I was thrilled to receive the below e-mail in my inbox a couple of weeks ago:
‘… Good news to share!
After a stressful few days and sleepless nights, we received extremely positive feedback yesterday and were awarded good judgements in all areas.
This is indeed a big achievement for our school community and your input has been significant in guiding us in the right direction and supporting us over the past two years. I thank you from the bottom of my heart. …’
Following their recent Ofsted inspection (where the school attained a ‘good’ in all categories and overall, a big ‘step up’ from their previous inspection two years ago), it was time for me to return to Al-Ashraf Secondary School for Girls in Gloucester to discuss the inspectors’ report at length with the Head Teacher, Mr Patel, and decide how best to address some of the points raised in the section entitled ‘What does the school need to do to improve?’.
Both the Head Teacher and I felt the report was very fair; many positive features were noted and several realistic areas for development were identified. Staff were praised for the support that they give to each other. However, it was mentioned that ‘senior leaders need to ensure that teachers who are the only ones teaching a subject, as in physical education, geography and business studies, have access to similar support and guidance.’ The report stated that teachers generally plan learning well and make the aim of each series of lessons clear for pupils to understand. Nevertheless, it was suggested that ‘senior leaders need to make sure that pupils master the essential elements of knowledge before they move on to grapple with new ideas. Curriculum development work needs to continue.’ SLT were commended for focusing on the right priorities. They are increasing effective at monitoring the school’s work and providing training for staff. In addition, they have access to a growing amount of information about the quality of education. It is hoped that they will now ‘sharpen their use of this information. They need to present it to the governing body more effectively so that governors are able to provide further challenge and make the school even better.’
So, what better place to start … a morning with the geography teacher (shadowed by a history teacher) to evaluate the current curriculum offering and consider how this might be revitalised so that lessons are relevant, up-to-date, inspiring and engaging for pupils. Having viewed the whole school geography curriculum map, schemes of work, resources being used and assessment opportunities outlined, I proposed that it was time for some real investment in geography. The subject is only taught at Key Stage 3 at present, in small classes, with limited access to technology in lessons and by one teacher, who is relatively new to the profession and a non-specialist. In order to make any change as smooth as possible, it would be easier to ‘buy into a scheme’, rather than creating something from scratch. Finding the right one required some in-depth research, which I had done on their behalf, utilising the many geography and publishing links that I have. The new ‘Progress in Geography: Key Stage 3’ by Hodder Education (https://www.hoddereducation.co.uk/progress-in-geography) appeared to be the most approriate for the school’s needs, so I approached my contacts there to gain a free trial and discuss the most cost-effective way forward.
Today, we explored all the resources available to purchase and identified the most suitable whole school curriulum plan for delivery. The package also includes a baseline assessment for use in Term 1 of Year 7 and an end of Key Stage assessment to issue in Term 6 of Year 9; this will provide an indication of overall progress from 11-14 years. Bearing in mind the number of pupils and circumstances, it was suggested that they might purchase one set of student textbooks, a planning and assessment pack to support the teacher and then charge pupils a nominal fee each year (in the region of £12) to enable them to have their own e-student textbook for reference at home and a workbook for completion in class and for homework (thus, no need for any files, exercise books or photocopying of worksheets). The workbooks have additonal tasks beyond those in the textbook, thus providing sufficient ‘stretch and challenge’ for higher attaining students and opportunities to ‘take learning outside the classroom’. With experience and the acquisition of greater geographical knowledge, understanding and skills over time, the teacher may wish to introduce other items or activities.
Seeing how we approached a curriculum review for geography was really helpful to the history teacher; she now feels confident to evaluate her subject area’s offering.
It may be worthwhile having a similar session with the physical education teacher and the sole individual responsible for the delivery of business studies, so that they, in turn, feel supported.
Enjoy the forthcoming break; well deserved after a long and demanding term!