Today was the 4th day of NPQSL (National Professional Qualification for Senior Leaders) something which I started back in September. Something that so far has been very hit and miss. We are only the 2nd cohort and they are still learning about what is working well and what is not working well. Everyone makes mistakes right! Fortunately, today was a lot better. Today was the first day of the 'Closing the Gap' module. Something that is banded about a lot and something which as schools we worry about. Where are the gaps, is it gender, ethnicity, FSM, SEN, is it the FSM SEN children. So many groups and so many gaps how do we fill them all?
During the course of the day we had the chance to look at some educational research about the subject of gaps in achievement. Unfortunately, we still live in a country where socio-economic status is still the biggest determiner of educational achievement. Are schools to blame for this? Obviously not - we do all we can don't we? Or do we? What is it we need to do to help this group of children and improve their chances of educational achievement? One key message from the whole day was apparent.
QUALITY FIRST TEACHING - Is it the number 1 priority in your school at all times?
If we can get this right and provide every child with the best teachers with the best subject knowledge and give them the best CPD (tailored to their individual needs) the chances of improving outcomes for all will be greatly improved. Consistency across the school is imperative - everyone pulling in the same direction. The best teachers get the best results! The best teachers work on developing their practice everyday and reflect on their practice to continually improve. We ask the children to continually improve - as a profession we must also do the same.
Learning experiences that engage and get the children interested in their learning. KEY!
Focused feedback. "If you don't give something focused for the children to work on - why bother writing anything at all!". This then develops responsive learners as they have to respond to comments / challenges / explanations from the teacher. Developing responsive learners!
Some other points from today
Learning to learn skills (Building Learning Power) is one of the key ways in which we can improve the educational outcomes for all. There are many books on this and research online. I am a strong believer in this and embed this in daily practice.
Developing a school which is open and willing to have a constant dialogue with its teachers and other staff on how each individual can improve. By having an open school like this which develops high levels of reciprocity between teachers, every teachers knowledge, skills and understanding will improve. Why do we bleat on about children learning from each other when actually we don't do enough of this ourselves. When was the last time you tried an idea in your class and then told everyone all about it? Do you have staff meeting time to share ideas? Do you have a teachers blog to share ideas? Why not? When was the last time you visited a school to see how they do things? Lots to think about - lots which in theory sound brilliant but things which need the backing of your head to make sure your CPD is happening. Without awesome CPD how will you improve! If you don't improve how do you expect the outcomes of all children to change! It is called Continual Professional Development for a reason! Coaching and mentoring with continual open dialogue is essential for the development of every person in the school.
Another interesting idea from today was about pre-learning (or the flipped classroom as some call it). I love this idea and often use it in my approach. However, a problem to this are the children who don't access our school blog at home to watch the video I've asked them too or completed the reading I've asked. How we get around this is key as I truly believe that this will improve educational outcomes. But they key thing is, how can you make sure that every child will do this at home or more to the point - what about the children who don't have access to the internet at home?
Every Lesson Counts! Quality First Teaching will close the gap - but how can you make sure you get quality first teaching from everybody is something that Headteachers have to make sure happens or the gap will never be narrowed!
I'm a deputy head in Scarborough, England and love using media and tech to develop writing. I'm also a keen advocate of Learning Without Limits and believe in a games based approach to developing mathematicians.