In the twilight zone
hristine Took left nothing to chance when faced with the prospect of an inspection of her 168-pupil primary school serving three villages in the valleys above the town of Bridgend. For the first time she was expected to write a self-evaluation of her school, which would provide a basis for the inspectors from Estyn, the schools inspectorate.
She was ideally prepared. Weeks before she compiled her report, she had attended an after-school "good practice" course on school self-evaluation provided by the local education authority. The two-hour course was just one of a number run by Bridgend, open to all teachers in all schools. More than 50 senior managers attended.
"The course proved to be invaluable in taking us through the steps," she says. "The advice I got was not to make the report too formal and to write about the school as it really was. In the report we had to say where we are now, what we have done since the last inspection, what our goals are and what steps we are taking to achieve them."
The advice proved invaluable. Her school, St Roberts Roman Catholic primary in Aberkenfig, received a glowing report, with the quality of self-evaluation and planning for improvement highlighted as "very good".
The teaching was also praised: 28 per cent of lessons were described as very good, 65 per cent good and 7 per cent satisfactory.
Mrs Took, who has been headteacher for seven years and was deputy for six years before that, now plans to return the favour to Bridgend in two different ways. She will pass on her self-evaluation report to another head facing an inspection for use as a model of good practice and a framework to build on. And she will host a good-practice session in her own school on assessment, which also earned praise in the Estyn report that was delivered late last month following the inspection in February.
Bridgend has been running twilight sessions in sharing good practice for more than two years, covering a variety of topics including early years, management and leadership, and the subject leader's role. They take place between 4.30 and 6.30pm and are frequently attended by as many as 100 staff from schools all over the authority.
Mrs Took adds: "The advisory staff see good practice on their rounds and they try to encourage people to share it. People are prepared to say it works here rather than hide their light under a bushel. It offers opportunities for other schools to pick up on your schemes of work, your assessment policies and your disciplinary procedures. We have taken on board many things we have seen working well in other schools, though sometimes we have adapted them to suit us here. If you know something is going well in your school, then sharing it with someone else is a good way forward."
The good-practice sessions are aimed mainly at primary schools, but Bridgend is also planning sessions for secondaries. One scheduled for the autumn is on transition to secondary school.
Les Philips, Bridgend's school development officer for primaries, says the dissemination of good practice came out very highly in a best - value report by Estyn on the performance of the LEA.
He adds: "The startling thing about these sessions is the attendance. The commitment of schools and teachers has surprised us.
"They focus on locally developed good practice that teachers can relate to.
Everybody has signed up to this concept of sharing documents and ideas.
"When we visit schools we can see that people are taking on board the ideas that have been put forward in these sessions."