Communicating openly to help staff work more effectively with each other

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All staff at Tŷ Coch Special School have been attending sessions to help them understand their own professional management style and their emotional intelligence. This has resulted in improved teamwork, consultation and communication. Staff also note greater clarity over roles, responsibilities and accountability measures. These sessions have had a positive impact on pupil outcomes.

Number of pupils: 141
Age range: 3-19
Date of inspection: June 2017

Context and background to sector-leading practice

The governors appointed a headteacher and new leadership team in 2015.  The headteacher prioritised establishing robust and secure leadership arrangements at every level and put in place a strategy to create a high performing staff team with a shared commitment to a clear vision underpinned by shared values.  

Nature of the strategy or activity identified as sector leading practice

Senior leaders implemented a strategy to engage staff in all aspects of decision-making across the school.  They established a clear set of shared values to help staff gain a better understanding of their own professional style in order to work more effectively with each other.  

The school developed a partnership with a leadership consultancy who ran a series of whole staff INSET sessions beginning on the headteacher’s first day in post.  The aim of the sessions was to help staff to understand their own professional management style and their emotional intelligence.  Following these sessions, each member of staff received a brief profile detailing their behaviour preferences, leadership styles, personality styles and potential blind spots.  Using this information, members of staff were able to improve their understanding of their own leadership styles and were better placed to value the quality of each other’s work.

Following discussions with staff, pupils, parents and governors, the school agreed a vision statement based on the values of respect, (high) expectations, challenge, integrity, passion and enjoyment (RECIPE).

Leaders have developed this model further to ensure that staff have the skills to have challenging and purposeful conversations with each other, to ensure that provision for pupils is exceptional and that relationships remain intact.  Using this model, senior leaders have established an ethos of challenge and support within a culture that promotes results through relationships.

Senior leaders have used this information creatively as part of performance management arrangements to coach staff and to distribute leadership tasks to staff based on their strengths, aspirations and leadership styles.  The senior leadership team have since engaged in high level performance coaching, which utilises the same model.

What impact has this work had on provision and learners standards?

The impact of this investment in the staff team has been extensive.  Staff perception questionnaires indicate marked improvements when compared with questionnaires completed during the previous two years.  Particular benefits include improved teamwork, community cohesion, consultation and communication.  Staff also note greater clarity over roles, responsibilities and accountability measures.

In addition, rates of staff sickness and absence dropped over the two-year period following the implementation of the strategy.  Increased staff confidence and a willingness to create innovative learning experiences have had an impact on pupil outcomes.

Overall, pupil outcomes and progress rates, particularly in literacy and numeracy, are the highest they have been for the past five years.  Pupil target completion percentages indicate improved progress in all core subjects.  Standards of pupil wellbeing are exceptional.  Attendance at 91% is above the all Wales average for special schools.  The number of instances of challenging behaviour has reduced significantly and there have been no fixed term exclusions in the past three years.

How have you shared your good practice?

Staff write and deliver a range of leadership courses based on this strategy to develop the leadership capacity of other schools within their region.  For example, they contribute to the ‘Future Leaders’ and ‘Leading from the Centre’ courses that support the development of leadership skills of staff from schools across their region.  In addition, the school has used the methodology to support other similar schools to develop their leadership capacity using coaching and mentoring.