Today was incredible. Four years ago, when I first came to the school, the start of term was, literally, a nightmare. Behaviour was appalling and teaching and learning was poor. Children didn’t like school. This is my first headship and I had walked into a complete nightmare.
Four years on and it struck me today just how much has changed. The children came bounding in through the door this morning grinning and happy to be back. The children who really couldn’t cope last year stayed in the support group and apart from fairly minor incidents, were very settled today.
Classes were calm and focused. In assembly this morning, two of my most challenging boys had their hand up for every question, and had well thought out answers. I also ‘caught them in’ moving sensibly around the school, without them realising I was watching. The children who we thought would have a wobble did. But they were very small wobbles that were easily dealt with.
I was really taken aback at how happy the children seemed to be to be back in school because I wasn’t expecting it. One Y3 child even yelled ‘I LOVE SCHOOL’ and grinned cheekily as she went past me down the corridor.
I went back to my office (where I am currently drowning in paperwork) and just sat. And thought. What have we done to achieve this? I think we have done three things:
We have a Rights Respecting ethos based on the UNCRC. Children have ownership but more importantly staff take their responsibility to ensure that children achieve their rights very seriously. It has changed the way that staff interact with children. It means that we are totally child focused. Adults are respectful and they listen. They individualise the learning.
We have invested much emotional energy and hard cash in supporting parents and children who are in distress, in challenging circumstances, who lack confidence. We have invested in a ‘safe haven’ for children whose home lives are chaotic and unstable.
We have had a relentless focus on learning and achievement and a passionate belief that the children we serve can do amazing things.
I have had to do very uncomfortable things at times. I have been through phases where things were very difficult with staff. Today was payback. But I also know that in order to sustain this we have to maintain the momentum, we can’t relax.
This is also the first year where I have the same teachers as last year. This has made a massive difference. Our children find change very difficult. It also means that the staff know what to expect so aren’t as apprehensive. We also have the support group as the ‘safety net’ and staff and children are aware of this.
I am aware that things could be very different tomorrow as children push the boundaries just a bit more. We have worked very hard to get where we are today and have made mistakes on the way. I am very aware that this is only day one…