WATCH: Simple secrets to Grenfell school's success

Keep it simple and develop staff, says head of Kensington Aldridge Academy – the 2018 winner of the Tes Schools Awards secondary school of the year

Will Hazell

KAA Tes School Awards

Kensington Aldridge Academy in West London was secondary school of the year at the 2018 Tes Schools Awards. 

It was graded “outstanding” in all categories in its first full Ofsted inspection in December 2017, and is in the top 5 per cent of schools in the country for progress between GCSEs and A levels. 

KAA – which is located at the base of Grenfell Tower – also received a Tes special services to education award for its extraordinary work in bouncing back from that tragedy.

Here, founding principal David Benson shares his two tips about how school leaders can build an outstanding school:

Read about how KAA is looking to the future after Grenfell here.

1. Remind yourself to keep things simple

"I think there are two things above all else that underpin the success of KAA and have allowed us to get outstanding results and an 'outstanding' Ofsted inspection.

"The first thing is reminding ourselves all the time that it’s much, much easier to complicate things than it is to simplify them in school management, and what’s required as leaders is a brutal simplicity of thought. Have one idea, communicate it clearly, make sure people understand.

"There are two aspects to KAA that make it successful. One is great teaching and the other is a strong behaviour policy to support that."

2. Focus on staff training and development

"The second thing for me that I think really makes us distinctive and allows us to perform well as a school is our focus on staff training. As principal, by far and away the most important job I have is the recruitment, retention and development of my staff. I’m not going to teach every lesson myself, I’m not going to teach any lessons. It’s about the people in the classroom who are delivering, and getting that talent and developing it.

"We have 15 training days a year as opposed to five, which is what most schools have. I think five is woefully inadequate if you want a well-trained teacher force. We also have ongoing twilight training sessions every week, we have a major focus on lesson observation, staff watching each other, staff co-teaching lessons together, and an ongoing professional dialogue about the craft of teaching and how we can deliver each lesson better by reflecting on it."

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