Thirteen things learned from visiting other schools

19th March 2004 at 00:00
"Intervisitations" is the rather grandiloquent Leadership Programme term for visiting other schools. Schools on the programme are encouraged to learn from each other and there is nothing quite so illuminating as going to see colleagues at another establishment to see what you can learn from them and, hopefully, what they might learn from you.

Here are a few of the things learned by colleagues on their intervisitations:

* A "do as I do" attitude is powerful: treat children with respect and you'll get it back. Provide stimulating and exciting teaching and you'll get stimulating and exciting outcomes.

* Tracking systems to monitor individual pupil progress need to be regularly moderated between staff. Schools say: "Yes, we're tracking progress," but sometimes different teachers have different notions of what, for example, a level 2a in writing looks like. This is particularly an issue when moving from key stage 1 to key stage 2.

* The transition from class to class, teacher to teacher, needs to be made over several meetings, not just one. There needs to be a lead-in towards the end of summer and a review of the transition by mid-autumn. It cuts out wasted time in the first few weeks of a new year and ensures the new teacher's expectations of individuals are realistically high. Transition is best done via face-to-face meetings between the two teachers concerned, rather than by simply handing over files.

* Schools that are mesmerised by global targets for Year 6 or Year 2 fail to concentrate on individual pupil progress in other years and miss their global targets. End-of-key-stage Sats results reflect what has happened in the previous two or three years, not just the final year. All teachers need to take responsibility for results at the end of the key stage.

* Ten per cent of school improvement is knowing what to do; 90 per cent is ensuring it is done - and done well.

* Effective deputy heads make a huge difference, not just to school improvement but also to the wellbeing and effectiveness of heads.

* The national literacy and numeracy strategies work successfully in the hands of sparky, bright teachers. These teachers modify and control them; less effective teachers (and heads) are controlled by them. Teachers will not become sparky or bright simply by using the NLS and NNS.

* What all children need to succeed is three good teachers in a row.

* Low expectations of children and teachers will never lead to improvement.

Realistically high expectations will almost always lead to improvement.

* Improving school buildings and grounds is often seen as irrelevant to improving attainment. But it lifts teacher and pupil morale, which affects standards and behaviour.

* We need both researchers and practitioners. Often the roles can be combined. Research needs to be pertinent to the improvements that need to take place.

* Keep a sense of perspective: you are no good to the children if you are constantly taking short-term "panic" measures to solve problems. Have the courage of your convictions and see improvements through. Or buy in expert advice and have the courage of their convictions instead.

* Avoid complacency. Remember the words of David Brent, the boss in The Office: "If you can keep your head when all around you are losing theirs, then you may not have fully understood the seriousness of the situation."

* About these programmes

The Leadership Programme aims to strengthen collaborative leadership and to equip leadership teams with a greater understanding of expectations, standards and effective learning and teaching, especially in English and mathematics. More than 1,000 consultant leaders - all practising heads - were trained to work with other schools by the National College for School Leadership and the Primary National Strategy. The Intensifying Support Programme aims to reduce the number of schools where less than half of pupils reach the expected standard (Level 4) in English and maths at the end of key stage 2. The pilot has been running for nearly two years and involves 13 local authorities, each of which has selected 10 schools that fall within this category. In April the pilot is to be extended to 76 authorities and will focus on schools where less than 65 per cent of pupils achieve level 4 in Year 6.

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