Resting on our laurels is not an option

25th September 2009 at 01:00

It is hard to describe the joy and relief I felt when I took the phone call from my data manager about our latest GCSE results. To be told we had met our ambitious targets and had seen a 15 per cent increase in our A*-C grades including English and maths was simply incredible. And re-reading my column on the receipt of last year's results - which had dropped dramatically - reminded me of the awful despair you feel when results have not met expectations.

Many of you will remember this led directly to Ofsted placing us in the notice to improve category a few weeks later. That judgment was based largely on our "inadequate" standards and poor progress. But as we gear up for the return visit from the inspectors this autumn, we are confident that our new results are just what we need to give Ofsted a run for its money.

So what did we do to make such progress in such a short period of time? It would be easier to tell you what we didn't do ...

Thankfully, I have a very positive staff with a can-do attitude. Our wonderful Year 11 learning manager divided the year group up and identified a group of "bankers", pupils we could almost guarantee would get their five A*-Cs including English and maths. He also made this a large group, so that there could be some margin of error if we were to meet our stretching targets. We ensured pupils knew what group they were in and were clear about how to move to the next stage.

We tracked them, mentored them, bribed and cajoled them, took them away on residentials and just tried to make them believe they could do it. Fantastically, most of them did. And at the same time we looked at our teaching and learning strategies and made sure staff were explicit in explaining exactly how pupils could move to the next step.

The main point is we have become much smarter at targeting youngsters and moving them on. As a result, we are pushing our new Year 11 even harder, and started the new timetable for the whole school in June to make sure we did not waste a minute. Our Year 10 students and this Year 11 are now following a much more flexible curriculum, so we will not need quite as many "quick fixes" this year. Well, here's hoping.

As you can see, the euphoria of good results at all key stages was short-lived. Our main preoccupation now is becoming familiar with the new Ofsted framework, which is really tough. "Satisfaction" now seems to be the old "good", so it is going to be very difficult for schools in challenging circumstances such as ours to get an "outstanding" grade. Will we ever be able to be outstanding enough?

Kenny Frederick, Headteacher, George Green's School, Tower Hamlets, London.

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