culture created from the top must be one of learning, and this must be shared with pupils.
Staff need to be self-reflective and own their learning. Too often staff development is something that happens to teachers. It is not based on need and is generic with staff waiting for the next buzz word to appear. We have created a learning blog for all staff that is a one-stop shop for all development around teaching and learning. A blog at hamfordteachingandlearningblog.wordpress.com that staff can dip into, where they will be challenged, but with ideas that fuel the learning fire. Now staff feel empowered that development is theirs, and that they are safe to try new ideas. A school or a classroom is a research centre where we can constantly tweak and improve what we do, so that learning is maximized for children in our context.
With a strong fire, what you also need is a firewall, and that must be the Headteacher. So many things try to extinguish the fire, whether it is inspections, the government or just plain logistics. My job, like a firewall, is to protect my staff from these dampeners, to allow everyone to focus on what children need, namely high-quality learning opportunities facilitated by happy, energised, passionate adults, who have the learning flame burning brightly in them.
Read the full article of this article freely in the February 2015 Edition of UKEdMagazine by Clicking Here.
Benedick Ashmore-Short @Benedick1 was the winner of the 2014 Pearson ‘Primary Headteacher of the Year’. He is currently Principal of Hamford Primary Academy where his passion and dedication for improving teaching and learning in schools has been evident by the substantial improvements made at Hamford.