The life of a Lead Practitioner

reading time: 3m 15s

Prior to joining Studley, I was Head of Maths at a secondary school in Sandwell. Wanting a new challenge and an opportunity to broaden my experience, I saw the advert for Maths Lead Practitioner at an outstanding Warwickshire school and knew I had to apply!

So I have just completed two years as Maths Lead Practitioner and time has flown by. I felt it was an appropriate time to reflect on my accomplishments and contributions so far:

The luxury of being an experienced Head of Mathematics, but now being Lead Practitioner, is that I am not solely responsible for data, curriculum development or recruitment/retention of Maths teachers. I am able to support the Head of Maths and the second in department adding value to the department, but also offering support across the school and further afield to other schools.

One area I have been responsible for, is the promotion of numeracy across the school. Creating resources, driving in-house competitions, entering national competitions, developing the student prefects’ Maths ambassador role and working with other departments on cross-curricular projects. The numeracy tutor challenge, accompanied with the literacy tutor challenge, has been able to incorporate other departments and subjects to find different ways to provide our students with a snapshot of cross-curricular links with numeracy. With the excellent support of all tutor groups these initiatives strive to widen student awareness of the importance of Maths outside of their mathematics lessons.

I have also been part of the Teaching & Learning working party with a group of teachers who volunteer to meet up every half term to support in the consistency and development of T&L at Studley High School. Initially this was a great opportunity to meet other teachers but has also grown into delivering workshops on teacher training days and whole school briefings. This could be sharing best practice from across the school, but also sharing new research from institutions such as the Endowment Education Foundation. https://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/

More recently, I have become a Senior Leader of Education (SLE). An excellent opportunity for me to be able to meet colleagues at local primary and secondary schools and support them in the development of their Maths departments. This is a very challenging and responsible role. I represent the Shires TSA and I am thoroughly enjoying the wide ranging support I have been able to offer so far in this role. Teaching Maths is not easy, and the more networking and support we can give to each other, the more likely this will positively affect the retention of teachers and development of our subject.

You can read more about becoming a specialist leader here:https://www.shirestsa.co.uk/school-to-school-support/leaders-in-education/sle/

Mrs L Wakefield
Studley High School

Treading the boards with young people

reading time: 4m 9s

Kerri Boyle is a Graduate Support Assistant at Studley High School. She starts her teacher training in September 2019 and shared with us, an overview of her life as a choreographer working with 5-16 year old students, in musical theatre:

Before I worked at Studley High School I was already involved in working with children in the Performing Arts. In my spare time I choreograph for Lollipop Youth Theatre, a youth musical theatre group in Worcester. Lollipop is a youth musical theatre society with a difference; we do not audition children to be in the company and accept children of all abilities. We have a range of children with special needs such as tourettes, ASD, Aspergers and others.

I work with children between the ages of 5-16 which can provide many challenges in itself. I have worked with Lollipop for over a year now and am currently working on my third show with them.

A standard rehearsal tends to go like this:

  • Get the children to be quiet, take a register, explain what we’re doing, get them warmed up physically and vocally.
  • If it’s a dance rehearsal, I will get them to recap what we’ve already done.
  • We will then walk through the dance and carry on learning a new section, break times, rehearse and repeat, record, go home.

This, however, doesn’t include all the extra work I will have to put in before we even get to rehearsal. I need to turn up with a dance already choreographed, set places for the children to stand in and a method of getting into and out of the dance. I need to acquire the music from our MD (which can sometimes be a challenge in itself!)

 

I’m not going to pretend that it’s all sunshine and roses because it is hard work. We have over 50 children in our company so we are presented with many different challenges during each rehearsal. Getting the children to be quiet to begin with, can be a challenge in itself as there are so many of them and they have so much energy but equally it is one of the things I love about teaching in such an informal setting. They make me laugh so much, each rehearsal with the bloopers and the things they can do or say. I’ve had to ban ‘flossing’, ‘dabbing’ and other dances from well known video games! I have to break down the dances during rehearsal and even have to change or re-choreograph something on the spot if the children can’t pick it up or it is too fast for them.

The real challenge comes with finding a balance in the choreography so that everyone can take part. I need to create dances that are not too fast or too difficult for our younger members and are not too slow or boring for our older more capable dancers. We have to deal with pastoral and safeguarding issues week in week out too, not to mention our children’s many needs.

 

Our current show, ‘Wizard of Oz’ in particular, has been a real challenge because on top of all of the things I have to do as a choreographer, not to mention the things I do as a production team member too, I have had to learn new styles of dance as the licensing requires the ‘Jitterbug’ dance to have styles of Jazz, Charleston, Jive, Jitterbug and others in it’s choreography!

 

There are times when I wonder why I do it, when I have to get out of bed at 7:30am on a Saturday morning after a full week of work or when I’m spending everyday after work in a theatre for technical rehearsals and dress rehearsals.

But, these children genuinely bring a light to my life. When you see that lightbulb moment, when they finally have cracked a dance. When you see what some of them go through on a daily basis; the challenges they have to overcome and how they change when they are on stage. When you see the unbreakable bonds they have made with other children. When you see a 16 year old comforting a scared 5 year old or showing them where they need to be – that’s why I give up my time, my patience and my sanity because at the end of the day, these are the children who will become our future actors, singers, dancers, technicians, teachers, lecturers. They are the reason I am now pursuing a career as a teacher of Drama because I want to be the one who encourages that enthusiasm, I want to be the one who tells them “you can 100% do this”, I want to be the one who believes in them and helps them succeed.

Drama is so much more than being able to perform, than having a talent for acting. It’s about teamwork, creativity, resilience, spontaneity, flexibility, passion, enthusiasm, commitment, dedication and so much more. These are the skills that inform our characters. They teach our children “it’s okay to fail, it’s okay to get up and try again”.

#teachmeet or #notteachmeet

reading time 1m 33s

For those who have lived under a rock for the past 10 years, a ‘teachmeet’ is an organised (informal) meeting of teaching staff, to share personal insight and best practice in teaching.

The meets are often described as an ‘unconference’ and are free of charge, open to all.

This month, three of us at Studley High School, booked to attend and deliver at a local TeachMeet. the format is fairly standard:

  • Micro-presentations – lasting 7 minutes
  • Nano-presentations – lasting 2 minutes nano presentation (3-5 one after the other)
  • Round-table break-outs – lasting 15 minutes or so, allowing focussed discussion around a theme, with a volunteer facilitator
  • Random selection of speakers – from a pool of willing participants
Participants (in this case, us!) volunteer to demonstrate good practice.

The Teach Meet opened with an introduction from keynote speaker Gary Toward @gltoward of Decisive Element http://www.decisive-element.co.uk/home. He shared anecdotes of his own teaching career and the importance of our role in supporting young people, calling us “the decisive element in the classroom”. He used a quote from Maya Angelou:

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel

Aside from the fun elements, of winning prizes in raffles (yes, Mrs Wakefield won a prize!) and networking, there are some seriously relevant topics to learn from here and we think.

Topics covered at this event included: Learning through PlayDoughTophat questioningMetacognition and Pupil Premium in KS3, but to name a few. We took many ideas back to school, with the intention of implementing them into our practice.

This was a thoroughly enjoyable evening, and afforded us the opportunity to hear about real practice in real classrooms. If you get the chance to go to one, go! If you want to plan one, there are some useful tips here and to attend one, try Twitter, where they are often widely advertised, using the #teachmeet hashtag.

Mrs Case (Maths), Mrs Harris (Chemistry) & Mrs Wakefield (Maths) – Studley High School

reading time 3 minutes 25s

Whilst visiting Harlech Castle, Wales, at the age of 12 I looked up at the castle and wondered what the very narrow windows were for.

After walking around the site and finding an information board, I soon discovered that these were in fact ‘loopholes’.

After further investigation, I discovered that these holes were built especially to shoot arrows from, whilst keeping the shooter themselves fairly shielded from returning fire.

Since that discovery, my passion for History grew and when my younger brother started to ask similar questions and I was able to answer and explain them to him (which is when my passion for teaching also began to flower, I think!)

My first experience of teaching was during my time at Sea Cadets where I taught small groups of cadets, usually around 3-5 at a time, basic seamanship, stewardship and drill.

During my A-levels I was part of a teaching support programme, helping the history teacher teach GCSE classes. Through my University studies, I volunteered as part of an aspirational mentoring programme working with pupils at Ysgol Uwchradd Caergybi to stay in education and complete their GCSEs. I also helped to teach specific techniques and skills in the Uni Jiu Jitsu club.

I pursued my passion for History, by continuing my studies, completing a Masters at Bangor University, graduating in June 2016 (after writing two dissertations, one on Edward I and his Scottish campaigns from 1297-1307, and the other on William of Newburgh and the Historia rerum Anglicarum). This second master’s level dissertation led me to the beginning of my currently ongoing part time PhD, researching more thoroughly William of Newburgh and his Historia.

I am inspired by History – and love to study Henry II, the first Plantagenet king, and his family.

Henry himself controlled the biggest empire since Charlemagne and was a formidable opponent, but you could argue that if it wasn’t for his dysfunctional family he could have become more and so could his heirs. (Oh, and I don’t love all areas of History…particularly modern British politics, quite possibly due to Andrew Marr’s documentary on the subject.)

This combination of a love of History and a passion for teaching others, brought me to where I am now – training to teach History!

Whilst I am currently still pursuing my passion for History with my PhD, I am now aiming to fulfill my dream of teaching others, so that when a child looks up at a castle, sees a funny looking window and asks ‘what is it?’ – I can inspire them in the same way I was inspired.

I was recently asked “what would your history teacher would have said about you?’ and I am extremely proud to be able to quote his words directly from the reference he gave for my Uni application:

In 15 years of teaching, I have never taught anyone with such a genuine love for a subject as Kate has for History….she has a subject overview which would put many teachers to shame. Underpinning this is a genuine desire to appreciate the factors which shape the world around her. In addition to her subject knowledge, she demonstrated skills which have paved the way for her success at AS History, and it is this combination of enthusiasm and impressive and advanced skills which made her ideally suited to her degree course of History. 

(Mr Larkin, St. Augustine’s High School, 2012).

Ms K Sims
Trainee Teacher of History

Aspiring Leaders

Aspiring Leaders – The Next Generation

Leadership is not a rank. Leadership is a choice.

(Simon Sinek Leaders Eat Last – 2013).

We have recently had the privilege of hosting an Aspiring Leaders’ Conference on behalf of University of Worcester with the primary aim of reflecting on how to develop leadership characteristics and qualities in the first years of teaching. With a room packed full of PGCE/School Direct trainees who had applied to attend the training, expectations were high that  this would be an exciting day. Second to that, was the opportunity to meet a wide range of leaders within our school context; to hear stories and experiences of how different staff members progressed into ‘Leadership’.

As part of this day, our ‘aspiring leaders’ explored well-researched and evidence based leadership behaviours, habits and competencies that contribute to superior performance in all areas of the profession. For me, as a new Assistant Headteacher, the experience had the added benefit of giving a personal opportunity to reflect on key characteristics that any ‘aspiring leader’ should aim to instil in their professional life. By the end of the session, leaders from across the school had shared their words and wisdom and as a group, had highlighted the importance of the following traits (a non-exhaustive list!)

Don’t forget the ‘why’!

As Simon Sinek argues:

Every single person, every single organisation on the planet knows what they do, 100 percent. Some know how they do it … But very, very few people or organisations know why they do what they do. And by “why” I don’t mean “to make a profit.” … By “why” I mean: What’s your purpose?What’s your cause? What’s your belief? Why does your organisation exist? Why do you get out of bed in the morning? And why should anyone care?

Teachers care. It is part of the key attributes that make a teacher in that we all have a common purpose and understanding of ‘why’ we get up in the morning; the children we teach, help and support. At the heart of effective leadership has to be a sole focus on improving the educational experiences and outcomes for the children we teach. It’s all about impact. Everything we do, for the effective leader, has impact at the heart of it.

What is your why and how do you share that with your colleagues?

‘Set out your stall’

Above all else, our next leaders will be those establishing themselves in their classrooms now. Effective leadership begins, and continues, in the classroom. Visible leadership, that which pupils and parents and staff comment on, is long-lasting and develops a professional reputation no matter what stage of your career.

For any aspiring leader, opportunities need to be embraced, expected behaviour needs to be modelled constantly, and the ‘setting out of your stall’ and what you stand for starts from day one.

When your pupils go home after school – how will they describe the learning in your classroom?

Get things done!

Teachers, even the best leaders, will face times when an overwhelming sense of ‘stuff’ that needs to happen just won’t get done. There is never a ‘quiet time’ of the year anymore. Exam groups may go but teaching staff are constantly moving on to the next cohort, looking for ways to develop intervention and/or support work. Procrastination is the enemy of the effective leader.

Sometimes difficult decisions need to be made. Avoiding them, ignoring them or trying to divert them may buy time but will lead to greater problems.

The effective leader gets things done. They use their team, rather than dictating or trying to do other people’s jobs. They inspire and motivate and build teams that achieve, whether in the classroom, department or school wide.

How can you plan ahead and learn to prioritise?

Never stop learning

As teachers, we constantly emphasise the importance of learning. We expect pupils to reflect, review and amend in order to improve and progress. We need to expect the same from ourselves. Leadership requires experience. Not in terms of years of dedicated ‘service’ but in terms of facing a variety of situations. Effective leaders will take all of these situations and review what worked, what needs improvement and what could be done differently next time. Above all else, our new teachers need to embrace failure on their path to leadership.

When will you build in time to reflect?

Leading takes time

There is no one path, no one route, no fixed journey into ‘leadership’. Gone are the days when teachers specialise in one area. We all take responsibility for data, teaching and learning, pastoral support, vulnerable groups. The best leaders will experience different aspects of school life and develop their skills based on this.

How will you develop your skill set and address any areas of weakness?

You are never going to be ‘ready for it’!

In the midst of a rapidly changing educational and policy landscape, and with more demands on schools than ever, surely now is not the time to be promoting leadership to colleagues so early on in their career?

Nothing could be further from the truth. It is because of these demands and changing landscape that exceptional, driven and determined leaders are required by schools more than ever.

As a member of a Senior Leadership team, succession planning is essential for ensuring the continual development of department areas, management models and leadership capacity. Succession planning is increasingly being used to support bespoke CPD models, that support and challenge aspirational and able staff.

It is comforting that, despite controversy over teacher recruitment, education policy and political upheavals of this year, our new cohort of teachers are not perturbed and are ready to embrace a leadership journey with a passion for learning and excellence at the heart of all they do. Our children and our schools are in safe hands!

 

Amy Page
Assistant Head, Studley High School
ITT Lead