Getting to the core…


Core purpose is often discussed in schools.  The core purpose of teachers?  To plan and deliver great teaching.  Middle leaders? To reduce variation in terms of how well students achieve within their team, by ensuring high quality provision for all.  Get these right and you’ll probably secure great learning and great outcomes as a school.  So what’s the problem?  The stuff!  The stuff that gets in the way and stops teachers and leaders spending time on their core purpose.  At DHS we’re taking a serious look at ‘the stuff’ and what we can do about it.

We’ve already done a number of things:

  • Graded lesson observations – these have gone.  This has transformed lesson observations into a supportive and professional dialogue between two colleagues, instead of a judgemental, tick box exercise.  Read more here.
  • Graded marking walks – again, another tick box exercise that has gone.  These have been replaced with collaborative work scrutinies, where subject staff meet, look at and discuss student work – and share ideas about feedback and how they approached particular pieces of work.
  • Student reports – used to be lengthy, time consuming paragraphs and are now short, clear one sentence targets.
  • Data analysis – is carried out using SISRA and by the data team.  We are looking at how teachers and leaders can be presented with the slimmed down data, that they need and can use.
  • INSET days – large chunks of our INSET days are given over to subject teams for curriculum planning and other important developmental work – as well as collaborative CPD such as ‘EduBook Club’.   There is also a wide range of other CPD activities that allow staff to engage at a level that suits them.
  • Department Reviews – those departments that are doing well are left alone, so that they can continue to…do well.  No need for lengthy department reviews.
  • Staff well-being – all staff have access to a free flu-jab and access to an external network of support services e.g. some medical services, counselling, advice etc.
  • Tight but loose approach to teaching – we don’t prescribe a way of teaching – if what you do means that your students achieve well, then that’s great.  Keep doing it!
  • Feedback policy – No ‘one size fits all’ approach to feedback.  Departments have decided how they do feedback, based on what works for them.
  • Kept up to date – through things like ‘Blog of the week’ and ‘Research Bulletins’ (even found above the urinals – a captive audience!)  Busy teachers haven’t got time to trawl through and find things like this – so we do it for them.

This is all good and making a difference, but of course as a growth mindset school, we’re not there…yet!  So we want to do more.

Tonight I met with a group of staff, with a range of experience and roles, who have been charged with a single task – go and talk to your colleagues and find out what we can do, to allow teachers and leaders to focus on their core purpose.  As a group, we will then meet on the 9th June to discuss our ideas and put together some proposals for the SLT.

DHS staff – please share your ideas with the group, who consist of:

The rest of the planet – if your school has done something positive to support this work, please share it by leaving a comment or tweet with the hashtag #edcore

main thing

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5 Responses to Getting to the core…

    • cmoyse says:

      Great to see a school continue to strip away all the unnecessary and superfluous stuff in favour of removing as many barriers as possible to staff becoming great. Work alongside teachers in their classrooms as you don’t get good at something by talking about it.
      Coach, mentor, inspire, guide, support, challenge and empathise.
      Great work people of DHS!

  1. teacherposts says:

    Bit dubious about middle leaders aiming to reduce variation in their teams. There are many ways of being a good teacher – we shouldn’t all be doing everything identically, surely?
    (have in the past been the victim of a HoD who did want precisely that…)

  2. jillberry102 says:

    I enjoyed this, Shaun. I remember hearing Maggie Farrar, when she was at the National College, talking to a conference of new heads about how we can be full of good intentions when we’re involved in the best professional development, but then when we get back to the ‘day job’ what she called “the tyranny of stuff” gets in the way and pulls us off track.

    Great to have some practical suggestions about strategies we can use to try to keep the stuff in its box!

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