What are your top highlights from this academic year?
End of Term:
It’s the end of term for me and I’m chuffed to have reached the end of a positive, yet very challenging first year as a deputy headteacher. Yesterday, our staff said goodbye to one another for the summer break and we gathered in our school hall to say our farewells. Just like in any school, staff stood up to give their leaving speeches and give thanks to colleagues past, present and future. As one would expect, these moments are full of laughter and emotion.
For me, this is a special time of year for a school. If I could copy and paste each speech, spoken by every colleague, then this blog would be an education best-seller! This is due to the fact that as educators, we are naturally reflective, passionate and extremely hard-working individuals. In speeches shared by staff, they gave thanks to one another for difficult and rewarding times throughout the years; the ‘cup of tea’ moments; the formative years of mentoring as an NQT and how this had shaped them to be ‘the best teacher’ that they could ever be; or the difficulties and challenges they have faced as a pastoral leader, dealing with the most vulnerable and difficult situations no child should ever have to face. In all honesty, it was a magical moment for me and at the end of a tough year, made me feel proud to be a member of the school community.
10 Highlights of the Year:
I have had an overnight reflection on the year gone-by and looked back at the highlights in my first year at my new school. These moments are shared in chronological order and are not listed in any preference.
1. September 2014: Ofsted.
In my 3rd week as a deputy headteacher, Ofsted called! This blog, Observing the Observers captures the overall experience and the various areas that are judged during a Section 8 inspection visit. This is all about inspectors observing lessons without gradings! I share my own views, particularly in a new landscape for teachers being observed without one-off lesson gradings. (I’m not going to lie, I was desperate to hear a rogue inspector give a grading! Thankfully, everyone was on best behaviour.) A month later we challenged our judgement which led to an inaccurate statement being made in OfSTED’s response to my headteacher. The have still not yet said sorry or retracted their statement. Read @OfSTEDNews Say Sorry.
2. December 2014: Moving building.
Most schools make ‘moving buildings’ their only priority for the year. For us, this was one of many whole-school priorities for this academic year. It is a career highlight for me, having never worked in a brand new building.
In the week before Christmas 2014 and into the first week of January, we decamped as a school from our old building, into our current (new) school building. The current building was built in 1956. I have previously blogged about the logistical programme for moving 1300 students to another site and our school’s 150 year history here to help readers understand the logistics of moving a school to a new building; the years of planning (and the countless individuals needed) behind the scenes to make this happen. It was a magical experience and a highlight for me. Read DeCamp and view all the photographs of the move.
3. January 2015: Speed Dating
As part of our new timetable, we have collapsed one period per week and send students home 30 minutes earlier than usual. This gives us the opportunity to have weekly professional development with al of or staff. This is mixed weekly between departmental time, CPD for support staff, teaching staff or the occasional CPD that give teachers meaningful time to talk to one another. In one of my ‘riskier’ CPD sessions, I designed Speed Dating: Bring and Brag, a staff CPD session that was innovative, creative and engaging.
What better opportunity to get staff together? This was an opportunity for teachers to talk about teaching and drive grassroots pedagogy and was summed up in this photo below; our headteacher sitting with one of our NQTs, exchanging classroom ideas. Some staff were sceptical, but they took the time out at the end of the session to come over and tell me that it was fantastic CPD! By using a speed-dating format, teachers were able to rapidly exchange dialogue, moving from one space to another; sharing teaching and learning ideas with one another.
It was a CPD highlight for me.
4. February 2015: Canada
Oh Canada captures my overall experiences of a 3-day experience, visiting Montreal in Canada during February half-term 2015. My visit was for educational purposes. At the time, the trip was 8 months in the making and was my first-ever request to speak at a conference abroad.
There were some very interesting discussions throughout the week; particularly on the demands of teachers and their workload. It appears, we all face the same challenges, yet there is little or no high-stakes accountability which we are so accustomed to here in the UK (e.g. Ofsted; DfE). It appears that local school administrators (senior leaders) are fully in control of what happens (or not), and it also is apparent, that teachers are assessed, judged, or graded in some form by assessors who come to see them teach 3 times a year. However, this may be in your first year and then never again for another 10 years, or even 20 in one colleagues story!
It was freezing!
5. Workload: February 2015
“the average English teacher works nearly 50 hours a week, but too much of that time is taken up with unnecessary paperwork and unproductive tasks.”
In February 2015, the Department for Education published the findings of their Workload Challenge survey. On page 22 of the 23-page Workload Challenge report, published on 6th February 2015, the DfE share this following document; Strategies for tackling workload in schools. I was delighted that The 5 Minute Lesson Plan is mentioned in the report, and within the very first sentence (for curriculum and planning)! It is frightening to read that weekly lesson-planning (38%) dominates the survey.
My blog The Workload Challenge Report was also recognised by the DfE as a useful summary for busy teachers. Sadly, nothing yet has come about from the findings. It will be my mission to raise the profile of this work in the autumn term …
6. February – July 2015: Kick-starting IRIS
Not only have I had to come to terms with teaching much less, in the limited time I have available to teach, I have managed to video-record my teaching using IRIS Connect in order to refine my practice in a new school. Every school is different. The needs of students in every school is also different. This means that as teachers, we must look at our own practice and tweak what works in order to maximise the opportunities for our students.
Last week, we were delighted to organise and host (see above) an IRIS community hub event at our school. This was a perfect opportunity to see how far we had come in a such a short space of time. We have 100 site licences and our use of IRIS has risen from 10, to 69 teachers using IRIS in less than two terms.
The tipping point was Kick-Starting IRIS Connect in February when – after being delayed logistically, moving buildings with the ICT network being destroyed – we started using the software strategically in order to roll out across the school. I captured more and more footage myself, sharing classroom clips with colleagues more than ever before, despite teaching less and less!
The most significant moment occurred in June, when teachers came together in one of our CPD sessions to share footage with one another. In my session, I said Watching Yourself Teach is Transformational and by sharing best practice, we can not only support ourselves, but develop one another to be the best teachers we can be. I’m confident that Quintin Kynaston will become an IRIS hub of excellence in North London next year. Watch this space …
7. April 2015: TeachMeet London
Billed as the Greatest CPD Ever, TeachMeet London loved up to its name. On Wednesday 1st April, 240 teachers came together in their own time during the Easter holidays, to take control of their professional development. The event trended on Twitter, across the UK for no-less than 4, full hours! The event was brilliant for the school, and even moreso for the people that attended. Thank you to Richard Gerver for being keynote and to my co-hosts for the day. Plans are already in place for March 2016.
8. April 2015: Meeting with Sean Harford
It was a pleasure to meet Sean Harford the National Director, Schools, at OfSTED headquarters in 23rd April 2015. In our one-to-one meeting, I asked Sean 9 questions; an amalgamation of my own and others collated from two headteachers, two teachers and an anonymous blogger. It was a fascinating insight into the upcoming changes to the inspection handbook from September 2015, which was published last month in June 2015. Read my interview here; 9 Questions for OfSTED’s Sean Harford.
9. May 2015: Te@cherToolkit
Despite the demands of a new job, I still have managed to write my second book. Although as I write, it is not yet finished, I am now in the final editing stages and planning the final designs to the pages, the book cover and the book signing event at Bloomsbury headquarters. I consider myself to be very lucky to be able to be in a position to share my teaching ideas with my peers. One thing I can promise my readers are three things; 1) This book contains no silver bullet. 2) There is no promise of ‘Outstanding’ teaching, only consistently good, and 3) The word ‘Ofsted’ is not mentioned once!
Pre-order: One personal piece of advice I would give to potential readers; if you are kind enough to purchase/pre-order a copy of my book, do so directly from the publishers directly at Bloomsbury. If you purchase a copy of the book from Amazon, I cannot control any delivery issues and it will be out of my control. Something I have learnt from the first time around.
Click on the image below to pre-order.
10. January-June 2015: People of Today
I was not going to blog this as a highlight of the year, but last night I received the following email in my inbox;
“Dear Mr McGill,
I am writing to welcome you to Debrett’s People of Today, and to thank you for your help in compiling your entry. Any additional information you provided has been carefully entered in the new 2016 edition, ready for publication in December.
Yours is one of around 300 new entries, which also include over 50 newly elected MPs, actress Dame Kristin Scott Thomas, the Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, and Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales.
[more content hidden]
Editor, People of Today.”
In January 2015, I was delighted to have been nominated for inclusion in Debrett’s 500 as one of the most influential people in education. This nomination is published exclusively in The Sunday Times, the Debrett’s 500 is an annual list of the 500 most influential people in Britain. The list features those who have inspired, achieved and instigated change beyond expectation throughout the past year. Although it has little to do with teaching, it is recognition for you and I, that humble bloggers can shape policy and support colleagues far and wide. Although it is not my motivation, it is recognition of the hard work, the hours and the energy I put into my social media work, my writing and my work in school.
It has been an amazing, academic year. What are your highlights?
I wish you all a happy summer.