Developing staff skills to improve standards for all learners

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Developing staff skills to improve standards for all learners

Focussing on skills, aspirations and positive values is just as important for staff as it is for pupils at Herbert Thompson Primary School, Cardiff. Staff are encouraged to develop their skills and are offered training opportunities to enhance their leadership potential.

Number of pupils: 466
Age range: 3- 11 years
Date of Estyn inspection: March 2014

Context and background to sector-leading practice

Herbert Thompson Primary School serves the Ely area of Cardiff. The majority of pupils are of white ethnic background and the remainder are of mixed ethnic groups. There are 17% of pupils with English as an additional language and no pupils speak Welsh as a first language. About 51% of pupils are entitled to free school meals, which is significantly higher than the average for the local authority and Wales. The school has identified about 45% of pupils as having additional learning needs, including a few who have statements of special educational needs. The number of pupils with additional learning needs is significantly higher than the local authority average. The school’s mission statement is ‘Find your talents, let them grow. Be the person that you’d like to know’.

Herbert Thompson is a very happy school with a positive ethos based on respect, care and high expectations of all. This case study reflects on how a Headteacher has established a clear vision, developed a management structure that allows distributed leadership and focused on improving the skills of all staff in order to build their own capacity and improve standards for all learners.

Nature of strategy or activity identified as sector-leading practice

A significant amount of work was carried out to ensure the whole school community was part of establishing a long-term vision and school values that reflected the strong belief in all children and a commitment to the community in which they belong.

The school’s vision is ‘that all the members of the Herbert Thompson community live with positive values and behaviours and have aspirations and skills to successfully move to the next stage of their lives’.

The Headteacher ensured the focus on skills, aspiration and positive values, was arguably just as important for staff as it was for the pupils. If members of staff are happy, motivated and highly skilled they have a greater impact on our pupils. The relentless focus on improvement was further embedded and staff were encouraged to believe in themselves, in the pupils and in the wider school community.

The Headteacher invests in staff relationships and staff wellbeing. She has daily contact with staff in morning briefing sessions, which often includes circle time that focuses on building relationships, having breakfast together and sharing family news. Staff complete online questionnaires about their wellbeing that are followed up by an action plan. In school, staff have access to counselling, weekly exercise classes and a healthy eating staffroom.

The school has a clear senior leadership structure, which promotes collaborative working. Senior leaders have excellent working relationships with staff. The Headteacher is a positive role model who demonstrates high levels of trust, belief and respect for each member’s contribution. This in turn results in high levels of motivation.

Each leader has clear responsibilities for specific areas of learning and contributes to strategic planning which ensures improvement. Weekly senior leadership meetings focus on aspects relating to – outcomes for pupils, provision and leadership. Leaders have opportunities to report on developments within their areas of responsibility, such as discussing outcomes of monitoring tasks including work scrutiny. Judgements and evaluations are made as part of quality assurance procedures. This ensures that everyone is well-informed and school improvement decisions are continual.

Improving the skills of all staff is a major priority and is discussed during every senior leadership meeting. The school considers that all teachers are leaders and provides them with training and opportunities that harness their leadership potential. This includes opportunities to share their skills with others in school and beyond.

Teachers analyse pupil progress at specific points of the year. During learning reviews they plan ways forward and set targets to ensure that all pupils achieve their potential. Mini learning reviews, held with Learning Support Assistants, track the data from interventions to ensure that no child is left behind. These reviews result in high standards and a culture of reflection and continuous improvement.

Staff feel empowered and valued and well equipped to do what is expected of them.

There is an open and honest culture at the school and staff are keen to develop and learn from each other. ‘Coaching Triplets’ are well established and teachers work closely with their peers to improve leadership and teaching skills. All teachers have received training on how to undertake lesson observations and the fundamentals of excellent teaching. They film learning and teaching in their classrooms and reflect on this both independently and within their groups. Planned INSET sessions focus on developing excellence in the classroom; using both in-house expertise and external providers. This ensures that staff keep abreast of current developments and are constantly striving to improve provision and standards.

Impact on provision and learners’ standards

The school’s philosophy and practice has ensured that:

  • nearly all pupils make very good progress from low staring points on entry to the school;
  • standards are consistently high and are above local and national averages;
  • the quality of teaching is consistently high across the school;
  • all members of staff work effectively as a team and are highly motivated;
  • wellbeing of pupils and staff is excellent ;
  • there is a very caring, inclusive and happy ethos;
  • staff feel empowered, trusted and believed in; and
  • staff are highly skilled and developed well professionally.