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