Now More Than Ever – The Importance of Pastoral Leadership

Guest blog by Esther Gray (@_Esther_Gray)

Amidst all the anxiety caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, it is refreshing to hear so much talk about the importance of pastoral care. We’ve always talked about it alongside our core business of teaching and learning, but it feels good that we are giving it priority in our discourse.

Step forward our pastoral leaders – those who have been working tirelessly in the background all these years. Their ‘bread and butter’ has always been about positioning relationships and student welfare at the heart of the school experience. This new focus for the rest of us, then, is perhaps nothing new for them.

When we consider the challenges ahead of us as a profession, perhaps we should be looking to our Heads of Year and pastoral leaders for guidance.  The role pastoral leaders could play in post-COVID recovery should not be underestimated: they are expert at providing practical and emotional support. They are used to working with the most vulnerable; they are used to connecting with the local community; they understand that every child’s unique set of circumstances determines the kind of experience they have at school. This is the very fabric of the stuff that they spend all their time doing in the background. It’s a wealth of knowledge that is now more important than ever.

Although no one would argue that pastoral leadership was unimportant, now is the time to acknowledge that Heads of Year/House (or whatever you call them) have been dealt a bit of a bad hand in the past. We talk about ‘middle leadership’ as a catch-all for both academic and pastoral leaders: we assume that Heads of Department and Heads of Year have similar roles and operate on the same level. And yet, when we look closely, it is clear to see that this is rarely the case.

Having done both roles in my teaching career, I talk from first-hand experience. As a Head of Department, I loved the satisfaction of striking off the jobs on my daily ‘to do’ list – a luxury that I wasn’t afforded as a pastoral leader. As a Head of Year, the job is never done; kids and families are never ‘sorted’.  As a Head of Department, all my work on curriculum planning and student feedback was put in place and shared with my team. The work of a pastoral leader is often invisible and therefore much harder to evidence.  As a Head of Department, I was always focused on the quality of learning, never really thinking about the groundwork pastoral leaders were doing to ensure that students arrived at lessons ready to learn.

It strikes me that although we liken Heads of Year to Heads of Department under the banner of ‘middle leadership’, the two roles are so completely different. If anything, I would say that the pastoral leader’s role is more akin to that of the leadership team because day-in day-out they are dealing with safeguarding.

So, I think it is worth exploring the following two contradictions:

  1. Pastoral leadership is important but there is hardly any educational research on it.
  2. Pastoral leadership is important but the debate about middle leadership concentrates almost exclusively on Heads of Department.

I think the implications of this are quite serious.  The growth of research-informed practice in education is fantastic, but it tends to focus on instruction, cognition, curriculum or assessment. Pastoral leaders have nothing equivalent to draw upon. This means that all they can do is their best, using their judgement and hoping that it works out well. At best, this is a really noble thing to do; at worst, this is a massive risk for the school and the community it serves.

The second implication is equally worrying. Middle leadership courses are always designed with the Head of Department or curriculum leader in mind. If you have a look at the modules in the NPQML for example, they are all geared towards the subject leader: focusing on leadership of the curriculum, research on teaching, etc. There are some elements of the course that pastoral leaders might find useful like the analysis of data, building partnerships, considering communication strategies, etc; but the assessment brief says that the school improvement project must aim to improve student outcomes. Although the work of the pastoral team undoubtedly improves student outcomes, there is no way to measurably prove this.

So, while pastoral leaders may complete middle leadership courses to ‘get the badge,’ they don’t represent meaningful professional learning experiences for them. In fact, I would go as far as to say that they are actually excluded from the debate about educational leadership because of this. How do we expect our pastoral leaders to become more evidence-informed if there is very little evidence to consider? How do we expect them to develop their knowledge and understanding if middle leadership courses are designed with a different audience in mind?

Despite the lack of research and the dearth of domain-specific professional development opportunities, pastoral leaders have a great deal to teach us – particularly at a time like this.

First of all, pastoral leaders show us the importance of context and knowing your school really well. In his book ‘Leaders with Substance’ Headteacher Matthew Evans urges school leaders to:

Be a student of your school. Come to know its people, ethos, foibles, peculiarities, cultural norms, hidden spaces, dark secrets, harboured dreams, storage cupboards, social dynamics, potted history, defining moments, reputation, uniqueness and dullness. Let your leadership grow in the rich soil of the school.

I can honestly say that in my experience of over a decade of senior leadership, the people who really understood what it was like to be a student of the school were the pastoral leaders. While SLT were writing the SIP and preparing for governors’ meetings,  the Heads of Year were talking to kids, contacting parents, dealing with outside agencies, managing behaviour, taking witness statements and regularly going above and beyond the call of duty. The Heads of Year knew the school and saw it through the eyes of the students.

The second thing we can learn is how mental models work in action. In their work at Ambition Institute, Tom Rees and colleagues have developed a refreshingly new perspective on school leadership which focuses on the domain-specific knowledge of school leaders and less on generic leadership concepts. He explains that there needs to be ‘more emphasis on what educational leaders know and are able to do (their mental model), and less emphasis on the style in which they operate or generic concepts such as leadership ‘styles’, vision or change.’

In a blog for Ambition, Matthew Evans provides a helpful definition, ‘when confronted with a problem, it is helpful if we have experienced similar situations. Our minds will learn from these experiences and build abstract mental models (or schemata) to guide future decision making. These ‘problem states’ exist in the mind as reference points and are the basis of leadership expertise.’

I really like this focus on specificity over genericism and on people rather than concepts. Again, it calls to mind what pastoral leaders do instinctively. They have become expert at building and using mental models to solve the problems they face. But how? Other than in the NAPCE journal which publishes a range of articles which might be relevant to school contexts, there is very little research or evidence to consult. Instead, pastoral leaders have built their expert mental-models from doing the job. The framework they consult when they are looking for guidance is based on their lived experience of dealing with the “rich soil of the school”.

The third thing we can learn from them is how to be responsive. In Seven Strong Claims about Successful School Leadership Revisited, Leithwood et al, stress the importance of leaders demonstrating responsiveness to their context. They say, “a leader’s main question should always be ‘under these conditions, what should I do?’” Again, when reading this, I think of the pastoral leaders in my school – who created a kind of triage system to respond to the problems that came to their door. Because they understood all those things Evans lists in the first quote above, they were able to respond in the right way, fluently making judicious selections from their mental models to plan the right course of action.

As a caveat, I want to be clear that I am not saying that other leaders in school don’t do these things; they do – of course they do. However, I think it is important to acknowledge, perhaps now more than ever, the complexity of the pastoral leader’s role particularly when they have little research to draw on and very limited professional development with which to engage.

In our current situation, as we await news about how schools might begin to transition to some kind of normality, it is interesting to see what the profession is thinking and feeling. From looking at Twitter over the last week, the keywords and phrases that come up time and time again are: relationships, connection, trust, healing, community, support, wellbeing. These are the knowledge-domains of the pastoral leader, so putting your Heads of Year at the centre of your ‘return to school’ plan would be a good move.

So, my message to pastoral leaders is this: you do an amazing job; even if people cannot see it, students and families will feel the difference it makes. It also strikes me that when we do return to school, the sands will have shifted and colleagues will be coming to you for guidance and support. So, see this as a golden opportunity: suddenly, all the stuff that was hidden will become visible. Evidence of your work will be everywhere as all teachers and leaders in school will become pastoral carers, for the students and each other. Observe this, capture it, write case studies, keep a journal and then peer review your findings – perhaps then we can begin to work towards a more evidence-informed approach.

I also think that it is time to insist upon more domain-specific leadership training experiences. The NPQs are currently being overhauled so let’s hope that we see more bespoke professional learning routes for pastoral leaders. If not, we need to demand that they are created and even design them ourselves if we have to. Pastoral leaders have as much right to be part of the educational debate about leadership as everyone else.

And finally, my message to those of you who aren’t pastoral leaders: I urge you to look afresh at the pastoral teams in your school and acknowledge all the great work they are doing. Recognise the complexity of the job and understand that it isn’t always visible.

Let me end with an anecdote: In my role as a Deputy Head of a large secondary school, my SLT colleague who was in charge of pastoral care, and oversaw all the individual Heads of House, was always fighting for time and having to defend her team. Their work always came second to curriculum, assessment, teaching and learning. At times, she would get angry and become defensive and this would sometimes create tension for the rest of us.

Since leaving that job, I have reflected deeply on the role she played in our SLT. She was the one who challenged our ‘group think’; she was the one who understood the ‘rich soil’ of our school’; she was the one who could look at things from the student or family or community’s perspective.  Her leadership and patience were second to none and I wish I had valued those things more at the time.

_______________________________________

Esther is presenting on Pastoral Leadership at the #UkEdChat online conference 9-11 June 2020, for more details visit https://ukedchat.com/conference/2020onlineconference/ 

References

Evans, M (2019) Leaders with Substance: An Antidote to Leadership Genericism, John Catt Educational Ltd.

Rees, T. 2020: a new Perspective for School Leadership. Ambition Institute. https://www.ambition.org.uk/blog/2020-new-perspective-school-leadership/

Evans, M. (2019) The School Leader: Using Mental models Effectively. Ambition Institute. https://www.ambition.org.uk/blog/school-leader-using-mental-models-effectively/

Kenneth Leithwood, Alma Harris & David Hopkins (2020) Seven strong claims about successful school leadership revisited, School Leadership & Management, 40:1, 5-22, DOI: 10.1080/13632434.2019.1596077

Further Reading (and strong influences on my thinking)

Sputnik Steve. Towards Pastorality – Developing a Research-Informed Approach to be a head of Year. https://sputniksteve.wordpress.com/2019/03/11/towards-pastorality-developing-a-research-informed-approach-to-being-a-head-of-year/ 

 

 

Readiness to Rejoin

From crisis, to recovery.

Like many educators, I have spent the last few weeks in a state of nervous tension.  In the moments when I realise that I’m barely breathing at all, I deliberately take a few deep breaths. I inhale slowly through my nose to the count of 8 and then exhale to the same.

I know now that at some point in the day my breaths will become so shallow that my chest, back and shoulders will ache. When that happens, I become hyper-alert; I realise that my hands are shaking, that my jaw is clenched and that I’ve lost the ability to regulate my temperature (I’m either freezing or roasting).  A few focused and calm moments of deep breathing later and I’m totally fine. In fact, I’m more than fine, I’m positively delirious: a head-rush of euphoria as my body recalibrates and slowly settles back into its normal shape.

The most interesting outcome of this physical sensation is the way it shapes my thinking. The times of heightened tension are always an accompaniment to working on, thinking about, or dealing with the immediate concerns of being a Headteacher in a Secondary School.  When I allow myself to breathe, and I feel the rush of relief, my thoughts transverse the urgent concerns of today and hurtle towards the future.  Those are the moments when I think big, and broad. They are lucid moments, full of clarity.

I hear echoes of my personal, physical experience in the ebb and flow of debate in the sector. Most of the time we’re working ourselves up into a frenzy about a ill-judged article about schools re-opening, or frantically debating the effectiveness of remote instruction, or fawning over shared resources, or proudly showing evidence of school-made visors and goggle donations. It’s brilliant, but it’s underwritten by an urgency, an almost-desperate desire to share, connect, act; or to be seen to be acting, to feel important, to find some meaning in all of this madness. I understand it, I’m definitely part of it, but it’s utterly exhausting.

In the midst of the maelstrom, there are also moments of calm clarity which cut through the hysteria like searchlights, illuminating the path ahead. They are typically characterised by collaboration across the sector, discussions across international borders and a coming-together of the thinkers, the influencers and the civic institutions, as Leora Cruddas from The Confederation of School Trusts calls them.  Much of it is enabled by social media and the magic of online discussions, which have become the glue binding us all together from our pyjama-wearing, living-room isolation.

I’ve been privileged to play a small part in, or be party to, some of these moments; a round table event and a podcast hosted by Ambition and the Centre for for Education and Youth; a webcast hosted by TES about lessons learned from international schools; a online discussion with Daisy Christodoulou and Matt Jones of Ark Globe and a Zoom call with Neil Gilbride talking about Adult Ego Development and how we can support adults through crises.

The common factor in these moments is that they are future-focused. They are not engaged in the here and now, they are looking upwards and outwards and grappling with problems not yet encountered. Leora talks about the resilience of the system, and the crucial role of Trusts and other civic institutions as we move on a path from crisis to recovery.  Neil talks about the need to give space for questions when external rules and certainties are taken away and asks how, as school leaders, we can help adults make sense of complexity. 

These, and other discussions, occupy my thoughts while I count to 8 and remember how to breathe in and out.  And one thought in particular keeps coming back to me. It’s a question-shaped thought and one to which I offer no immediate answers, but I think is probably the most important question we could ask right now.

It is this: What are we doing to ensure readiness to rejoin?

When I talk about readiness to rejoin, I’m talking about preparing students for future learning, for focusing on the emotional, physical and psychological state that they need to be in to be able to make the transition back to school – which is closely tied to their families’ physical and mental health. This needs to be our priority in the intervening months. Nothing matters more than this.

But I’m also talking about our own readiness to rejoin; teachers, support staff, leaders, schools, governors, Trusts… we are all on an enforced hiatus and somehow, we all need to make the transition back.  It’s a transition we must plan for, carefully and with great compassion, even though we don’t know when it will happen, what it will look like and who it will involve. This is difficult, but I’m very optimistic about our ability as a profession to face this challenge with humanity and hope.

 

Good enough, not perfect.

There is no perfect way of arriving at a centre-assessed grade for every Year 11 and Year 13 student. As Tom Sherrington says in his excellent blog, ‘this is a rescue mission.’  

Everything I write here is my opinion. My opinion may well be flawed and misguided, but I offer it up anyway as a contribution to the debate.

I am indebted to excellent blogs on this topic by @teacherhead, @Framheadteacher, @head_teach @mrbakerphysics and @KShanks_History, @Alan_Brooks2 and to @missdcox for collating them in one easy-to-find place.  I’m also really grateful to the wonderful Duncan Baldwin from ASCL who has written two pieces of guidance on this topic now, both of which I have found very useful.

So, whilst trying not to fall into the trap of repeating anything written in the blogs mentioned above, here are my fairly rambling thoughts on how this process should be approached. My main argument is that above all we should protect teachers.

The steps I would take:

  1. Take the last set of teacher predictions from before closure (if you have them). Share them with Heads of Department.
  2. Ask Heads of Department to decide (in discussion with you) the best way of arriving at a centre-assessed grade and a rank order. Use the teacher predictions mentioned in step 1 as the starting point (in my school they were given as holistic, likely grades). Be content that each subject’s process will be different depending on the subject’s size, the % of exam vs coursework and other available evidence including internal assessments and NEAs. They might decide on fine-grading, awarding marks or values or applying weightings. Find the right way for that subject. I highly recommend you read Matthew Evans’ excellent blog on respecting disciplinary distinctiveness, which really resonated with me.
  3. Once the process has been agreed, ask Heads of Department to get it done. Once they’ve done it, give them big thanks and tell them (and their teachers) not to give it another thought.
  4. At SLT level, check the grades against data that we know will be used in Ofqual’s statistical modelling (cohort prior attainment, national expected grade distribution and your school’s previous year’s results). Make adjustments as necessary. Do not share final grades with Heads of Department.
  5. Submit the grades.

At Step 2, I would gently deter my Heads of Department from choosing a process that involves many online meetings discussing which individual children should win a place in a rank order.  This is maybe possible for schools with small year groups, or for options subjects with small cohorts, but it’s impossible otherwise in my view.

Here is what the Ofqual guidance says:

Oqual

I feel a little bit like crying when I read this because I have lived and re-lived this exact process many times (English teachers who have been in the profession more than ten years will be the same) and I can tell you that even with the best of intentions the most professional people I have had the privilege of teaching alongside have been roundly terrible at doing this. In his great blog on this topic, Chris Baker recommends taking each child in turn (some schools have nearly 400 kids in a year group, but okay) because ‘this stops it becoming about personalities and who shouts the loudest to fight for their students.’ I don’t agree. It feels like it will be fairer, but in reality you will still have teachers saying, ‘no, this child should be rank number 323 and this child should be rank number 324’. Crikey.

Also, the meetings like this are very, very hard to have when people are at home. Teachers have their children and home-school and workload and illness and anxiety and just about everything else to deal with, so I just think we need to make all of this as simple and pain-free as possible. 

The other thing about those meetings is that teachers are human beings with biases, preferences, opinions and egos; they are not super-accurate comparative judgement machines. They cannot be expected to emotionally extract themselves from the students they have invested in so heavily for nearly two years, maybe longer; and I think it’s unfair to ask them to. No matter how much you say to human beings to be objective, professional, unbiased… they can’t do it. Teachers are fierce, loyal, tenacious human beings and that’s what I want them to be. I don’t want to ask them to be anything less.

The Ofqual guidance says ‘teachers.. will have a good understanding of their students’ performance and how they compare to other students within the department/subject this year, and in previous years.’

I think this is a dangerously inaccurate claim, which goes to the heart of the argument against teacher assessment of any kind. We need to be very careful what we ask of teachers, because as soon as we ask them to do something that is outside the realm of human possibility we create an education system of proxies, perverse incentives, anxiety and sadly, malpractice. 

Teachers vary in experience and expertise. Even experienced teachers cannot know for certain how students will perform in exams in which grade boundaries change every year. A teacher cannot compare their students’ work accurately against the work of students they don’t know. I refer back to GCSE English coursework: we couldn’t even do that accurately when we had the work in front of us. The work being done by Daisy Christodoulou and the team at No More Marking suggests that Comparative Judgement can be a very accurate tool, but it is not the tool we can use in this instance. 

And let’s face it, even exams are not a definitive and fair reflection of students’ achievements. Every year some students (and parents) feel wronged. This year will be no different.  Except, this year, if we ask teachers to be the final arbiter of grade and rank order, we are allowing them to be scapegoats. Come results day, we are giving students and parents free rein to blame teachers. Students and parents know that schools are calculating the grades and no-one can use the ‘you just didn’t perform on the day’ argument.

We have already had anxious emails from parents imploring us to award a certain grade to their very deserving children. To mitigate this, I would publish the process for calculating the grade to parents to make it clear that the final grade was not chosen by the teacher, but was chosen by the statistical modelling. Of course this will be hard for parents to understand, but I want them to know that the teacher merely recommended a grade (based on all available evidence, yes) but that the final grade was out of their hands. In the end, it was a ‘centre’ assessed grade, for which – as the Headteacher – I am more than happy to take the blame. 

The weight of the responsibility for exam results lies heavy on teachers most years. Sleepless nights, anxious August days and the inevitable September autopsy. This year, if teachers decide on the final grade and rankings, that responsibility becomes a dead weight around their neck. And when some children fall into the grade below, teachers will feel guilty… they’ll berate themselves for the grade and ranking position they gave that child. After the pressure of dealing with a global pandemic, I don’t think it’s fair to put that level of responsibility onto teachers. In this excellent blog, Kristian Shanks uses the analogy of teachers being unfairly put in the position of the driving test examiner instead of the driving instructor. 

And so, here ends my current thinking (and I emphasise ‘current’ – I’m changing my mind minute by minute these days). I’ve looked at a lot of blogs on this topic and a number of Headteachers have kindly shared their process with me.  Mostly, I keep thinking that we’re making a mathematical meal out of something that we need to keep simple. On this point, I agree with Matthew Evans in (another!) blog he wrote on this topic that we should aim for something good enough, not perfect. 

Final word:

A word about schools like mine. Last year we got a progress 8 score of -0.8. Pretty rubbish. We’re the lowest performing school in the county. This year, based on our predicted grades in Feb, we would be looking at -0.3.  This represents a significant improvement for us. Whilst headline accountability measures no longer matter for 2020 (quite rightly), what gets to me is that the children who represent that shift from -0.8 to -0.3 may not get the grade that they deserve because the statistical modelling Ofqual will do is also based on previous years’ results at my school. We can’t really put forward centre-assessed grades that would amount to a progress score of -0.3, can we? It’ll look like we’re making it up. 

Thing is, we are what you might call a ‘turnaround’ school. Our school is unrecognisable from the Ofsted report written in January 2019 (my frustration at the fact that we are now stuck with the label of ‘inadequate’ for even longer is a blog for another time) and the 2019 results represented a ‘ground zero’ for us. It is unfair that some of this year’s Year 11 will lose out because of last year’s results. They don’t deserve that.  I understand that there has to be strong parity between this year’s and previous year’s grades so that we don’t devalue this year’s results altogether, but it rankles me. A lot. 

 

Building a knowledge-rich History curriculum

star wars

My wonderful Head of History, Harriet Cornwell, is @First_floor_8 on Twitter. This is her first foray into blogging. Harriet has written six episodes about how she is building a knowledge-rich History curriculum. They also follow a Star Wars theme. What’s not to love?

Episode 1: The Phantom menace 

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away… a gold standard history curriculum, turned out to be anything but. 

Read the following statements. At which point do you feel a sense of moral outrage? 

  • A student finishes secondary education never having studied the British empire. 
  • A student in year 7 comments that women in the past lived longer because they spent so much time in the kitchen slaving away over a hot stove.  
  • A student finishes secondary education having learnt about slavery solely through the medium of the TV series Roots.  
  • A student finishes secondary education, having studied only ‘the Egyptians’ at key stage three.  
  • A GCSE History student is unable to recall the correct chronological order of Tudor monarchs in sequence.
  • A student finishes secondary education and has never heard of the English Civil War.  
  • A student finishes Primary school having spent one term learning about the development of castles and two weeks learning about the Holocaust. 
  • A student finishes secondary education having learnt about the Titanic because the teacher ‘had some really good resources on it’. 
  • A student finishes secondary education and has studied medieval food and fashion because their teacher thought it was a ‘really interesting topic’. 

At which point did you interject, protest, and say this is unacceptable? Listed above are a collection of real situations. They demonstrate and reveal some uncomfortable truths about the apparent ‘gold’ standard of our history curriculum. 

Like an enemy in our midst, Key Stage Three has eroded the potential for an ambitious sequence of knowledge stretching from Key Stage One to Key Stage Five. But there is potential.  With training, a padawan can be shaped in to become a Jedi. With expertise, our Key Stage Three curriculum can be a force for good in a fully connected curriculum

To help pupils develop a true sense of the past, we must ensure that our curriculum is populated and sequenced robustly. We need to ask ourselves: What knowledge ‘should’ be taught, why should it be taught, and when? And who decides? Also, what knowledge is essential for our children in our school? Accepting an unfocused and disconnected curriculum, like that which has characterised so much of History education in our schools up until now, is like giving in to the dark side. 

Episode 2: Attack of the curriculum clones 

“Miss, when do we learn about WW2?”

I have begun my own personal war against the dark side of the curriculum. The sign above my office door, in fact says, ‘war office’. After planning an ambitious sequence on historical interpretations, I began to feel some self-satisfaction that we were beginning to build a scholarly, connected curriculum.

Then, in September a Year 7 student asked innocently, ‘Miss when do we learn about WW2?’ That’s when I realised that we have created an army of curriculum clones that simply won’t stop duplicating themselves. 

WW2/Nazi Germany. I have taught this topic for years, and I do believe it’s extremely important, but I think perhaps it’s… can I use this word here?… ‘overtaught’? We have lessons on it at Key Stage Three, Four AND Five. I can say with certainty that some weeks, WW2 was the only historical period I taught.

This doesn’t provide students with a broad scope of history. Plus, the entire subject of History ends up being associated with just this one European time period (which explains the year 7’s question earlier). It also provides a very narrow view of our subject, that we, like clones ourselves, reproduce and replicate repeatedly.

It also results in what I have coined ‘knowledge laziness’ at key stage five. Students become very reluctant to learn anything else, everything else terrifies them.

WW2/Nazi Germany needs to be taught. But at every key stage? It’s essential, of course, but it’s not the only knowledge that students should learn.

Episode 3: Revenge of the Key Stage Two curriculum

‘I’ve already studied this, Miss’

As someone who has previously worked in a Middle School, I think a lot about students’ starting points. Some students come to us from Primary School unable to identify anything specific about history, whereas others gladly inform me they know everything there is to know about history because they know about the Battle of Hastings, Henry VIII, and Adolf Hitler. 

Ah, more curriculum clones! However, these clones seem different. The previously encountered knowledge has been somewhat distorted… has perhaps been delivered to students in an over-simplified way… resulting in misconceptions. A malfunctioning clone army if you will, which turns out to be a legion of stormtroopers working against you.

Most students learnt about these topics as part of loose, cross-curricular projects, and although some were able to name random facts, it appeared that no thought had been put into sequencing. Plus, they all come to us from different Primary schools with a whole range of half-remembered stories, confused historical figures and some wildly incorrect, if mildly amusing, ‘facts’ about Henry VIII.

Which leads me to this: What would happen if all of our starting points were the same? Is there a common theme in history which could be learnt at key stage two? A topic which could unite two key stages through foundational knowledge agreed by subject specialists and taught consistently across schools? 

Also, could we offer our subject knowledge and experience in curriculum design to primary schools? Curriculum collaboration between Primary and Secondary sounds a very exciting prospect to me. Professionally there feels like there’s a divide which simply allows for more clones, and more malfunctioning clones. I would be keen to build a historiography between the two phases.

Episode four: a new curriculum hope 

Fundamentally, at the heart of what I do, as Head of History, is impart knowledge. Therefore, it is necessary to ask “why do I teach this knowledge now”?

We can all argue that learning about Tudor monarchs is necessary, but how do I know it has been taught in a meaningful way? When students begin learning about Henry VIII, should they focus on learning the dramatised ‘soap opera’ that is the romance of Henry and Anne? Do students need to have a complex understanding of Henry VIII’s wives? Should students learn about the idea of ‘good old Queen Bess’ when over 200 people were executed for treason? 

Questions about what, are pointless without questions about why. Why here? Why in this order? Why does knowledge here support future knowledge there?

This leads me to think big: What am I trying to achieve through curriculum? Can it be summarised into something which is simple, even when we know in reality it is complex?

Before simplifying, it’s important to see the curriculum as a whole – as a ‘framework of the past’. On this basis we must grapple with some difficult questions. What is our narrative golden thread? What is the commonality that sews our curriculum together? What is the story of the subject?  

Quite simply, in history, it is chronology.  But chronology is huge and overwhelming, an infinite galaxy of times, places, people, stories. So how to capture that? In my department, I’m exploring the idea of the polychronicon. What is a polychronicon? It’s based on the work of a 14th century monk called Ranulf Hidgen, who attempted to bring together the knowledge of the time for instructional purposes in a chronicle – a polychronicon.

I am replicating this concept within our curriculum planning to provide students with knowledge for each area of study. For example, in year 8, we have written a polychronicon on Elizabeth I. You may call it a booklet, we like to call it a polychronicon (great opportunity for etymology!).

Episode 5: The knowledge strikes back 

Once you have decided on your topic, you need to ask some big questions. For example, for a polychronicon on Elizabeth, what specific knowledge must students be able to remember fluently? What knowledge will they need to be able to access later and elsewhere?  The core ‘necessary’ knowledge should be decided on across teachers in a team – as a pure canon of knowledge. Although this may sound rigid in principle, it provides for knowledge consistency across the department. 

As a simple example, the dates of Elizabeth’s reign (1558-1603) would be an example of core knowledge. This agreement on core knowledge provides consistency and equity of access to knowledge for all students. It might seem obvious, but without explicit agreement of core knowledge, students could (and did!) complete a unit on Elizabeth having no sense of the dates or her reign or even of the correct century.  

Following an agreement of core knowledge, as a department you can start to discuss and debate hinterland knowledge which develops understanding beyond remembering dates. This is the really exciting part! The hinterland knowledge has the potential to make students feel truly empowered. It’s a bit like – if you know the Clone Wars era (2 TV series, 1 film, 1 computer game), then when Obi Wan Kenobi says to Luke, ‘I fought with your father in The Clone Wars,’ in A New Hope, you know exactly what that means – and that feels great.

All of the empowering, hinterland knowledge (about Elizabeth, not Star Wars) can then be woven into a ‘micro’ question – for example, what are the key features of Elizabeth’s government? The concept of ‘Government’ becomes a micro-strand of powerful knowledge, a singular golden thread through the learning sequence. It’s powerful because it’s a newly-acquired concept which has currency within and beyond the topic being taught.

Episode 6: Return of the knowledge 

The micro-strand of knowledge endeavours to leave students with a lasting impression of newly acquired knowledge. The end of this micro-sequence leaves students with additional strands of knowledge which, unless collected and knotted together, may become thin, disconnected and frayed fragments. This is when knowledge can become ‘lost’. 

And so, we tie the strands together in ‘knots’. The ‘knots’ in this context are concepts or figures, such as parliament, William Cecil, rule by the Grace of God, nobility/gentry, law making. Previously encountered micro-strands are knotted together by our polychronicon on ‘The English Civil War’ (monarch/parliament/ ruled by the Grace of God) and in our next polychronicon on the secret lives of hidden Tudors (William Cecil, nobility/gentry).

Elizabeth

These are just examples from just one strand! Not all micro-topics will be so fruitful, sometimes the micro-stories, for example, why Mary Queen of Scots was a threat to Elizabeth, naturally come to an end. Although, even that strand could be re-sewn into the fabric of the curriculum when students encounter Elizabeth again at KS4, or indeed at any point in their future. Not unlike the Star Wars saga… just when you think the narrative is complete, a thread is picked up and developed.  Sometimes it will be worth it – it will explain how The Death Star plans were acquired by The Rebel Alliance (Eg Rogue One), and other times it will be superfluous (Eg Solo: A Star Wars Story). The great thing is, the curriculum stays ‘live’ and is constantly reviewed. 

The concept of knowledge knots, as ways of tying together micro-strands of new knowledge is something we are exploring in the History department at Lodge Park Academy.  A knot in a thread will stall as it is pulled through the eye of a needle, it will become stuck. That’s what we want with knowledge – for it to stick. Knots can be used as anchor points on a length of twine, or footholds on a rope for climbing, or as reminders on a twisted handkerchief.  As a concept to provide simplicity for teachers and students, we like it – and want to explore it further. 

We’re looking for a History teacher to join our team? Interested. Details here.

And Follow us on Twitter @lodgeparkacad

Start at Happy

Very recently, I was lucky enough to have the chance to visit Great Yarmouth Charter Academy.  I visited alongside other Secondary Principals in the David Ross Education Trust.  Our visit was organised by our Regional Director, Helena Brothwell, because we are keen to learn from other schools and find ways of improving our provision.

I’ve followed the story of Barry Smith and GYCA over the past two years, from a safe Twitter distance, as many of us have.  I have read the criticisms, and the accusations, and viewed with disdain the school shaming that has occured not just in a gutter and local press, but amongst education professionals.  I’ve always – always – believed that whatever your views are on headteacher’s approach, or a Trust’s strategies, or a school’s transformation, you should air them in private, not public.  Why? Because no matter how much we think we know, we never – never – know the full story, so we should hold our views lightly, knowing they are like downy feathers… likely to be blown away with a changing wind, leaving us potentially looking quite foolish for trying to catch them in such tight fists.

Personally, I had no preconceived opinion of  GYCA.  I’m a bit of fence-sitter, I admit it.  Maybe that makes me weak, but I don’t care. The only opinion I have cautiously formed was one of respect.  This came following listening to this podcast, where I was struck by Barry’s unwavering sense of purpose and single-minded determination to pursue what he feels is right.  So, it was with some excitement and a sense of adventure, that I pulled up outside GYCA one rainy Thursday morning in October.

There is one thing on which Barry and I unequivocally differ.  Barry has no emotional connection to his school’s community beyond his dedication to GYCA students.  He’s glad about this.  He doesn’t want a connection.  He was asked; no, persuaded, to take on the role, and is happy to admit he never ever wanted to be a headteacher.  I am deeply connected to my school’s community and it is that connection that motivates me most of all. I am headteacher of a school in my hometown and my sense of moral obligation means I am fully wedded to my role in a way that Barry is not. Interestingly, whilst different, both of us use this as a strength. Him – because he says, ‘if you don’t like what I do, sack me, I don’t care!’  Me – because I say, ‘this role means the world to me and I am here to stay.’

Other than that difference, there is much that makes me think our approach is similar.  I believe in protecting teachers from abuse. I believe in routines and clarity.  I believe in having high expectations of what students can achieve and do.  Actually, I’m not sure there are many who wouldn’t believe in such things.  Surely even those who vociferously object to Barry Smith, believe the same? Why wouldn’t you?

Throughout my visit, there were a number of experiences that struck me. I will do my best to describe them here, although my thinking and reflecting are far from done.

There is a constant narrative being told, over and over again, by multiple voices. The ‘story’ of GYCA is told, consistently and persistently, by everyone.  By the cleaners, the caretaker, the office staff, the teachers, the senior team, the students – basically every person that passes Barry in the corridor is asked to tell us what they think of GYCA.  There is nothing inauthentic about this.  Everyone is telling the truth.  What is most powerful about it though, is that everyone’s truth is being retold, reinforced, reimagined in brighter colours every single time.  I loved this.  This is about buy-in, about culture change, about giving every person’s voice high value.  The sense of pride with which everyone spoke was humbling.  The caretaker, who apologised for not being good at speaking, who smiled shyly and blushed when asked a question, spoke from his heart when he said that the kids were terrible before but are great now.

There are routines everywhere. There’s a routine for everything.  I worry a bit about too many routines.  I worry that it will become confusing, or too many will mean some get diluted.  And maybe that’s true at GYCA, but what you see is the routines that have landed – and have lasted – and therefore there is no need to worry at all.  The secret is commitment.  If everyone commits to a routine, it becomes normal.  The amount of commitment you see at GYCA is staggering.  The commitment to the routines creates a climate where there is no tension, there is only calm. Everyone knows, with absolute clarity, what everybody should be doing, in every minute of the day and in every inch of the school.  I can’t think of a more safe environment than that.

Barry is open about the need to be larger-than-life, to be a heightened version of oneself. He embodies this and he demands it from others.  There is a sense of performance, of grandeur. There is flourish and there is humour. Every single interaction is seen as an opportunity, a chance to build a relationship, to create a culture.  No interaction is wasted, no opportunity is passed by.  All adults greet children warmly, openly, with confidence, by their name, with eye contact and heads held high.  The amount of hand shaking that goes on is hilarious. It’s constant! Children who pass you thrust out their hands to greet you and say ‘good morning’.  No-one is telling them to do this; but everyone is doing it.  It is normal.  It made me feel emotional.

This is one of the things I loved the most.  It gave me the confidence to go back to my school and to be a heightened version of myself. That’s the version of myself I want to be in school, but if I’m honest, over the years, that version has been packed away in case it’s seen as too in-your-face, too overwhelming, too manic.  It’s actually the most authentic version of myself, the one I feel most comfortable with, the one I know can influence, inspire and motivate.  But, you know, these days you feel a bit arrogant if you put yourself out there as someone who leads by personality, by charisma. The narrative on leadership is shifting towards domain-specific expertise and away from anything that even hints at the ‘hero’ headteacher paradigm.

I don’t know if Barry sees himself as a hero Head, but I doubt it.  What he does see is himself as the one who sets the tone, who holds up the bar, who models the behaviours and who raises the expectations. Does he have masses of domain-specific expertise? Probably, although I doubt he’d admit it.  He happily rejects all that ‘nonsense’ that the Trust make him do, he enthusiastically allows his senior team to do all the ‘boring’ stuff like tracking and analysis. He wants to be in and around his school, in amongst his staff and students, every single day.  I remember hearing Rachel De Souza talk about the power of personality in a leader at an Ambition event earlier this year. As usual, Rachel was challenging the dominant view in the room and making a case for charismatic, influential leaders who operate with energy, passion and relentless optimism.  I was sceptical that day, but after seeing Barry in action – I get it.  And it has released me; allowed me to embrace this version of myself as a leader that I know I have always been, and not to apologise for it.

There were numerous routines, processes and strategies that I loved about GYCA.  The poetry recitation was staggering – I was searching for a child not prepared to do it, but I didn’t find one.  The call and response in lessons was exhilarating – the sheer amount of structured, ambitious talk that students engaged in was amazing.  The school was the opposite to quiet. Corridors were full of ‘good morning’ and ‘Sir, look, I got a golden ticket.’  The talk is constant.  The shared language is completely embedded and used, with ease, by students and staff.

At lunchtime I sat with Year 11.  One of the girls I spoke to told me with a wry smile that she doesn’t put make-up on any more because she just can’t be bothered getting into trouble for it. She says this has made her life so much easier – including at home – because there are no more battles.  She added with a giggle, ‘and my eyebrows did look like slugs, Mr Smith was right.’

Then I then found a girl who didn’t like school.  I asked her to tell me about it. I asked, ‘why don’t you like GYCA?’ She looked surprised at my question.  She explained, ‘GYCA is, like, the best school around here and it’s way better than before, but I still hate it.’  I won’t describe the girl, but she was one of those young people who you know, just from looking, that they are a child of neglect. We spent the remainder of lunch talking about the course in childcare that she’s doing at GYCA and how much the teacher is like a second mum to her.  But, you know, she hates school.  The anti-school narrative that has been this child’s diet is so embedded that it’s believed even when she is speaking evidence to the contrary out loud.  It demonstrated to me, in one conversation, both the extent of the challenge in this community, and the incredible progress that has already been made.

There is so much more I want to know about GYCA.  I will have to go back.  There are so many more things that I loved but can’t now recall properly.  I will definitely have to go back.  What I do know, and what I do remember, is that is was, by far, the happiest school I have ever been to.  The happiness is part of the storytelling, but it’s also part of the furniture. It’s not staged, but it is the backdrop. It is both the narrative being crafted and the reality of day to day experience.  It’s all about the people and the relationships at GYCA.  They start at happy at GYCA, you can see that here.  And when you start at happy, everything else that comes afterwards is that much easier.

The curriculum has exploded

I love it when the word explosion is used in reference to something positive.  It makes me think of fireworks, champagne and party poppers. I’m pretty sure that Chris Jones, Head of Research at Ofsted was being positive when he said that ‘the curriculum has exploded’ in his September 2018 blog – I hope so anyway.

I also presume that Chris was inferring that the curriculum has exploded into or onto something. A bit like when Michael Fordham asks for words like ‘teaching’ and ‘learning’ to have an object (“there is always something being taught and something being learnt”), I’d prefer ‘exploded’ to be followed by an adverbial phrase because my mind naturally asks, ‘into what?’ or ‘onto what?’

It’s not that the sentence ‘the curriculum has exploded’ necessarily needs an adverbial; as a sentence it makes sense all by itself.  It’s just that without a qualifying adverbial it sounds too negative.  ‘Exploded’ on its own suggests destruction, obliteration, irreparable and irrevocable damage. That’s not what Chris means, is it? The curriculum hasn’t been obliterated.  On the contrary, it has been revived, reignited, renewed.  It has, in fact, exploded into educational thinking, into leadership discussions, into inspection frameworks and onto the agendas of governing bodies everywhere.

This is good news, of course, but not without risk.  There are warnings that a new inspection framework is once again driving change, and that inevitably this means schools will be reactionary and buy ‘off the shelf’ solutions.  The thing is, I’m not sure I care.  I don’t care what it is that drives change and I don’t care if schools buy ‘off the shelf’ solutions.  I’m just really glad that curriculum is being discussed.

I’d love, hand on heart, to say that curriculum has always been discussed. I know that’s what many people think, but I’ve searched my soul on this one and in my twenty years in teaching I have never encountered curriculum conversations like the ones we’re having now. Maybe they were happening elsewhere, but they definitely weren’t happening in the schools where I worked.

Sure, we would have conversations about specification coverage, where to fit in the ‘Me, Myself and I’ topic (has to be first term of Year 7, right?) and who’s going to write the scheme of work for Holes.  But is that really a curriculum conversation? No. What we should have been asking was ‘why?’ Why do we feel the need to start a child’s experience of Secondary education with a sub-standard, generic topic with low-challenge autobiographical tasks and self-portrait drawing opportunities? (cross-curricular, you know).

I’m not averse to this topic, by the way.  And I know schools where it’s done brilliantly – and with clear intent.  The point is that we never asked about intent, we never considered our rationale. We just did what we always did.

The curriculum conversation we’re having now is pushing all of us to raise our game.  I like that.  As I said earlier, if that comes as a result of a new inspection framework, I can live with that.  Not only are some schools around the country having challenging conversations about intent, they’re also moving beyond that into sequencing and coherence.  This type of conversation wasn’t happening in senior leadership teams ten years ago (in my experience) but it is happening now.

What I have noticed in some schools is that the language of curriculum conversations has changed.  Whereas before, curriculum conversations were dominated by the words in the green box, these days I’m hearing more words from the blue box.

Curric words

The vocabulary we have to describe our curriculum intent, to articulate our curriculum implementation and to clarify our curriculum’s impact has opened up a whole new world of precise and intellectual engagement with the thing that matters most – what children learn. The words in the blue box are just a selection of the terms being used by senior and middle leaders in many schools now; a marked difference to the terms in the green box which were high frequency words in curriculum conversations not too many years ago, and in some schools, still are.

Schools are at different points in this crazy curriculum journey. Some are way ahead of the game, others are just joining in.  We could insist that each of them has the lengthy and in-depth discussion about intent. We could ask them to use the words in the blue box. We could ask them to design their very own curriculum which reflects their very own community, is aligned to their very own values and is created by their very own teachers. But that will take ages and the only losers in that temporal traffic jam will be children.

Perhaps we need a more realistic and practical approach to our curriculum conversations. If not, we are in danger of not only re-inventing the wheel, but re-inventing thousands of slightly different types of wheel. If we denigrate off-the-shelf curriculum solutions, we inadvertently pressurise schools into doing everything themselves.  That’s fine if you have the expertise, the capacity and the resources, but what if you don’t? What if you’re a school rated inadequate, with a falling roll, not enough teachers and poor outcomes? Wouldn’t it be better for those schools to be given a tried and tested curriculum, tied up in a bow, ready to be unwrapped and used immediately?

I understand the argument for creating a curriculum that reflects the community, builds on students’ existing cultural capital and captures the unique qualities of the school’s character and history.  I wish this for all schools. But this is an ideal that assumes all schools are at the same starting point. It’s the ultimate example of differentiation I guess, which is ironic.  Perhaps schools should be given a different worksheet tailored to their ability.

The point is that curriculum conversations shouldn’t be about creating a finished product.  Our curriculum should be iterative, constantly being refined and questioned.  Schools that decide to go for Complete Maths, Ark English Mastery or the entire Inspiration Trust curriculum when it becomes available (for free!) should do so with justified pride. Why? Because they’ve made a strategic decision about what their teachers and their students need right now.  It doesn’t mean they won’t be in a position to have the deep and meaningful curriculum conversations in the future. It just means they recognise where they are on their journey. I respect that.

A school which is not ready, but goes ahead and curates a curriculum conversation about intent, implementation and impact, will create a ticking time-bomb.  And if it goes ahead and does that work alone, without the contingent expertise, support or resources, then the curriculum really will explode, but not in the champagne, party-popper sense. It will be a site of disconnected fragments, craters and dust.

This is the story of #EducatingNorthants

It’s been two days since #EducatingNorthants and only now am I beginning to process what we did.  When you’re on a steam train going non-stop in a certain direction, you don’t have time to put yourself in the shoes of the passengers on station platforms.  You don’t have time to look at the journey from an outsider’s perspective, all you can do is look ahead, keep the fire stoked and focus on the destination.  You don’t even get time to look at the view.

But now, two days later, I’m taking in the view from the point of arrival, and I’m looking back at the map of the journey and feeling super, super proud.  As I trace the route back to the beginning, I begin to appreciate what we’ve done.

This is the story of #EducatingNorthants.

On 21st June 2018, Tom Rees was at a meeting of Northampton town educators discussing the current state of affairs in county education. Following months of rumours about the state of the local authority, news was emerging about financial mismanagement and the council’s plans to move to two unitary authorities.  Education and Children’s Services were not part of that conversation and educators were worried.  Despite that, like a lighthouse in a storm, Tom tweeted this:

toms tweet

You can always rely on Tom to be a beacon of hope.  He and Helen Scott, Dean of Education and Humanities at the University of Northampton had, I think, just decided on a date and venue and put it out there to see what would happen.  I saw his tweet and, along with a few others, tweeted a reply:

Tom tweet thread

This funny little thread was the start of something big.  Jennie wanted in. So did I.  Leigh Wolmarans was keen to provide the ‘reason we do what we do’ (i.e. ‘some young people to blow people’s minds!’) and Teach Northamptonshire was keen to support us.

After that,  we held a brief meeting in July where we sat down and said, what is this thing we’re doing and why are we doing it? We made a few sketchy plans, held together with enthusiasm mainly, and then the summer break happened.

I’ll be honest, there was a point when I wondered if anything would come of it. There were four of us at that point… me, Tom, Jennie and Helen. A few others like Leigh, and Cristina Taboada-Naya from Brooke Weston had also said they’d love to be involved, but it was all so… vague.  All we knew was that we needed to flip the narrative, engage education professionals in a conversation about the future and be the change we needed to see.

What happened next was all down to a freak combination of social media, personal networks and some negative press. Whilst Northamptonshire County Council was hitting the headlines for all the wrong reasons, I was by the pool in Majorca setting up a Twitter handle and making a basic website.   Tom, Jennie and I all had access to the handle. We all started raiding our contact books and asking anyone and everyone we knew in education if they would come and speak.  And they agreed.  Why? Because it was pretty damn obvious to anyone with half an eye on the news that Northamptonshire was in a state.  We needed help.

That’s when the train started moving, slowly at first, but gradually picking up pace.  We had a line up, we were tweeting out big names and people were getting very interested.  We were getting messages from all over asking how to buy tickets, how much were they, what time would it start, would there be lunch?  We didn’t know the answer to all of those questions, but throughout Autumn we kept up the momentum of announcing speakers and generating interest.

We met again as a group, just three of us – and then again with Helen Scott.  Parallel to the organising of the conference, which was beginning to come together into some semblance of reality, something else was happening. The political situation in the county was going from bad to worse and headteachers wanted to have their voice heard. Tom, using #EducatingNorthants as the vehicle, collected over 250 signatories on an open letter to the local authority demanding that our voices be heard.  Then we held an open meeting at The University of Northampton and over 50 headteachers turned up.  We all talked about what we needed to do to ensure the local authority understood the impact that further cuts would have on the families we serve.  We decided to write a second open letter, again with hundreds of signatories, which resulted in a meeting, just before Christmas, when Tom and a few other Heads and CEOs went to see the interim CEO of the council, Theresa Grant.

It’s fair to say that we had got their attention.  #EducatingNorthants had, quite by accident, become a pressure group.  There was a void that needed to be filled.  I wrote about it here.  Heads in the county were galvanised into action, were ready to be part of a movement and wanted to make change happen. They didn’t want or need to wait for permission, they just wanted their voices heard. #EducatingNorthants became their voice.

It was an exciting time, but also fraught.  We had a bit of an identity crisis. Was #EducatingNorthants a pressure group? Were we activists? Was our agenda political? Were we adversarial? We were pitting yourself against the council, but there was something about that that didn’t feel quite right. We didn’t want a fight.  We didn’t want to blame.  We wanted to be collaborative and solution-focused.

Things shifted a bit after that.  We regrouped and talked about what #EducatingNorthants was… was it a charity? Not yet. Was it a business. No way. Was it a pressure group? Maybe. Was a grass-roots organisation with no hierarchy, no political agenda and no profit? Yes. 100% yes.  It may morph into something else in the future, but for now, grassroots was right.  We were volunteers, doing all of this on top of our full time jobs in education, we just wanted to do something positive – and something that would bring about change.

The clarity we gained in January helped a lot.  Yes there probably would be further political action, but we decided to de-couple that aim from #EducatingNorthants while we focused on the positive action of the conference.

As ticket sales closed for the conference (at some point we had figured out how much a ticket would cost and how we’d sell them) we clarified what #EducatingNorthants (in its current guise) stood for:

  • Collective, grass-roots action on professional learning and development for teachers.  i.e. collaboration which transcends the boundaries that currently exist in our fractured system.
  • Everyone is welcome – this is about our county’s children, so anything we do is about education from 3-19, and in every phase, type and designation of school and college.  If you’re in the county, you’re in.
  • Non-partisan, positive, proactive activity only – be the change we want to see.  Not adversarial, not blaming, not waiting for solutions or permission.  Proceed until apprehended!

All a bit wordy, I agree.  We settled on #bepartofthecoversation and #everyoneswelcome.

And then the real work began. The work of putting on an event for 600 delegates, 115 presenters, 40 volunteers, 24 exhibitors and a group of incredible young performers. It was a real team effort – we expanded to a team of about 10: Me, Tom, Jennie, Cristina, Helen, Leigh, Esther Gray, Carol Wynne, Jane Clark and Julie Bedster. We had advice and guidance from the wonderful Wendy Pearmain and the support of educators from across the county – and the country.

And in the end, the train that is #EducatingNorthants pulled into Waterside Campus on Saturday 30th March with a huge hiss of steam that blew us all away (apologies for the terrible mixed metaphors).  It was vibrant, it was busy, it was positive, it was exhausting, it was everything we wanted it to be and the feedback since has been overwhelming.

Did we get everything right? No. If we could turn back time and make a few amendments, would we? Of course.  But, for a bunch of amateurs, with no experience whatsoever, doing it all for love, on top of very demanding full time jobs in education, I think we did okay.  Will we do it again next year? Who knows!

The plan now is to engage county educators to say what they want next. What do they want #EducatingNorthants to become? How can #EducatingNorthants help them? How do we all work together to make sure that educational outcomes for young people in our county improve?

The conference was amazing, but it was just one day.  What we really need is action which leads to sustainable change.  I have a few ideas about what that action should look like, but I want to know what everyone else thinks too.  The next few months will be important for #EducatingNorthants.  The conversations happening now are the ones that will define the future direction of travel, and this time the journey will be turbo-powered.

Educating-Northants-30-03-19- (278)
Educating Northants, conference at Waterside Campus, University of Northampton,  Saturday, 30th March 2019