Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Staff Wellbeing Ideas

Ensuring that you are doing all you can as a leader to recognise the effort your staff are putting in is hard. All day long, tiny acts of kindness and outstanding practice are taking place and you will only see a fraction of them.

How do you communicate your thanks to staff? What do you recognise? Will teams be aware that you do notice?

Here are some simple ideas we have found:

Recognition and rewards:
  • Employee awards – nominated within team from team
  • Recognition of and incentives for achievements – boxes of chocolates, certificates etc
  • Regular praise for good achievements
  • Achievable goals with prizes
  • Always try to relate to and empathise with your staff. This is paramount when working with our clients so it should be with our peers
  • Have a positive part of team meetings – colleagues say something positive or recognise a quality in each other and say it
  • Compliments hour – only give nice comments and feedback
  • Give staff a “voucher” (£40-50) to spend on training & development that is NOT work related and then publicise what they’ve done
  • Listen, ask, keep excellent communications.... buy cake!
  • Thank people – make them feel appreciated.
  • Say “thank you” to your staff when they have done well (even better with a handwritten or at least personally signed note to them)

How do you ensure that staff achieve some semblance of a work/life balance? Is there a way that you can help Middle Leaders take the temperature of their team? Is there a 'staff tracker/bingo card' where you try to encourage them to try a range of wellbeing activities to give them a break and help them unwind?

Can you create some time in the day for individuals or teams to take a break?

Here are some simple ways that staff could try to give themselves a break.

Monday, 29 January 2018

What to do first?

As a leader, the volume of tasks to complete can seem overwhelming. In any one day there can be a succession of decisions to be made on trivial matters up to those which could have real long lasting impact. Making sure that you give each one the appropriate time is quite a challenge, especially when you can feel under pressure to 'always have the answer'.

The diagram below helps to give a very simple framework with which you can review actions and tasks. It is also worth considering some mantras that can help to avoid being swamped:

  • Take your time to really listen to the question and think about your response. Is it something that has to be answered today? Is it you that should be doing the answering? Should you be taking advice? Do you even know the answer?
  • Don't be afraid to say you don't know. No one knows everything. Admitting that you need time to research the issue/question and that you'll get back to the person when you have an informed response isn't weakness.
  • Are too many questions coming to you? Are there systems in place to ensure that class teachers, Middle Leaders and other SLT are clear on their responsibilities?
  • Don't be afraid to stop doing something good so that you can do something great. Often it is hard to let go of something that is working for fear that a new approach won't work out... but if you don't try you'll never know. If we lived our life on that basis we'd still be riding horses to work.

Peer Review - Improvement Workshop

SLEs from our Peer Review cohort led their first session this month at Branfil Primary. In our cohort we have eight Havering Schools:

  • Hacton Primary
  • Broadford Primary
  • Mead Primary
  • James Oglethorpe Primary
  • Hilldene Primary
  • Upminster Infant & Junior
  • Engayne Primary
  • Branfil Primary
Each school undertakes to receive a Peer Review, and then an Improvement Workshop.
It is too early yet to be able to judge the impact that these reviews will have on pupil outcomes, but staff feedback has been very encouraging:

100% agreed that the Improvement Workshop was a positive experience which will help move our school forward.
I felt it was very positive throughout and we gained a lot through it - Branfil teacher
I thought it was very worthwhile experience - Branfil teacher

The SLEs use a range of thinking tools to help promote discussion and help the staff of the focus school tease out ideas and strategies to move forward followings the findings of the review.
Radiant Thinking

Sunday, 28 January 2018

Peer Review: Facilitator Workshop

Facilitated by the Education Development Trust, we had a great training session for our Improvement Facilitators. Our cohort of eight Primary schools have now completed the first two of the reviews in this cycle, with one more to come in January. Having led one Improvement Workshop to enact the findings of the Review, our facilitators were excited to have the chance to meet up with Deanery colleagues who started the Peer Review process a few months earlier.

It was a great chance to discuss ideas, listen to each group's experiences and consolidate our understanding of the techniques and tools we have for the reviews.
T Chappel - Improvement Facilitator

Our two cohorts of schools now have nine facilitators who will be able to support the school improvement process. We hope to add more capacity as the year progresses.

Click here for a link to the Schools Partnership Programme

Google: Culture first, technology second

We were delighted to be asked by Google to present at BETT this year. Our presentation focused on the importance of first building a staff culture before expecting the technology to unleash collaboration.

View the slides here

Across our Federation we have made a conscious effort to build INTELLECTUAL & SOCIAL capital. Google has helped with the first, as they have Educator Level 1 & 2 training which has ensured that our staff are confident with G Suite and all the key apps. However we have worked just as hard on the expectations we have for SOCIAL capital:

  • staff nights out: activity based team events darts, Topgolf, bowling, shuffleboard
  • fun activities and games to start staff/team meetings
  • free refreshments in the staff room to encourage people out of their classes
  • free Zumba sessions every week
  • cake on a Friday
  • joint PPA time with all of the team released at once - across both schools
This meant that when we started to implement G Suite and introduce Chromebooks the culture of collaboration, that was already established, really took off.

Jade then spoke about the practical applications it has to help her lead a team effectively and make a difference in the classroom. The core message behind her part of the presentation was to ensure that:

There have been lots of questions, nerves and doubt over this new way of doing things. But thanks to the effective modelling of our Google champions we have been able to save time, increase engagement, reduce duplication of tasks and concentrate on the main thing... planning, resourcing and teaching great lessons for the children.

Thursday, 25 January 2018

Little Things - Huge Impact

The Brailsford mantra of 'marginal gains' has been slightly tarnished with revelations about the use of exemptions and different medications. However the idea that small actions can have a large impact is rooted in history.

What small changes could have a large impact in your setting?
Could you change attainment and progress with a tiny tweak?

Thursday, 18 January 2018

Believe In Your Vision

It might not sound relevant to teaching, but as The Last Jedi reaches over $1billion in takings, it is worth reflecting that the whole story was almost never told.

George Lucas wanted to make a movie with his favourite science-fiction character, but he couldn’t afford to buy the rights. Instead he borrowed a little bit from old science fiction stories, samurai tales, Westerns, WWII pilot adventures…and then set his own story in space. That was only the beginning of the struggle to get Star Wars made. No one wanted to finance the story, the budget was tiny, the skills didn't exist to make it... even the cast and crew were reluctant to take part. They thought George's vision was crazy.

However he persevered, he re shot scenes, he believed in himself and never gave up on the vision he had for the story.

It is an incredible tale of success against the odds. 
  • How would you get staff to buy into your vision?
  • Have you ever been tempted to give up when others just don't get it?
  • Are there factors holding you back from achieving your vision?
Maybe watching George describe what the process was like for him will be inspiring for you!

Click here for the video

Friday, 12 January 2018

Teach London

"London is the greatest city in the world in which to live, to work and to study. It is no wonder that thousands of graduates choose to stay in the capital to teach and to inspire the next generation of Londoners. Teachers have a huge impact on young Londoners’ lives. I urge you to consider London as a place to train to be a teacher and play your part in nurturing and inspiring our capital’s young talent for generations to come." 

If you are interested in finding out more about teaching in London then please look at out local Schools Direct program:

or look at the Mayor's Teach London resource

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Leadership Conversations

A significant part of leadership is all about developing the right habits. One of these is around the types of conversation that you tend to have as a leader. Andy Buck has simplified this for school leaders at all levels - you should only have three types of conversation!

‘Monkey on the shoulder’ conversations

Someone comes to talk to you about an issue and concern. Before you know it, you’ve ended up with a job! Whilst there is a place for ’monkey on the shoulder’ conversations, you shouldn’t have too many.

‘Wise owl’ conversations

These are dialogues in which you end up giving advice, making suggestions or even just telling someone what to do. These conversations don’t build capacity or competence in your colleagues. In fact, they do the reverse.

‘Dolphin’ conversations

The important habit I am suggesting all leaders need to keep developing, is that of ‘asking first’. Here, leaders just ask brilliant questions. It is more about you using a coaching leadership style than it is actually formally coaching. In a nutshell, aim to ask questions that help the other person to:

1. understand the background or situation

2. work out what they want to do or their aim

3. consider their options and work out their strategy or approach

4. decide what they are going to do or implement

5. work out how this can continue as a sustainable solution

As the words in bold highlight, this approach to structuring these conversations uses the acronym of BASIC.

Click here for the full article

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Thought For the Day

On the theme of small changes to make a big difference, the story of how the inspirational quotes seen at TfL stations came to be is a great one.

What is the Quote for The Day?
Passengers using Oval station on the Northern line have come to appreciate the ‘Thought for the Day’ quotations put up by station staff in the main concourse.

The innovative project began in 2004 and has been taken up by several other stations on the Underground network.

It’s a team effort, started by station supervisor Anthony Gentles and looked after on a daily basis by station assistant Glen Sutherland.

Anthony Gentles said: “We are here to provide a service to our customers, not just to sell tickets. We like to provide a happy and relaxed environment, which is why we have classical music playing at all times.”

The idea behind ‘Thought for the Day’ was to give passenger’s something inspirational to think about during their journey.

Click here for the article

  • What small changes could you make in your school?
  • How could you excite staff about new ideas or techniques?
  • How would the 'quote for the day' work in your setting?

Monday, 8 January 2018

Rethinking Giftedness

How are you supporting More Able pupils?
This short clip from Citizen Film was created after hearing from pupils about the labels they had received growing up. Many of the pupils had been labelled as “gifted” or “smart,” when they were in school, and these labels, intended to be positive, had given them learning challenges later in life.

Most people realize that it is harmful to not be labelled as gifted when others are. The labelling of some students sends negative messages about potential. However those labels could be damaging for those who receive them too. 

At Stanford many pupils were labelled as gifted in Kindergarten or 1st grade and received special advantages from that point on, raising many questions about equity in schools. But labels and ideas of smartness and giftedness carry with them fixed ideas about ability, suggesting to pupils that they are born with a gift or a special brain. 

When pupils are led to believe they are gifted, or they have a “math brain” or they are “smart” and later struggle, that struggle is absolutely devastating. Pupils who grow up thinking that they have a special brain often drop out of STEM subjects when they struggle. At that time students start to believe they were not, after all, gifted, or that the gift has “run out” as one of the students in our film reflects.

In the film, which I really recommend that you watch, we also hear from students from a local elementary school who shared their experiences of learning without labels. Their school does not give students the idea that some students are smart or gifted and has instead shared our youcubed messages and videos about the high potential of all students to grow and change their brains. Their math community values all kinds of learners and communicates that all students have interesting and unique ideas to share. The teachers know that careful problem-solving takes time, conversation, and lots of questions from everyone. The fourth graders who are interviewed illustrate the different ideas students can develop when they are given messages of brain growth and high academic potential for everyone, rather than messages of high academic potential for only some students.

Jo Boaler - Youcubed

Click here for the video

Click here for the website

Friday, 5 January 2018

Maths Progression Videos

These video clips may be useful when explaining to staff the progression in maths concepts through the Early Years and Primary phases.

Thursday, 4 January 2018

Don't Mention The Nail - Just Listen

Have you ever had a performance conversation with a team member where you felt that there was a very obvious solution?

Have you ever wanted to just 'give the answer' so that you can move forward?

Have you ever felt frustrated that the team member couldn't see the same solution as you?

In order for the issue to be resolved, it may sometimes be better to just listen... however difficult that maybe. Once the team member feels that they have been heard, that a quick fix isn't just imposed on them, it may be more likely that you will be able to agree on a way forward...

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Small Changes - Big Difference

When looking at resolutions for a New Year it is easy to be seduced by the dramatic... a whole new me! Targets set can easily be vague... get fitter, read more. Too ambitious and it is too easy to give up. Too vague and it is unclear if you have achieved them.

Here are some top tips that we would offer - which are good for any time of the year and not restricted to the first week in January:

  1. Be specific. If you are going to get fitter, what do you mean? Is your aim to run without stopping for 10mins? How many minutes can you do now? How do you know? Is your goal appropriate?
  2. Do something today... it is very easy to come up with a target that means you can put off any effort. What can you do today to make a difference to your goal
  3. Build on an existing behaviour - is there a habit you have which you could develop or improve? Perhaps you already walk for 10 minutes... now you can stretch it to 12?
A key question would be... how will this improve my life, my health, my teaching. If you aren't clear on the expected benefits of the change then how will you stay motivated to achieve it, how will you know if you have achieved it?

NPQ Courses - Deadline Extension 26th January

Have you set yourself a leadership goal for 2018?
Would an NPQ help you achieve it?

If so, you will be delighted to hear that we decided to extend the registration deadline for NPQ courses starting this spring.
We will be accepting applications until Friday, 26th January.
Please use the registration links below to ensure you are able to access outstanding leadership training starting in your locality this spring.

For general information on these courses, please visit our website.

Reading Comprehension

What does comprehension require? Broad vocabulary, obviously. Equally important, but more subtle, is the role played by factual knowledge.

All prose has factual gaps that must be filled by the reader. Consider

“I promised not to play with it, but Mum still wouldn’t let me bring my Rubik’s Cube to the library.” 

The author has omitted three facts vital to comprehension: 
  1. you must be quiet in a library; 
  2. Rubik’s Cubes make noise; 
  3. kids don’t resist tempting toys very well. 
If you don’t know these facts, you might understand the literal meaning of the sentence, but you’ll miss why Mum forbade the toy in the library.

In one experiment, pupils — some identified by a reading test as good readers, some as poor — were asked to read a passage about football. The poor readers who knew a lot about football were three times as likely to make accurate inferences about the passage as the good readers who didn’t know much about the game.

Current education practices show that reading comprehension may be misunderstood. It’s treated like a general skill that can be applied with equal success to all texts. Rather, comprehension is intimately intertwined with knowledge. That suggests three significant changes in schooling.

  1. Look at decreasing the time spent on literacy instruction in early years. Early in Primary pupils can spend 56 percent of their time on literacy activities but 6 percent each on science and social studies. This disproportionate emphasis on literacy backfires later  when children’s lack of subject matter knowledge impedes comprehension. Another positive step would be to use high-information texts earlier - historically, they have been light in content.
  2. Second, understanding the importance of knowledge to reading ought to make us think differently about year-end standardized tests. If a child has studied New Zealand, she ought to be good at reading and thinking about passages on New Zealand. Why test her reading with a passage about spiders, or the Titanic? If topics are random, the test weights knowledge learned outside the classroom — knowledge that wealthy children have greater opportunity to pick up.
  3. Knowledge needs to be deliberately built into the curriculum. What are the key facts and understanding that we want pupils to have acquired and how are we planning to deliberately cover it?