Distributed leadership that supports school improvement

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Distributed leadership at all levels across the federation of Ysgol Bryngwyn and and Ysgol Glan-y-Môr School has secured improved pupil outcomes and wellbeing.

Number of learners: Bryngwyn 1050, Glan y Môr 480
Age range: 11-16
Date of inspection:  May 2017

Information about the school

Bryngwyn and Glan y Môr were formally federated in September 2014 becoming the pilot for secondary federations in Wales. They are 7 miles apart.  Bryngwyn School is an 11-16, mixed, community school. It is situated in Dafen, on the north-eastern side of Llanelli, Carmarthenshire and draws its pupils from parts of the town centre and from a number of outlying villages. There are 1,050 pupils on roll, and around 20% of pupils are eligible for free school meals.

Glan y Môr is an 11-16 community focused school in Burry Port, Carmarthenshire with 480 pupils on roll of whom approximately 30% are eligible for free school meals. Both schools not only work in partnership with each other but also work in close partnership with cluster primary schools, other secondary schools in the area and the local FE college.   Both schools are pioneer and lead creative schools

Context and background to sector-leading practice

Leadership is a key driver in any a school improvement journey, even more so in the context of federations where there is an expectation that leaders across institutions act autonomously.  New federations provide valuable opportunities to share best practice with new audiences, develop different perspectives and provide new impetus for change.   The effective management of federations requires developing truly distributed leadership at all levels and most importantly, throughout and across institutions.  It is this distributed model of leadership that has allowed rapid progress across the shared provision.  Over time a dynamic and collaborative leadership model has evolved.  Within both schools, there is ambition and drive to secure improved outcomes and strong levels of pupil wellbeing and the correct skill set to bring this about.

Description of nature of strategy or activity

The initial challenge for the two schools was to develop new senior leadership structures that would enable the effective leadership of each school while meeting existing demands at whole-school, local and national levels.   To address this, all leaders took on cross federation roles alongside their school based roles, with all members of the senior leadership team having “umbrella” federation responsibilities.  Over time, the challenge of operating across two sites has prompted the school to become more pragmatic in its leadership approach.  For example, line management duties that were once distributed across all SLT and across both schools sites have evolved so that middle leaders have greater access to SLT links who are resident on their site.

For federation to work it was also essential to create a culture of innovation and accountability at middle leader level. Key to this has been the opportunity created by federation for greater partnership working and the unique privilege for staff to work across schools and to share pedagogical ideas and experiences.  To date, in the first three years of federation, 34 members of staff have benefitted from assuming additional leadership responsibilities at departmental, whole-school and federation levels, leading to significant new opportunities for CPD.   This has increased the school’s leadership capacity and enhanced its resilience to manage change effectively in the future.

It was also important to ensure that the federation’s governing body provided the school with a consistently high level of challenge and support and to develop robust, innovative governance that would provide strong strategic direction and accountability for the federation.  It was imperative to create mutually supportive yet locally autonomous governance for both Bryngwyn and Glan y Môr. This would enable the schools to flourish while preserving the unique characteristics of their respective communities and the populations they served.

To achieve these aims the school has developed a model of leadership that focusses on the “6Cs”:

1. Consistency - ensuring quality of provision, access to resources and developing specialist support across the federation has reduced in-school and cross-federation variation.

2. Collaboration - as working together becomes more natural and embedded, the school works smarter, and improves its practices.

3. Challenge – using context and data to set challenging targets that move the learner forward while never forgetting the need for pupils to enjoy their experiences at school.   The school’s mantra for both pupils and staff is simply ‘to be the best that they can be’. Rigorous, robust and meaningful self-evaluation and improvement planning across the federation has secured outstanding improvements to standards, learning experiences, and led to sustained, high quality teaching.

4. Capacity –by using the combined skills and expertise of all staff to share good practice and encourage a dialogue on pedagogy, the school enhances the experience of the learner and practitioner.   The school constantly seeks to change and improve, while anticipating what is over the “horizon” and trying to plan for it calmly, analytically and effectively.

5. Climate – Fundamental to the school’s success has been the promotion of a culture of “Trust and Dialogue” across the federation. All colleagues care passionately about what they do and understand the importance of working together in the pursuit of improvement for all learners. This extends across both academic and pastoral areas. The school’s simple ambition for its pupils is that they will help them to ‘build a life’ for themselves.

6. Competition: healthy and friendly competition exists between schools and across department within the federation and has helped to drive standards. Standards in both schools are high. Glan y Môr has seen significant improvement in outcomes year on year since federation while Bryngwyn has maintained its standards, achieving some of it best ever results in the last 4 out of 5 years.

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

In addition to the improvements in pupils’ outcomes noted above, the federation has developed an innovative approach to rewards and sanctions which has led to significant improvements in pupils’ wellbeing and positive attitudes to learning.   Collaborative working, involving joint meetings and the observing and sharing of best practices and resources has acted as an impetus for improvements across the curriculum, which have in turn been key drivers for engagement and improved outcomes for groups of learners.  Pupils, parents, staff and governors now have a strong sense of belonging to the federation and each school with a genuine pride in their collective achievements. The school’s motto ‘yn rhoi o’n gorau’ (‘giving our best’), captures the determination of both schools to achieve excellence but also expresses its focus on each individual giving their utmost to realise their potential.

How have you shared your good practice?

Good practice is shared through honest and open dialogue based upon thorough self-evaluation which celebrates strengths whilst increasing the ambition to improve further.  Staff at all levels analyse their strengths and areas for development with line managers.  A highly personalised coaching and mentoring programme is in place for all staff: teachers are carefully matched with lead practitioners within and across the federation.  Teachers at all levels are encouraged to take a lead role across the federation in the form of Teachmeets, INSET events and teaching and learning forums where staff engage in animated professional dialogue while sharing strategies that range from classroom-based practice to the habits of effective leadership.   Digital forums are used to embed good practice and continue sharing with further staff over time.

Where possible, opportunities are also explored beyond the federation as staff are encouraged to share their strengths with colleagues from other schools both within the family of schools and across the region.  

Links: www.bryngwynschool.co.uk, www.glanymorschool.co.uk