Today was hard work. Delightful, brain-achingly hard work.
My SLT and I don’t get to meet enough. It is really hard for us to get out of school when the tricky children are being tricky and needy and it is really hard to meet in school for the same reason. Our weekly SLT meetings tend to be focused on monitoring or moderation or problem solving around those trickies. However, as our Y6 were at their new schools today there was a window of opportunity…
It is a real luxury to have the opportunity to talk. And it was like opening the floodgates. For the first hour or so everything that was bothering us came cascading out – a process of clearing the space for the development which was to follow. A bit like the exercise where you park your ‘issues’ on a post-it note on the wall.
There was a re-affirmation of our raison-d’etre, the school equivalent of the football huddle: To ensure that all the children in our care are enabled to realise their rights. This is blindingly obvious of course but sometimes you just need to say it again so that you can question whether or not that is actually what you are doing. We always ask ‘are we doing the right things?’ We are great believers in not doing what we’ve always done if it doesn’t work.
Today’s objective was to completely re-think the use of Learning Support Assistants and to ensure that our most vulnerable children will be getting the additional support that they need. I think that creating chaos is part of the creative process and the muddle and jumble of thoughts and ideas at the beginning began to crystalise into some very clear ideas. We are changing quite a lot of things in September and some of the staff are getting a bit anxious about this. It’s important, therefore, that we are clear on the reasoning and that they understand this too. We are aware of their concerns and have tried to take them into consideration. However, the needs of the children are our primary concern and you can’t please everyone all of the time.
This kind of day is really powerful in re-energising people. In my school you get so worn out. As SLT we don’t spend our day with the children who are happy and learning well. We spend our time with the children who are spilling out all over the place and this is exhausting.
There was a point in the day where I lost it with the DFE though. I had submitted my HT declaration form for the Phonics test a couple of days early and they had rung the school today to say it hadn’t been done. I got cross but ended up having to do it again anyway. It felt like an intrusion.
We also spent some time thinking about what it is exactly that is making the staff anxious. The rest of SLT had picked up on their worries about losing their current classes too so we looked again at our plans for transition in the last week and made some adjustments. What was also really lovely about today was that we had left two of our middle leaders in charge and they were doing a fab job. They have become our own internal moderation team and were looking at the writing levels across the school.
This is such a huge achievement. When I arrived in the school there was very little distributed leadership and we have worked hard to create leaders at every level. It has taken a long time.
The other big thing about today is that our SATs papers were returned. My Y6 teacher, who was doing the writing moderation, was too nervous to open them. I decided I would wait until I got back into school tomorrow. That didn’t work. At 7.30 I was in my office counting up and working out approximate levels using last year’s level thresholds. Working out best and worst case scenarios.
We have done really well. Best L4+ across the board and above floor targets. Not so many L5 readers as before but the reading paper this year they just didn’t relate to at all and we have evidence from their practice papers that they are better than that.
What a relief. I can breathe now.