This blog is dedicated to those teachers who sit at training events and listen intently to people delivering their wonderful ideas, but think to themselves, "yeah right, it wont work at our School, they don't know our School, they don't know what we are up against". This is a blog about a journey from despair to elation...it is written to help teachers who need a little bit of hope...change can happen, I have witnessed it first hand.
I started working at my current (and only School!) 13 years ago as a GTP. I fell in love with teaching and the School that year and consequently over the last 14 years worked my way up to Head of PE and to my current position of Assistant Headteacher, always keen to take on more responsibility and have more of an impact on the young people we get through our doors. It is fair to say the School and everyone in it means so much to me, that is why this blog is a bit all over the place as its hard to write it without emotion setting in!
Our School to everyone else has always had 'a reputation' unfortunately to say I don't mean a reputation of being the best School in the area, quite the opposite in fact. This outlook is fuelled by years and years of generations coming to the School, it is fair to say some of those generations did get a pretty bad deal and that reputation is hard to shake off. Sadly, this has led to generally low aspirations and a natural excuse for failure for some of our young people.
This more than anything is the hardest thing to crack when trying to turn a School around, even though you as a teacher feel it is getting better, and over the years it has got so much better, it is hard to break years and years worth of negativity. I remember going to meetings and being asked where I work and feeling like my thoughts wouldn't be heard, and generally they weren't due to where I worked, even though at that point we were leading the way Nationally with the Youth Sport Trust pilots in PE.
I heard stories of our young people going for interviews locally (and our staff for that matter) and once they said where they came from they had presumptuous and negative comments made about their standards or aspirations...you can imagine how angered this made myself and my colleagues who were trying to break the stigma, it felt like if 'professional adults' were fuelling the fire (I don't think intentionally can I add, just ignorance) then what hope did we have.
In 2014 we went into 'Special Measures' the timing was terrible (I guess there is never a good time!) We were given 18 months to turn the School around. Staff worried for their jobs and students and staff started to leave, our roll was falling and we were finding it impossible to recruit staff. However, the new Headteacher filled us with new hope, so we did what we always did and kept going. People used to ask me 'are you looking to get out?' and my response was always 'I need to see that the School is Ok' I know this is probably a foolish thing to do, but I always felt we were in touching distance of achieving great things and felt like the students needed staff who stuck by them and who had hope. There are a few of us who have been at the School for years and we all wanted to see the journey out, believe me, we had our share of good and bad times, highs and lows along the way, too many to go into in one blog!
So we had 18 months...
The clear vision shared from the top was for us to get to 'Good' something some of us never ever even thought could be possible. Not because we were jumping on the 'band wagon' but because, I guess, we were actually afraid to let ourselves believe, for some of us it was a defence mechanism, staff were not in a good place and it had all been promised before in one way or another (we all remember the pens - private joke!).
So we needed something radical to snap us out of the rut we were in, in my eyes three major strategies bought in by the new Headteacher had immediate impact.
1. New School uniform - students went from looking like they were off to Primary School in their bright blue sweatshirts and trainers to smart professional young people in their shirts, ties and blazers. I will always remember the first morning they walked through the gates holding themselves with pride and an open posture, it was incredible that a simple strategy would help to start to raise their aspirations instantly.
2. 100 minute lessons - we all nearly fell off our chairs when the notion was first aired! But I have to say they have helped to turn the teaching around and consolidate learning. The flexibility you have to be creative is endless.
3. The introduction of TEEP - this is the one I want to talk the most about, for two reasons, one I have been involved in my day to day role of having the pleasure to help embed TEEP, so I can talk a lot about it and two, I really feel it has had one of the biggest impacts in getting us to reach our goal.
The Teacher Effectiveness Enhancement Programme (TEEP)
I remember the TEEP Level 1 training like it was yesterday, we had three super trainers; Andy Williams (@faber_2013), Jenny Berge and Tina Murray (@mrstinamurray).
They introduced us not only to the notion of TEEP and the 6 phase lesson model but to a whole new ethos of thinking around teaching, an ethos that would become well embedded into the culture of our School, a culture of:
- Taking risks in our teaching.
- Collaborating with other staff and sharing our practice with not only people in our departments but across the School and with pride. It was no longer the culture that because you spent a painstaking 5 hours to make a resource/do a lesson that you hide it away, but quite the opposite, if it worked with the young people in our School then we shared it!
- A sense of team spirit, for example, it gave us the confidence to do teambuilding sessions before every staff training - a great way to de-stress and get together in a fun way.
We were inspired, everyone benefitted in some way from it, we went from being down and out, not bothering to get to know new staff or staff who weren't directly in our departments to knowing everyone, making the time for people, supporting each other in any way we could.
The first thing we did was introduce the notion of 'Bright Spots' a smashing idea I had seen Shaun Allison (@shaun_allison) at Durrington High School was doing. The idea was for staff to send me their 'Bright Spots' - things they had tried in lessons, things they were proud of, things that had worked, pieces of work students had produced as a result of an activity/lesson they had done.
I was inundated, we branched out to staff getting into each others lessons and nominating other staff for bright spots, we did Bright Spot of the week, had individual, department and house competitions to see who could send the most. I then captured them all in a Blog and drop in PPT slides so that staff could try them out themselves - a bit like a 'pick n mix' for teachers!
We showed video versions in staff briefings to keep the notion going and inspire other staff and departments to offer up their Bright Spots.
Next, we launched our own version of #PoundlandPedagogy which was a big hit, this idea was first started by @WallaceIsabella and is a great way of getting staff to take risks and be creative, something we would never have dreamed of doing before TEEP.
One of the biggest TEEP impacts was the implementation of our TEEP 2 Team, a team of ten handpicked staff who were all proficient in their teaching, from different subjects and who had varying teaching styles and experiences. Jenny Berge came back in for two days to work with us. They were to form the backbone of the vision to embed TEEP whole School and use TEEP to pin our JPD twilight sessions off of. Please see my upcoming JPD staff training blog for more details of how we did this.
Other ideas we started up to ensure we kept the TEEP buzz alive, raised the aspirations of our young people and kept staff morale high where:
Please see my TEEP dating blog.
Gallery of Excellence
TEEP Resource Centre in the Staffroom
Fully stocked with every resource imaginable, staff can sign out resources and request resources they would like to use. All we ask is that they do a postcard evaluation at the end to let other staff know any ideas.
TEEP Bright Spot Booklet
Staff were given two each and were asked to 'get rid' of them by thanking someone in the School. Students were also asked to write them to teachers. A stack of these are in the staffroom along with 'Random Act of Kindness' cards that staff can use at any time. Usually a little chocolate gift will accompany a card, a nice 'pick me up' to receive one :o)
TEEP Celebration Video - highlights of part of our TEEP Journey.
Our TEEP experience to date was best summed up by Chris Jones, one of our TEEP 2 Team. He explained TEEP the best "2014 BT Vs 2015 AT" this means how we were in 2014 before TEEP (BT) Vs how we are now in 2015 after TEEP (AT). It really was like that, TEEP woke us up, made us feel like NQT's again, gave us a new confidence, it changed our whole ethos, it made us fall in love with teaching again. We went from 43% Good+ lessons to over 80%+ Good lessons and climbing.
A couple (out of many) quotes from staff that best sum up how we feel about TEEP...
As our final monitoring 'D-Day' Ofsted visit approached it is fair to say we were all 'a bit over it - the wait was torturous' we knew they were due in Feb, bets were on as to which day!
As a School we couldn't of been more prepared or ready for them, we ran a staff training afternoon purely around Ofsted, the aim was to focus on all the great things the School does, to heighten collaboration of staff and dare ourselves to dream...
This bought up some funny discussion points! Interestingly between us all we all felt a different emotion. This was a good moment to reflect on the fact that we are all going to be feeling different emotions, so we need to stick together and support each other more than ever.
This was the most poignant moment, staff came out with some truly selfless points, really heart felt comments about the impact it would have on the students, the fact the students would be able to hold their heads high, have increased aspirations and say 'I go to a Good School' would be priceless.
I was in the Heads office when 'THE call' came, strangely people were calm (or appeared to be) I think because we had been waiting so long, we wanted it out of the way before half term, and because we couldn't of been more ready.
The two Ofsted days seemed to fly by...it seemed overwhelmingly positive...which is always weirdly worrying!
The outcome was given to the Head, until it had been through the quality assurance processes no one was allowed to know the outcome, this was the hardest part...we knew it was a positive visit...but just how positive? If we had reached our goal (and I was sure we must have done based on the feedback and how positive it felt - however, I have learnt not to get carried away as we were used to disappointment!)... if it was what we hoped for then we couldn't wait to shout it from the rooftops!
Finally the wait was over...there it was, in black and white...we were GOOD, GOOD across all areas, GOOD for everyone to see, the emotions that filled us all that day I cannot even start to describe.
All those late nights, long staff meetings, headaches, restless nights, negative comments, stresses, anxieties, desperation, all gone...we could hold our heads high.
There were so many contributing factors to the outcome we finally got, and so rightly deserved, so many people who sacrificed a work/life balance (not even sure what that is or if it exists in teaching!) to make this all happen.
Special thanks goes to our Headteacher, she bought us hope, new fresh ideas and belief we could be a Good School. To the staff at the School who stayed as loyal and as committed as ever and embraced the new TEEP culture, who took risks and came out of their comfort zones, who joined in and made themselves look ridiculous in the name of staff collaboration, who shared their ideas and their precious time to make a difference.
And finally to the students...who are just fantastic, some of those young people, at times, have the odds stacked against them, but they dig in time after time because they want to be something, they want to be someone, they want to feel success. They were incredible over the two Ofsted days, they presented themselves and articulated themselves with pride. The most wonderful thing about all of this is that those young people can now say "I go to a good School".
I truly believe success builds success, the next part of our journey is now to come, change can happen, you just need a little bit of hope...