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Stories of change - moving from '4' to '3'

This page has been archived. The content was correct at the time of original publication, but is no longer updated.
Created on 23 November 2009 by ncetm_administrator
Updated on 07 April 2010 by ncetm_administrator

Case Study A:
After only three years of teaching I found myself promoted to subject leader in an inner-city school. I was appointed as second in department 18 months ago but due to staffing instability, retirement of the SL and the lack of a field from advertising the post, I was appointed. I’m a pretty good classroom teacher but at the time, had no experience of analysing a department’s data. I could compare the headline grade C+ figure with the target figure but since I had not been involved in  the process of agreeing the target, I did not know whether to celebrate or …… not.
My first step was to ask my line manager, the deputy head, for a meeting. I put the request in writing because up until this point he had not instigated any meetings. This felt a bit ‘pushy’ but I never saw him so could not have informal chats. I was disappointed with the lack of useful outcomes from the meeting: the deputy head was no better informed than me.
In desperation, I phoned a maths subject leader in another local school – we had met on my first SL day held by the LA. I went to visit his school one afternoon. I came away feeling frustrated about why data sources seemed to be hidden or lost in my school but at least I had some headings under which I could start to make sense of the GCSE data (trend over time; gender gap). The use of FFT pupil estimates had not been made available to me; I had to track them down. Eventually I found that it was one of the administrative staff who held all of the useful data.  
I now use FFT data both to judge GCSE achievement and inform progress discussions concerning current KS4 pupils (managed to find the individual pupil estimates for Y10 so that the department can see how un/reasonable they are and attempt to agree adjustments). My main learning from this whole experience was that if systems within school are not helpful, having a contact in another school enabled me to ask the right questions. Secondly, finding out who in the school has primary access to data is invaluable. It seems that admin staff have the power.

Case Study B:
As a new subject leader in a comprehensive school, I needed a starting point from which to build a development plan – the previous plan seemed to have disappeared.  My data headlines suggested lower than expected attainment but I had no evidence of how my department’s classroom practice contributed to, or could help improve, the situation. I decided to plan out a series of lesson observations. I chose not to use the school’s lesson observation sheet because I was keen for the staff not to see the exercise as part of any official performance management. I used a lesson observation document, which I brought with me from my previous school but I cannot remember its origin.  I thought it important that we discussed the lesson criteria as a whole department before starting any observations. I went out of my way to stress that the numbered categories were not important (partly because I’m not experienced enough or trained to make Ofsted-style judgements!) but emphasised that the column headings were useful to help focus the work (I asked my second in department to observe me so that all of us were involved). I fedback briefly to individuals after lessons but summarised our strengths and weaknesses across the whole department during a departmental meeting. I asked teachers to use the criteria in the grid to make their own judgements about their lessons. Variation within the department in two strands became apparent: assessment and progress.
My next step was to write these two aspects into a development plan; including actions such as devising an assessment policy and dictating the expectations concerning the use of levelled/graded learning objectives. 

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