Aim: To raise standards across the school by empowering middle leaders and thus reducing inter-departmental variation.
Background: The school of 800 pupils is ethnically diverse; 72% of pupils have English as an additional language (EAL) and 54% are eligible for free school meals.
Inset training on Inspiration Leadership, delivered by an external agency, received positive feedback from staff. Middle leaders were then involved in an in-house professional development programme to share good practice across the school. Line management meetings improved with a common structured approach and thus senior leaders were better informed about progress. Preparation work for gaining Investors in People accreditation supported improvements in communication with the school’s directors of learning. The History, English, Modern Languages and Music departments joined the PTI Schools Programme.
There was increased involvement in in-house training and sharing good practice by existing and aspiring middle leaders, who, in turn, were supported by links with the Institute of Education. An improved appraisal and pay policy was introduced to support school improvement. An Ofsted inspection in 2014 identified the school as a “Good and improving school with Outstanding Leadership and Management”. The school was invited to join the London Schools Gold Club and a bid to deliver training to other schools, which included a session on developing middle leaders, was accepted.
The Geography and Art departments also joined the PTI Schools Programme. Middle leaders focused on tracking students against targets and they were offered secondment opportunities to join the senior leadership team. Student leadership was developed into a planned programme across every year group from Years 7 to 13. The pastoral system was reviewed and redesigned in preparation for new directors of progress posts in every year.
Evidence: Lesson observations, attainment data, exam results.
- There was improvement in Quality First Teaching across all departments, with lessons graded as: 88% Good or better: 11% Outstanding, 77% Good, 12% RI, 0% Inadequate.
- Several middle leaders gained promotion to senior leadership positions.
- Results improved: in 2015, KS4 value added was broadly average or above in all subject areas.
- 20% of low ability students met the national benchmark of 5 GCSE passes, including English and Maths, (nationally, only 6.7% of low ability students achieve this). The school was named as 4th in the UK for achievement of low prior attainment, disadvantaged students. There was an increase in top A*-A grade passes at GCSE and GCE level.
Reflections: If middle leadership is not effective, it is difficult (if not impossible) for schools to move towards ‘Outstanding’. There is considerable talent and expertise within every school, especially at middle leadership level. Harnessing this expertise through paired working, coaching and middle leaders delivering training to their teams and the whole school makes good use of this expertise. Consistency is key here, and middle leaders have to ensure that what is happening in every classroom for every student in every lesson is the best it can be.
Contact: Liz Rymer, Headteacher