Improving the leadership structure using best practice

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Improving the leadership structure using best practice

After their Estyn inspection in 2012, Gwaunmeisgyn Primary School, Rhondda Cynon Taff, decided to review their leadership structure. The senior management team adopted a systematic approach to review the effectiveness of the current structure. They looked at key features of the leadership model at best practice schools and devised their own model.

Number of pupils: 300
Age range: 3 - 11 years
Date of Estyn inspection: January 2014

Context and background to sector-leading practice

Gwaunmeisgyn Primary school serves the village of Beddau in Rhonda Cynon Taff. The school has a diverse catchment area and 21% of pupils are entitled to free school meals. The school has two specialist teaching facilities for pupils with severe and complex learning difficulties. Around 24% of pupils are identified with special needs. English is the predominant home language for all pupils.

Between 2010 and 2012, Gwaunmeisgyn Primary School experienced a significant turnover of staff with 70% of teachers and 3 members of the senior leadership team retiring. Consequently, following an Estyn inspection in November of 2012, it was established that the recently formed leadership team needed to set high standards, carry out their roles effectively and involve all stakeholders in agreeing a clear strategic direction for the school. In addition, the governing body needed to challenge leadership more effectively in relation to the standards achieved. Following the inspection, there were a number of changes to the membership of the governing body and a new chair was appointed.

In response, members of the senior leadership team and the chair of governors used the Estyn website to identify and visit a school that had been recognised as having sector leading practice in strategic direction and the impact of leadership. Using examples from this school as models, Gwaunmeisgyn developed an effective leadership structure, galvanised the work of the governing body and involved all stakeholders in producing a new school vision and set of core values.

As the result of this work, Estyn’s follow up visit in January 2014 noted that members of the management team at Gwaunmeisgyn Primary School ‘now have a clear understanding of their roles, responsibilities and accountability. Leadership training and non-contact time has enabled members to play a full and effective role in monitoring standards and managing performance. They now focus well on self-evaluation and maintaining well-established links with the governing body.’

Governing body involvement has improved significantly and individual members now have a clear insight into the work of the school. Governors challenge school performance at all levels regularly and track progress towards targets for pupils’ attainment closely.

Nature of strategy or activity identified as sector-leading practice

Following the 2012 inspection, sharing good practice from other schools provided a catalyst for change in our approach to leadership and management.

The senior management team adopted a systematic approach to reviewing and improving their leadership structure and its effectiveness. Noting the key features of the leadership model at a best practice school, and further examples of good practice from the cluster family of schools, leaders devised a model for effective management:

  • The school extended its existing team of headteacher, deputy and two phase leaders to include the special educational needs coordinator and the subject leader for English.
  • Each member was given a comprehensive, updated job description with clearly defined roles and responsibilities for monitoring and improving standards.
  • The leadership team produced a summary description of each member’s role and circulated these to all stakeholders.
  • Leaders established a comprehensive monitoring timetable which included regular lesson observations, planning reviews, book trawls and learning walks.
  • Senior leaders analyse performance data every half-term and produce termly summaries.
  • Each member has weekly non-teaching time in order to carry out their duties.

The newly elected chair of governors, simultaneously embarked upon an extensive review of the governing body, striving to strengthen the impact of arrangements at all levels.

Key features of the review were:

  • One to one meetings with every governor to ascertain skills, experience, expertise and areas of interest.
  • Analysis of the frequency of all committee meetings, attendance and outputs.
  • Comparison of practice to that of high performing governing bodies, using Estyn case studies to generate ideas and impetus for change.

This process reinvigorated the whole governing body and resulted in improved structure, commitment and organisation, namely:

  • A new annual work programme for governors, for all committees.
  • A firmly reinstated School Improvement & Curriculum Committee to challenge standards and post inspection progress half termly.
  • Improved arrangements to report regularly on whole school, class and thematic pupil attainment data to governors.
  • A fully inclusive approach to monitoring pupil outcomes, including full coverage of pupils entitled to free school meals, pupils with special needs and those with complex needs. Pupil progress in the school’s language resource base was brought to life for governors by inviting a parent to the School Improvement Committee to describe the impact the school had made upon her son.
  • Revised membership of committees and the reallocation of link governor roles.
  • A comprehensive training and development plan for governors to ensure continuous improvement.
  • These changes brought about greater involvement and commitment of the governing body to the school’s new vision and values. As a consequence, governors have developed a greater awareness and understanding of the school’s performance, targets and ambitions for the future. The presence of governors at school is now more noticeable and governors are now more confident to ask questions and challenge the school about its performance.
  • To support the school in refining its vision and defining its core values:
  • A range of models and ideas for vision statements from other schools were selected via a trawl of the internet and using examples from best practice schools.
  • The school council and staff agreed a list of core values. The governing body discussed these made their own recommendations and then parents were asked to choose their preferred options.
  • From the responses we produced a flower design with 8 core values shown on the petals and this was again presented to all stakeholders.
  • The ‘Values Flower’, as it became known, is now prominently displayed on posters around the school, used on correspondence, and represented through large models in the school hall and reception.
  • We have a value of the month which is introduced at school assemblies and reinforced through class activities and events.

Impact on provision and learners’ standards

The school now has increased expectations of all its leaders, staff and governors. All members of the senior management team have well-defined roles which are clearly understood by staff. All members of staff now know exactly what is expected, how standards will be judged and when performance will be monitored. Teachers ensure that pupil progress is tracked, evaluated and reported regularly to governors who play an active role in evaluating progress and challenging leaders to address any areas of underperformance. As a consequence, end of key stage results have improved significantly.