Professional learning opportunities that raise standards

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At Dŵr y Felin Comprehensive School, leadership responsibilities have been distributed to many staff who have contributed significantly to the school’s improvement work.

Number of learners: 1,134
Age range: 11-16
Date of inspection: March 2017

Information about the school

Dŵr y Felin Comprehensive School is an English-medium 11-16 mixed comprehensive school in Neath Port Talbot. It has 1,134 pupils on roll. 

Pupils are drawn from an area that includes Neath and the surrounding area. Just over 14% of pupils live in the 20% most deprived areas of Wales and over 17% of pupils are eligible for free school meals. About 1% of pupils come from Welsh-speaking homes. Most pupils are from white British backgrounds with very few from minority ethnic groups. There are 34 pupils for whom English is an additional language.

The percentage of pupils with special educational needs is around 26%, which is in line with the national average. The percentage of pupils who have a statement of special educational needs is around 1%, which is below the national average of 2.5%. Fifteen pupils are under the care of the local authority.

The senior leadership team consists of the headteacher, two deputy headteachers, two assistant headteachers and a bursar.

The school is currently a ‘professional learning pioneer school’.

Our mission statement is in line with the four purposes of the curriculum for Wales.  
"Our aim is to provide a structured, caring environment, within which pupils develop as:

• ambitious, capable learners, ready to learn throughout their lives
• enterprising, creative contributors, ready to play a full part in life and work
• ethical, informed citizens of Wales and the world
• healthy, confident individuals, ready to lead fulfilling lives as valued members of society and are motivated to achieve their full potential".

Context and background to sector-leading practice

The school has a long history of providing opportunities for personal professional learning linked to leadership and improving standards in teaching and learning. This is in line with the national and local priorities, identified in the Donaldson and Furlong reports.

Description of nature of strategy or activity

The whole school community is committed to working together to provide the best opportunities for all staff and pupils with a clear focus on raising standards.

The school plays a lead role in highly successful partnerships to support other schools and practitioners. Staff have had beneficial opportunities to take up secondments both internally and within the local consortia. The heads of English and science have had extended secondments to ERW to share expertise, knowledge and best practice to support schools with raising standards.  This has allowed these practitioners to gain a valuable insight into effective practice in other schools. This sharing of best practice has yielded a number of benefits to our school.

Secondments onto the extended senior leadership team have provided opportunities for personal development for staff to take responsibility for leading on a whole-school priority and managing change. These opportunities have broadened middle leaders’ knowledge and experience of managing the school in line with the leadership standards. The creation of Assistant Heads of Year roles have further built leadership capacity within the pastoral systems within the school. Through working with groups of vulnerable pupils, they have strengthened the care, support and guidance for all pupils.

Increased leadership roles for cross-curricular responsibilities have contributed successfully to creating staff opportunities to lead on national priorities within school, the cluster and beyond. In addition, the role of a teaching and learning coordinator has been created with a specific focus on developing pedagogy across the school.

The roles of learning support assistants have been developed giving them greater responsibility for delivering interventions to different groups of learners.

As a result of these initiatives, leadership has been distributed to many staff who have contributed significantly to the school’s improvement work. 

In addition, there are a significant number of pupil led forums, which contribute to the development of the school.  Senior prefects lead the school council. They have created a pupil friendly version of the development plan and have driven forward on key priorities such as focus on raising attendance, modifications to assessment arrangements and changes to the learning environment. In addition, many pupils make a valuable contribution to the life of the school in a variety of leadership roles through their involvement as anti-bullying ambassadors, peer mentors and teaching and learning representatives.

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

Leadership at all levels has created a highly-effective learning community, which has secured and sustained strong pupil outcomes over the past four years. 

Strong partnerships with the cluster and the college has led to seamless transition with consistency of delivery in cross-curricular skills.

Secondments of key staff have led to the sharing of best practice between schools. This has allowed our school to keep abreast of current developments. Opportunities for promotion have resulted and a significant number of staff have completed leadership qualifications.

The development of pupil forums contributes meaningfully to the strategic direction of the school. Pupils feel valued, and are more confident, ambitious learners who are well prepared to be leaders of the future.
The school’s particular emphasis on distributing leadership responsibilities more widely is extremely successful and has contributed to the development of consistently effective teaching in many lessons that ensures that many pupils make strong progress.

How have you shared your good practice?

Our practice has been shared widely through working with the cluster, 14-19 local authority network and the consortium. The school works together with Welsh Government as a pioneer school and has contributed to research with the OECD.