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CEO Blog Post 29.01.21

Hardip BegolWell that’s four weeks of national lockdown completed – what a tremendous job you’ve all done, continuing to meet the needs of the children of critical workers and vulnerable pupils on-site and remote education for those at home. I’m so impressed by the commitment shown to pupils accessing as much of the normal school curriculum as possible, whilst obviously having to make refinements given the circumstances. A big thank you from me. 

I want to give a special mention to those who have been involved in establishing testing centres and who are continuing to offer colleagues twice weekly tests.  The plans may have been scaled back – for the time being – but your work in keeping us safe is much appreciated.  The dreadful milestone on the number of coronavirus-related deaths this week – and colleagues in the Trust who are suffering seriously from the illness – should give us pause to reflect.  But there is hope.  And I think the Trust’s values of wisdom, ambition, trust, unity and faith provide some comfort in these times.     

Remote education

As a Leadership Team we have been discussing continuous improvement of remote learning.  It’s new, so we aren’t going to always get it right, but we should seek out and share what is working well and change what isn’t.   Firstly, it is about making sure we know whether all pupils are engaged – and responding swiftly for those who are not, whether with parents or through on-site provision.  Secondly, it is about making sure pupils are learning through effective assessment and evaluation – and, if they are not, responding swiftly to understand why and taking action to address any barriers.   

Kieran Scanlon, Principal at Sir Robert Woodard Academy (SRWA), got “the call” from Ofsted on Monday saying the school was going to be inspected on Wednesday and Thursday. I want to pay tribute to how he led his team at SRWA through the process – the inspection was particularly focused on leadership and governance but I know colleagues throughout the school were involved.

The Ofsted inspections this term are focusing on:

  • discussing with school leaders and those responsible for governance the actions being taken to provide education in the current circumstances;
  • how effectively leaders are adapting the existing curriculum to meet current challenges; (inspectors will discuss with leaders what they had achieved by the start of the pandemic, where they are currently with curriculum planning and how they are getting back on track; this includes discussing whether any actions have been reasonably delayed or altered by COVID-19 restrictions)
  • how effectively leaders are providing education remotely;
  • how effectively leaders are providing education for vulnerable pupils and for other pupils attending school on site;
  • leaders’ plans to support pupils with special educational needs and/or disabilities, whether they are in school or being educated at home;
  • examining whether those responsible for governance are making an effective contribution to leaders’ actions in providing the best possible education for all pupils in the current circumstances; (this includes examining the decisions leaders have taken about the curriculum); and
  • considering the impact of the support and challenge provided to the school around their curriculum and current education provision, including from any external partners.

The inspection team were highly professional and empathetic; they certainly delivered what the Ofsted guidance says: “Inspectors will work with leaders during the inspection, providing the right level of challenge, at the right time, to support the school’s work.”  

We await the final report but the feedback from parents was excellent; the development of consistent practice on assessment and curriculum over the past 3 years was recognised; the passion and commitment of staff and governors shone through; and the remote learning offer was a strength.  And there were some helpful pointers on further improvements.  Overall, a really positive experience.    

Professional Development

You’ll know that I’m keen on professional development – we’re the role models for lifelong learning for pupils, parents and the wider community.  So I’m really pleased that there’s a bumper upload of Webinars on the Staff Portal to end the month:

  • Christine Counsell on Senior Leadership of the Curriculum (Part 1 and Part 2) – although aimed at senior leaders, it will be interesting to all colleagues;
  • Andy Buck on Unlocking Leadership – the webinar focuses on engagement – how we build relationships and develop people.  Whether you manage or lead today, will do in future, or want to know what you should expect from a good manager or leader – take a look.
  • Katherine Birbalsingh on Leadership to Raise Expectations – she’s the Principal of the Michaela School in NW London, which achieves some of the best results in the country and prides itself on developing polite, well-mannered and kind pupils. 
  • John Tomsett on Putting Staff First – how to create a professional development culture in schools. 

That’s nearly 10 hours of material. 

ReaHB Classroom Cloudding

Given my lack of knowledge about technology in education, I thought I’d read this book, from a former senior leader in an independent school.  To be positive, it has some good checklists for implementing changes.  But it says: “Indeed, teachers need not know anything at all.  The most successful teachers are now those who can demonstrate that they can engage, stimulate and encourage students to find out for themselves.”  Oh, dear. Surprising then that the school requires the teachers it hires to have a good degree, preferably in the subject they are teaching. And there’s a lot of assertions about technology and learning. 

A much better read is this practical research from Ofsted: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/remote-education-research/remote-education-research   

We were joined by Amanda Spielman, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Schools, at our virtual conference of Woodard Heads on Wednesday who explained the research and responded to questions.  The calibre of speakers and webinar contributors hopefully demonstrates our commitment as a Trust to add value and deliver on our mission of learning, developing and improving - working together as a community of pupils, staff, schools, service providers and governors to meet our ambitious goals.       

Hardip Begol
Chief Executive Officer

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