Strong leadership and strategic plans for school improvement

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At Llansannor C.I.W. Primary School, clear strategic objectives, defined roles and responsibilities for staff and governors and effective performance management processes have resulted in improved standards across the school.

Number of learners: 230
Age range: 3 - 11
Date of inspection: May 2017

Information about the school

Llansannor & Llanharry Church in Wales VA Primary School is a single form intake English-medium primary serving the Rectorial Benefice of Cowbridge and the parish of Llanharry.  The school is in a rural setting four miles north of Cowbridge in the Vale of Glamorgan and half a mile from the village of Llanharry in Rhondda Cynon Taf, and takes in pupils from both local authorities.

There are around 230 pupils on roll aged between three and eleven, including 43 in the part-time nursery.  The school teaches pupils in eight classes, which contain pupils from single year groups.  Around 5% of pupils are eligible for free school meals and the school identifies around 15% of pupils as having additional learning needs.  Nearly all pupils are of white British ethnicity and speak English as their home language.

The headteacher took up her post in January 2015.

Context and background to sector-leading practice

During a period of instability in Spring 2015, with nearly half of teaching staff on temporary short-term contracts, the headteacher’s main objective was to identify strengths and weaknesses in teaching, challenge underperformance, and develop clear lines of accountability.  A period of rigorous recruitment resulted in strengthening the leadership and teaching team through the appointment of a new Leader of Learning / Additional Learning Needs Co-ordinator (ALNCo) together with a Foundation Phase Leader.  The school appointed two Newly Qualified Teachers and distributed core subject responsibilities that were previously vacant.

This was a potentially fragile period with a considerable change in staffing and organisational processes and procedures, but it ultimately allowed the school to evolve and develop strong practice, which resulted in improved standards across the school over the last two years.

Description of nature of strategy or activity identified as sector-leading practice

Clear aims and strategic objectives

The school revised its vision, values and aims with its community and launched them in Spring 2016 with a new logo designed by pupils.  The school badge accurately embodies the school’s strong Christian ethos and its future as seen by the pupils of Llansannor. 
The school shares its aims and strategic objectives with all stakeholders, and regularly revisits them during in-service training (INSET) sessions.  There is a good shared understanding of the areas that need improving, which ensures a relentless drive for improvement that is central to school life.

Roles and responsibilities of staff and governors and their contribution to school improvement

The roles and responsibilities of staff clearly define their areas of accountability and responsibility.  Leaders regularly review job descriptions with staff, which enables them to address priority improvement areas proactively and lead within their curriculum umbrella group.  Leaders distribute workload fairly and give staff appropriate non-contact time to fulfil their duties effectively, and meet agreed deadlines; this ensures that it secures pace and momentum. 

All leaders make a considerable contribution to school improvement; they manage their time effectively and reflect on their practice, taking a high level of responsibility for their subject improvement plans and targets.  Teachers share a corporate commitment to attain and meet these targets and analyse and reflect on a range of data confidently, to support them in this role.  Where leaders identify underperformance, they address any weaknesses quickly and efficiently, providing targeted support programmes.  This ensures that all staff share very high expectations.  Due to the established networks of support and trust, staff feel valued and morale is very high. 

Staff meetings focus on priority areas and on enhancing staff’s skills, with all transactional activity restricted to communication by email.  Standardisation and moderation of pupil standards form a regular part of the school’s INSET timetable, which has led to a good, shared understanding of assessment levels and very good consistency across the school.  This was essential due to the high turnover of staff and has effectively supported the development of newly qualified teachers.

Governors ensure that they understand the school’s strengths, shortcomings and future priorities very well under the leadership of an effective chairperson.  Members have a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities in holding school leaders and managers to account.  Link governors select an area of school improvement and meet regularly with the lead teacher to monitor, challenge and support progress. 

Effective Performance Management (PM)

The school’s performance management process clearly identifies individual and whole school training and development needs to support the school’s improvement targets.  All staff are involved in carrying out observations of teaching and this has led to the implementation of effective support programmes and triad working, with skilled teachers readily sharing their practice.  Leaders timetable non-contact time for staff, to allow professional and reflective dialogue.  This has resulted in a self-improving learning culture.  The process of triangulating lesson observations, scrutinising pupil books and analysing data ensures that the school’s performance management process impacts positively on teaching and learning. 

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

Newly improved management and leadership systems at all levels have ensured a strong trend of improvement over the past two years in teaching and pupil outcomes.  For example, all staff now apply a highly effective, consistent approach to the assessment and marking of pupils’ work.  This has made a notable improvement in the standards of numeracy that most pupils achieve.

Curriculum innovation projects, such as immersion days, allow pupils to contribute to planning, increasing the engagement of reluctant writers.  Nearly all pupils collaborate and engage well in activities and take pride in their achievements.

The most recent inspection in May 2017 judged the school’s prospects for improvement as excellent and inspectors reported that “dynamic leadership empowers all staff to contribute effectively within a strong, supportive team ethos.  Senior leaders challenge underperformance robustly to ensure that all pupils have equality of opportunity.  All staff are well-motivated and respond to the headteacher’s high expectations positively.” 

How have you shared your good practice?

The school shares its strong leadership and strategic planning processes with other schools through pathfinder, School Improvement Group and cluster groups.  In addition, it shares the high challenge and lines of accountability on the National Professional Qualification for Headship (NPQH) training programme and national challenge adviser training events.