Social mobility at the heart of education policy – no community left behind
In December we saw the publication from the DfE of Unlocking Talent, Fulfilling Potential – a plan for improving social mobility through education.
The Dfe have four key ambitions to close the gap on disadvantage,
- Closing the ‘word gap’ in early years, focusing on the development of key early language and literacy skills for pupils who are disadvantaged or not achieving their full potential
- Closing the attainment gap in schools while continuing to raise standards for all, a focus on intervention where it is now most needed
- High quality post 16 education choices for all young people, a focus on the ‘technical education system’ being a part of the drive to raise standards
- Everyone achieving their full potential in rewarding careers, improving the provision of careers advice through effective Information, Advice and Guidance (IAG)
This is a very early stage document with laudable intentions. It will, however, take a long time to become a reality. There is a promise of substantial sums of money to support some of the suggestions. There is also planned research to ascertain the extent of the problems that exist and where they exist.
One of the observations included in the report is that often the best way to make a difference is to have a look at where schools and partnerships across the country have developed strategies that are creating significant change and are closing the gap. So, in the spirit of trying to find solutions that can be put into practice now, I have had a trawl around to find examples of good practice. The themes are fairly uniform across a wide range of research and are what one might expect. You can download a list of the research papers I have used here.
The main points that emerge are:-
- Early years intervention can make a significant difference to the life chances of learners especially in supporting the development of explicit literacy instruction and the setting of clearly defined, consistent teaching objectives. One to one support is also highlighted as is the use of phonics based programmes for struggling readers
- Making effective use of data can have a profound impact on identifying and addressing under-performance and will help schools to understand the reasons why. This is especially true when learners are able to use information about themselves to self-evaluate. Data is also seen to be useful for tracking progress or the lack of it and as an essential part of effective formative assessment strategies
- Raising aspiration is a recurring theme. How do we ensure that learners believe in themselves and are prepared to have faith in their own ability? The use of ‘Growth Mindset’ theory and other similar interventions are making a significant difference in some schools and across school partnerships or MATs
- Engaging with parents and raising parental aspirations about their offspring can have an impact on the extent to which learners will see their potential beyond that of the ambition of previous generations. There are some interesting approaches being applied across the country
- Developing learners’ social and emotional competences through strategies that raise self-esteem, develop communication and social skills and nurture deep and profound thinking around some of the important local, national and international issues pertinent to the 21st century are proven to have an impact
- Ensuring there are focused strategies so that pupils do not fall behind at times of transition where there is a well-documented dip in performance for many learners especially between years two and three and years six and seven
- Where there is strong, visionary leadership that focuses on zero tolerance and a determined and consistent whole school approach change happens
- Poor literacy skills continue across a raft of research to be at the heart of low achievement, this is especially highlighted in science and the STEM subjects but is a problem across all learning
- Developing the meta-cognitive (‘learning to learn’) skills of learners is an essential element for success. Where learners understand how they learn, listen well, think with clarity, have good comprehension and recall skills and can communicate and learn through co-operation with their peers learning and improvement takes place
- Creating a common language and a consistent strategy to issues around discipline makes a difference
- The use of technology especially interactive whiteboards and other whole school technology interventions is also seen to improve learning for all
None of the above say anything new or different. Successive governments have highlighted the fact that there is a persistent group of disadvantaged learners who do not achieve as well as their peers. The reasons are also well-documented and to some extent obvious. There are, however, some amazing examples of good and outstanding practice that are making a difference. We do need to learn and apply these strategies to ensure every school across the country supports every learner to achieve and exceed their full potential.
Learning Cultures are working with several successful schools who have begun to make big strides in this area. Our own programmes focus on how to cascade and share good and outstanding practice and we can support schools, MATs and alliances who want to develop highly effective strategies that will ‘close the gap’.
Some of our courses also address one or more of the themes above and will go into much greater detail than we can here. I have put together a comprehensive list on a PDF that you can download here.
OFSTED have slightly revised their handbook for schools. There are not many changes but they are significant. We have worked through the October 2017 version and compared it with the last published version in August 2016. A complete list of the changes and a web version of the headlines below can be found on our website.
The headline changes are:-
Part 1 – How schools will be inspected
- Good schools may trigger a full inspection if provision is deemed to have deteriorated slightly
- Ofsted have published a short paper dispelling common myths and misconceptions about their work in schools some of which are included in the handbook and captured here
- Clarification that judgements will not be made where groups are small and therefore not representative
- Clarification of arrangements for who should be included in meetings including the governance structure and inclusion of chief executive officers or equivalents of academies and milti academy trusts
- Emphasis that inspectors must gather evidence from a wide range of sources including pupils’ experiences of learning, behaviour and the prevention of bullyingNew wording for how a school is judged as requires improvement and when a school is causing concern
- Section 8 of the handbook has also been revised
Part 2 – The evaluation schedule – how schools will be judged
- An additional entry emphasising that inspectors should look at how leaders and governors use high quality professional development to encourage challenge and support teacher improvement
- An additional entry that emphasises that inspectors must see that the curriculum provides adequately for the needs of all pupils
- Further emphasis that using data for small groups of children must be treated with caution
- New emphasis on the adequacy of core provision, inclusion and additional provision for those deemed disadvantaged
- Emphasis on stretch and challenge for the most able
- New emphasis on scrutinising the progress of pupils in English and maths against national figures
- For early years there is an additional emphasis on the ‘culture of safeguarding’
- There is a new publication for boarding provision Social Care Common Inspection Framework: Boarding schools and Residential Special schools
You can see a transcript of the changes on our website.
If you are planning your CPD strategy or designing the appraisal system for the new academic year you will achieve phenomenal success if you build coaching into the process. Learning is just as important for teachers as it is for pupils. A good teacher never stops learning and relishes any opportunity to be challenged and stretched. Without on-going opportunities for good quality training, classroom practice becomes hackneyed and dull.
Coaching is a process, it requires individuals to learn a suite of skills in order to support others to set their own goals, be clear as to how they will achieve them; have well-defined steps along the way and evaluate their learning at the end of a given period of time. Coaching is non-judgemental and can be the conduit for transformational change.
A coach will never project their own views, direct another or suggest they know best. A coach will facilitate a conversation that requires the other person to soul search, learn from their mistakes, find their own solutions and ultimately make their own decisions about how to create successful outcomes from their stated goals and objectives.
Here at Learning Cultures we have created the most comprehensive coaching programme you could ever wish for. We have not left anyone out. From leaders, managers and Governors to teachers, Cover Supervisors and support staff we have developed training courses and modules that will ultimately deliver a whole school or college coaching culture. We have even included the pupils as potential candidates for coaching in our repertoire.
Training is of little or no value if it is delivered as a stand-alone activity where it is not linked to school improvement, learning goals and individual aspirations. It will have no impact unless the learning is disseminated to others and cascaded successfully. Coaching provides the mechanism for ensuring that there is on-going reflection and professional dialogue linked to learning and the celebration of good and outstanding practice. Plan your CPD using coaching at its heart and you will create outstanding individuals who are highly motivated, understand their own self-worth and who embrace change and challenge.
Or for the latest resources, activities and best practice examples join us for our fourth annual coaching conference. The Power of Coaching at the wonderful Woburn Abbey in Bedfordshire on 29th June. You might also like to attend our Leading a Coaching School event at the same venue on Friday 30th June. A veritable extravaganza of coaching training.
Make sure lesson observation plays a key role in your CPD strategy.
Lesson observation is an important part of quality assurance in schools. Observing lessons provides line managers with a good understanding of how their teams are performing and is a benchmark for assessing teaching and learning across the school. The lesson is often observed by one person and the feedback is between the teacher and the observer. There is little opportunity for the sharing and cascading of good or outstanding practice and limited scope for teachers who need support when their lesson is deemed unsatisfactory.
There is another way. A school has a wealth of good and outstanding practice happening every day, very few lessons are observed and those that are seen are rarely shared. Imagine a lesson observation process where the teacher chooses when to be observed and who they would like to observe; not to judge and grade but to share their practice, their approaches to pedagogy and generally to reflect together on their understanding of learning that leads to high levels of progression.
The opportunities to use lesson observation as an integral part of your CPD strategy involves everyone. It is cost effective because it is happening in school by practitioners for practitioners. We have two highly influential and innovative training courses to help you ensure that outstanding teaching and learning is not your best kept secret.
The Art of Lesson Observation – is for line managers and senior leaders who have a responsibility for observation of their teams. Read more about the content of the day by clicking here.
Lesson Study – Enhancing learning through professional collaboration and enquiry is for teachers to work together to observe their own teaching practice. Read more about the content of the day by clicking here.