All teachers at Cardiff High School are part of a coaching programme giving them support, guidance and professional development. The school focuses relentlessly on improvement and encourages all teachers to become resilient lifelong learners.
Number of pupils: 1496
Age range: 11 - 18 years
Date of Estyn inspection: March 2013
Context and background to sector-leading practice
Cardiff High school is an English medium 11 – 18 mixed comprehensive school situated in the North of the city of Cardiff. There are 1496 pupils on roll and of these 373 are in the Sixth Form. Most pupils come from the surrounding residential areas of Cyncoed, Lakeside and Roath. Most pupils transfer to the school from four Primary Schools.
Around 6% of pupils are eligible for free school meals. The school has a diverse pupil intake and the majority of pupils speak English as their first language. Five hundred and fifty five pupils are categorised as pupils with English as an additional language and 37% of pupils come from a minority ethnic background. The school’s intake includes the full range of ability. The school has an above average proportion of pupils with higher ability and fewer middle and lower ability pupils. The percentage of pupils with special educational needs is around 11% and the percentage of pupils with a statement of educational needs (2.5%) is very close to the National average. One per cent of pupils speak Welsh as their first language.
The school’s vision is based on high expectations and a relentless focus on improvement. The school aims to develop a strong sense of responsibility and accountability in both staff and pupils.
Since 2010, the school has been committed to improving teachers’ classroom practice through coaching by senior staff. Those coached tended to be volunteers struggling with specific problems or newly qualified teachers. In 2012, it became clear that the coaching programme was not reaching everyone who needed support and the school needed a more robust system to tackle in-school variation.
The aim was for all teachers to gain a secure understanding of effective practice so that there would be a high degree of consistency in the quality of teaching across the school.
All new staff now enter the coaching programme. In order to maintain standards and continuity, Cardiff High school teachers created a learning and teaching handbook, ‘The Refinery’ to use in training.
The school recognised that throughout their teaching career, teachers need different types of support, guidance and professional development at different times. The school wanted to employ a range of techniques to enhance teachers’ competencies, contribute to their professional development and encourage all teachers to become resilient life-long learners. Most importantly, the school’s aim was to develop, support and value excellence in teaching.
Nature of strategy or activity identified as sector-leading practice
The school started to re-think teacher support by defining coaching:
Coaching is the development of teachers’ skills and knowledge so that their job performances and enjoyment of their roles improves. It involves a sharing partnership in which professionals support each other. Professionals are equal and learn through discussion.
This definition enabled different opportunities for professional development to be linked together. The courses and support for newly qualified teachers, induction courses for new staff, the school’s course for aspiring middle leaders along with working groups would all contribute to the wider focus on coaching. All teachers belong to a working group which considers important aspects of learning and teaching. These groups meet five times a year and produce materials which are shared with the whole staff. Within the groups, teachers work in pairs who act as coaches for each other; thus every teacher is now both a coach and is coached by a partner.
Every teacher in a new management role is provided with a senior coach. There are at least six scheduled meetings a year in which roles, procedures and policy are discussed. Coaches are trained in-house. The emphasis is on being good listeners and supporting staff through action-planning. This follows the cycle below.
A working party of teachers discussed the school’s learning and teaching philosophy and practices. The group produced lesson observation grids, planning sheets and a handbook which aimed to capture the school’s best classroom practices. Inset days were used to introduce the material to the wider staff so that everyone was involved in revising and contributing to the school’s learning and teaching handbook.
Another aspect of coaching involves improving specific areas within lessons such as using effective starters, introducing higher order questioning or refining the use of student voice. ‘The Refinery’ is a valuable tool in coaching teachers in such instances by providing advice, grids, modelled formats and research findings. Alongside ‘The Refinery’, teachers also have access to on-line audio-visual resources demonstrating effective practices. Coaching, in its various forms, has been a powerful tool for improvement in learning and teaching and for closing the gap in teacher performance.
Impact on provision and learners’ standards
Inspectors noted that:
“The school has a creative system for supporting, challenging and managing performance in order to help staff improve their practice. This includes a well-structured performance management system for all teaching and support staff and a coaching and mentoring system, which is also a powerful tool for succession and career planning.”
Out of fifteen teachers, coached 2011-2012, thirteen achieved promotion by the end of that year. All of the new Curriculum Leaders were enthusiastic about the support given and thought that it had been invaluable; The encouragement and advice received have spurred me on and helped me become an effective manager this year’.
The Inspectors commented that:
“This innovative on-going research and development of teaching and learning has culminated in the school’s lesson ‘refinery’ and has had a very positive impact on improving classroom practice and standards. This is an outstanding feature of the school.”
The impact of the school’s strategies to ensure high quality teaching is evident in pupils’ achievement across all key stages.
In key stage 3, performance has been very good over the last four years and well above expectations. Performance in English, mathematics and science, both separately and combined, has been among the best compared with that of similar schools. A particular strength is the proportion achieving the very highest levels. In 2012, over a third of pupils attained level 7 or above in English and nearly half of pupils attained level 7 or above in mathematics and science. This is an outstanding feature.
The key stage 4 performance is consistently well above family averages for all key indicators and each of the core subjects for the last four years. This places the school as the highest in its family of schools. When compared with similar schools based on the proportion of pupils entitled to free school meals, the school has been in the top quarter of schools for the last four years in all core subjects and key indicators. The school has exceeded expectations for all three measures in key stage 4. In the sixth form pupils perform well and a very high percentage gain the level 3 threshold (equivalent to two A levels at grade A* to E). No pupils have left without qualifications in the past three years. Nearly all remain in full time education and many continue to the sixth form at the school.