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Blinks: High quality reviews and training
Blinks: High quality reviews and training
High quality reviews and training
High quality reviews and training

Guest Column - April 2024
Tim Coulson

The A - Z of School Improvement

An extract from the opening chapter: Ambition

Successful leaders don’t just improve schools, they transform them. Everyone wants to lead a good and effective school. Everyone taking over a school in trouble wants it to recover and return respectability to the education it provides to its children. However, some leaders set ambitions that achieve these aims more effectively or quicker. Conversely, school improvement is often limited by leaders’ lack of ambition. Rarely do schools achieve their aims better or quicker than the ambitions that their leaders have set.

A school leader sets the weather - if everything is too difficult, the leader should not be surprised if staff are noticeably negative and doubtful of new-fangled ideas achieving much. When leaders are upbeat and positive despite the challenges of the week, it’s not surprising to see staff go the extra mile for colleagues and children.

We can all recognise someone with an ambitious mindset. However, unless their ambitions are coherently articulated and spelled out there is a risk that they lead to too many disparate improvement efforts. These may be individually worthy, but together they will not add up to a changed school. Ambition cannot be over-communicated. Tell people what you are going to say, tell people what you want them to hear, and tell people what you have just said. A school leader knows that their communication about their ambition for their school has been effective when she or he hears it told back to them by someone unaware that it was the leader’s idea in the first place.

We became teachers to change the world. We know that education provides opportunities and at its best can level the world’s unfair playing field. Too much of school performance correlates with their social mix and the prior attainment of its children. Our job is to break the glass ceiling of what we believe is possible – if we don’t aspire to this, it undoubtedly won’t happen. We want to change the world for those children whose destiny otherwise feels defined by limits on what they can achieve, limits on what they can dream.

Scandals persist – social and racial inequality exists and cannot simply be wished away. A young black girl can be encouraged by teachers to do whatever she wants, whether it is to be a professional in some regard or even an astronaut. However, in reality the chance of her becoming a headteacher is many times less likely than her white friend even if she is much brighter and more suited. With the ambition for social justice comes the dream of change. Without the ambition for social justice the status quo remains by default.

The A - Z of School Improvement is published by John Catt Education

Tim Coulson is CEO of Unity Schools Partnership, a family of secondary, primary and special schools located in Suffolk, Essex and Norfolk as well as Romford in East London.


The A - Z of School Improvement (April 2024)


Guest Column - March 2024
Keith Grainger
Recently schools received detailed guidance from the Department for Education on banning the use of mobile phones in school. A 'non-policy for a non-problem' was the response of one teaching union.
Real policies to solve real problems (March 2024)

Guest Column - February 2024
David Ingram
As a child I was a keen member of the Zoological Society of London's Young Zoologists Club. I remember making the long journey to Whipsnade Zoo to see the critically endangered Pere David's Deer. Extinct in their native China, the deer in Whipsnade were part of British/Chinese collaboration to bring these unique animals back from the brink and reintroduce them into the wild.
Stewardship (February 2024)

Guest Column - January 2024
Dom Burke
I started my teacher training course at the University of Leeds on Monday 17th September 2001. I remember the specific date because it was less than one week after the horrific events at the World Trade Centre on Tuesday September 11th.
A failure to invest in education risks our future prosperity (January 2024)

Guest Essay - January 2024
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The current inspection paradigm has long since outlived its original purpose. The case for inspection is that it provides an independent, external evaluation and identifies what needs to improve for provision to be good or better.
Appreciative Enquiry: A New Inspection Paradigm (January 2024)

Guest Column - December 2023
Matt Bromley and Andy Griffith
Once we have designed an ambitious curriculum which is broad and balanced, planned and sequenced, and offered it - with equality - to all students, we need to ensure that all students can access that curriculum and achieve.
The Working Classroom: How to make school work for working-class students (December 2023)

Guest Column - November 2023
Andy Hunter
We are the firefighters, called in when things need calming. We are the referees, called in when we need to take back control. We are the Avengers, arriving with a fanfare to right wrongs and ensure justice is done. And, to be fair to us, those are all valid roles for a senior leader and ones that we're generally rather good at fulfilling. When called upon to do so, we act quickly and appropriately to maintain the good order of the school.
Jumping? (November 2023)

Guest Column - October 2023
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Guest Column - September 2023
David Chidgey
Mr Hargreaves was an inspirational teacher who led me to some success in A level chemistry a few decades ago. He was young and enthusiastic, creating multicoloured Banda sheets (a forerunner to laser printers, Google 'Banda spirit duplicator' to have a giggle) by the ream. The whole class looked forward to his lessons: he was clear about class rules, demanding in the amount of homework and revision we had to do, merciless on those who didn't, and supportive of all his students.
Looking back, thinking ahead (September 2023)

Guest Column - June/ July 2023
Marc Rowland
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Addressing disadvantage with small numbers of disadvantaged pupils (June/ July 2023)

Guest Column - May 2023
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There are a lot of things at Aiglon College, Switzerland, about which we can be proud, but one aspect stands out for me - it is our scholarship programme.
Inter-school collaboration has never been more important (May 2023)

Guest Column - March/ April 2023
Alison Rendle & Kit Messenger
'Curious Not Furious'
Nobody rises to low expectations.
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'Curious Not Furious' (March/ April 2023)

Guest Column - February/ March 2023
Carole Herman
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When Rishi Sunak announced in his first speech of 2023 that all students should continue to learn mathematics to the age of 18, I am sure I wasn't the only educationalist to be somewhat surprised. When had this major policy announcement been discussed with the profession?
Mathematics for all? (February/ March 2023)

Guest Column - January 2023
Malcolm Wheeler
Open your classroom window
Marsha Ivins, a veteran of five space shuttle missions who logged over 1,300 hours in space, was asked by one of our students, 'So how do you go to toilet in space?' Her smile told me it was a question she had often fielded. Her answer, although given hundreds of times by her, was original for every child asking the question for the first time.
Open your classroom window (January 2023)

Guest Column - December 2022
Tim Coulson
If I were Education Secretary
If I were education secretary, I would expect to reverse the current position, and to be seen as more influential than Ofsted.
If I were Education Secretary (December 2022)

Guest Column - September/October 2022
Simon Watson
Aim High, Work Smart, Care Deeply
International schools are free to choose from the best educational initiatives around the world, unshackled from the administrative handcuffs of national and state regulations.
Aim High, Work Smart, Care Deeply (September/October 2022)

Guest Column - July/August 2022
Jane Harris
2030 vision: we need to talk about speech and language
Given the unusual way the schools white paper and SEND green paper were published on consecutive days in late March, it is understandable that the sector is still trying to make sense of them.
2030 vision: we need to talk about speech and language (July/August 2022)

Guest Column - April/May 2022
Andy Samways
10 reasons why reading aloud matters
The simplest sentences are often the most impactful. That was certainly the case in Roy Blatchford's monthly column in March:
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10 reasons why reading aloud matters (April/May 2022)

Guest Column - February 2022
Tom Duckling
Learning Strands
It is the start of term and for INSET day an engaging and inspirational speaker has been booked. It is a financial investment but they have a great reputation on the conference circuit and some glittering reviews.
Learning Strands (February 2022)

Guest Column - January 2022
Samantha Smith
Lead as yourself
When I was starting as a headteacher, I was given the advice, Remember to lead as you.
This is a most valuable piece of advice and one I often return to. And it has never been more important than in the past two years, when we have all been asked to give more than we ever thought we would.
Lead as yourself (January 2022)

Guest Column - December 2021
Jean Gross
Reaching The Unseen Children
This is an extract from Chapter Seven of Jean Gross's recently published 'Reaching The Unseen Children'
The seven secrets of self-efficacy
This is the most important chapter in this book. It is important because it introduces a concept which is relatively unfamiliar to educators, but profoundly important in improving outcomes for disadvantaged children.
Reaching The Unseen Children (December 2021)

Guest Column - November 2021
David Bartram OBE
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We appear to be making the leadership of SEND increasingly complicated. The danger of creating this overly complex approach is that it persuades teachers across the country that they may not be sufficiently expert enough to help children experiencing difficulty.
Leading great SEND provision in schools (November 2021)

Guest Column - October 2021
Cameron Mirza
The learning scientist
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The learning scientist (October 2021)

Guest Column - September 2021
Harry Hudson
At the cutting edge
Teaching is moving at a pace, and there has never been a more exciting time to become a teacher. We know more now than we have ever known about how the brain works, and teachers can be more confident than at any time in history about the science of learning. What's more, there is still so much left to discover.
At the cutting edge (September 2021)

Guest Column - June 2021
By Old Cobbler
Great news! Primary languages are rubbish!
Ofsted blog: schools, early years, further education and skills
As the subject lead's blog on the Ofsted website explains, inspectors recently visited 24 primary schools, all rated excellent at their latest inspection, to assess the quality of their languages teaching.
Great news! Primary languages are rubbish! (June 2021)

Guest Column - May 2021
Dr Michael Lightfoot
Rethinking assessment: in praise of ePortfolios
The long-term impact on education systems caused by the Great Pandemic of 2020/21 will take many years to play out. Emergency remote teaching became the mode through which education systems tried to overcome the impacts of school closures, and most schools turned to EdTech for solutions.
Rethinking assessment: in praise of ePortfolios (May 2021)

Guest Column - April 2021
David Ingram
Shaping the legacy of COVID-19
During a particularly difficult stretch of the lockdown, my professional coach invited me to engage my curiosity. This prompted me to consider the enormity of the pandemic from an entirely different perspective. I remain curious. Necessity may have been the mother of invention during lockdown but as the world returns to a semblance of normality, school leaders will need to ponder next steps.
Shaping the legacy of COVID-19 (April 2021)

Guest Column - March 2021
Harry Hudson
Changing the image of teaching
Education is in the spotlight in a way it hasn't been for decades, and much has been said about how teaching can 'build back better' after the pandemic. Yet step back from all the talk of 'catch up funding' and ways our classroom practice can be improved by having taught online, and there's an even bigger picture.
Changing the image of teaching (March 2021)

Guest Column - February 2021
Marc Rowland
Culture
The most effective strategies give teachers and other staff the capacity, expertise, knowledge and development to meet the needs of their pupils and improve them as learners. Teacher agency and buy-in are fundamental to success. They all complement one another, working together to support the development of a culture of inclusivity where pupils' needs are understood and assessment drives action.
Culture (February 2021)

Guest Column - January 2021
Malcolm Wheeler
Online passages from India
The pandemic will be remembered in the words of Dickens as "the worst of times" and, in the most unintended ways, also "the best of times". Before the lockdown, the challenge for our kind of schools was finding the sweet spot between theoretical and experiential learning. After the move to virtual learning, it has become about finding our collective 'ikigai', or finding our reason for being.
Online passages from India (January 2021)

Guest Column December 2020
Keith Grainger, Principal, Garth Hill College
The case for the defence: online learning
In a week when the government has threatened councils with legal action over decisions to switch to online learning over coronavirus fears, I feel the urge to celebrate the considerable merits of online learning. Such threats almost cast a slur on the very concept of online learning and, given our positive experience as a state secondary school, I am compelled to make a case for the defence.
The case for the defence: online learning (December 2020)

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