Milton Infant School, Newport, introduced annual training for whole school self-evaluation and improvement planning. Before training, staff complete a questionnaire which then forms the basis of discussions. By involving all staff in planning, the school has an honest and open environment as well as shared aims and aspirations.
Number of pupils: 267
Age range: 3 - 7 years
Date of Estyn inspection: November 2013
Context and background to sector-leading practice
Milton Infant school is located on the east side of Newport on the edge of a large housing estate built in the 1950’s. There are currently 206 children on roll in school and 61 part time nursery children. The school is organised into a nursery with morning and afternoon sessions, three reception classes, two year one classes, a mixed year one / year two class and two year two classes.
Approximately 49% of children in the school are eligible for free school meals this is significantly above the national average of 19%. Baseline assessments indicate that attainment on entry is generally below average, with many children requiring input to support speech and language. Around 20% of the pupils have been identified as having additional learning needs; this is about the national average. Five children have a statement of special need. Approximately 2% of the children in school are under the care of social services, at the time of writing there are no looked after children in school.
The school had previously been quite an insular community, a closed door culture, with staff working in isolation within their classrooms or year groups. Only the SMT were included in school improvement planning which was then fed back to all staff.
The creation of an open door culture and the engagement of all members of staff in self-evaluation and school improvement were high on the agenda for improvement.
We needed to:
- Create common goals that were measurable and understood by all staff.
- Create a committed, effective team.
- Create high expectation for all.
- Create transparency and accountability in an open and honest culture.
Nature of strategy or activity identified as sector-leading practice
Our journey began several years ago with the introduction of whole school improvement planning days. Two training days are set aside in late June for whole school self-evaluation and improvement planning. Two weeks before the school improvement planning days, all members of staff including teachers, LSA’s and interested governors are given a questionnaire. The questionnaire contains a summary of last year’s targets / action plans and the following questions:
- How well have we met our targets?
- What do we have to celebrate?
- What are our strengths?
- What are our weaknesses / challenges?
- What can we do to improve?
- What do you think our priorities should be for the next year?
Staff make observations and comment freely on these areas before handing back their questionnaires, which can remain anonymous.The SMT then compile the information from the questionnaires ready to share with all staff over the two days.
The first day starts with a discussion about the previous school year in which staff discuss areas that they feel deserve praise and appreciation. This leads onto a discussion of the schools aims around questions such as ‘Are they still relevant?’
Staff opinions and perceptions of the previous year are then shared. The opinions and perceptions of all staff are very open and honest. As our self-evaluation and improvement planning has developed and strengthened staff no longer fill out the forms anonymously. All staff are able to articulate what they think is a strength or a weakness and more importantly how they think improvements can be made. This leads to very frank discussions about all areas of school life e.g. communication, leadership, behaviour, standards, writing, mathematics etc. Discussions also take place about more minor issues such as: rubbish bins, after school support timetables etc. Giving a forum for open discussion has proved valuable in creating an environment where all opinions and concerns can be voiced in an open forum about any area of school; an open and honest culture.
We then move on to share and analyse the school data, discussions take place to ensure all staff understand where we are and where we need to go in the next year. All coordinators feedback a summary of how their area has performed over the year including any further data and if their action plans have been completed and how successful they were.
- We then discuss priorities for the coming year:
- What are the main priorities? How do we know?
- What do we need to do? What is the expected impact on standards?
- What training is involved?
By the end of the two very full days all staff and governors understand: where the school is, what we are doing well, what our challenges are and how we are going to overcome them.
The SLT then write up the action plans and the SIP. The draft SIP is then discussed at the next staff meeting and displayed in the staff room. The self-evaluation report is updated ready for additional data in the autumn term.
Impact on provision and learners’ standards
The annual school improvement planning /self-evaluation days have impacted on the school in a number of ways:
- The creation of a shared vision, all members of the school team believe in the aims and are totally committed to the schools aspirations.
- We have a truly inclusive team; all staff have been included at all levels of school improvement and evaluation and feel they have “had their say”.
- A very open and honest culture has developed throughout the school.
- All staff feel able to give a professional opinion on any aspect of school life.
- All staff have become very proactive in helping to achieve the improvements in the plan. They are clear about why we are doing things, how they are being done and what their part in the process is. The SIP now links to their performance management objectives both personal and whole school targets.
- Staff training is clear to all and is linked completely to school improvement.
- Accountability is now found at all levels of the school team, everyone knows if they do not fulfil their role in the plan the school will not achieve the goals they have set for the year. No one ever says “it’s not my job to….”
- There is a sense of collective responsibility, as creating an excellent school involves everyone.
In summary the collective approach to self-evaluation and improvement planning has created a team with high commitment, not just for an individual’s classroom but a collective responsibility for the whole school.
There is a culture of very high expectations throughout the school for both the staff and children, no one settles for less than the best.
There are no excuses for poor performance within the staff or children.
There is now good and excellent teaching in all classrooms, peer support and observations occur frequently, no one is afraid to ask for support, all staff will ask for or give advice.
As a consequence standards throughout the school have risen and are at least good and in most cases excellent.