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Issue 55 September/October 2012




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Reasons to be cheerful It’s my pleasure as the NAHT President to welcome you back to the start of what promises to be an exciting, if demanding, new school year for us all. Our Harrogate conference theme, ‘Fighting for Change – Protecting our Futures’, continues to reflect the challenges school leaders face on a daily basis. As we all know, there are many issues looming, including yet another National Curriculum review and consultation that will require a massive response, the imminent arrival of the Spag test at KS2, an area we have already targeted for change linked to teacher assessment and, of course, the latest in a long line of new Ofsted frameworks, with its inbuilt inconsistencies and lack of coherence with school improvement. Add to the mix the fragmentation of the state school system and the motives behind this and you could be forgiven for retreating to your bunker, never to see the light of day again. However, despite the never-ending change, some of which seems to me more ideological than about raising standards, we must never forget that being a school leader is one of the most important, challenging and exciting jobs in the world. We are dealers in hope and the key holders to the prospects of all our children and young people. We have the power to transform the lives of our children, who are all unique individuals, not merely statistics or exam fodder. Despite the uncertainties that surround us, it is critical that our professionalism shines through, ensuring we do not allow ourselves to be deflected from our core purpose of leading teaching and learning in our communities and aspiring for excellence in all we do.

This edition of LF provides a welcome antidote to what often seems like a stream of constant negativity about the profession. There is so much that should be celebrated, including success stories about our nation’s schools. There is our school-improvement pilot project aimed at helping schools receiving ‘satisfactory’ judgments to turn these into at least ‘good’ (see page 17). In addition, the work of the Assessment and Accountability Group, which is working tirelessly on behalf of members to achieve an assessment system fit for the 21st century, is reviewed in detail (page 22). There is much to be done in persuading the Government, backed up by strong evidence, that it is time to trust the experts. School leadership is about many things but we must all have the courage to believe in what we are doing and stick to our principles. Working together is the key to enhancing the life chances of every child. As Russell Crowe aptly put it in Gladiator: “Whatever comes out of these gates, we have a better chance of survival if we work together.” That, colleagues, is our way. I wish you a massively successful year.

‘We must never forget that being a school leader is one of the most important, challenging and exciting jobs in the world’

redactive publishing limited EDITORIAL & ASSOCIATION ENQUIRIES NAHT, 1 Heath Square, Boltro Road, Haywards Heath, West Sussex RH16 1BL Tel: 01444 472 472 Editor: Robert Sanders Editorial board: Russell Hobby, Steve Iredale, Bernadette Hunter, Chris Harrison, Jack Hatch, Lesley Gannon, Magnus Gorham, John Hakes, Clare Cochrane and Robert Sanders @nahtnews @LFmagNAHT Leadership Focus is published by Redactive Publishing Limited on behalf of the NAHT

17 Britton Street, London EC1M 5TP Tel: 020 7880 6200 Email:

EDITORIAL TEAM Managing editor: Steve Smethurst Sub editors: Erica Moss and Nigel Walsh Designer: Adrian Taylor Senior picture editor: Claire Echavarry Production manager: Jane Easterman Cover illustration: Pablo Bisoglio Printed by: Wyndeham Heron

ADVERTISING ENQUIRIES Advertisement sales: James Waldron Sales director: Jason Grant

Member of the Audit Bureau of Circulation: 27,957 (July 2011-June 2012)

ISSN: 1472–6181 © Copyright 2012 NAHT All rights reserved; no part of this publication may be copied or reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording or otherwise without the prior written permission of the publishers. While every care has been taken in the compilation of this publication, neither the publisher nor the NAHT can accept responsibility for any inaccuracies or changes since compilation, or for consequential loss arising from such changes or inaccuracies, or for any other loss, direct or consequential, arising in connection with information in this publication. Acceptance of advertisements does not imply recommendation by the publishers. The views herein are not necessarily those of the publisher, the editor or the NAHT.


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NEWS FOCUS 6 OFSTED FRAMEWORK CONCERNS The new academic year brings a new Ofsted framework. Support documents are a step in the right direction, but the variability of inspection teams is still cause for concern.

6 SUCCESS FOR NAHT ADVICE TEAM The NAHT helped two members who wanted to adopt looked-after children but faced statutory adoption leave.

7 QTS AND ACADEMIES Academies will be able to appoint non-qualified people to full-time teaching posts, but is this a positive step?

8 OLYMPIC LEGACY FOR SCHOOLS The Government has shown itself to be completely out of touch when it comes to schools, sport and physical activity. 4

How peer-to-peer support in the form of NLEs and LLEs is helping schools in challenging circumstances

8 EDUCATION CONFERENCE NAHT’s Education Conference will be held in Manchester on 19 October, and in London on 16 November.

9 SPECIAL NEEDS CONFERENCE The NAHT is to hold a special needs conference next year. It will take place in Nottingham from 28 February to 1 March.

10 SHELTERBOX IN PERU The NAHT’s charity partner for 2012/13 is disaster-relief agency ShelterBox. Team members return from an evaluation trip to Peru, scene of flooding and landslides in March.

10 MEMBERSHIP RECRUITMENT The NAHT has relaunched its ‘member-get-a-member’ scheme which means you could get free membership for 2013.

12 OBITUARY: JULIE FANTOM NAHT’s West Midlands Regional Officer Julie Fantom died earlier this year. She will be missed by all who knew her.


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LF asks four members of the Assessment and Accountability Group at the NAHT what the focus of their campaigning efforts will be over the coming academic year.

32 LEADING BY EXAMPLE Meet Carolyn Barker, the inspirational head of a special needs school in Sunderland, who has put student achievement at the top of her agenda.

38 LANCASHIRE HOT SPOTS The NAHT steps in to support colleagues angered at the Government’s heavy-handed attempt to force them to convert their schools to academies.

44 ACHIEVEMENT FOR ALL After the success of the SEND charity’s pilot scheme, an increasing number of schools are adopting its common-sense and inclusive approach to special needs’ provision.



15 RONA TUTT’S COLUMN Head teachers know how to run schools. Bureaucrats and politicians should trust them to do what they do best.

17 RUSSELL HOBBY’S COLUMN From Early Years’ issues in Northern Ireland to taking control of improvement – we’re ready for the new year.

18 HEADS UP Three school leaders reveal what’s on top of their to-do list; who would play them in a film of their life; and, as a child, what they wanted to be when they grew up.

20 STRANGE BUT TRUE A school does the locomotion for charity; trouble for tattooed teachers in Japan; and teachers step up to the plate to raise funds for science project.

48 WHAT’S NEW Books, bikes for balance, black history and free music.



A school leader has been exploring what happens to leadership principles when schools become academies.


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The new Ofsted framework brings significant change for school leaders, but the variable quality of inspection teams remains the biggest concern for the NAHT. Head of Research and Policy Development Lesley Gannon told LF: “Our main worry is the ability of inspectors to carry out their duties in a consistent and fair way. We’re glad they’re spending more time in the classroom but it will only work if inspectors have the appropriate training and understanding to know what they’re looking at.” One mitigating factor is that senior leaders will be able to take part in lesson observation, allowing them to provide contextual information to the inspector. She added: “What might look like a lack of engagement in one child might be real progress in another as they move towards re-integration. It’s important inspectors are given that context. The new ‘requires improvement’ category will also take some bedding in. “We’re uncomfortable with Ofsted describing schools as ‘not good’,” said Lesley. “Where does it leave schools


New framework, same concerns

Russell Hobby: ‘visit the School View website if inspectors have behaved inappropriately.’

that are making rapid progress? It’s harder to demonstrate that in a report because it would fall under a heading of ‘not good’.” Lesley advised school leaders to read the suite of documents produced by Ofsted to support schools. It includes guidance on self-evaluation and a template for use by schools. “We would strongly advise members to download it from the Ofsted website,” she said. NAHT General Secretary Russell

ADOPTION LEAVE SUCCESS NAHT successfully lobbies local authority to change its policy John Hakes, NAHT’s Director of Representation and Advice, reports that the Assocation has chalked up another success. He tells LF: “By chance, two NAHT members were looking to adopt looked-after children at the same time and were expecting similar rights to occupational maternity leave. “However, their local authority offered only statutory entitlements. When the NAHT members realised that they would have to go back to work after a very brief period following the adoption, both began to question whether they could actually take on the welfare of a looked-after child. They turned to us for advice. “We took on their case and argued that the authority should change its approach on the basis that it could not be in the best interests of the children in its care, or the adopters, if the adoption did not take place because of its policies. They agreed with us and changed their policies to reflect occupational maternity entitlements.” • Members can call the NAHT advice line on 0300 30 30 333.


Hobby called on members to contact the NAHT during an inspection if they are unhappy with how it is progressing. “Don’t wait until it is over to raise a concern. Members should also visit our School View website, particularly if inspectors have behaved inappropriately, as we will feed that information straight back to Ofsted.” NAHT President Steve Iredale pointed to the fact that with shortnotice inspections, inspectors will only have data to go on. “That’s also worrying. They will walk in, judge and walk away leaving schools to pick up the pieces. I would love to see school improvement play a bigger part in the process. I know Ofsted chief Sir Michael Wilshaw would welcome more head teachers to become involved in the inspection process but, speaking personally, I would never become involved unless school improvement played a bigger part. “I would never use a framework that’s effectively a straitjacket, judge a colleague and then just walk away.” • To use the School View website, visit:

NEWS IN BRIEF NAHT NATIONAL EXECUTIVE Two new members have been appointed to the National Executive. Judith Stott, head at Old Trafford Community School in Manchester replaces Marilyn Downs. Keith Ledbury, head at Courtney Primary School in Bristol, replaces Paul Woodward. There is currently a vacancy for the area covering Leicester, Lincolnshire, Northampton and Rutland. Please see www.naht. for details. The deadline for nominations is 14 September.


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QTS change is a backward step The Government has made changes to the model funding agreement for academies that will allow them to employ teachers who are unqualified in mainstream teaching roles. The NAHT is adamant that this is a backward step which could damage the professionalism of teaching at a time when it should be being strengthened. General Secretary Russell Hobby said that while the

‘Even experienced teachers will come up against cohorts where they don’t feel their existing skill base can meet their needs’ change to qualified teacher status (QTS) regulations was a small change technically it could have far-reaching consequences. “Symbolically, it’s an enormous step and a hugely negative one. You wouldn’t allow an unqualified surgeon to operate on your children and this isn’t too dissimilar, you’re allowing non-qualified teachers loose on your children’s minds. It’s a really bad move. “Michael Gove may talk about Latin scholars from Oxford with a first-class degree going into schools - but that scholar might not

have the first idea how to convey his knowledge or enthusiasm. “If that person has a strong vocation, they should get a teaching qualification. It betrays the Government’s thinking that teaching is just about subject knowledge.” NAHT President Steve Iredale agreed, saying it was a growing concern for the Association. “Having a strong knowledge base is not enough. The craft of teaching isn’t as simple as that. Over the years I’ve seen many articulate, intelligent graduates who have no empathy with the children once you put them in front of a class.” Head of Research and Policy Development Lesley Gannon summed up the situation: “We’re disappointed that they’re going in that direction. Schools have to deal with children who have some very complex needs so a qualified workforce is vital. “We need greater recognition of the importance of that in supporting a whole range of children’s learning. “Even experienced teachers will come up against cohorts or individual students where they don’t feel their existing skill base can meet their needs - and that’s why they do continuing professional development. “We need a qualified workforce if we’re looking to improve on what we’ve got.

QUEEN’S BIRTHDAY HONOURS Congratulations to the following school leaders. who have been honoured for their services to education in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List 2012. Knighthood Sir Robin Bosher, lately head teacher, Fairlawn Primary School, Haseltine Primary School and Kilmorie Primary School, Lewisham. CBE Dr Irene Bishop, co-director, Southwark Schools Learning Partnership and head teacher, St Saviour’s and St Olave’s CofE Secondary School. Marion Gibbs, co-director, Southwark Schools Learning Partnership and headteacher, James Allen’s Girls’ School, Southwark, London. OBE Kay Bedford, head teacher, Swiss Cottage Specialist SEN School. Marsha Carey-Elms lately executive head teacher, Kendrick School and Reading Girls’ School, Reading. John Graham, principal, Belfast model school for girls. Michael Griffiths, lately head teacher, Cardiff High School. Kamal Hanif, head teacher, Waverley School, Birmingham. Philip Jamieson, lately head teacher, Alsop High School, Liverpool. Stephen Marshall lately head teacher, St Julian’s School, Newport. Dina Martin head teacher, Firs Hill Community Primary School, Sheffield. Patricia O’Brien lately head teacher, English Martyrs Primary School, Sefton. Manjit Rai head teacher, North Beckton Primary School, Newham. Lesley Steele, head teacher, St Aidan’s CofE Primary, Gateshead. Paul Strong, lately head teacher, William Farr (CofE) Comprehensive School, Welton, Lincolnshire. MBE Robert Buckby, lately assistant head, Hastings High School, Hinckley, Leicestershire. Agnes James, lately head teacher, St Mellons Church in Wales Primary School, Cardiff. Lynda Kappes, assistant head Middlewich County High School, Cheshire. Adele Kerr, principal, Enniskillen Integrated Primary School.


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State schools deserve a medal

“You can’t say after our bestever Olympic Games that we’re not doing something right.”


The Prime Minister’s comments after the London 2012 Olympic Games that a lot of schools are meeting their weekly PE target with “Indian dance” has been ridiculed by school leaders. NAHT General Secretary Russell Hobby told LF: “David Cameron has shown himself to be completely out of touch. Schools do play competitive sport, it’s a major part of the stateschool curriculum. “If anything, this Government is reducing the time available for PE, so it’s hard to see how more wrong they could be on this subject.” Mr Hobby also pointed out that two thirds of Great Britain’s medal winners came from state-school backgrounds. “You can’t say that after our best-ever Olympics we’re not doing something right,” he said. He added that some sports were always going to have a higher representation from public schools. “Eton has been able to dig a milelong rowing lake in front of the school. My comprehensive would have loved to have done that, but it would have needed to knock down a few council estates first,” he said.

NAHT President Steve Iredale also felt the comments were misplaced. “At my school we have clubs five nights a week and my staff do it voluntarily. We do dance and drama alongside sport. You need a balance along with the sport. I think the Prime Minister got it wrong. “You’d be hard pressed to find a school that doesn’t do competitive sport. I don’t think the Government talks to school leaders enough. For example we also had London Mayor Boris Johnson talking about two

hours of PE a day. I would love my school to be based around sport, but I’m not that stupid. My school is judged on English and Maths,” he said. Mr Iredale added that playing fields was also a contentious issue. “It seems that you can sell your playing fields quite happily. Some of the free schools have no playing fields at all. “Mr Cameron would have been better advised to enjoy the Games like we all did, celebrate the success and also celebrate the fact that the majority of British competitors were from the state system,” he said. Post-Olympics, the NAHT has called on the Government to: • plan the curriculum to ensure sufficient time is available for PE; • invest in facilities so that all communities have access to the wide range of sports on offer; • stop trying to dictate the types of sport played and instead simply encourage lots of sport; • celebrate the hard work of teachers who spot and encourage talent and who dedicate many hours of unpaid time to coaching young sports people and teams.

EDUCATION CONFERENCE 2012 The NAHT’s prestigious Education Conference is being held twice this year, in both Manchester and London. Titled ‘Leading your learning environment: meeting the challenge ahead’ it has been designed to energise and enthuse school leadership teams. It will also provide practical and innovative ideas to implement at your school. The keynote speakers are Richard Gerver and Tim Rylands. Richard was judged to be the ‘best head teacher in the UK’ in 2005 after turning a failing school around. Tim, meanwhile, has more than 25 years’ classroom experience and has been widely recognised for using computer games and the internet to boost children’s confidence in many areas of the curriculum. Workshops at the conference include ‘Managing ASD in your learning environment’, ‘From learning philosophy to


practice’, and ‘Helping children to manage their emotions’. When asked about the conference, NAHT President Steve Iredale said: “The past two years have seen dramatic changes in Government policy that have affected all education establishments. By bringing together two of the most currently renowned and inspirational speakers in education, Richard Gerver and Tim Rylands, I am confident that members will leave the conference with renewed enthusiasm to lead their learning environment and be inspired to meet the challenges that lie ahead.” Conference dates • Friday 19 October – The Midland Hotel, Manchester • Friday 16 November – Senate House, London • To book your place, please visit


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NAHT event to set SEND agenda The NAHT is to hold a special needs conference next year. The Special Schools – Specialist and Alternative Provision Conference 2013: Moving Forward and Setting the Agenda event will be held from 28 February to 1 March at the Nottingham Belfry hotel. The coming months are crucial for SEND as there will be significant changes to the statementing process and also around parental choice and funding. The NAHT represents the majority of special schools and the conference is supported by Nasen. It is suitable for school leaders and Sencos from all schools, PRUs and alternative providers. It will include keynote speakers on

both days with the NAHT General Secretary, Russell Hobby and President Steve Iredale also in attendance to speak and listen to members’ views. Confirmed keynote speakers include Baroness Warnock, LF columnist Dr Rona Tutt and Lorraine Petersen, the chief executive of Nasen, who will speak on the implications for schools of the Children and Families Bill. There will also be workshops run by nationally recognised speakers covering topics such as Ofsted and SEND, academy special schools and cutting-edge approaches to autism. One session, ‘Your Expertise:Your issues’, will allow special interest

groups – such as autism, sensory and physical impairment, learning difficulties and PRUs – to share knowledge and practice. Chair of the NAHT SEND Committee is Paul Williams, head at Shaftesbury High School in Harrow. Paul said: “SEND touches every school, not just special schools. The aim of the conference is to get up-to-the-minute information from experts in the field, and also to give the opportunity for discussion among fellow professionals.” • Book now and you do not need to pay until four weeks before the conference. Visit


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Peruvians grateful to ShelterBox The work of the disaster-relief agency ShelterBox has been praised by Peruvians affected by floods and landslides. Representatives from the NAHT’s charity partner for 2012-13 have now returned from an evaluation visit to see what lessons could be learned from the recipients of their trademark big green boxes that contain tents and other vital equipment. The charity had shipped aid to Peru in March after heavy rains triggered landslides that caused widespread damage in the mountainous region of Apurimac. Then, in the Loreto region, unusually heavy rains led to extensive flooding of the Amazon Basin. The evaluation revealed that more than 100 tents were still inhabited in Apurimac, where landslides had completely destroyed people’s houses. In the Loreto region the river had badly damaged homes – particularly those built on stilts and situated on an island in the middle of the Amazon – and people had moved the tents nearer their houses in order to repair them. ShelterBox operations coordinator Alison Ashlin told LF: “People were so incredibly grateful. It was really

humbling. They had some assistance from the local mayor, but these are poor rural communities and they don’t really have the means to help themselves.” Marily Soria, a mother of eight, told her: “We received no help from anybody else. We are eternally grateful and we feel blessed. We cannot believe that you came to help us.” Alison was surprised to see that children had used the canvas of the tents for drawings and paintings. “One village we saw was totally destroyed and I was quite touched to see the drawings on the tents. Drawing can be

therapeutic when children have gone through traumatic events. They’d lost their homes and it must have been very scary for them. To see them using art as a medium for expression was great.” One thing Shelterbox learned was that solar-powered lights would be a useful addition to their boxes, and these have now been added to new boxes. • If you would like someone from ShelterBox to give a talk at your school about the vital work they do, email • For more information and teaching resources see


Membership drive can save you money The NAHT has relaunched its member-get-a-member scheme in recognition that a bigger membership will result in greater strength. The move is timely as a recent membership survey revealed that 88 per cent of members would recommend a colleague to join. Under the scheme, if you recommend and encourage members of your senior leadership team to join 10

NAHT, you could receive a rebate on your 2013 membership. For the first member you introduce – providing they remain a members for a year – you will receive a 25 per cent rebate; 50 per cent for a second member and 100 per cent if three or more of your colleagues join. NAHT Head of Marketing and Communications John Randall said: “Increasing the

number of NAHT members is good for schools as they will all receive the same high-quality support and advice. It can also help with succession planning.” NAHT General Secretary Russell Hobby added: “There is no doubt we carry more influence in the political arena the more leaders we represent. Our campaigning and negotiating will become even more effective. We’ve

had successes already on pensions, assessment and Ofsted and the more people we represent, the better we represent them.” All full members will shortly receive an email that will provide an application form and information to give to colleagues. Depending on how many new members you recruit by 31 October 2012, a rebate will be applied to your 2013 subscription.


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Partner contacts Impressive school photography The NAHT is committed to negotiating a wide range of high-quality, value-added benefits and services for its members. If you have any comments on the services provided by our affinity partners, please email John Randall, the NAHT’s Head of Marketing and Communications, at

SERVICES FOR SCHOOLS ETEACH Online staff recruitment 0845 226 1906 Email: TEMPEST SCHOOL PHOTOGRAPHY 0800 328 1041 (quote ‘NAHT’) GL ASSESSMENT Pupil wellbeing assessment 0845 602 1937 GL PERFORMANCE Kirkland Rowell Surveys 0191 270 8270 SCHOOLS ADVISORY SERVICE Staff absence insurance 01623 643 555

SERVICES FOR MEMBERS ROCK Travel insurance 0844 482 3390 AVIVA Home, contents and motor insurance 0800 046 6389 CS HEALTHCARE Private medical insurance 0800 917 4325 (please use promotional code 147) LFC GRAYBROOK Professional indemnity and public liability cover 01245 321 185 Email: MBNA Credit card services 0800 028 2440 SKIPTON FINANCIAL SERVICES Independent financial advice 0800 012 1248 Email:

There’s more than meets the eye with Tempest Photography. There are many special services we provide: • Commission – we pay high rates of commission and we pay quickly. • Community – photographers are fulltime and live in the area they work. • Environment – we are FSC accredited and have won the Severnside Annual Recycling Award for Personal Commitment to Recycling. • Quality – we have one of the most advanced photographic laboratories in

Europe. All our mounts and frames are handmade in-house and bespoke. • Revenue – our average order values are typically higher than our competitors, generating more revenue for your school. • Guarantee – we offer a money-back guarantee giving parents peace of mind. · Free – a range of complimentary products from free staff packs and staff boards to free framed school/ year group prints. Just ask your local photographer for more details. • Choice – our range of services is wider than other school photographers. Call 0800 328 1041 or visit www.


It all adds up to a great deal Have you heard about the NAHT Personal Credit Card? As our only official credit card, it has been carefully designed to promote NAHT and provide great value with attractive rates and benefits to members: • 0% for up to 12 months from the date your account is opened on balance transfers made in the first 90 days of account opening (3% handling fee). • 0% for up to 12 months from the date your account is opened on money transfers into your current account in the first 90 days of account opening (4% handling fee). • 0% on card purchases from the date your account is opened for three months. • No annual fee; free 24-hour customer satisfaction helpline • Free fraud protection.* • Online Card Services. This account is set up with paperless statements. To access your statement, simply enrol with our Online Card Services, where you’ll also be able to check your balance, transaction history, view your PIN and much more. To apply for an NAHT Credit Card, call 0800 028 2440 and quote NAHT. * If your card is lost or stolen, you’ll incur no liability for fraudulent use of your card provided you notify us as soon as you realise your card is missing or you notice any unusual transactions on your account. †The actual APR we offer you will depend on your individual circumstances and the result of credit searches, so may be higher than the representative APR shown, although over half of customers will get the representative APR. We can’t tell you the likely APR you would get before you apply as we don’t offer pre-application searches (sometimes called ‘indicative quotations’). To find out what APR you would get you would need to apply. If you apply, a full application search will be registered at the credit reference agencies, and other lenders will be able to see that you have applied for credit and may use that in their risk assessment of you. Promotional rates will no longer apply from the beginning of any statement period during which you have breached your terms and conditions, for example if you haven’t paid on time or have gone over your credit limit.You cannot transfer balances between MBNA accounts.The NAHT credit card is issued by MBNA Europe Bank Limited. Registered Office: Stansfield House, Chester Business Park, Chester CH4 9QQ. Registered in England no. 2783251. MBNA’s consumer credit activities are licensed by the Office of Fair Trading and MBNA’s general insurance activities are authorised and regulated by the Financial Services Authority. Credit is available, subject to status, only to UK residents aged 18 or over. Calls may be monitored/recorded for quality and training purposes and for compliance with regulations. SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2012 ● LEADERSHIP FOCUS

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Obituary: Julie Fantom Julie Margaret Fantom 1 September, 1959 – 29 February, 2012 Julie Fantom worked for the National Union of Teachers, the General Teaching Council and in Education HR for Stoke-on-Trent local authority before joining the NAHT in October, 2007. Julie was employed as a Regional Officer in the West Midlands. She helped, supported and represented members tirelessly, often through the most difficult of times, always demonstrating sympathy and understanding alongside a no-nonsense approach to challenging issues. She had a great sense of justice and fair play. Julie carried out her professional role superbly, while simultaneously coping with the cancer that took her life so prematurely. She demonstrated incredible bravery, stoicism and above all Julie maintained a mischievous sense of humour while continuing to work in an emotionally draining job, often while undergoing difficult treatment and dealing with its effects. Julie was greatly respected and admired by NAHT members, particularly in the West Midlands,

by her fellow NAHT Regional Officers and other work colleagues, by officials from other trade unions and by her employers. It was apparent from an early stage in her career that Julie was someone special and her tenacious and lively spirit impacted greatly on all those she met. Julie died on 29 February at the age of 52. She had continued to work as long as she could – she loved her

job and was proud to work for the NAHT. She acted as mentor and guide to a number of her Regional Officer colleagues. As well as driving and photography, she greatly enjoyed walking, especially locally and in the Lake District. Towards the end of her life, she fulfilled her ambition of seeing the full glory of the Northern Lights from the comfort of a cruise ship. Her colleagues will recall, however, that any nautical prowess and inclination she might have entertained were slightly less evident when the onset of inclement weather once caused her, quite recently, to head expeditiously for dry land... from the end of Southend Pier! Julie lived with her partner, Rob, in the tranquil village of Seisdon, South Staffordshire. Her funeral took place in a packed All Saints Church in neighbouring Trysull, on 21 March. On what was, most aptly, a brilliantly clear, warm and sunny day, Julie was buried in the churchyard as winter gave way to spring. Her passing leaves emptier the lives of many, none more so than those of her family, those who were lucky enough to count her as a friend and, in particular, Rob.


Enter the Education Resources Awards 2013 If you’re an education professional with outstanding leadership skills that deserve recognition, the Education Resources Awards (ERAs) 2013 are awaiting your nomination. The awards, which are made in two categories, recognise Leadership in Education and the Educational Establishment of the Year. The former category is open to members of the teaching profession and educational professionals, while the latter award is made to the educational establishment 12

that best demonstrates its effectiveness and the provision of real value to the community it serves. The ERAs focus on the people, resources and services that make an impact on learning and the day-to-day work of teachers in the classroom. The awards are free to enter and are judged by an independent panel of education experts. For a chance to be one of the winners, please download an entry form from the ERA website at


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50%OFF HOME INSURANCE Save, share and win with Aviva and our Educators Hub If you’re a new home insurance customer who has been claim free for at least five years on your existing home insurance policy and buy a year’s cover online you’ll save 50%*. You can find out about all of our latest offers on our Educators Hub – a brand new community for educators on Facebook. You can also enter competitions to win prizes in our weekly draws, as well as chat and share your views with educational colleagues. Search for Educators Hub on Facebook. And, to make sure you don’t miss anything, follow us on Twitter too.

We’ve got education covered See if you can save on your home and car insurance today – visit

*Does not apply to optional extras. Minimum premium applies. Aviva Insurance Limited Registered in Scotland No. 2116 Registered Office: Pitheavlis, Perth PH2 0NH. Authorised and regulated by the Financial Services Authority. CFPMPA0111 08.12 BD31127


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Last few remaining places available Back to school discount ends 30 September

Education Conference 2012

Leading your Learning Environment: Meeting the Challenge Ahead Friday 19 October – The Midland Hotel, Manchester Friday 16 November – Senate House, London Inspirational and thought-provoking keynote speakers Richard Gerver and Tim Rylands Workshops linked to the new teachers’ standards or Ofsted areas of inspection


Book your place now at or phone Events on 01444 472 405 LEADERSHIP FOCUS SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2012

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RONA TUTT R Columnist C

School leaders need trust Head teachers need to be left alone to do what they do best


s another school year gets under way, school leaders, and those they lead, may be struggling to make sense of the changes coming on stream. The Government is tampering with so many aspects of education all at once: from the way schools are funded, inspected and run; to the biggest shake-up of the SEN framework since the Warnock Report more than 30 years ago. Added to this are the curriculum changes and the Government’s prevarication about whether it really believes in giving schools more freedom or whether it prefers to micro-manage what they do. In the dying days of the previous government, Barry Sheerman’s Select Committee report, From Baker to Balls: the foundations of the education system (March 2010), highlighted the tension between central and local control. In the month that power changed hands, Michael Gove gave us hope when he wrote: “The Government is genuinely committed to giving schools greater freedoms… We think head teachers know how to run their schools better than bureaucrats or politicians.” He went on to encourage schools to become academies, saying that it would give them freedom from following the National Curriculum and enable schools to increase standards for all children. If freedom from the National Curriculum is a way of raising standards, why do any schools need to follow it? The National Curriculum has had a chequered history and an overhaul may well be better than further tinkering at the edges, but it comes at a time when more and more schools will be excused from following it.


A notional curriculum In any case, how national will the National Curriculum be? When Tim Oates and his team produced their report last December, The Framework for the National Curriculum – a report by the expert panel for the review, they reviewed the curriculum from KS1 to KS4.Yet in his letter to Mr Oates in June this year, Mr Gove wrote: “I will write to you again about the secondary curriculum in due course.” There has been talk since of having programmes of study so brief that they will give teachers almost total freedom, or that they will be abandoned altogether, presumably because of the rate at

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which secondary schools are becoming academies. Mr Gove also comments on Mr Oates’ idea that all pupils in a class should have grasped the core content before the class moves on. Although Mr Gove seems to balk at the idea of holding the whole class back as a way of raising standards, he does say that the focus should be on ensuring that “all pupils” understand the key content and that we should “recognise and reward the highest achievers as well as identifying those who are falling below national expectations”. The notion of expected standards makes little sense unless the spread of ability found in most classes is recognised. Andrew Pollard, the dissenting expert on Mr Oates’ panel, disagreed with the Government’s proposals because they are too prescriptive and “failed to recognise the range of ability levels, particularly the less able”. This is an ideal time for the Government to rethink its attitude to learners. If the Secretary of State and his team taught classes when they visited schools, they might better understand the variations between pupils and realise that head teachers do know better than bureaucrats and politicians how to run schools. In the meantime, it would be helpful if all attempts at micro-management ceased and trust placed unequivocally in the hands of school leaders to lead. They understand the need to treat pupils as individuals of equal value and not as cogs in an education machine.

The notion of expected standards makes little sense unless the spread of ability found in most classes is recognised

Rona Tutt is a retired head teacher and a Past President of the NAHT

21/08/2012 10:43

NFER tests

A new generation of optional tests Summative tests in reading and mathematics offering a fresh alternative to many tests widely used in key stage 2 s%ASYTOMARKs5P TO DATE STANDARDISATION s7ORKALONGSIDESUMMATIVETESTSALREADYINUSE



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17/8/12 10:44:50


RUSSELL HOBBY R General Secretary G

A challenging autumn ahead But we’re prepared for whatever the new school year brings for schools write this column from the departure lounge of George Best Airport, returning from a visit with our Belfast colleagues. They have a busy year ahead. Autumn will see the culmination of their long-running campaign to secure leadership time for nursery principals, while also dealing with school closures, an on-again off-again merger of their education authorities, a hostile inspection regime (sound familiar?) and a frankly baffling 0-6 strategy. As is so often the case in Early Years, parents want high-quality education delivered by qualified professionals but the Government favours playgroups and childcare because they are cheaper. A poor long-term investment, given the weight of evidence for the power of early intervention to narrow gaps later in life. NAHT NI will also be debating the issue of selection and the 11-plus. It is a contentious topic, but it is good to see us taking a role in the major debates. Northern Ireland brings home starkly the effect of society on education, as they deal with the challenges of integration. It also shows the effect of education on society, as it is schools that have been leading the way in bringing communities together.



Little Olympic goodwill from the top Returning to England, the change in tone is noticeable. Northern Ireland may have its challenges, but they seem to be able to manage without undermining the profession. Amid the universal goodwill of the Olympics, for example, the only profession the Prime Minister felt able to denigrate was teaching. This despite athlete after athlete crediting the inspiration of a teacher as the start of their journey to success. Increasingly it feels that, in contrast to their stated wish to strengthen the authority of schools and teachers, this Government is, in fact, licensing disrespect. The tone is set from the top. There are very few policies that could not have been reframed to engage and interest the

profession. In the long term, this is what makes the difference between success and failure. The Government cannot mandate what happens in each individual classroom. This is nowhere more true than with the National Curriculum. This will be interpreted and shaped by each individual teacher. My advice to members is figure out what matters to you and teach it anyway. The main threat to that is Ofsted. There is a real risk that we will be swapping a DfE-mandated curriculum for an Ofstedmandated one. I don’t believe that Ofsted HQ actually wants this, but the gap between the centre and the inspection teams is huge.

As is so often the case in Early Years, the parents want high-quality education but the Government favours playgroups

NAHT’s school-improvement project This autumn, NAHT will be taking another major step in the task of taking back ownership of our profession. As discussed at our annual conference, we will launch our own approach to school improvement, with a pilot of 30 schools in clusters working together to help make the shift from satisfactory to good. This is seen as a radical move for a trade union, but it shouldn’t be. As every single one of us wants to raise standards, what better way to realise our ambitions? I think it strengthens our ability to act as a critic of the Government. It can be seen that we are not making excuses: when we say something is wrong, it’s because it is. Russell Hobby is NAHT General Secretary SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2012 ● LEADERSHIP FOCUS

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21/08/2012 08:34


KENNY FREDERICK Principal, George Green’s School, Isle of Dogs, London

WHAT TYPE OF PERSON ARE YOU? Describe yourself in five words: Principled, optimistic, passionate, resilient and determined. What’s top of your to-do list? Get a ‘good’ Ofsted judgment this year. What’s your favourite biscuit? I don’t like biscuits unless there is cheese on top. What’s your top holiday destination? Tuscany. What wouldn’t you do for £1 million? Do a bungee jump or parachute jump. Who would play you in the film of your life? Julie Walters.




They thought I was on a very strange diet indeed



Three school leaders take up the Leadership Focus challenge to describe their leadership style and tell us a joke

Would you like to take the LF questionnaire? Email us at

The celebrity I’d most like to have as a teacher at my school is Dawn French. As a child I wanted to grow up to be an air hostess (I thought it was glamorous). The best excuse I’ve heard is? I could not come to school because I locked myself in my house and could not get out (from a teacher). I went into education because I was loud, bossy and of average ability, plus I wanted to be in charge. My most embarrassing moment in school was when, during a working lunch with colleagues, I opened the tin-foiled wrapper I had taken out of the freezer that morning (as I am always on a diet, I make my sandwiches on Sunday and freeze them for the week so I’m not tempted to eat rubbish) to find I had two raw lamb chops… We were all a bit shocked and nobody knew what to say. They obviously thought I was on a very strange diet indeed. If I’ve learned one thing, it’s things usually ep turn out all right in the end. My motto is keep calm and carry on. I shouldn’t be telling you this, but I don’t take myself too seriously. Tell us your best joke It was really hard y… getting over my addiction to the hokey-cokey… but I’ve turned myself around, and that’s what it’s all about!


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Head teacher, Shaftsbury High School, Harrow, London

Deputy head teacher, Stockton Wood Community Primary School, Speke, Liverpool



Describe yourself in five words: Caring, committed, conscientious, open and honest. What’s top of your to-do list? To be frank, it’s working out what should be top of my to-do list. There are so many issues to deal with at present, all interrelated and all as important as each other. What’s your favourite biscuit? Dark chocolate digestive. What’s your top holiday destination? Anywhere with spectacular views – in particular the Lake District and the Alps. What wouldn’t you do for £1 million? Become a triathlete. Who would play you in the film of your life? Sean Bean, not Mr.

Describe yourself in five words: enthusiastic, motivated, thoughtful, happy, relaxed What’s top of your to-do list? Organising my soon-to-be three years’ old twins’ birthday party. What’s your favourite biscuit? Cadbury’s Jester. What’s your top holiday destination? I would love to see the Northern Lights. What wouldn’t you do for £1 million? Bungee jump from Niagara Falls (or bungee jump from anywhere...) Who would play you in the film of your life? Keanu Reeves.

COMPLETE THE FOLLOWING SENTENCES The celebrity I’d most like to have as a teacher at my school is Sir Steve Redgrave. As a child I wanted to grow up to be a doctor, until I discovered that I couldn’t cope with the sight of blood. The best excuse I’ve heard was a written one. The note from the mother said: “Please excuse Susie from class when she asks, as she has a dire rear.” I went into schools because I wanted to work with others in enabling young people to have the best possible foundation for happy and successful lives. My most embarrassing moment in school was when a pupil was sent to me by a member of staff warning me that the school’s roof was on fire. I sent him packing, saying that this particular member of staff was always exaggerating things. I was wrong. Fortunately, the roofers on site quickly managed to put out the fire on what could have been my ex-school. If I’ve learned one thing, it’s always say ‘thank you’. It can never be said too often. We must never take what people do for granted. I shouldn’t be telling you this, but I know where all the secret stashes of biscuits are in my school. Tell us your best joke It not exactly a joke, but I like the way we can play on words. At the beginning of the last school year we had some confused pupils and parents when they contacted the school, as we had two class tutors called – Mr Silver and Ms Da Silva… Long live phonics.

COMPLETE THE FOLLOWING SENTENCES The celebrity I’d most like to have as a teacher at myy ite school is Dr David Starkey. He has been quite controversial in the past, but the passion he has for history and for the Tudors is inspiring. cher, As a child I wanted to grow up to be a teacher, but as a teenager I wanted to be a sound engineer. This was an unlikely career choice for two reasons: I was hopeless, and sound engineers understand music. I don’t... The best excuse I’ve heard is I couldn’t do my homework sir, my mum is pregnant. I went into teaching because my mum wass a teacher and always made teaching sound likee a the best job in world. I thought that any jobb that can leave you that fired up at the end of the dayy must be one I want to do. My most embarrassing moment in school was when I was recently qualified and was being observed by my deputy head. About eight Furbies (a popular talking toy at that time) were in my stock cupboard – quite a few children had brought them in to show to the class. I had asked a question and suddenly the Furbies started. “Boring!” shouted one – soon a cacophony of “Borings!” sounded from my cupboard. If I’ve learned one thing, it’s things are rarely as good or as bad as they first appear. I shouldn’t be telling you this, but I really enjoy Jake and the Never Land Pirates, Ben & Holly’s Little Kingdom and Peppa Pig – yes, they are aimed at two-year-olds but I have really come to enjoy them. I am just worried that when my children grow too old to watch them, what will my excuse be then? Tell us your best joke I was sitting in traffic the other day, I got run over.


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21/08/2012 08:34



Is it body art, or a sign that you’re a gangster?


“It’s easier than learning your ABCs…” A school in Lincolnshire chose an unusual way to celebrate its 50th anniversary this summer. It wasn’t the unveiling of a plaque that was out of the ordinary, nor the opening of a new arts extension. It wasn’t even the appearance of the county’s Lord Lieutenant, who declared the plaque and building to be open. No, the unusual celebration was the school’s attempt to break a world record. St Giles Academy in New Leake, Boston, first opened its doors on July 16, 1962 and the invitation was extended to current Lord Lieutenant Tony Worth because the school had originally been opened by one of his predecessors in the role. The school’s world record attempt involved 1,300 people ‘doing the locomotion’. Afterwards, the local newspaper reported that “although the record wasn’t broken, a good time was had by all”. As a footnote, the record for the largest locomotion dance is 1,752 and was achieved at the ‘Wave for Wales’ event in Margam Country Park in 2007.


Toru Hashimoto, the mayor of Osaka in Japan, has angered the city’s teachers by demanding that they reveal any tattoos. The Daily Telegraph noted that he recently ordered inspections of 17,000 staff at schools and colleges as part of a wider survey, which found tattoos on 110 government workers. Tattoos are frowned upon as they are considered to signify membership of the Yakuza, the Japanese equivalent of the Mafia. Many sports and leisure facilities in Japan refuse entry to those who have them and Mr Hashimoto’s call for tattooed teachers to quit has apparently prompted many young Osakans to have laser surgery to remove body art they got for fashion reasons. The mayor heads his own political party, the Restoration Group, and plans to field candidates in the next national election. He also runs a school for aspiring politicians.


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A new meaning to pastoral education A school for shepherds is proving a success in the village of Bénnogo in Burkina Faso in west Africa. Salou Bandé was one of the first teachers at the school, which takes up to 25 pupils each year, specifically targeting 12-year-olds who have never attended formal school. He told the Inter Press Service: “We start with a unit in Fulfulde [the local language] on malaria, then we continue with classes in history, geography, French language, and Earth and life sciences – which cover livestock-rearing, health, the environment and hygiene. They study as far as the third year of primary school, then join the formal school system.” Moussa Diallo, president of the school’s parents’ group, added: “We realised that there is no longer enough space for livestock and agriculture, so to succeed in these sectors, knowledge is needed. We can see the difference.” The school year runs from January to April, leaving pupils free to help take part in the annual migration with the herds in p search of pasture.

When lessons are out of this world Photographs of the Earth from the edge of space have been captured by a helium balloon as part of a secondary school’s science project, the BBC has reported. To raise the £2,000 needed to create the balloon, six teachers embarked on a 72-mile (115km) sponsored step in the school gym. The latex helium balloon, launched from Tasker Milward School in Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire, reached a height of 20 miles. It had a digital camera on board and sensors gauging temperature and pressure. The balloon finally touched down in a field of cows in Carmarthenshire. The school’s head of chemistry, Jon Sharpe, reported that the payload was “a bit battered and bruised” when they found it.


The trouble with Troubles Schools in Northern Ireland have often borne the brunt of sectarian rivalries – the latest contentious issue is whether a former IRA bomber who was sentenced to life imprisonment for murder should be appointed to a school’s board of governors. Paul Kavanagh was released from jail in 1999 as part of the Good Friday Agreement and went on to play a key role in political power sharing in Northern Ireland. He has been put forward by Stormont’s Department of Education minister John O’Dowd to sit on the board of governors of the high-achieving Lumen Christi College in Londonderry. A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police Federation said: “We don’t necessarily agree with it but returning to the bad old days does no one any good.”


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There’s poetry in motion with a record-breaking dance attempt and teachers take steps to raise funds for a science project


21/08/2012 14:51


Assessment and Accountability Group (AAG)


he NAHT has campaigned long and hard for changes to assessment and accountability in primary schools. After the boycott of the controversial Sats tests for 11-year-olds in 2010, which led to the Bew Review, the Association’s national executive is keen to ensure that the work that started with the Sats campaign, led by the Assessment and Reform Campaign (ARC) continues. Bolton head teacher Amanda Hulme was the chair of the ARC and is now the vice chair of its successor, the Assessment and Accountability Group (AAG). She tells LF: “We felt the Bew Review was positive progress and a vindication of the courageous stance taken by members, so the ARC definitely served its purpose. It’s important to stress that we’re not opposed to the use of testing, which we know is massively important in identifying where a child is and what the next steps in the learning journey are. The AAG is about looking at what we do next to improve assessment and accountability.” Milton Keynes head teacher Tony Draper chairs the AAG and says the group is committed to holding the Government and the DfE to account. “We need to ensure we don’t just replace one set of external tests with another, just for the sake of testing and at the expense of learning for the children,” he says. 22

Fay Schopen talks to four members of the AAG about the issues they will be dealing with in the forthcoming academic year

Teacher assessment AMANDA HULME AAG vice chair HER VIEW

We were all very pleased when the Government decided to make an external writing test for Year Six children optional. This year we had the option to use an internally marked test and the majority of schools have done so. There are a number of advantages – children can be assessed by a range of their writing across the whole curriculum, which means we can assess the children much more accurately, and it also means

children continue to stay focused and learn right up until the end of term. It has been so good to see that there is a real focus on learning throughout the school year. At my school, Claypool Primary, we are also working collaboratively with others to assess the children. We worked very closely with our local cluster in Horwich, for example.Year Six and Year Seven teachers work as a group, and we have a very good local authority that we work with as well. It is vital that teacher-assessed work is accurate, which is why it’s more important than ever that we work together. I have a superb Year Six teacher and I trust her assessment judgments, but the assessment must be backed up by others – that is the crux of teacher assessment. Hence the need for accurate moderation.


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External testing costs so much money, too. If we can move away from that then that money can be spent on training staff in schools to moderate accurately. Having a teacher-assessed writing test is a good exercise in letting the Government know that as a profession we can be trusted to make accurate judgments. We’ll be taking this issue forward, and working with the DfE to put together a picture of what we feel moderation should look like. I feel that the NAHT has evolved as an organisation. We are now saying to the Government: “We’re not doing this – but here’s an alternative model.” It’s more about working with the ministerial team rather than digging our heels in and simply saying no. However, this must not detract from our belief that, as a profession, we’re the experts.

Spelling, punctuation and grammar TONY DRAPER AAG chair HIS VIEW

One outcome from the Bew Review was that the NAHT would be involved in the design, implementation and administration of a new test for spelling, punctuation and grammar (Spag). But the Government has gone back on its promise. We do not have a problem with the teaching of Spag – it’s crucial to good progress being made in English. But we’re concerned that

we have not been involved in any aspect of the new test. Throughout the year the AAG has worked hard to develop moderation of assessment and we think we have been very successful, with head teachers and teachers from both primaries and secondaries working together to give a fully accurate picture of where children are in relation to their writing. We value the role teachers can play in assessing attainment and we believe that if there is a Spag test it should be marked internally and used alongside the teacher’s assessment of writing. An external test will cost millions of pounds to implement. We say use that money, for example, to develop assessment champions in every school – these would be skilled, trained and accredited assessment leaders so that throughout the country you would have really strong assessment in every school. At this stage we don’t know how the test will be put together. But we suggest that children be assessed, not tested, on Spag throughout the year, as part of the writing they are doing. Teachers are skilled and are easily able to assess technical aspects as part of writing moderation. We strongly recommend the Government makes the test internal and carries out a small sample of externally marked and verified tests, as they have done with the writing test. This would raise standards, save money, and reflect a genuine trust in the profession. We have a significant amount of talking to do. But our members need to know we are working hard to enable schools to be as in control of assessment as possible. We know that three quarters of our members oppose an external Spag test, and we will be taking that message back to Government. CONTINUED ON PAGE 24 ➧ SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2012 ● LEADERSHIP FOCUS

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21/08/2012 12:17


Phonics BERNADETTE HUNTER AAG committee member

This June, for the first time, all schools with Year One pupils had to administer a statutory phonics test, with children required to use their phonic knowledge to sound out words. No-one would dispute that phonics is a useful tool. However, the Government should not be insisting that this is the only way to teach children to read. Rather, it is just one of a range of methods that teachers employ, including using rich and varied texts to inspire and motivate children to have a lifelong love of reading and writing. Having an external test to measure phonics could lead to distorting the teaching of reading. Along with the majority of schools, we use phonics extensively and assess the children regularly. We do not need an external test imposed by the Government to do this. We have a number of concerns about the use and potential misuse of this test. First, the Government is implying that children who pass are good readers. However, we know this is not necessarily correct. The test does not tell us whether children can understand the words they are reading. Second, the made-up words in the test are confusing for children, particularly for children who have English as an additional language or who have special needs. It’s also confusing for parents, because the Government has set an arbitrary pass mark and schools have to report if children pass or fail. This doesn’t tell parents how good a reader their child is. It also 24



seems completely wrong to be judging children as failures at the age of six. Third, the test has to be administered on a one-on-one basis by a teacher, so it is very time consuming and has led to unnecessary expense for schools. Finally, we are concerned the Government may misuse the data to judge schools. We will be looking very carefully to see that it doesn’t do anything with the data – for example, using it for league tables. Our members believe this would be unacceptable, and if it were to happen, we would certainly consider taking appropriate action. We will keep a watching brief on this vital issue. External testing has not told schools anything they did not already know about their pupils’ reading. It is a waist of tyme!

Curriculum review TIM SHERRIFF AAG committee member HIS VIEW

My reaction to the curriculum review and the draft proposals for the programmes of study is one of caution. The proposals for the programmes of study indicate that the bar is being raised, and primary schools will be challenged. There seems more emphasis on knowledge, particularly in science, but it’s important to retain an equal weighting on skills, which must be kept as a core part of the


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There needs to be some recognition of the extra distance some pupils travel


Reservations rule AIDAN DOLAN

curriculum. But until we see the curriculum in totality it’s difficult to make a judgment. In terms of assessment, it’s also important to note where pupils are starting from. My school is in the most deprived area of Wigan, so pupils are not starting with the same skills and knowledge as children from other areas. Therefore, there needs to be recognition of the extra distance some pupils need to travel in order to meet the national expectations. The indication is that levels will go. Again, we signal a note of caution. Levels are not perfect and they can be unhelpful to parents who can find them difficult to understand, but it is not clear what will replace them. The review talks about shifting the focus so that all pupils reach an expected standard. The fear is this could lead to a focus on average and belowaverage pupils at the expense of more able children. Michael Gove has talked about ‘intelligent accountability’ and I welcome that. I believe any accountability system should adhere to the principles in the Bew Review, which emphasised the roles of teacher assessment and external assessment, which both have strengths and weaknesses. As a member of the Bew Review committee I am very keen for these principles to stay alive. We have been meeting the Government and the schools minister Nick Gibb, and I feel that the door is open. We’ve asked to be kept aware of any developments so we can give our viewpoint.

Education Director, NAHT NI In primary schools we have a new statutory assessment of Cross Curricular Skills (Communication, Using Mathematics and Using ICT). At KS1 and KS2 this will be teacher assessed, with moderation. We support this, but have concerns around the related teacher training. We also have computer-based assessments in place. These are not used for accountability purposes. We have serious reservations about the system. The service providers are being changed every three years so there is little continuity. More seriously, the reliability of emerging data has been queried by many school leaders. At secondary level there are ongoing reforms to KS3 assessment and we have been fully involved in consultations on the changes. At GCSE, modularised examinations are to continue, unlike in England, as it is believed they offer better opportunities for many pupils. Early this year, a statutory requirement for all pupils to be offered at least 24 subjects age 14, and 27 subjects at sixth form was introduced. This is creating serious organisational problems for many schools. Funding for the Local Area Communities – responsible for creating the necessary collaborative arrangements – is, unbelievably, to end next year. We are campaigning for funding to continue. Despite these statutory changes to assessment, the entire NI school system is convulsed by arguments over arrangements for selection at age 11. Although the Department announced the end of academic selection years ago, most grammar

schools resisted and organise their own non-regulated testing. Two independent tests have emerged, one largely used by Catholic schools and one by Protestant schools. The result has been confusion for parents and uncertainty for schools. We are organising a full debate on this issue in September.

Finding precision ANNA BRYCHAN Director, NAHT Cymru NAHT Cymru was delighted when Sats for 11 and 14-year-olds were replaced with teacher assessment in 2004. It has not been plain sailing since, however. Moderating teacher assessment to ensure consistency across Wales and a common understanding of individual pupils’ progress has been difficult: indeed, many NAHT Cymru members feel achieving a common understanding based on levels is not likely to be wholly satisfactory. The Welsh Government has announced that the new literacy and numeracy frameworks will become statutory in Welsh schools from September 2013. These provide detailed descriptors of pupil progress year on year. Initial responses from members during the consultation period are positive. The frameworks will be complemented by reading and, in due course, numeracy tests. The question now is: if the frameworks offer the precision, will we need to use the levels too? And if we don’t need the levels, how will we assess other elements of learning which are not covered in the frameworks? And, crucially, how do we avoid ‘teaching to the test’ in our quest for precision? To be continued…


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With a little help from my friends Is peer-to-peer support the best method of school improvement yet? Peter Crush investigates the system of national leaders of education


I don’t know many schools that aren’t capable of getting into trouble,” says the newly knighted, and so-called ‘super-head’, Sir Robin Bosher. “We’ve got to be realists. There are 1,800 schools in London alone; there’s bound to be at least one in difficulty. Teaching isn’t making telephones. Things go wrong.” It’s a viewpoint honed from many years of experience. The former head (and turnaround champion) of three failing schools in Lewisham was also the operational director of the City Challenge primary programme in London, a project that ran from 2008-11 aimed at improving the performance of schools in challenging circumstances. Today he is a director of the Harris Federation of schools and one of 721 National Leaders of Education (NLE, of which the DfE wants 1,000 by 2014). These are people designated as outstanding head teachers who all face the same tough task: improving the fortunes of other schools. And, as Sir Robin hints, if there’s one key skill that’s needed in all of this, it’s empathy. “It’s all about creating a working relationship that’s conducive to new ideas, it’s about saying ‘I understand the problem’,” he says. This doesn’t mean not being firm.“It’s about

pressing the point that you’re here for a reason, that things can’t stay like this. You have to turn things around,” he adds. It’s no-nonsense stuff, but as Sir Robin and other NLEs agree, it’s this crucial peer-to-peer, cold, hard analysis that schools in difficulties need and which is vital to making the process of improvement work. “Some schools get angry, they resent you being there, but their anger is good,” explains NLE Andrew Carter, head teacher at South Farnham School

in Surrey, which is a National Support School. “Angry means they’re about to change, and in this job you’re always never more than a short step away from success.” According to Sir Robin, improvement is about bluntly “not saying things are OK when they’re not”. He adds: “You start with an audit, the Ofsted report, and from this the basis of a plan develops.” Beyond this, what he and others say CONTINUED ON PAGE 28 ➧

SCHOOL IMPROVEMENT: EXPERT TIPS 1 “Failing schools are almost never about teachers not being able to do their jobs well enough. It’s more about raising the quality of teaching and its impact on learning and progress.” Sir Robin Bosher. 2 “Find out who the key players are and listen to what kids say, too. The more people are involved, the more issues are able to be resolved.” Patricia Smart. 3 “Failing schools are often in this state because they’re not good with data. Show them that measuring against outcomes is what’s needed.” Patricia Smart. 4 “Many schools are in denial about the situation they’re in. My tactic is to show them the Ofsted report, show them the evidence. Once the head has a realistic view that there’s a problem, you’ve got a realistic chance of change, too.” Andrew Carter. 5 “Always remember, this is a human-to-human piece of work.” Sir Robin Bosher.


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is that the common support all head teachers tend to seek is new leadership. “Teachers being supported feel threatened, so you can’t go in like a bull in a china shop,” says Patricia Smart, head teacher at Greet Primary School in Birmingham. “At the same time they’re desperate for new leadership, but we’re also desperate for quick results,” she says. Patricia, an NLE, sits on the Birmingham Primary School Improvement Group and is working with Conway Primary School. Sir Robin says it’s a “lack of rigorous leadership” that has been allowed to take root that he and others have to shake out. “Teachers will be at fault, but the failure is more often because they don’t know what ‘good’ looks like,” he argues. “Teachers can quickly lapse into teaching to too low a standard.Working with teachers involves dragging them back up, mentoring them.” It seems to be a fine line between being tough and being supportive. “Being an NLE is about coaching – or so we’re told,” Andrew asserts. “But often schools simply need to be told what to do.” He suggests this is more about saying “I’m here to help, but if you’re not going to take it, I’ll happily withdraw from the process”. He says he will never simply take over, and that “the one thing I won’t ever do is tell other schools how good my school is, as no-one likes people being smug”. That, says Patricia, doesn’t mean you can’t introduce elements of leadership that you know work. “At Conway, I immediately brought over policies I knew worked at Greet,” she says. “This included setting maths and English classes according to ability, so that teachers focused on the most able. It’s quick-fix stuff you can do on day one. Requiring others to trust me takes something of a leap of faith, but in my experience it’s comforting to heads knowing you can demonstrate that it works in your own school.” One thing all three agree on is that change has to be done fast. “This whole new structure of involving schools with other schools is the most effective one yet,” Sir Robin says, reminiscing about previous attempts, such as beacon schools. 28

THE ABC OF SCHOOL IMPROVEMENT NLE – NLEs are designated along with their school, which becomes a national support school (NSS). NLEs are outstanding head teachers or principals who, along with their staff, use their skills and experience to support other schools in challenging circumstances. NSS – National Support School (see above). LLEs – the Local Leaders of Education (LLE) programme enables local authorities to develop and improve schools within their areas by deploying experienced head teachers to work as coaches and mentors to other head teachers. The main focus of LLEs is to enable partner schools to build capacity for sustainable improvement through coaching with the partner head teacher. SLEs – Specialist leaders of education are outstanding middle and senior leaders who have the skills to support individuals or teams in similar positions in other schools. TS – Teaching Schools are part of the Government’s drive to give schools more freedom and take increasing responsibility for managing the schools system. As well as offering training and support for their alliance themselves, teaching schools will identify and co-ordinate expertise from their alliance, using the best leaders and teachers to: 1. play a greater role in the recruitment and training of new entrants to the profession 2. lead peer-to-peer professional and leadership development 3. identify and develop leadership potential 4. provide support for other schools 5. designate and broker Specialist Leaders of Education (SLEs – see above) 6. engage in research and development There are now more than 200 teaching schools designated with the aim of establishing 500 teaching school alliances by 2014-15. Teaching schools will normally be designated for a four-year period.

Teachers can quickly lapse into teaching to too low a standard. Working with them means dragging them back up, mentoring them

Having overseen the City Challenge programme in London, he feels the DfE/National College initiatives are the “most authentic” attempts at school improvement yet. “What City Challenge gave us is information on what worked well – learning that is being spread out now. London, with its numerous ethnic groups and languages was complex, but is no more complex than some other large conurbations. National leaders are far more cohesive.” One criticism of the current system is the fact that heads are thought to be ‘parachuted in’, then go a year or so later. Sir Robin says he specifically CONTINUED ON PAGE 30 ➧


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Building foundations for learning


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Success is also about how you wean yourself away and let them get on with it without you. That’s the benefit of having a plan in place

doesn’t like the label ‘super-head’ for this reason and the National College, which runs the national leaders programme, is keen to stress the image it prefers is that of a supply ship docking alongside, rather than a lifeboat coming to save all hands. “We’re in the process of working out when we need to cut ties at Conway,” agrees Patricia, who says part of the process of improvement is to create sustainability. Andrew adds: “I always want to make improving schools not reliant on external support. Success is often also about how you wean yourself away and let them get on with it without you. But that’s the benefit of having a plan in place, meeting all the stakeholders – children, teachers, governors – and getting them all involved.” The accountability Patricia takes on is also large. “You arrive in term one, and it’s easy – you can just identify what’s missing at a school. But term two is when things get pressurised. You have to deliver results.You have the odd wobble; you have to be able to accept that you might get a dip in results before things improve. I used to live in fear every time I asked staff to come out of their classes to help the other school. There’s a lot of guilt about the impact that helping others has on your own school.” Andrew admits taking on a school in this way takes its toll. In fact, he says, he’s had to take on four teachers at his current school simply to cope with bringing other teachers into the classrooms of improving schools. But it is the rewards that helping brings, and the difference that it is possible to instill that Sir Robin says makes it all worthwhile. “Modelling 30

A RECENT HISTORY OF SCHOOL IMPROVEMENT Di Barnes, director system leadership, National College “The current school improvement regime came about after high-profile super heads were helicoptered into schools and didn’t always get the desired results. Schools often made short-term gains but struggled once the head left. So Ruth Kelly, the then Secretary of State for Education, asked us to come up with advice for how to work with ‘complex schools’. “Our notion was more around not just a super head but an outstanding school, with the capacity to take some of the staff to support another one. The image we used was that of a fantastic school mooring alongside one that needed support. Rather than a lifeboat coming to the rescue, it was more like a supply ship. The context was about looking at what the school needed and then to supply school-improvement activities. “We’ve since developed the criteria for NLEs (National Leaders of Education) and so far have 721 of them. The early days were quite tough. We sometimes had problems matching NLEs with schools, while there was a mixed reaction from local authorities. Some were resistant to something they saw as competition to their own school improvement services. Others, however, thought it was the best thing since sliced bread. “The model also seemed to appeal to secondary schools more than to primary schools. Primaries found it more challenging and historically primary schools have found it more threatening to stand up and say how fantastic they are. It was partly in response to this that we introduced Local Leaders of Education (LLEs) informed by the work being done by the City Challenges. The LLE model isn’t as intensive an intervention as from NLEs. It’s more a case of providing good-quality coaching, mentoring and school-improvement advice to head teachers. “In the past year or two many local authority teams have been disbanded as a result of budget cuts, and as many areas move to a more school-led system in many areas, there isn’t the resistance to NLEs that there was in the early days. There will always be schools – because of location or unique circumstances – that feel they wouldn’t benefit from this degree of support but the majority have been won over to the benefits of working collaboratively on a school-improvement agenda. “My generation grew up with ‘sharing good practice’, but all too often this was a case of recycling mediocrity. With the ‘quality assurance’ of the NLE/Teaching Schools/LLE brand, for the first time we have something that is going to be sustainable.”

success and showing teachers what outstanding looks like has a powerful effect. To create a system for change, you need to build leadership capacity. That way, you’ll always have great schools to support others,” he says. So with the Education Secretary Michael Gove pushing for all failing schools to be turned into academies, is this a hint that Sir Robin thinks the Government is on the right lines when it comes to school improvement? Not wishing to be drawn into speaking about his own schools

(campaigners had sought a judicial review to stop Downhills Primary School in Tottenham from joining the Harris Foundation of academies), Sir Robin is diplomatic. “I fundamentally believe that all schoolchildren should be given the best chance,” he says. “It’s not acceptable for any child to go to a school that’s not good enough. Everyone needs to be given the best chance in life.” • For more on NLEs, visit


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Talking with experts helps create inspiring environments


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Leading by example Head teacher Carolyn Barker has put student achievement at the heart of her plans at Barbara Priestman School in Sunderland. Steve Smethurst reports



arlier this year we asked LF readers to point us in the direction of inspirational school leaders. One of the first names to reach our ears was that of Carolyn Barker, head at Barbara Priestman School in Sunderland. Carolyn, who was appointed head teacher at the special school in January 2008, was nominated by the school’s business manager, Karen Raine. As befits an experienced business manager, Karen sent us 18 good reasons (see page 36), as to why Carolyn should be featured. She also told us: “Carolyn leads by example. She empowers staff and students alike to be forward thinking and innovative, making the school the success it is. I firmly believe that she is an inspiration to many, both within and out of school.” Barbara Priestman is Carolyn’s first headship and although she has a background in special education, she had previously been a deputy head in the mainstream part of the Education Village in Darlington, a federated primary, secondary and special school all on one site. During her four years of headship, Carolyn has seen the school’s remit change and it now has more than 120 students, aged 11-19 years, who have an autistic spectrum disorder or other complex learning needs. Before, the school had taken children as young as three, but had suffered from a falling roll as students with physical disabilities moved to mainstream schools. When she first arrived at the school she says she was left “quite surprised” by an Ofsted report that found there was improvement required in what she describes as “some fairly fundamental areas”, even though it judged the school to be good overall. “The one that really struck me as strange was about using assessment in order to pitch teaching correctly,” she says. Furthermore, within her first two months, as part of the new school-improvement partner arrangement, the school CONTINUED ON PAGE 35 ➧



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SEN LEADERSHIP was put into category two by the local authority because there was no data. “As a new head I had no ability to assess how well the school was doing in terms of performance because of the lack of data. My school was actually described by the local authority as being ‘like a warm bath’. People were very interested in the welfare of our students, but not hugely focused on attainment and achievement.” While her job interview with the governors had given Carolyn an inkling of what was to come, it was that first term in school that crystallised her vision for what needed to be done at Barbara Priestman. Her overriding priority was to improve achievement. “You could say that everything I’ve done has been around that. It is about trying to make sure that everything we do has an impact on student achievement and attainment. So whether that’s the café we’ve built which gives students work experience and builds their confidence or whether it’s becoming a ‘thinking school’ that enables them to be more independent in the classroom, it’s all about that one thing.” Carolyn says she was determined to turn her students into independent learners and stop any ‘spoon feeding’. The thinking school idea was something that she fell upon when researching critical thinking courses. As a result, the school started to work with the University of Exeter. Carolyn explains: “Thinking school material tends to be visual so it suits our students’ learning styles, although there is a selection of thinking tools from which you can choose. We use a range of these, from Dave Hyerle’s thinking maps to De Bono’s thinking hats. We also use dramatic enquiry, philosophy for children and personal learning and thinking skills, so these things come together for the same outcome.” She says that students take easily to talking about using their green hat, doing creative thinking or even saying: “I am going to use a double-bubble map or a bridge map to show what I am thinking.” She says that it helps them to communicate in a structured way. “We used to talk to students and ask: ‘What do you think about this?’You would usually get a standard ‘I don’t know’, but now they will talk quite ably about their thoughts, because they have had time to process them and, as they can see their thoughts visually, it gives them structure and allows them to communicate more effectively.” One of the outcomes that Carolyn has seen is that more students are progressing to catering or agricultural college after working at the school – for example in the café or the forest school. “Our latest round of internships involves taking over the school meals service (alongside a chef ), the idea being they will do their NVQ2 and then get out into the industry and be very employable young people when they leave.” Carolyn gives much of the credit for the turnaround at the school to the strength of her leadership team and wider leadership across the school. “In the beginning I had the ideas and got people to implement them. Now all staff contribute to the school visioning through research projects, leadership roles and performance management.” Her latest Ofsted inspection came in March and the subsequent report informed Carolyn that her school was good across the board with outstanding in leadership and

It’s about trying to make sure that everything we do has an impact on student achievement and attainment

KAREN MEANS BUSINESS Karen Raine joined Barbara Priestman School in 1997 in an administrative position and by the time Carolyn arrived in 2008, she had outgrown the role and was determined to become a school business manager – even if it meant moving to a different school. Fortunately, Carolyn liked what she saw and invited her on to the leadership team. Karen now has a raft of qualifications, including a BA in business management. She is clearly revelling in the role. “Previously, when I worked in the office, I managed the budget but I didn’t see the impact of it. Staff would ask for funding and I’d assess the proposal from a business point of view. Now I’m part of the leadership team I see where everything fits together.” Karen has been instrumental in setting up initiatives such as the forest school and the café and is delighted by their impact. “Over the past two years we have had a student each year who has completed an internship in the café where, among other things, they have developed money skills, completed their basic food-hygiene qualification, they have learned how to deal with customers and the confidence that it has given them is amazing.” She also pays tribute to the rest of the leadership team: “Because of the wealth of experience we have we can bounce ideas off each other. We are all open enough to say if we don’t agree with something and to talk through how something will work and how it can progress. The team is established enough that we can challenge each other.”


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SEN LEADERSHIP management. When LF suggests that this is something to be proud of, it receives short shrift. “We wanted outstanding across the board,” says Carolyn, clearly still annoyed. “But they are looking for sustained outstanding outcomes, and the report basically said we are on the verge of it but it needs to be embedded further.” It would seem to be merely a matter of time before Carolyn achieves her objectives. But massive change is coming. The school converted to an academy on 1 August, forming part of the Ascent Academies Trust, which initially comprises two former secondary special schools within a multi-academy trust, with the addition of a further two secondary special schools in the near future. Carolyn explains that trust membership will be open to mainstream schools and it will have a trading arm offering such things as bespoke SEN training, student placements, multi-disciplinary team advice and support – even leadership support for heads, deputies and Sencos. “It was an easy decision for us,” says Carolyn. “We want a clear vision for SEN and coordinated responses to SEN students across the city, which we felt was lacking in the local authority, mainly due to the huge staffing changes that have taken place. I have been here only four years, but there have been at least three changes of personnel in terms of leading SEN, so there hasn’t been a strong vision or plans for the future. That is something we felt we could take forward very strongly as a group of four schools. “It also gives us the flexibility and freedom to start looking at further opportunities and career progression for staff. We have a strong team of support staff and this will give us the opportunity to recognise the quality of the contribution they make to the school.” For Karen too, this means a huge change. “Carolyn and I have just been talking about what the implications are and it is quite exciting but frightening at the same time. For example, we’re going to build a new sixth-form block and make some substantial extensions to the existing build as our numbers have increased by 50 per cent over the past four years. We’re also looking at FE provision and supported living for 19 to 25-year-olds as a key area for development.” It seems that to be an inspirational school leader you can never stand still. If you ask Carolyn for the secret of her success, she says: “I suppose it was getting people with the right experience, because when you are building a team you want people who are fundamentally brilliant at teaching and learning. In terms of leadership, we have created a team that is able to set high expectations and challenge underperformance in an ethos of high-quality training and staff development. Barbara Priestman is definitely a learning environment for all and we have a large number of staff involved in further education and research. “We also have a strong induction process; it’s quite rigorous in terms of the amount of training and support. We are clear with new staff about our expectations as a school.” As Karen noted in her initial summary - it’s all to do with being forward thinking, innovative, empowering and inspiring in equal measure. That, and leading by example. • Do you work with an inspiring school leader? Let us know at 36

THE 18-POINT SUMMARY 1. Increased leadership capacity – senior leadership team increased from four to six (including a business manager); also a middle leadership team of three. Leadership development through the use of the Insights Discovery Programme. 2. Specialist school – became a Technology College, creating links with other schools and partnerships. 3. Forest school – developed on nearby waste land; staff were trained and a manager appointed to look after the school and animals, and teach students about horticulture and animal care. 4. Assertive discipline – was introduced, focusing on positive behaviours and empowering students to take responsibility for their own actions. 5. Thinking maps/thinking hats – visual tools were introduced to enable students to process methods of thinking. 6. Thinking School – became the first special school to become a Thinking School, through the University of Exeter. 7. Opening Minds – introduced in KS3 to encourage creativity and innovation within the curriculum. 8. Dramatic enquiry – working with Cap-a-Pie through Creative Partnerships to develop innovative learning experiences; production of DVDs sampling students’ skills and knowledge. 9. Connecting Classrooms – developed through the British Council, leads a partnership of four schools in Sunderland to link with a school in India. 10.P4C – implementing Philosophy for Children across all age ranges. 11. International primary curriculum – recently introduced to develop learning experiences in KS3. 12. Increased attainment – increase in the number and levels of courses on offer to older students; increase in number of 5 A*-C GCSE passes from 0 per cent in 2008 to 55 per cent in 2011. 13. School café – the facility was built and a manager appointed; work experience opportunities offered. 14. Internships – offer of student internship within school reception, also links to student journalism. 15. Performance management – introduced for all staff, with a focus on development. 16.Train the trainers – a number of staff, including Learning Support Assistants, are trained as trainers for areas such as assertive discipline, thinking maps and training new members of staff. 17. Career progression – implementation of middleleaders’ tier; SBM achieved BA (Hons); admin staff working towards degree and NVQ qualifications; opportunities for Learning Support Assistants. 18.Investors in People – obtained the gold award.


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Encouraging Creative Readers and Writers Raising Standards - Engaging learners EVENT 1: Pie Corbett at the V&A Museum V & A Museum, London. Wednesday 10th October 2012 In this day-long series of inspiring and creative talks and workshops, the charismatic Pie Corbett demonstrates how everyday objects and images can help children develop storytelling, writing and poetry skills. In his own, inimitable style, Corbett explains how writing can consist of imaginative patterns and explores the different effects that can be achieved by varying their design. Throughout, delegates will learn to develop confidence and fluency in their teacher-pupil interactions and creative curriculum activities with the aim of helping to develop critical thinking, reading and writing skills in their classes. Cost £199.00* + VAT including lunch and refreshments OR £184.00* + VAT including refreshments excluding lunch Visit to download booking and return by fax or mail

EVENT 2: Pie Corbett, Creative Conference at Tate Liverpool Poetry, Storytelling and Writing through Art Tate Liverpool , Albert Dock, Tuesday 16th October 2012 In this exceptional inservice conference, the inspirational Pie Corbett will explore how educators can develop pupils’ story-telling, writing and poetry skills through art. A series of inspirational and creative sessions will illustrate how paintings, sculptures, prints and photographs can be used to develop teacher-pupil interaction and creative curriculum activities with the aim of improving critical thinking, writing and storytelling skills in pupils. Cost £199.00* + VAT including lunch and refreshments OR £184.00* + VAT including refreshments excluding lunch Tate Liverpool Turner, Monet, Twombly exhibition tickets free of charge for delegates to view during the lunch break *Group bookings over 5 delegates: 10% discount Visit to download booking and return by fax or mail Limited places available, so book early to avoid disappointment. Please note, the final date for bookings for these exceptional events is Wednesday October 3rd, 2012. For details contact Eddie Burnett Children’s book consultant & Literacy Events Coordinator 31a Vanbrugh Park, Blackheath, London, SE3 7AE T. (020)8293 6060 T.(020) 8265 4645 F. (020) 8465 5111 Email: SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2012 ● LEADERSHIP FOCUS

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Lancashire hot spots A heavy-handed approach to academisation is coming to the boil in the North West. Steve Smethurst reports


he NAHT won’t defend underperformance from school leaders, but it does not believe that academisation is always – or even often – the right response to underperformance. Nor does it believe that every school targeted for forced academisation is genuinely underperforming. Mandatory academisation is of particular concern as NAHT regional offices across the country increasingly report that the processes used have been chaotic, opaque or unfair (see also LF, May/June). They have unearthed examples of schools with rapid trajectories of improvement that have still been put under intense pressure to convert, even when their improvement has taken them above the floor standards. The NAHT is adamant that the Secretary of State should not be converting these schools into academies. Instead, he should be encouraging other schools to copy the steps they’ve taken to improve. The pressure on schools to switch has been extreme and not always legitimate. As Laura Hughes, a partner at law firm Browne Jacobson, notes: “Numerous examples exist that the powers of the Secretary of State have been exaggerated by overzealous DfE brokers and local authority officials.” It’s a worrying situation, not least in Lancashire, where the fires were stoked early in the summer. Schools commissioner, Dr Liz Sidwell announced that she would be pressing for 36 primary schools to convert to academies because test results for 11-year-olds remained “stubbornly low”. Of the 36 schools, 32 were said to be “below floor targets”. At the time, NAHT General Secretary Russell Hobby suggested that her visit to Lancashore may have had more to do with the low interest in academies than with the proportion of underperforming schools. He tells LF: “Clearly, every school should aspire to be outstanding and 38

where schools are struggling they need help and support to improve. But forcing schools to convert to academy status against the wishes of their community and their leadership is not the way to do it. “At least one successful school in Lancashire is under intense pressure to convert, despite the head and teachers taking it from ‘notice to improve’ up to a ‘satisfactory with many good features’ classification in the past few years. Under these conditions, the academy agenda distracts from, rather than encourages, school improvement.” The school Russell is referring to is Walverden Primary in Nelson, Pendle, which has received staunch support from Geoff Driver, the Conservative leader of Lancashire County Council. He reveals, in a letter obtained via a freedom of information request, that he complied with DfE instructions to issue a warning notice to the school only with “extreme reluctance”, warning Lord Hill, the Under-Secretary of State for Education, that he “needs to understand the strength of our feeling on this issue”. Not surprisingly, the NAHT has been quick to offer its support to schools in this predicament. During the summer term, Rob Kelsall, a senior regional officer at the NAHT, spoke to a gathering of school leaders at a briefing on the forced academisation of primary schools in Lancashire. More than 100 heads and governors attended. He said: “The turnout demonstrated that there was clearly lots of attention being paid to that particular local authority by the DfE. We had done similar briefings before, but the sheer numbers told me that something was seriously amiss. “It was the first indication we’d received that the Secretary of State was almost putting to one side the directintervention approach that he employed with Downhills School in Haringey and was basically saying to local CONTINUED ON PAGE 41 ➧


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The powers of the Secretary of State have been exaggerated by overzealous DfE brokers and local authority officials

Morecambe and Lunesdale

Lancaster and Fleetwood


Ribble Valley




Wyre and Preston North



0 1






5 •Hyndburn

3 2

South Ribble

Rossendale and Darwen

2 Chorley


West Lancashire


• 36 schools in Lancashire face forced conversion to academy status. Source: DfE


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authorities that they needed to do his dirty work.” Laura, who is working closely with the NAHT, explains the legal background: “Where schools are in a category, the Secretary of State has the power to make an academy order without the consent of the governing body. “But the Government has been reluctant to enforce such orders, preferring to put pressure on the local authority and the schools via DfE brokers and the issuing of warning notices. That way the DfE could not be seen to be directly orchestrating the conversions. “It would appear that the intention is to use warning notices to require a school to convert to a sponsored academy; and if they refuse, they will put in place an interim executive board that will vote to convert to a sponsored academy – and that this will be the normal route to securing improvement. “We feel this is an unlawful use of warning notices and, working alongside the NAHT, we are helping several schools faced with being forced to convert to challenge that threat.” Rob is adamant that the battle can be won. “The first thing I say at briefings is that the NAHT is completely neutral on the subject of academies. Where we have a big problem is with these academy brokers overstating the powers of the Secretary of State, making direct threats and intimidating head teachers. We are absolutely opposed to that type of behaviour. “The NAHT has stood shoulder to shoulder with school leadership teams during this ferocious onslaught and I have been really pleased to see that our work has not gone unrecognised. More leadership teams have joined the NAHT as a direct result of the support and protection we have been providing for our members across Lancashire and many other parts of the country.” Rob adds that DfE brokers have even been telling NAHT members that Tupe legislation applies to all staff except head teachers. Russell Hobby has written to the Secretary of State to object, since Tupe applies to all staff. For Margaret Thacker, the head at Walverden, the situation has been

SIOBHAN COLLINGWOOD, HEAD TEACHER MORECAMBE BAY PRIMARY SCHOOL “My visit from the DfE broker came about because we were on a list of schools that were ‘of concern’ and he wanted to talk to me with a view to considering conversion to an academy. “He said we were below floor levels at one point – even though they were applied retrospectively. I told him we’d been above for three of the past four years in any case. He said he was sure we’d convince him that we were doing fine and we’d never need to hear from him again. “Even so, I had many things to prepare. It was like a mini-inspection – standards over the past five years; standards on entry; progress; governors’ meetings; school-improvement plans; issues from the last inspection. It took a week to get all the data together. Our school is complicated. We’re in an area where more than 90 per cent of pupils are in areas of very high social deprivation. Our transience is around 60 per cent too so it makes tracking difficult. You do well in a cohort, but then it changes completely. “I also asked him about using only a certain set of data (level 4 combined) – he said it was all he was interested in. I tried to argue that it went against what Mr Gove had said, but his answer was simply along the lines of this is how it works. All along there was a veiled threat that ratchets up the pressure. He’d say things like: ‘As long as I don’t see any misbehaviour while I’m walking around, then things will be okay.’ “In the event he was bowled over by the school, which isn’t surprising since we take some challenging and deprived children and do a fantastic job. We’re known as a school with an engaging and motivating curriculum. We used to have problems with exclusion rates, but not now. Attendance levels are above national averages, and results are in line with them. “So the broker went away very impressed, but he was still warning us that he’d keep a watching brief and as long as results didn’t dip below floor level in any of the four indicators over the next three years he wouldn’t need to revisit. After he had finished talking to me, he talked to my chair of governors and did a sales pitch about the benefits of academisation. He said we’d join a chain, because our results wouldn’t allow us to go in on our own. Even that’s questionable, as we’re good to outstanding with Ofsted, our progress indicators are above national average and our attainment is in line with national averages. “Also, I would be line managed, but would have some autonomy because I was ‘part of the solution, not the problem’. I thought: ‘What problem? And where’s the greater independence?’ “I think we should be held up as a model of good practice, not told we have a problem. It’s a very corrosive process. The whole language is vile and derogatory. At the end of the day, our school is a little oasis of hope. Children who live very troubled lives are well supported and achieve very highly. They become aspirational and motivated. We consider ourselves to be minor miracle workers.”


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annoying rather than stressful. “I don’t get easily intimidated,” she says, “but they do use language that is quite threatening. I actually asked the broker at one point if he was threatening me – he said that he wasn’t. It wasn’t aggressive, but the message was clear, it’s ‘do what we want you to or we’ll force you’.” Margaret has had two visits from brokers now and reports that there is an obsession that academy status will solve all the school’s problems. “For them, it is the be-all and end-all. What annoys me most is that they keep referring to ‘these failing schools’ – but it depends on the attainment of pupils on entry into a school. Baseline attainment on entry into our reception classes is one of the lowest in Lancashire – our Ofsted reports make it clear that the majority of children come in with little or no English.” The issues that Walverden faces are complex and are linked to social and cultural issues. The school has also had huge problems with a transient population. Children would often have been to four or five schools before they joined Walverden in Key Stage 2. Not surprisingly they had huge gaps in their learning, but the school was simply told to make accelerated progress so that they achieve a Level 4 by the end of Year Six. Again, this frustrates Margaret. “If the teacher keeps on having new pupils it causes considerable problems regarding continuity. She has to constantly keep going over things that some of the children might have studied already. Low attainment at the end of Key Stage 2 doesn’t always mean there is an issue with a school’s management and teaching staff.” Fortunately, Walverden has full intakes into most year groups, so this problem has diminished. In addition, the school’s provisional KS2 results are good and show that the children have made extremely good progress during their time at the school. But even this has come at a cost. “We’ve had to teach to the test and, for some children, we have had to take them out of non-core subject lessons in order to give them additional English and maths sessions. It’s not the way to give them a good education, 42

TONY ROBERTS: CONSPIRACY THEORY “We’ve had lots of schools getting in touch with their local branch to say: ‘We have had a phone call from the DfE and somebody wants to come and see us.’ The interesting thing is that it ranges from schools in special measures and under a notice to improve – and they are particularly vulnerable – to the other extreme. There are a growing number of schools who are either on an improved trajectory – or who have been able to prove that the data the DfE is using is either wrong or out of date. “With those on an improved trajectory, our view is that these schools are attractive because if they can be made to go academy now, by the time you go into them in another 18 months or two years, Michael Gove will be able to turn around and say ‘We took these schools over and look how much they have improved’.”

but that’s what the DfE wants us do,” she says. The school has appealed against the warning notice that the DfE has forced the local authority to issue and Ofsted has said that the future of Walverden rests on these KS2 results. The chair of governors, Philip Berry, like Margaret, would rather things stayed as they are: “Lancashire County Council provides a great deal of support to Walverden and I doubt that any of the academy chains are capable of equalling their quality of service. It would be foolish to the point of recklessness for us to turn our back on this in favour of organisations that are still unproven.” Les Turner, NAHT Lancashire president, has been supporting his region’s schools against the often intimidatory approach taken by the DfE: “Our members are being told that if they don’t choose to become an academy they will lose their job and their governing body will be dismissed and replaced by an interim board who

Our members are being told that if they don’t choose to become an academy they will lose their jobs. Some members have been in tears

will force them to become an academy. Some members have been in tears.” Les recently wrote to all the NAHT members in Lancashire outlining his frustration: “I am very angry with the Schools Commissioner’s statement. How about 88 outstanding primary schools? How about far fewer primary schools in Ofsted categories than our statistical neighbours? How about many of the ‘failing’ schools turning themselves around with first-rate local authority support?” he wrote. “Let us focus on the real reason for the attack and that is Lancashire not embracing the academy agenda. The majority have rejected it because they felt that they lost more than they gained, so the agenda has changed to a policy of force. What do you do with bullies? You stand up to them.” Laura agrees: “The NAHT has been at the forefront of protecting school leaders against the forced-academies agenda. It has supported many members and leadership teams faced with threats from the DfE or local authority. It has succeeded on dozens of occasions at getting inappropriate threats lifted from schools and at cutting through any obfuscation.” • The NAHT is working alongside Browne Jacobson to support and protect school leadership teams and has produced an online toolkit for schools facing academisation (http://tinyurl. com/c24h3zp). But the first step for any school leaders in this invidious position should be to call the NAHT advice line on 0300 30 30 333.


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“Inspirational teachers creating inspired pupils”

Now is your opportunity to bring your school or business to the fore and win one the highest accolades in the education sector. The Education Resources Awards (ERA) are in their 15th successful year and will once again celebrate the best in education. To find out more and to enter these prestigious awards please visit or call the ERA team on: 01622 623164 Closing date to enter is 14th January 2013

Education today

How will you capture parent, pupil and staff feedback for inspection now? Ofsted tell us that “inspections will give greater consideration to the views of parents, pupils and staff as important evidence” gathered during an inspection. It is therefore imperative that school leadership teams have the right tools in place to maximise self-evaluation processes and outcomes.

“…it’s more important than ever that schools know the views of their parents, pupils and staff. The surveys developed by Kirkland Rowell provide useful data to help you prepare for the new inspection framework and identify priorities for your school improvement plan.” Russell Hobby, NAHT General Secretary

From September 2012, Ofsted will no longer provide parent (unless requested initially, then faded out altogether) or pupil paper questionnaires as part of the inspection process. This will therefore leave inspectors to draw on the views of parents through the Parent View website and through those pupils they interview.

Enhanced with a fully representative evidence summary of all questions on the Parent View website, NAHT-recommended Kirkland Rowell Surveys establish and monitor the changing perceptions of parents, pupils and staff, an increasingly important aspect of the new NAHT M discounts ember inspection framework. – contac available tu details q s for full uoti GLP200 ng

With so much negative feedback surrounding Parent View, how will you show Ofsted the positive comments your parents are saying about you?


To discuss how our resources can effectively help you prepare for your next inspection, please contact us:

Tel: 0191 270 8270 Email:


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A closer working relationship with parents of SEND children is leading to ‘achievement for all’, as Joy Persaud reports


is for… Achievement



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upils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) encounter myriad challenges – especially when they are seen to exist in a bubble that sets them apart from the rest of their school. To address the inequalities that these pupils can face, Achievement for All (AfA), a programme focusing on raising achievement, access and aspiration was developed. Since it was piloted in 2009 and rolled out two years later, it has been so successful that 1,170 schools have signed up for it in just nine months [at the time of writing]. The pilot, covering 28,000 pupils, was the largest piece of research carried out on SEND in western Europe.

AfA is largely based on opening up channels of communication between parents (or carers) and those who educate the child at school. This holistic, commonsense approach involves holding structured conversations, where parents and teachers regularly meet to discuss the child’s needs in detail and agree targets. The results of the pilot and initial rollout are impressive, with 75 per cent of schools saying anecdotally that the programme has made a positive impact after just one term of implementation. Also, independent evaluation by the CONTINUED ON PAGE 46 ➧


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University of Manchester found that the pupils on the pilot had progressed farther and were excluded less than their SEND peers who were not on the programme. So how does it work? Professor Sonia Blandford, chief executive of Achievement for All 3As, the charity that runs the AfA programme, explains that a school champion – usually a head teacher or deputy – works with an AfA ‘achievement coach’ to ascertain the children’s needs. The coaches – who are head teachers or senior leaders with a track record of success with low-achieving pupils, plus National Leaders in Education (NLEs) – provide tailored support. They focus on improving SEND pupils’ progress in reading, writing and maths, as well as boosting engagement with parents. Prof Blandford says: “It’s been so successful because it’s a framework between the coach and the school, and we are working in schools that range from being in special measures to outstanding. The outstanding ones want to see how they can become even more outstanding.” Anne Johnson, head teacher of Dormanstown Primary School in Redcar became involved in AfA when her local authority approached her about the pilot. She told Leadership Focus: “The principles were very much in line with what we wanted to do at the school. What was exciting was the opportunity to try to be innovative.” She admits that carrying out the structured conversations and recording

We are looking at how we can help vulnerable learners and those on free school meals, and who are looked after, in addition to SEND

the findings for the pilot research team was a challenge. “We were trying to give parents an hour each, three times a year – that’s a lot of time, especially if you have a lot of children with special needs. There was a lot of training needed – most was done in school. “The pilot funding helped with that. Structured conversations are about teachers not interrupting the parents talking. They used to last an hour but that was a bit of a strain for parents and teachers so now it’s half an hour. “At the time we started it we had a significant number of parents whose children had SEND or were

achieving below expectations and [the parents] really didn’t want to come into school. Perhaps they themselves had bad experiences…” Anne and her AfA colleagues felt that parents’ “shutters came down” when talk turned to literacy and numeracy, so after identifying a preference for arts and crafts, they invited them in for creative days. The school invited a puppet maker in to teach parents and children how to make puppets together. They also laid on a spread for the parents and took the opportunity to get to know them in an informal setting. This culminated in a performance for those who had participated. The puppet making was followed up with a ‘mad hatter’s tea party’ for all the school’s children, who planned a menu, made hats and decorated cups with their parents’ help. “[Pupils and parents] became very proud of what they were doing and we started to have the opportunity to talk much less formally as we became less intimidating,” Anne recalls. “Parents were much happier coming in. By the time we were ringing to say that we were doing structured conversations, the parents were very happy to talk. We have just finished the third year of working and I haven’t got one parent who has not been into the school and worked with us at least once. “We have found that parents are much more inclined to support us when we are doing one-to-ones with the children – they are talking to them in a much more informed way.

ACHIEVEMENT FOR ALL: PILOT SCHEME FINDINGS Funded by the DfE, the AfA pilot worked with head teachers and senior leadership teams in 450 schools across 10 LAs and focused on pupils with SEND. • The pilot narrowed the attainment gap between children with SEND and non-SEND children. • 42 per cent achieved or exceeded expected levels of progress for all pupils nationally in maths. • 37 per cent of children achieved or exceeded expected national levels of progress in English. • Improvements in attendance, with a decrease of just over 10 per cent in persistent absenteeism. • Behaviour of pupils improved, with reductions in


teacher-reported bullying and behaviour problems. • Awareness and focus on SEND improved, with more personalised teaching and learning. • Schools reporting ‘excellent relationships with parents’ rose from 12 per cent to 48 per cent. • 90 per cent of schools have put Achievement for All in their school plan, and nearly all said they will continue with regular conversations with parents. • For children with complex needs, those on free school meals and those with English as an additional language, progress was good but slower than their peers. Source: University of Manchester/Achievement for All


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1 Improved parent collaboration and communication. 2 Closed many attainment gaps for SEND and vulnerable learners. 3 Improved access, aspiration and overall achievement for SEND and vulnerable learners. 4 Enabled school leaders to reflect on effectiveness of inclusivity. 5 Ensured evaluation and rigour to intervention. 6 Enabled shared staff accountability in children’s progress. 7 Enabled impact of wider opportunities to be measured. 8 Enabled leadership development of middle leaders who, by taking on whole school tasks or outward-facing tasks, improved their capacity. 9 Raised profile of SEND progress. 10 Staff now strive for ‘achievement for all’, not ‘achievement for some’.

1 Reflect on your leadership vision for inclusivity – how effective is your leadership? 2 Do current school systems support your vision? 3 Who owns the vision – does the school have collective responsibility? 4 Share accountability: it’s not just for the Senco or TA. 5 Investigate how to liaise and communicate better with parents – are some simply scared to come in? 6 Once parents are engaged, listen – don’t talk. Ideas, and opportunities, arise this way. 7 Involve the extended schools lead in children’s progress plan. 8 Track trends for attendance, bullying, progress and extended-schools participation. It may highlight trends and opportunities. 9 Link up with other schools to cluster best practices or share AfA lead teachers. 10 Target parents to see what support they need and what difficulties they have. The school has taught some parents how to read and write and most work within the school.

When we are doing the parent consultations – the non-structured ones – the teachers talk less. We ask key questions and get parents to talk. Although funding has gone, we are committed to continuing with the structured conversations. It has fundamentally changed the way we do things.” The success that AfA has had with SEND pupils looks set to expand. Prof Blandford says that while the fundamentals of AfA – achievement, access and aspiration – will remain, other pupils will come under its umbrella. She says: “We are looking at how we can help vulnerable learners and those on free school meals, and who are looked after, in addition to SEND, as requested by the DfE – we are extending our area of activity as of October 2012 half term.” This is something that Chris Wheatley, head teacher at Cotgrave Candleby Lane Primary School, near Nottingham, has already undertaken. He was so enthused by the AfA principles, which fit in with his ethos of inclusivity, that he grasped its tenets without becoming part of the pilot. He includes vulnerable groups, such as pupils on free school meals, in the school’s AfA programme. He explains: “It was about me first of all: I was asking other head teachers ‘how inclusive are you?’ – and it was a question I wanted to ask myself. Is it about every single child succeeding? I was also finding whether our teaching assistants were in the same boat.

“I was a Senco earlier in my career and it was always the case that when an issue was raised the other staff would look at the Senco when it was anything to do with SEN. I wanted to challenge whose role it was and wanted accountability. Progress should be collective, with as many people as possible. “The extended schools coordinator was involved as well – which led to brilliant things. We noticed that there was a real passion for ice skating among the children after Dancing on Ice. Thirty per cent of the children in Years 5 and 6 were inspired but couldn’t get to the ice rink so, we built it into the PE programme. Three children have been offered scholarships for speed skating and figure skating.” He says, however, that he had to break the expectation among some staff that certain pupils wouldn’t achieve because they were SEND, had free meals or underachieving parents. “Every time I did a staff meeting or met parents, or was having a cup of coffee in the staff room, I was talking about AfA. For the first time, teachers and TAs were talking about children they didn’t teach. It was an aspirational issue. As soon as aspiration starts, the wheels turn. The staff were happier with the children’s Sats success than the children themselves. AfA has given us the opportunity to investigate whether we cooperate and collaborate with parents well enough.” Chris believes that the traditional parents’ evenings were inadequate and

no longer holds them, preferring to focus only on the structured conversations – as often as they are required. Through the technique, the school discovered that one child, a non-attender, was in fact caring for her six-month-old sibling. “Without a structured conversation, we would never have known,” he says. “We were not even aware of the baby. The 11-year-old, who had a chaotic background, wanted to be a waitress when she was older – we brought her into our breakfast club so she was running it and doing the marketing and she brought the child into the crèche. She never missed a day. She left at level 4 – a whole level up.” • AfA website: SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2012 ● LEADERSHIP FOCUS 47

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WHAT’S NEW? The latest products, books and teaching resources Make-Believe Play... y Carol Woodard, with Carri Milch Jessica Kingsley Publishers £19.99

This colourful book encourages children to think creatively and interact socially with others to help foster cognitive and social development. The colourful pages and step-by-step guides are designed to add drama to everyday activities. This book should allow teachers to interact in a more exciting way with their students and it will aid trainee teachers to introduce drama and make-believe play to classroom activities. The author is professor emeritus in early childhood education at the State University of New York in Buffalo.

Preparing to Teach in Secondary Schools Edited by Val Brooks, Ian Abbott and Prue Huddlestone McGraw Hill £24.99

This book is very much a product of the University of Warwick and it claims to be the ‘definitive guide for trainee and newly qualified secondary school teachers’. Among the core topics are ‘how pupils learn’ and ‘positive approaches to pupil behaviour’. New chapters deal with raising attainment, safeguarding and child protection. As you would expect there are plenty of examples from real practice, plus links to web resources.


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An A n ‘o ‘out-of-this-world’ out-o of-tthiss-worlld’ ch challenge halleenge Last a tm month nt Nasa’s a ’ss C Curiosity i s y rover o r sent sen ent b back aacck tthe hee ffirst h s 33D D iim images maagges e o off tth the he Martian Ma M art rtian n surface. ssurfa face. e. It I had haad taken h taaken n itt eight eiigght months m n h to ttravel v thee 3352 million i o miles tto oM Mars. arss. T The h he siz size ze o off a sma small alll car,r, C car Curiosity uriiosity t relied do on nah he heat eatt sh shield, hielld d, parachute, par racch hute, rocke rockets kets an and nd ccables ab bless to o llower ow werr itt tto tth the gground. rou und d. Th T The h hee PPr Promethian rom metth hiaan Pla Planet aneet w website eb bsitte o offers fffferss an n in insight nsiggh ht iinto nto o the the challenges ch halleenggess th the he m mission isssio on faced facced d with a video video from fro om the th he National Nattionall IInstitute nsttitu utee off Aero Aerospace osp pacee aaimed imed at KS KS4 S4 sstudents. tudentss p y

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Teaching Te Tea achin ng rresources eso ourcess ffor or Black Bla ack H History isstoryy M Month onth Teaacch Teachers’ Te heerss’ packs pac ackks linked link nked e to to the tth he national nati a io onall ccurriculum u urrricu cullum m are arree now n no ow aavailable va vailab able in n rea readiness ead din neesss fo for or O October. ctto ob ber er Th T The he mo m month onth nh will seee many w m ny events e n s and n publications p b c o s devoted e o e tto celebrating cel ce leeb brating a ng b bla black acckk h histo history tory aand thee res resources eso ou urce ces rrange ang nge from fro rom looking loo ookkin ng aatt ‘Black Blaacck p B pre presence esseen ncee in n tth the he Tudor Tu ud do orr times’ ttim mes to to Britain Bri ritain it i i 1750-1900, 1750 175 750 0--1900 190 900 0, and an dB Britain rita i ain ssin since ncce 194 1948. 948 8. T Th The he mo m month onth th b be began eggaan iin n tthe he U h Un United nite ted SStates ta tates es iin 192 1926 926 w when heen historian his h storrian nC Carter Woodson Wood dso on and and d the tth he Association Asso ociiatio t on fforr tth the he SStudy ttu ud dy off N Ne Negro egrro LLife ife fe and dH History isttoryy an announced nno oun nceed tthe he secon h second nd we week eek off FFe February eb bru uaryy to ob bee ‘Ne ‘Negro Negro oH Histo History oryy Week’. We W eekk’. W Woodson oodson d n ((p (pictured) picttureed d) sett it i up p with with the h hope op pe tthat hat h t iit wo would ould b bee eliminated elim min nateed when wh hen n black b bllackk history h hiisto ory became beecam b me fundamental ffundam d menttal to Am American merricaan h history. isttoryy. The U UK K ado adopted optted d Octo October obeer as as Black Blacck History Histtoryy Month Mon nth h in 1987. 198 87. y

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Learningg Outside the Primary Classroom Fred Sedgwick Routledge £21.99

The author begins by exploring the possibilities presented by playgrounds and sports fields, before moving beyond the school gates to explore shops, parks, religious centres, libraries and town halls. The final chapters look at largerscale day trips to art galleries and museums, along with more ambitious field trips. As he notes in his introduction, “children are persuaded to live in the belief that abstract marks on paper (literacy/ numeracy) have more reality than the stones and muck of a field, or the birds and the clouds”.

Cyberbullying and E-Safety Adrienne Katz £18.99 Jessica Kingsley Publishers

The author is an expert in this field, having had an input into government guidance, served as a regional adviser for the Anti-Bullying Alliance and delivered anti-bullying training to many local authorities and schools. Cyber bullying is rife as handheld devices tend not to be shared with parents and young users tend to be ‘always on’. Compounding this, technology is advancing fast and the law has been slow to catch up. Fortunately, Adrienne has some useful advice.


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A mission with a difference A recent thesis on academies shows leadership issues in an interesting light

Focus on improvement Mark, who is starting a new job as leader of post-16 education at Bristnall Hall Academy in Oldbury, West Midlands, expands on the school leadership elements of his thesis. “School improvement is seemingly on one track: results,” he says. “But we should be talking about changing the culture and ethos of school, because this is sustainable. You can walk into any secondary school and you can feel the ethos. Walk into a school doing improvement through league tables, and there’s not always the same importance put on behaviour. “There’s too much emphasis on outcomes. The learning culture gives youngsters something special for life, rather than pieces of paper.” 50

Talking to principals and sponsors of the early academies, he has found that in most cases the sponsor effectively dictates the ethos. “The problem is whether the principal buys into it. From my research it’s clear they feel very strongly about it, that the vision of the educator has to be the same as theirs.” He adds: “Chains are different. Some are very didactic. Some give principals a lot of room; others say results had better go up or you are out of a job.”

Support systems Mark says academy chains can feel like a more helpful support system, citing a principal in a 12-strong academy chain who could pick up the phone and talk to someone much more easily than in a local authority (LA) of 70 schools. However, LAs may have given principals more time and space for long-term improvement. Mark is also interested in induction, where principals are whisked off to be

steeped in what the sponsor wants. “In one case they were taken to Chicago and New York and told: that’s how to run inner-city schools. It’s a fascinating approach: you must think this, this is our ethos.” While this time away from school may be helpful in formulating policies, the problem is that academy culture can militate against school improvement, he says. “If you have principals wanting a long-term change in culture, their contract of employment might not be guaranteed for the length of time necessary to make those changes.” Politicians are also looking for quick fixes – so who can help principals in sustainable improvements? Mark chuckles. “I think Ofsted is looking for more than just results and they do comment upon ethics and culture of a school significantly. Bizarrely, it’s their saving grace in terms of a public statement of what a school is doing, apart from outcomes in league tables.” All this, he muses, is changing the nature of headship. “It’s more about inspiring people and getting them to feel the mission, rather than creating the mission in the first place.” • Mark Gibson’s thesis is called Leadership of academy schools in England: sponsors and the realisation of ethos and vision. For more on Belmas, please visit • Tell me about your school – I’d love to share your stories with LF readers. Email


School improvement was the rationale behind the first generation of academies, as created by the previous Labour Government. This intrigued school leader Mark Gibson, who was observing from close quarters what happened when two schools in Wolverhampton reopened as one shiny new academy. What would happen to the leadership of principals working with school chains or sponsors? Who would call the shots on ethos, or determine how schools would be improved? Many weeks of research later, Mark presented a draft of his doctoral thesis to academics and fellow school leaders at the British Educational Leadership Management and Administration Society (Belmas) conference earlier this summer.


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