A gnarled old senior manager once said to me, “If it ain’t being monitored, it ain’t happening”.
A little pessimistic perhaps, but in truth, if we are not constantly monitoring our standards, then I think it is probably safe to assume that consistent high quality is unlikely. Schools are not very good at sharing with stakeholders enough about how we monitor standards, especially in that central area of learning and teaching.
I often find parents are pleasantly surprised to find out how assiduously we do this so thought I would share with you some of the ways in which we hold ourselves and each other accountable. I have recently begun my annual round of “snapshot lesson observations”. These are short (15mins.) observations of all teaching staff in which I focus on key areas that we have identified as priorities as a school.
This year, for example, one of the things I am looking for is evidence of “growth mindset”, whether in the teacher, the students or in the learning environment. At the same time, I know Chris Gibbon, our new Head of Primary, is engaged in fuller lesson observations that will allow her to get a good handle on the strengths and areas for development in her team. Full lesson observations within our appraisal system are now in swing.
These are the main vehicle for assessing teachers’ performance in the classroom and for deciding what professional development targets need to be set for the year ahead and to identify what professional training is required to help the colleague to attain these.
They are followed up later in the year with a further lesson observation in which progress against the targets set is assessed. If a teachers’ performance is felt to be unsatisfactory then it is likely that he or she will come under what we call our “Capability Procedure” which entails more intensive support and monitoring over a relatively short period of time to help improve performance as quickly as possible.
These various types of lesson observations can be quite nerve-wracking for colleagues because of course they are being carried out by senior leaders or line managers and there is of course a great deal of professional pride at stake. However, they are important and the feedback sessions that follow them, if led skillfully, are probably one of the most effective ways of developing a teacher’s classroom practice. However, it is important t that we try to balance these with less intrusive approaches and so at the moment teachers are touring the school in groups of three to visit their colleagues’ lessons and learning environments to observe, and make note of, what evidence they can find of “growth mindset” in our classrooms.
There is a myriad of other ways in which we monitor and evaluate how we are performing as a school such as: detailed exams analyses; parent and student surveys; and key stage progress reviews. However there is not enough time to go into all of these in depth here. Suffice to say that we are committed to holding ourselves continuously and rigorously to account for our performance so that we deliver the very best service that we can to you and your children.