24 Mar HT Blog 26 – Learning Journeys
Each half-term, as I am sure that all parents and students are aware, we publish our very clear and detailed curriculum overviews for each year group so that all members of our community are aware of what learning is scheduled to take place in classrooms over the course of the next few weeks. When all of the overviews are put together, like pieces of a larger puzzle that form the whole of a student’s knowledge, understanding and skills, it is possible to see the entire journey from relative novice at the beginning of Year 7 to emerging expert at the end of Year 11. In reality, however, there is perhaps too much information to take in in one go if we used the more detailed curriculum overviews to gauge this progress, and for this reason our subject leaders are meeting this week in order to come up with a way of mapping the sequencing of learning across not only year groups but also the entire school, from Year 7 to Year 11, in a format that is at-a-glance easy to understand. This task, clearly, is no easy one, but we feel that it would be incredibly valuable to our students and their parents, and, in fact, to us as teachers, if we were able to see with absolute clarity and certainty the learning journey that our young people take in each subject during their time with us. These learning road maps (we haven’t thought of what they might actually be called yet) would sit alongside the half-termly curriculum overviews and could be referred to throughout each student’s time at Daubeney Academy as indications of what has been covered already, what is currently being learned and what is yet to come. Simplicity, in my opinion, is very often key to success in education, especially as the current educational landscape, as ever-changing as it is, is undoubtedly the most confusing and complicated that it has ever been.
During the meeting with subject leaders, we will also be looking at some of the highlights of the draft Ofsted inspection framework for September 2019 as it includes one or two game-changers that will force all schools to think a little differently about how they do things. Although we are proud of the Ofsted-good grade that we were awarded in 2016, we don’t, either as a school or as its leaders, exist to either collect accolades or please inspection teams, and everything that we do will always continue to be for the benefit of our community and the students in our care. However, all schools are also aware that grades awarded to them can influence parents’ opinions as to the quality of an organisation, and it would be unwise indeed to overlook updated components of frameworks. The new guidance, for example, makes it very clear that teachers must ensure that “Their own speaking, listening, writing and reading of English support pupils in developing their language and vocabulary well,” meaning that school leaders must be certain that all members of a school’s community are adept at communicating accurately and clearly, with high-level vocabulary used as frequently as possible ahead of the easier option of dumbing-down. Similarly, and quite correctly, schools will be graded as inadequate if “Leaders and those responsible for governance, through their words, actions or influence, directly or indirectly, undermine or fail to promote equality of opportunity in the school.” At Daubeney Academy, as evidenced by our IQM Centre of Excellence status, we are very keen to continue to promote equality at every opportunity, and I am personally delighted that this statement has been added to the new draft framework. Finally, for this blog at least, as there are many more that we will be discussing with subject leaders this week, schools will now only be graded as outstanding if “Leaders’ high expectations of all pupils in the school, and the extent to which these are embodied in leaders’ and staff’s day-to-day interactions with pupils” are evident at all times. To me, this final statement makes it clear that the best schools will have all teachers insisting that students do everything they can to reach or exceed their potential in lessons, that all students communicate appropriately at all times and also that our young people set the highest standards possible in terms of behaviour and uniform. Two weeks ago, we were delighted to welcome colleagues from Challenge Partners to our school and the report that they left us with was, without doubt, the most positively-worded document that we have ever received from the organisation as it acknowledged the hugely difficult task that our leaders and teachers have had in changing Daubeney Academy from its former status as a middle school to its current position as a small but flourishing secondary provision. In the report, it was noted that “There is a strong sense of cohesion and collegiality in the school. Staff and pupils embody the school’s motto; ‘Work hard and be kind to each other.’ Staff know their pupils extremely well and pastoral support is strong. Pupils told reviewers how much they value the nurturing nature of academy staff.” In addition, our reviewers also stated that “The school’s focus on character education is a major strength. Pupils spoke enthusiastically about the opportunities they have to gain their ‘colours’. They appreciate the importance of developing their wider skills and the opportunities the school gives them to do so.” And, alongside many other positive statements that will be shared with our teachers and leaders next week, the review team made it clear not only that “The climate for learning is strong and teachers have well-established routines. Pupils are polite, eager to work and comply willingly with what is asked of them. This positive learning environment allows lessons to progress smoothly,” but also that “Despite the school’s small size, leaders are rightly proud of the breadth of their curriculum offer, which is tailored to the school’s context. Pupils in Key Stage 4 have access to a wide variety of option subjects. Leaders send parents an impressive termly curriculum overview for every subject.” I am very proud of the superb job that our leaders have done in remodelling Daubeney Academy as a small school with a large curriculum, and although we know that we will continue to have a great deal of hard work ahead of us, it was wonderful to read these acknowledgements of the excellent progress that we have made so far.