The Innovation Working Party at Henry Compton School

School Needs in Context

Henry Compton School has a very diverse cultural community with a high percentage of bi-lingual learners and pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds whose families have no prior experience of HE. According to PANDA data, the students fail to achieve standards consistent with G&T pupils in similar schools. The school recognise the need to raise teacher expectations and develop greater support and challenge for pupils in order to raise attainment. The boys tend to lack independent study skills and are heavily reliant on teacher input and ‘spoon-feeding’. Bi-lingual learners need to develop ‘cognitive academic language’ in order to achieve the highest grades in exams. However advanced learners of English are not generally seen as having additional needs, and, in common with most schools, EAL support and resources are focussed on new arrivals, and also in bottom sets. This project set out to focus on specific learning objectives including critical thinking, developing academic language, improved written skills and problem solving skills, that would both benefit the student and also add to teacher knowledge and understanding of the needs of G&T pupils in the school.

Aims of Project

1 To move the G&T programme onto the next stage – having been well established and with a thriving enrichment programme, the curriculum needed a greater G&T focus, with classroom teachers taking responsibility for understanding and meeting the needs of this cohort.
2 To promote a learning culture in school - through enquiry into practice, based on evidence, and through the development of new teaching & learning strategies and resources
3 Professional development – teachers with very varied experience and skills, from NQT through to AST have volunteered to take part in the project and for each teacher the learning journey has been different but substantial
4 Transfer of new knowledge to other teachers by dissemination and sharing of practice
5 Improved academic progress for KS4 pupils

Description of Project over time

Outline: In January 2005 seven teachers (including co-leader Dan Lyndon) volunteered to take part in this two-term project. The challenge was for each of them to carry out a ‘mini’ action research project over two terms, following guidelines, and with consultant coaching and mentoring. All projects required the gathering of base-line measurements at the start, and the projects concluded with a final measurement of pupil attainment and/or attitudes to learning.

Ongoing Support and Structures: Teachers met for an introductory half-day INSET, then designed and wrote their own projects around the needs of their pupils (mainly Y10 G&T). Teachers were given regular support, in the form of co-teaching, co-planning activities, in-class assistance, and/or regular mentoring sessions to develop reflection on practice. Two social evenings were held to enable the team to get together and informally share findings and issues, just after project design and then after interventions were more or less completed. Finally there was a half-day INSET planned to support the teachers’ evaluation report.

Conclusion: The project will conclude in July 2005 with a first report to school senior management. In September 2005 the School G&T Coordinator, Dan Lyndon, co-leader and researcher in this group, will plan dissemination across the school. Researchers will be expected to share their work in their departments.

Resources required

· External G&T Consultancy (Stefani Shedden) was paid for by central EIC funding, which enabled approximately a school day per week over two terms.
· The School G&T Co (Dan Lyndon) jointly led the project with Stefani, to develop his own project leadership skills.
· Teachers were paid £500 each from the school budget to undertake the research and commit to writing up and disseminating their findings.
· Two half-day INSETs were provided at the CLC, planned to minimize cover by taking place after lunch.
· Teachers agreed to two ‘social’ team meetings in their own time to feedback informally during the project .
The resources have been more than matched by the good will and commitment of the head teacher (Dinesh Ramjee) who has enabled and supported the project at all stages. In addition the staff have been completely committed to the project aims and made it possible for both co-leaders to direct, support and guide the work. There has been a great spirit of collaboration and open-ness based on trust and a willingness to learn. And the pupils themselves have had to face challenging new ways of working and have been ready to share their views with candour!

Evaluation of project outcomes – learning has been evident on many levels

Pupil learning can be read about in the following reports. There is evidence of increased grades in Claire Perry’s problem solving task in Maths with a threefold increase in attainment. In History there is a greater clarity of pupil understanding demonstrated in their written work, and improved academic language skills. Increased evidence of critical thinking in RE has been seen in pupil questioning, as well as a greater willingness by boys to engage in higher levels of thinking in discussion and debate. One important outcome is the development of instruments to get pupil feedback and reflection on their own learning. This ‘pupil voice’ is a critical and valuable tool in teacher learning as well as enabling pupils themselves to become reflective and self-aware learners

Teacher learning has been very evident as teachers have engaged in their own enquiries. Their understanding of their pupils and how they learn has deepened, and enabled them to provide greater challenge in appropriate ways. The teachers have a very varied range of skills and experience, but the self-directed nature of this project has enabled them to make progress at their own levels. For example, in English a media unit was developed using a range of strategies and activities and Claire Carter has increased her awareness of what makes an effective lesson for more able pupils. In geography, by focussing closely on the marks scheme for the highest grades, Chris Cox has shifted the focus of his lessons on the Grand Canyon to include more analysis and evaluation. In addition the collaboration and support the team have provided to each other has enabled some transfer of skills and knowledge to take place in the complex interactions of ‘apprenticeship’ teacher training favoured by David Hopkins and David Perkins - so hard to achieve in traditional INSET. The project is excellent evidence of engagement in teaching & learning and professional development and would make a valuable contribution to staff portfolios as evidence for Threshold applications and qualification for the new Teaching & Learning Responsibilities.

Whole School Learning – the project aims to transfer new knowledge and expertise; and develop a culture of enquiry, a willingness to take risks and innovate –and encourage others to enquire into their own practice based on evidence and measurement of impact on pupils. For example, EAL teacher Louise Kleinbergs has enhanced her understanding of language acquisition for the G&T bi-lingual learner and can disseminate this to curriculum colleagues to improve pupils’ use of key words and command words. In MFL there has been a conscious development of key thinking skills strategies to enhance pupil confidence and understanding of grammar and language, which is transferable across many curriculum areas. The dissemination of the project is planned for next term, and this will be critical in taking the learning to others in the school.

Where too Now? - Policy Proposals for Consideration

· Continue the research group next year and encourage more teachers and Heads of Department to get involved – eg through a series of workshops led by this group of researchers
· Link up to other whole school initiatives (eg National Strategy LiL, Ped & Prac etc) and mesh with school development priorities
· Development of electronic toolkit so that this report and accompanying materials can be accessed on the school network
· Replication – other teachers try out some of the strategies and share findings – initially in the research team’s own departments, but then more widely across the school
· Greater use of pupil voice to demonstrate pupil attitudes to learning and to their own progress – requires systematic consultation and reviewing of pupil responses and needs when developing the curriculum – to enable staff and parents to provide more effective support and raise aspirations; will also aid the development of self-aware and self-directed learners.

Next Steps for Senior Management to consider:

The most important achievements –
· Taking time to enquire into practice using a range of learning evidence
· Developing and innovating practice according to pupil needs
· Cross-curricular collaboration and open-ness
These could be lost. Time pressure and demands of school life could easily erode staff commitment to this, so it is essential, for the project to thrive, that time and space is made for a new team to grow and develop the next round of action research. The experience and learning from this project needs to be shared so that others can see the benefit and value to them and their own classes (the ‘What’s in it for me’ factor!). Resources, support and encouragement are essential.

It may help a new team to –
· include existing members who wish to enquire further into their own practice and support others;
· to enable some staff with less confidence to simply ‘replicate’ some of the projects this year and investigate impact on their own pupils based on their own measurement of attainment and enquiry into pupil attitudes
· to mesh with National Strategy whole school initiatives (such as Leadership in Learning, ICTAC, Pedagogy & Practice etc) as resources are already allocated to these priorities.

It is very important that middle managers are engaged in the ‘action research’ model of practice if they are to nurture good practice across their departments, and some professional development and support could be usefully targeted at Heads of Departments.

In Conclusion – a personal response to the whole project –

Stefani Shedden
Teachers have been very receptive to engaging in professional dialogue and opening up their classrooms to me – a great deal of mutual trust and respect has developed and good relationships in schools have enhanced the work of us all. The head teacher had a key role to play in supporting and encouraging all of us. Above all the response of pupils has been the greatest reward as they have had to learn to cope with the unexpected in their lessons and have shown that they can adjust to unfamiliar ways of working. I have learned a great deal about school improvement and change at Henry Compton, along with colleagues here. I hope this project can now be developed and grown independently without the need for external consultancy. Several of the research team have developed skills that they can share with others. In addition Dan Lyndon, the co-leader has been recognised and awarded AST status and has taken on the project leadership with increasing skill and confidence. Most importantly the value of enquiry into practice based on evidence has enabled students, teachers and managers to learn together.

Dan Lyndon
This has been a very stimulating project that has significantly advanced my own capabilities as a leader. The project offered me an opportunity to work with colleagues of differing levels of experience and to share good practice with them. I have learned a great deal about supporting, coaching and mentoring colleagues and working across curriculum areas. This will enhance my experience as an Advanced Skills Teacher and I shall be using this project as a template for future projects.

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