High Performers: part I: core purpose

Part of my summer reading was the book, High Performers by Alistair Smith. I was inspired enough by the book to make copious notes in my ‘little blue book’ and had the copy been mine, I am sure it would have been filled with scribbles. What did I feel I could ‘take-away’ to enhance current practice? I’ll start at the beginning…

Our core values – these need to be embedded into everything we do. it’s not enough just to say the words, they have to be living, breathing values. Things that guide our teaching and learning and shape who we are as a school. How to do this is the exciting part. On p19. AS talks about how one school embedded each value into their department improvement plans (more on this later). I think this is something that can be developed on several levels currently: as the SLT, what statement would we write to encapsulate each of our values? extend this further to the ELT, SEN dept, Primary and Middle Years sections. What does each of these departments’ improvement plan look like? How are we/they achieving the core values, how are the core values driving what we are doing? How can the core values help us to do better?

On p.20, AS talks about the importance of a ‘school walk’ – what does our school say to visitors? what is their immediate experience? What do the walls say to visitors? Are our values clear, what are we about? How do we phrase our core goals, values, what we want our learners to be? Are these positive statements or do they give a hint of an underlying issue (“we don’t accept…”). And as is often said, leadership needs to be visible! on p.27 AS encourages the SLT to walk the school, each person on a different day – look  in on lessons every period – be seen, know what is going on…

As leadership, are we focussed? could I answer the question: what have I “done that week to earn their money and deliver core purpose” (p.21), can other members of the ELT answer this question. It is often too easy to get sidetracked, choosing the quick, easy solution task – but is it enhancing our values and the learning we offer?

How do we know we are delivering our core goal in the classroom – a quality learning experience? How do teachers know if they are delivering this. on p.29 AS suggests a way of embedding this (in lesson planning, delivery and appraisal of). By coming up with a checklist in answer to the question “What does quality learning look like?” (as a whole staff, not top-down), teachers can use this when planning lessons, and this same checklist can be used when observing lessons. this ensures we remain focussed to our core goal and values. it’s important this list is driven by research though – what does the research say makes a quality learning environment? there are plenty of items to add to the list if Hattie’s book is used or referred to.

Getting everyone on board (p.32) – a useful exercise at the start of the school year is to ask the following 3 questions.

1. write down 3 things that are done well and we should keep or build upon

2. write down 2 issues that must be addressed immediately

3. write down 1 piece of advice you would give to the principal and the school leadership team

I think this would be a good starting point for us all this year.

So, as the title suggests, this is part I of my thoughts…where should we start?

1. I feel we need to use the strategic plan to develop department improvement plans, using our core goal and values to drive the content of these.

2. I think each department should come up with value statements of how they address each value

3. I think leadership must commit to school walks

4. I think as a school we should come up with a checklist of what quality learning looks like at the start of the school year

5. I think we should ask staff the 3 questions at the beginning of school