This blog touches on one of the biggest challenges facing anyone in school leadership: how to promote student achievement.
Improving the raw data that defines the progress of the pupils is the bottom line to end all bottom lines and can make or break an inspection.
Aside from the raw data, the phrase all head teachers want to hear in an inspection report is that ‘a culture of achievement’ has been created in their school. So how does this happen?
Key to any culture change is getting the pupils on board. What is stopping them learning and what can you do to change it? If your school has a high pupil premium cohort then rather than using all the money for small group and individual interventions, use some of it in global projects that will engage vulnerable groups without identifying them.
This is a great investment for the vulnerable groups but raises the culture of the whole school at the same time. Great examples of successful projects have included peer mentoring, the purchase of a free school uniform for every single year seven student or even bringing back a good, old fashioned school production.
The school environment also has an impact. Many of us will remember helping our own teachers with displays when we were at school, and seeing it as a break from learning – but what if it can become a learning experience?
Having the students take ownership of the space they inhabit, perhaps setting up competitions for the best display or even having a democratic vote on paint colours for a form-base, will see an improvement in engagement and a reduction in damage around the school. It also means that evidence of students’ learning will be prominent and visible – both encouraging that all-important culture of achievement among students and signposting it to visitors.
So you have new displays and the peer mentoring is in place. How can you prove that it is working?
Before you start to see a spike in the attainment data, the first place you will notice it is in the attendance data. When you start to see a drop in absences and a reduction in lateness, you can be sure that the achievement will follow. To make sure that you can really capture that improvement, take the time now to ensure that your processes are robust: a strong baseline now will ensure the new improvements are tracked securely.
If you need to invest in the CPD of your staff, take a look at the Heads of Department or Phase leaders and decide if they might need some additional support around data, as they will be the filter by which you gather the crucial numbers.
Many schools are facing the prospect of having to effect massive change very quickly. It can be exhausting and, especially when results are not coming as quickly as you would like, demoralising.
Take the time to keep track of all your hard work, make a note somewhere prominent of all the projects and practices you, as a school, implement. Don’t forget to recognise your own achievements along the way.