Aim: To empower middle leaders to be the central driving force in raising standards.
Background: Some 20% of students come from the most deprived homes in Wales with 23% on free school meals. Under the previous Headteacher and Leadership Team (SLT), the school had identified the need to raise standards of teaching and learning across the curriculum to a consistently high standard. The Estyn report of 2009 had identified this as an area in need of development.
Year 1: Three subject leaders joined the PTI Schools Programme which was a good foundation to develop good practice across other departments. A Curriculum Leader/Aspiring Curriculum Leader in-house training programme was put in place and the focus on subject-centred leadership was clearly visible in meeting minutes and senior leadership team discussions.
Staff visits to other schools were established and the school shared its training expertise with cluster schools. The school also developed links and a two-way dialogue with higher education (HE) providers. There was a partnership working with ‘Reaching Higher, Reaching Wider’ (Bangor University) – a bespoke ‘Winter College’ approach to raise aspirations of learners furthest removed from HE.
Year 2: Aspiring middle leaders led on whole-school initiatives which were impacting on standards across the school rather than just within their own area. The University of Bangor became involved and led on the teacher/learner community work that was going on.
Year 3: Secondment opportunities onto the school’s SLT were introduced and two positions were filled by middle leaders, thus involving them with whole school strategic decision making. Performance management protocols were revised to ensure that there were common targets for improving the quality of teaching and learning with a focus of rigour and subject depth.
Evidence: Exam results, student questionnaires, lesson observations.
Impact: By the end of the second year of the project more students were achieving A/A* grades at GCSE and A Level, and an improved number of students were gaining higher levels of 6 and 7 in Key Stage 3. The depth and quality of subject teaching further improved, with an average of 80% of lessons graded as Good or better.
Student surveys are regularly conducted and reveal an increased enjoyment of particular subjects. Sharing good practice forums became an established feature of the school calendar and proved a useful way to evaluate the extent to which good practice was being shared and used by other colleagues. Staff feedback has also revealed that they feel refreshed and re-energised as a result of the collaboration with Bangor University.
Reflections: Significantly improved results in 2014 came as a result of subject leaders being empowered to take ownership of the issues that were holding their departments back. There is now an additional layer of aspiring senior leaders who have had the opportunity of exposure to greater levels of whole-school strategic working.
Contact: Alun Harding , email@example.com