Aim: To reduce in-school variation between different subject areas in terms of both pupil outcomes and pupil experience.
Background: The Senior Leadership Team had concerns that, although results remained very good, some departments had been left behind by educational change. An audit across departments of teaching, assessment, planning, reporting and wider participation showed little common ground. Reporting home and use of data was outdated.
New reporting initiatives were introduced, including a new report template to report home half-termly with an aspirational target grade, tri-weekly deep marking moments, termly work sample audits and the use of the pupil diary to record the advice given. A medium term departmental planning template and an outcome-based lesson observation form were introduced. All departments were required to offer a pupil leadership opportunity at a local primary school, enter one local, regional or national competition, lead one trip per subject per year and collect pupil feedback.
The agreed template for tri-weeklies was unpopular with staff and heads of department were allowed to adapt these to meet the specific needs of their subject. Pupils struggled to consistently transfer advice from their books into their diaries and it was agreed that this would only be used at Key Stage 5. A working party of middle and senior leaders drew up a series of protocols for all departments, and this “staff directory”, was incorporated into the back of the standard teachers’ planner.
A performance-related pay bonus was introduced for all departments that met the school’s upper progress targets. Whilst cause and effect in teaching is difficult to prove, this change led to greater focus on progress rather than attainment and also emphasised, for heads of department at least, the importance of all members of the department performing.
Evidence: Exam results, departmental meeting minutes, staff directory, lesson observations.
Impact: There was a significant impact on policy and practice for the future. In August 2014, at GCSE, 21 out of 22 subjects (96%) achieved the school’s minimum performance standard; at AS Level, 17 out of 19 subjects (90%); at A Level, 16 out of 20 subjects (80%). These figures were marginally up on the position in 2011. The bigger impact was on 3-year averages. The following table compares 2008-10 against 2012-14:
Reflections: Ultimately changes were embedded due to flexible persistence and talented staff. However, too many decisions were taken by the Senior Team in isolation from departments and boarding houses, which made winning hearts and minds more difficult. Tying performance management to progress rather than attainment focuses the mind on what really matters and creates headroom for even the highest achieving departments to see scope to be better still.
Contact: Andrew Moss, firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com