OTI trainer, Carmel Bones, talks about Bedford High School’s journey to Outstanding and how OTI helped them to achieve this along the way.
The need to travel
Can CPD really move staff on? Can staff across the board be reinvigorated, enthused and propelled towards Outstanding judgements?
These were the questions facing Paul McCaffery in 2012 at Bedford High School, in Leigh, Wigan. The school is larger than average and has below average starting points, with a high proportion of students eligible for Pupil Premium.
Paul needed to invest wisely with the hope of quick improvements. In 2011, Ofsted awarded the school a 3 for Teaching and Learning and internal observation rated 54% of lessons as good and above. Many staff members were feeling demoralised and in need of motivation.
Tentative first steps
After being inspired by Andy Griffith at an OTI Inset day, Bedford High School took ‘a leap of faith’ and embarked upon the programme in February 2013. A wide range of staff were approached and there was much apprehension, with one colleague admitting his ‘cynical mindset’ at the beginning.
The thought of video analysis was a concern and the cohort needed a lot of reassurance. The fact that the process is developmental and private, separate to usual performance management systems, gave the group the confidence to proceed.
The cyclical process of training, filming and feedback was appreciated by all concerned. The training allowed time for staff to be creative whilst gaining new strategies for engagement, challenge and feedback. The collaborative nature of the sessions provided further opportunities for support, Improvements to staff motivation and morale were quickly noticed by the group and their colleagues.
The range of strategies offered meant the ‘pick and mix’ nature of the training could be matched to learners and desired outcomes. The camera was soon forgotten and the business of learning was top priority.
The positive effect of the programme was remarkable; staff were emboldened to experiment and were rewarded with exceptional outcomes. Constructive conversations about pedagogy were taking place at breaks, lunchtimes and in departmental meetings.
The staging post
Mid- summer saw the celebration lunch, where staff realised just how far they had travelled on their personal journeys and, most importantly, grown in confidence. The principle of ostension, as noted by Hattie and Yates in Visible Learning and the Science of How we Learn (2014), had worked for these teachers as well as their learners. This greater clarity and ability to put Outstanding ideas into practice was to prove vital in the coming months.
Back on the road
Now that the “teaching mojo was back” (Mr Clarke, Head of RE), better learning norms continued to be embedded in September and learners were trained more explicitly. Ideas were shared between departments and the school celebrated record GCSE results.
The toughest climb
Sparks flew on November 5th when Ofsted called. The cohort of 10 were composed and ready with their carefully crafted (and very impressive) lessons. The school was thrilled with the outcomes and Bedford High was moved forward, achieving a ‘Good’. To have their efforts endorsed by Ofsted was an indication of the culture of hard work that had been developed. The judgement gave the school the long-awaited fillip to continue to strive towards ‘Outstanding’.
Onwards and Upwards
The noted changes after the Outstanding Teaching Intervention were far-reaching; sharing of best practice was rife, and self-belief increased, as did teacher credibility. January 2014 saw the start of cohort 2, and this time there were more applicants than there were places. Bedford’s learning journey continues, but the onward path is more clearly mapped out.SR
Images ©2014 Carmel Bones. Used with kind permission.