CPD, leadership, NPQSL, Workload


typoramaI have been meaning to write this post for a while, but it seems, for the last couple of weeks, there has always been Something Else To Do.  I have a feeling that Something Else To Do is going to be a very familiar feeling in the year ahead, as I have accepted the next big challenge.  I am about to join the SLT of my school as Acting Deputy Headteacher.

In a time where many teachers are leaving the profession because of the strains put on us, the unfair demands on children and the ever increasing workload, part of me feels that I am crazy to be taking it on. But the problem is that, for some time, I have been wanting More.  For a while, I wasn’t entirely sure what More was, but I knew I wanted it.  I love teaching: I’ve been doing it for 16 years now, and while no two days are ever the same, I need new challenges.  I became SENCo and completed the NASENCo award.  Then I became Assessment Leader, with all the challenges that came with that role.  Those challenges continue, and I have loved getting my teeth into them, but still that concept of More kept niggling away at me.

A couple of years ago, I enquired about the possibility of undertaking my NPQSL, and whether it would be worthwhile. At that point, I wasn’t entirely sure whether Deputy Headship was the route I wanted to go down, but it would give me More: new challenges and stretching my brain in a different way.  I was told it wasn’t necessary, that if I decided to apply for Deputy Headships, my application would speak for itself. I had a new baby (my second), and so took the advice to just carry on as I was.  Last year, I had the opportunity to speak at Pedagoo London about my experiences as an Assessment Leader, and, whilst it terrified me, I vowed at that time to do more to take myself out of my comfort zone.

As the last school year came to an end, More reared its head again and I asked once more about the NPQSL.  This time, I was given the go ahead, and so I enrolled.  I’ve loved it – I’ve learned a huge amount: my competencies aren’t all up to top standard yet, but I’m well on the way. I’ve enjoyed the additional reading and taking my findings back into school.  Yes, as I promised myself, it took me out of my comfort zone initially, but most importantly, I worked out what More actually was.

More meant responsibility, involvement , knowledge and understanding. More meant learning how others work and finding ways to support them. More meant having the chance to make an already great school even better by researching, reading and acting upon what I found. More meant joining an SLT as a Deputy Head.

Maybe, in time, I may find I have more More than I bargained for. I don’t know.  I’m pretty sure I’ll cope – I know that, even though I’m organised, I will have to be more so.  I will perhaps have to learn the magic word “No” – something I’ve not been great at saying until recently.  I might even find that Deputy Headship isn’t for me (although I think it is!).  I have the support of a great SLT who I know well, and colleagues whom I have worked with for many years and consider great friends.  Of course, that could be my downfall – I started in the school all those years ago as an NQT and have grown and honed my craft there.  To me, I’m Mrs E, the soon-to-be Deputy Head, but for many there, there is still a hint of Miss E, the 21 year old who got caught standing on a table putting up a display when potential candidates were being shown around.  Or Miss E, the NQT who got mistaken for a Y6 child in assembly and told to sit down.  Or Miss E, the founder of the End of Year BBQ who… well, the least said about the beginnings of that tradition online, the better!

For me, taking the next step is the right thing to do. If all the great teachers leave the classroom, then what hope do the children have? And what hope do the teachers left behind have of surviving? Schools need great teachers and great leaders: people who will stand up for the needs of the children and for the needs of the teachers.  I’m not proclaiming  for a moment that I am A Great Leader, but I know that I am going to do everything in my power to be the best leader I can.

The next big challenge is one that I cannot wait to get started with. Wish me luck… I may well need it!


#NPQSL – Information Seeking

typoramaAs part of my NPQSL course, I am required to keep regular blogs about the progress I am making and my personal developments with regard to the competencies I have to demonstrate. I appreciate that, for most of you who read my posts, they probably won’t be of much significance or interest.  However, for me, they will be essential to further my development.  So, I’ll prefix each of them with an NPQSL warning to avoid unnecessary reading!

When I completed the self evaluation form at the beginning of the course, I also asked 4 other colleagues to give their opinions on my performance. All 5 of us identified Information Seeking as an area of strength.  I enjoy gathering information from a broad range of sources, whether it be from Government publications, data analysis, internet research or gathering opinions on Twitter.  This blog has been an important vehicle for gaining information and for learning what to do with it.  I believe I have a natural curiosity (or perhaps nosiness) which helps me to ask questions and to seek answers.  Over time, I have become more confident in working out what information is important  – online conversations and tutorials from Jamie Pembroke (data expert!) have helped me with this.  I am now more able to collate data from a range or sources and combine it to provide a deeper understanding.  An example of this is using RAISE online to identify  a weakness in the performance of groups of children, and to then use school based data (from Target Tracker) on mobility and attendance to help to explain why the groups performed in the way they did.

Now that I am more proficient in choosing relevant data and looking at big pictures (rather than focussing too closely on specific groups), I need to develop my skills in using the data to solve issues. I need to identify trends in our year-on-year data, using both in school and national comparisons to identify issues.  Using sources such as the DfE, Ofsted and the Education Endowment Foundation will be crucial for finding ways to overcome obstacles.  As ever, my Personal Learning Network on Twitter will also be an invaluable resource, as there is a wealth of knowledge and experience available to those who ask for it.

Already this year, I have begun to develop this competency, as I have had some involvement in writing the school’s Self Evaluation Form. At first, I found this incredibly difficult, as I was unsure of what data to include in the Pupil Outcomes section of the form.  However, I already feel better equipped to do this in the future, after working with the SLT, conversations with our school’s SIP and from conversations around this course. My increased confidence with finding useful data means that I can now focus on using the information I find to solve the issues identified.

CPD, NPQSL, Workload

Reflections on #NPQSL

typoramaIt’s been a while since my first Face to Face session for my NPQSL, and I have been meaning to blog about how the day went. Having had a few weeks to distance myself from the day and my first task to undertake has given me plenty of food for thought.

Approaching the day itself, I was very apprehensive of what was to come (read my blog here). I felt under prepared, inadequate and lacking relevant experience.  Not like me at all.  Reading the introductions of the other participants was very daunting.  I’m not sure what I was expecting everyone to be like, but whatever it was, they weren’t!  Everyone was very down to earth; many were as apprehensive as I was.  We were a very mixed bunch of people: primary, secondary, special schools, alternative provision, EYFS providers, private schools.  You name it, we had representatives there.  The huge variety led to lots of very interesting conversations.  I even found that I had much to contribute from my own experience.  Already, I have my little group of “train buddies” with whom I travelled, and the conversations about the day continued well into our journey home.  I learned even more about life in different settings from them than I had done during the day.

We had a multitude of pre-course tasks to do, all of which I had diligently completed. However, this didn’t mean I had the right paperwork for the day (interestingly, nor did anyone else!), so I did feel a bit like a naughty school girl trying to read over people’s shoulders!  A laptop is a definite necessity for next time, so I can download all of the random documents we suddenly need to have with us!  Despite the lack of documentation, I really enjoyed the activities.  I had seen the outline for the day and was feeling very daunted by the analysis, the mingling and working with different people, the presentations, but the group was so friendly and the atmosphere so unthreatening that I felt completely at ease.  The day flew by as we worked through session after session – although it was exhausting!  Had it not been for my train companions, I’m sure I would have nodded off on the 2 hour trip home.

At times, the workload did seem a little overwhelming, and I am sure it will continue to be so, especially once we start the online modules, but I can see the value in much of it. The task ahead of our next session was to analyse our RAISEonline data and find strengths and weaknesses (I’m sure there will be a blog on this to follow very soon!), which is a vital skill for any member of an SLT, and  especially for me currently as Assessment Leader.  Much of the work required for our assessed project can fit around my existing role, but just being recorded in more detail and with more thought to its impact: that can’t be a bad thing.  As a result of our discussions about the competencies on which we are assessed, I am already beginning to change my leadership style.  I am beginning to hold others to account by not doing everything for them – a huge challenge for me!

I am only a fraction of the way along this NPQSL path, but I can see that I am going to enjoy it.


Out of my comfort zone

FullSizeRender2Tomorrow sees the start of the next big challenge.

Before the summer, I asked my head if it would be ok for me to sign up for the NPQSL course. He said yes, so I did. Tomorrow is Day 1. I’m looking forward to it – I like to keep developing myself and learning new things. I’m not afraid of the extra work (although goodness knows where the extra hours are going to come from: I’m already up to my eyeballs as it is). I’m not that worried about not knowing anyone. But all of a sudden, I’m feeling a little out of my depth.

One of our pre-course tasks was to introduce ourselves on the LSSW forum. Being enthusiastic and keen, I signed up straight away and wrote my little spiel. First one on the forum. Teacher for 15 years, a multitude of roles including SENCO, Assessment Leader for a few years now and a new Phase Leader. I was quite proud of all I have achieved. Then, each day, others added their contributions. Deputy Heads of Primaries, members of SLTs, Heads of Year from big secondary schools: it seemed almost everyone had more experience than me.

I know that I am good at my job. I know what’s going on (mostly!) in the world of education and particularly assessment. I can read a graph or a table and unravel “performance information” (previously known as data) as well as the next person. But all of a sudden, I’m out of my comfort zone. We talk to our children at school about putting themselves in the Challenge Zone in order to progress. I’m well and truly in that zone… and bordering on entering the Panic Zone!

I know that, once I get to the station, meet up with my travel buddy and get chatting, I’ll be fine. I’ll get to meet lots of new people, find my feet and contribute plenty to the day. It will be a great experience.

But for now, I feel like the new girl starting her first day at Big School.

CPD, Observations

Letting go

typoramaOver the past 12 months, I have been on a well-documented roller coaster ride of assessment systems. From the despair of having no idea where to go, to the excitement of getting together with the White Horse Federation, to the trepidation of introducing our system to the staff, this has been my project. Along with my teaching partners, we have been in a little bubble of assessment, trying things out and adjusting where we went.

Of course, everything I did was in discussion with the SLT, but to a large extent, I made the decisions (subject to approval, of course!). Now, all of a sudden, my little bubble of 2 classes and 3 teachers has been opened up to everyone else. It’s suddenly open to the interpretation of others, open to criticism, and other people need to have a say in how it works. Suddenly, decisions have to be made by people other than me: how are we going to plan our maths to tie in with the band progression sheets? What strategies are we going to use to ensure we teach phonics and spelling correctly? I can have an opinion on these matters, but now, my assessment system needs to fit in with the ideas of others. My inner control freak is going mad.

Over the past year, anything that needed doing could be done at my own pace – as soon as I wanted a letter or a decision, I could write it or make it. Now, I have to consult with others and wait my turn… the control freak is twitching at the keyboard!

I think I have developed a great deal professionally over the last couple of years. I have learned to be organised, efficient and methodical. That’s easy to do when you only have your own timescale and workload to consider. Hence my control freak tendencies. This year, the challenge is on for me to be more laid back. I’m not particularly stressed, stressful or stressing; I do consider myself to be very laid back anyway. But now, I need to be a more “it’s ok, it can wait, I can do it tomorrow. Another 24 hours won’t hurt” kind of person.

That’s my challenge for the year: I’m going to let the control freak go!

CPD, Observations

A good leader is…

Image adapted using Typorama
Image adapted using Typorama

There have been many Twitter conversations and debates of late about the qualities and the failings of Senior and Middle Leaders. It seems that the experiences teachers have with their SLTs and Middle Leaders varies massively from school to school. I have clearly been very fortunate: I have taught in the same school for the whole of my 15 year career, but I’m now on my 3rd Headteacher (plus an Acting Head for a short while), and the SLT members, and indeed structure, have changed since 2000. In all of my time at the school, I have always worked for a very supportive team. Friends too often share their experiences; many of them have families, but as yet, I’ve not found anyone whose stories match those of this week’s Guardian Secret Teacher.

Reading the story of this teaching mum filled me with horror. You would hope that hers was a one-off story, but sadly, reading comments on the page and those that followed on Twitter, it would seem not.

As I have written before, I am beginning my venture into the world of Senior Leadership this year by taking the NPQSL. I have also taken on the role of Phase Leader for September, so for me, thinking about what will make me a good leader is incredibly poignant at the moment. I’m pretty sure I will make a good leader, but when I tried to think why, I struggled.

This article by John Dunford, outlining what he thinks makes a good Senior Leader, listed 8 skills needed. Although this article is now a few years old, surely the skills and principles haven’t changed?

Dunford’s principles were:

  • keep a relentless focus on teaching and learning
  • hold to the values that underpin the work of the school
  • be visible around the school
  • build a learning community among staff, as much as among pupils
  • ensure that leadership style suits the occasion
  • find good ways of involving parents and the community
  • prioritise
  • communicate endlessly.

I’m so very glad that I read this, as so many of these are principles that I hold dear. I am desperately trying to promote the sharing of ideas and learning experiences throughout the school; I’m forever talking about the value of sharing good practice on Twitter and want to encourage others to visit other classes in their phase to see what goes on. Parents have had more involvement in the school this year (especially in KS2, and in my year group) than ever before. We have worked hard over the last 12 months to decide on the Key Drivers that underpin our planning, so our values are reflected in everything that we do. Many of the other skills I have blogged about before (here and here) .

For me, the biggest challenge has been my leadership style. Until recently, I’m not sure I had one. I would speak my mind and, although never one for confrontation, I would say what needed to be said and deal with the consequences after, whether it be parents or other staff. I think I have learned to stop and contemplate a little more, to consider what I say, and to perhaps think a little more before speaking. I still say what needs to be said, but in a more measured way. That, I think, is a crucial skill for any leader.

I don’t want to be the kind of leader that the Secret Teacher wrote about. I want to be a leader who gets the best from the people she works with, who is fair and reasonable and understands the demands on staff outside of school. I hope that, by combining my own skills and work/life balance with the support of my school’s SLT, seeing how they work and cope with the demands of Deputy Headship and learning a great deal over the coming year, I can become that kind of leader. Perhaps if more of us shared our experiences of good leadership and how leaders have supported us, then we can prevent more good teachers like this week’s GST from leaving the profession we love so much.


A personal action plan

Image from Pixabay and modified using Word Dream
Image from Pixabay and modified using Word Dream

What next?

This year has been a really great one, with many, many highs and very few lows.  Even the lows have been good.

Initially, I had planned to write my reflections on the year, but it’s very hard to do so without going into lots of specific details.  So instead, I thought I would reflect on what I want to achieve as a result of this year.  I’ve never really done this before.  I’ve written action plans for subjects and as SENCo and Assessment Leader, but I have just drifted along before now.  If I want to progress my career, it’s time to set some targets.  So what are my aims for next year? Obviously, I want to continue to deliver good quality lessons and motivate and enthuse my children, that goes without saying.  But what to I want to achieve beyond the classroom? Perhaps by committing my thoughts  to paper (well, a computer screen!), I may feel obliged to stick with them.

So, next year, I want:

  • To further develop new initiatives in school, whether it’s Successful Learning, using the Learnpads (I WILL get everyone using them, even if it means they aren’t available for me as much!) or the new assessment system;
  • To begin (and, timescale permitting, complete) my NPQSL qualification, putting what I learn into practice in my current role;
  • To continue to develop my PLN on Twitter, engaging with more people and joining in with more debates and discussions;
  • To continue to develop support networks in “the real world” with local people who I can offer support to, and who can provide support for me;
  • To  make decisions about the future path of my career (see earlier blogs here and here about my dilemma!);
  • To further my knowledge of areas of interest – there is a huge amount of reading and research I would like to do about assessment, and I’d love to find out so much more about what I can do with Learnpads;
  • To reflect regularly on my practice through my blog, and to write more based on research and my readings rather than just personal experience.

IF the right opportunity arose, I would also like to present at another event like Pedagoo London, but I am not going to commit to this one definitely – I need to have something of value to talk about.  This year, assessment was a hot topic, but I don’t want to churn out the same presentation if the need is no longer there.  But, as I said, if the opportunity was right… Similarly, I would consider writing more articles for educational press, but again, only if the project was right for me.

I am sure, as soon as I publish this, that I will think of a huge list of other things I want to achieve, but for now, this is my action plan for 2015-2016.  It’s been incredibly useful to write this: it’s really focussed my mind and my intentions.  I’d encourage anyone who writes regularly to do the same.

This time next year, let’s see how many I’ve ticked off.