Thursday, 26 June 2014

It ain't over til the fat bloke sings, but, to be honest...

Reports went out today.  That always feels good.  As a staff we completed our final piece of shared monitoring last night, and, a few loose ends aside, I have finished my drop-in observations.  Our NQT reports are complete, and the mammoth work undertaken on our new curriculum is bearing fruit.  We have completed the teaching body for next year, and, all in all, things are going in the direction I intended. On top of all this, I am of course looking forward to a certain trip to London tomorrow...

That is not to say that we are about in anyway to take our feet of the pedagogical peddle; far from it.  There are still a number of projects I want to conclude / polish / initiate before we end term 6, and we are planning to run several school improvement and environment projects during the summer.  We've already started some (ask dear year 4 - they had to bear the brunt of some of it today, which they did with monumental stoicism).

By the way, a note on reports.  I am bowled over, every year, by the care and attention teachers put into the report system, and the genuine relationships that are reflected therein. It is a testament to the work of dedicated teachers how they manage, year after year, to create such celebratory reflections of an enormous proportion of a child's life.  A few typos and "cut-and-paste"-os aside, I didn't read a bad one.  Thank you team.

However, I have been in a state of mulling recently.  I do not mean simmering in a vat of wine with some oranges; I mean engaged in pondering.  Reflecting.  Considering.  Much, much car thinking (as you know, on the Willis scale of thinking, the second highest) has gone in recently to what I feel will be the true outcomes of this year.

The evidence of this year is plain to see, and has been repeatedly validated externally: our teaching is the best it has ever been; our environment is wonderful; our books are exemplary; our parents' opinion of our school, and indeed the children's, has improved significantly.  Writing our SEFs this year has been no chore.  Yet I have been forced to mulling the implications of the first sets of data that have reached me.

Our EYFS data, externally scrutinised and praised, is lower than our ambitious targets.  Key Stage 1 looks pretty good, especially the homegrown data, but falls a little below targets.  Our attendance is lower than last year due to an awful term 2.  SATs week, despite the best efforts of the majority of year 6s (one of whom now calls me "Dude" in a way that demonstrates his contempt for my musical tastes), did not go as well as I would've hoped.  It's all okay, and it reflects the children and the cohorts well, but it's not quite ... there.

So I've been thinking: what could I have done differently?  Could I have challenged something sooner?  Was a greater change required at some point?  Why will we stop making progress?  How will it be viewed?

My biggest worry has been ensuring that my staff will not feel as if they have not done their jobs this year: they have, admirably and with great skill, sensitivity and openness to challenge, in the face of some extremely poor behaviour.  Almost all teachers have improved, and I can point to more outstanding teaching over time than at any other point in my time at the school (or indeed, my time in any other).  Support colleagues have been a source of ever improving joy, and we now have a dining hall and food to be proud of.  In terms of unmeasurables, the standards this year have been off the as yet uninvented chart.

So you see my dilemma.  A school that is exceptionally hard working, not just according to us but to others as well, but outcomes that do not necessarily evidence this.

Many of my staff will be surprised at this next statement but it is the truth.  I was worried.

There you go.  I've said it.  I was worried, hence the pondering, mulling, what have you.

Then it struck me, one evening in the car, half way between a Prince track (back when he was Prince) and a Magic Numbers track.  The truth, when you discover it, is simple.  The truth is this:  we were always going to have a year, sometime in the not too distant, when we didn't improve in every measure.  When your maths results go from the 50s to the 90s in 4 years, I suppose there has to be a point at which they dip back down.  When writing in key stage one goes from consistently below 50 to consistently above 65, it was always going to remain constant at some point.  Our attendance cannot improve 6% in 3 years and still go higher ... can it?

Either way, I have worried a little less, and mulled over a slightly lower flame.  The outcomes may not be there, but I am confident of this: the provision is, the expectations are, and, as of Tuesday, the new team is.  Continuous school improvement can continue in the absence of the figures.  And, besides, I don't have all the figures yet.

Except for wishing BK and the governors the best of luck tomorrow, that is all.

PS My wife has asked me to inform you all that, apparently, I have not seen my last camp.  I have simply seen my last camp "for a while".  I have yet to be informed what this means #wifehashiddenagenda

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Will he won't he 2014

So, the news is out.  The BBC, ITN, Points West were all at the press conference.  Reuters have been brought up to speed, and the lucky ones who were in the room at the time have been interviewed, their images bounced around the globe in the syndicated clips from the press.  What are they reporting on?  Of course, the big news from Badock’s Wood:

I am NOT going to camp this year.

Many regular subscribers to this nonsense will know that the will-he-won’t he decision about my Exmouth attendance is an annual internal monologue.  After the success of last year’s camp – which I swore would be the last – I started to waver.  Could I do it?  Could I manage one more?  What would be the ramifications if I did? I just started to think about it …

…when I had a change of heart, and a decisive one.  The amount of grey looking back at me in the mirror made me do it.  No, camp didn’t need me, and there were other people waiting in the wings, trained by yours truly, to take up the baton.  So I had made the decision.  I was happy with it.  I even did the most final-nail-in-the-coffin thing imaginable: I told the wife. 

So that was that.

It was no secret that I planned to pass the baton over to a fellow camper from last year, and a few selected others.  So when one of the chosen informed me one Monday morning that she wouldn’t be going, I had to do some radical rethinking.  Could I really?  Should I really?  Could I tell the wife I had been wrong?

Then, one evening, some of the others started to circle around me.  I sensed a trap, and trod with extreme care.  This could go badly. I might have to agree to something I didn’t want to. Or, even worse, spending money.  As it transpired, we wanted the same thing, ie, they wanted to go and I didn’t.  Negotiations began.  Negotiations continued.  An amicable settlement was reached.  The decision was made again.  It took the best part of 11 seconds.

I should point out at this point that the decision has nothing to do with my feelings about camp:  I still love it, and will continue to support it whether I go or not.  However, people throughout BS10 must have wondered what that strange noise was recently: it was my knees, my back and my right hip breathing a huge sigh of relief when they found out I wasn't going.  

There are, I freely admit it, things I won’t miss.  Such as:
  • ·         Wrestling children into bed on that first night;
  • ·         Telling them, for the seventh time, they do not need another wee at 11.45pm;
  • ·         The zig zags;
  • ·         The smell of the drying room.

However, in making the decision I would not go, it meant making certain sacrifices.  I will miss, miss terribly:
  • ·         Watching the sheer joy on people’s faces;
  • ·         Being a privileged observer of the successes;
  • ·         The excuse to eat clotted cream on a flapjack at any time of the day;
  • ·         Standing in the middle of the sea, with children surfing all around me, and thinking “I did that”.

Those who know me best know that it is this last one I shall miss most of all.

On the day, I shall wave the gang off with much excitement on their behalf, and not a little envy on my own.  But I am extremely happy in my decision, and hope that my small contributions to the event will make a difference.  (And I will still pop up on watersports day.)

Because here’s the truth: when it comes to memories, I have a tent full.  For every hour of sleep lost, I have a memory gained, an unforgettable moment shared, some magic woven.  It’s time for others to be let in on the treasure trove I have been privileged to gaze into for many years now, and I don’t begrudge them a second.    When I see them off the bus on the Friday evening, suntanned faces and exhaustion heavy, but full of new found life force, I will take no small pride in what my colleagues and our children achieved.

Magic is still magic, however far away you have to stand to weave it.

From me, that is all.