Tuesday, 6 October 2015

What is the role of the attached form tutor?

As an NQT last year I was part of the year 9 team as an attached form tutor. I found the role to be a valuable experience which helps further embed the pastoral side of school from teaching placements.  Being an attached form tutor is a great way to build a foundation to becoming a form tutor who is responsible for 28 pupils. I felt I wanted to find out about a variety of other things I could have done within the year group as part of my role.

This post will focus on a teacher learning community (TLC) session which concentrated on the role of the attached form tutor. Our TLC as a whole had a pastoral focus and after discussing the role of the tutor it became apparent that the role of an attached form tutor differed depending on the year group. Consequently, as a group we decided to discuss and find areas of similarity across year groups and ways the role could become more effective and clear.

 So, what is the difference between form tutors and attached form tutors? We already know that attached form tutors are in a year team and do registrations for those form tutors who are away. We wanted to discuss the following:

 What else can an attached member of staff do? How can they play a bigger role in the year team and for the year group? 

After a discussion it was revealed that an attached form tutor can only realistically do a certain amount with a year group due to the fact that they already have a full timetable and are not a form tutor who teaches PSHRE. However, in the morning they still have 15 minutes that is still considered contact time that can be used in a valuable way, many attached tutors agreed they wanted to be more involved in the year team and pastoral side. It was suggested that attached form tutors could:

  • Run focus groups with some pupils of the year, to help improve behaviour, conduct and respect.
  • Work alongside ‘good students’ for a reward morning/ registration
  • Have opportunities to develop skills and experience to help teachers become pastoral leaders
  • Use morning registrations to have learning conversations with pupils- having more contact with certain pupils to offer more support.
  • Share a consistent message to all tutor groups from the HOY to insure that all form tutors are delivering the same message.

To sum up, it has been highlighted that attached form tutors could play a varied and are a valuable part of the year team as a result of discussions in year team meetings and concern meetings. It should be recognised that the role of the attached form tutor should be kept flexible and used as the HOY sees fit.

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Encouraging Achievement VIVO/SIMS

The Students and Achievement Team were tasked with the responsibility of looking into Canons current use of electronic systems. We decided that rewards would be our immediate priority and began to research our current system. We have been using Vivo Miles. Vivo is a web-based rewards system that aims to improve student engagement and help achieve school values. Vivo points are awarded to students for positive behaviour, good work and contributions around school. These points can then be used as a currency for students to save up and purchase rewards on their own account.

We undertook a full audit of staff use and student experience of Vivos and rewards.

We used the data recorded within Vivo to determine how often departments/staff use the system and to see which year groups receive the most Vivos.  

We then disseminated a questionnaire for staff on the use of Vivos. The results informed us that 38% of staff rarely or never use Vivos. The main reason being the method in which they are currently distributed is difficult to use on a practical basis. Teachers in a classroom environment found it very awkward and long winded to log in to the web based Vivo system, often didn’t know their login details as they are separate to SIMS and therefore would not use the Vivo system.  

A student survey across all Key Stages informed us that the majority of students across all key stages still value Vivos – even KS5. We didn’t expect to see the KS5 students value Vivos but they overwhelmingly agreed that Vivos are a great incentive to achieve. Almost equally there were requests for more positive comments to go directly to parents/carers.

I visited Whitmore High School to look at their use of electronic systems. They use a SIMS based reward system that utilises InTouch. InTouch can use SIMS data to automatically send messages to parents/carers. This was a “Light Bulb” moment. I thought “Maybe we’d be able to use SIMS to distribute Vivos”. Further investigation taught us that this was possible. We have now simplified the process of awarding Vivos by using SIMS. Within a register as well as selecting an individual or a group of students, any member of staff can simply use the achievement tab to reward a student individually. This means no additional log in for staff. By using this system the achievement is recorded within SIMS and InTouch can send messages home. We have decided that a trial will determine the number of points/Vivos that trigger a message being sent home via InTouch. Promotion throughout the school will be essential. We will produce posters for classrooms and clear guidelines for all staff on how to use the new system. The trial will also determine how data is collected for Heads of Year and Heads of Department so they are able to analyse achievement quickly and easily. 


- Sustains a fair and consistent approach to rewards across the school.

- Fulfils the students’ requests for how they would like to be rewarded (parental notification).

- Fulfils staff requests for easier use thus improving the chances that students will be rewarded.

- Records achievements directly onto SIMS.

- Builds on the Canons ‘talking school’ ethos that promotes open dialogue between stakeholders.

I had the opportunity to present this project in an all staff meeting. It’s still in its early stages, but the feedback from staff has been overwhelmingly positive. One teacher said “Thank you, it’s so quick and easy now. I never used VIVOs before but I will now.” I have had many other members of staff say similar things. It is now my responsibility to keep this system consistent throughout the school. The trial will inevitably find some kinks but I hope this system will promote the use of rewards throughout the entire school. 


Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Repost: What works? Getting to grips with research in schools

This is a repost from Key Insights, The Key's blog on school leadership and governance by Ed Marshall - Lead Quality Assurer


What works? Getting to grips with research in schools

Ed Marshall
When it comes to using research evidence in schools, the only question that seemingly matters is ‘What works?’ So much so that the government created a What Works Network, which includes the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF). Its mission is to discover what works in classrooms… so we can all sit back, relax and wait for the answer to roll in, right?
Well, no, as those at the frontline are only too aware, it’s not that simple. The EEF’s James Richardson noted that there may be “more similarities between schools than difference“, but there are still no silver bullets when it comes to ‘closing the gap’. Context will always be crucial to the success of an intervention. Indeed, we should think of research findings as telling us what works… some times and in some places.
So where does that leave us? Needing practitioners with the professional judgement and skills to understand not only ‘what works’, but also ‘how and why?’ And, crucially, to ask ‘will it work for our pupils?’

Twitter Logo

Three to follow

You can use Twitter to interact with teachers who are passionate about using research in schools, including:
Tom Bennett – director of ResearchEd and TES blogger
David Weston – CEO of the Teacher Development Trust
Keven Bartle – headteacher of Canons and nominated for best teacher blogger at the TES Awards 2015
A recent visit to Canons High School in Harrow gave me an opportunity to see how one school is tackling these questions. Its headteacher is Keven Bartle, who emphasised the need for teachers not to be mere consumers of research but active producers and critics.
And this philosophy is evident in the school’s approach. For starters, Canons has a designated research advocate and its CPD offer for teachers includes lesson study and a book group that is currently debating the merits of Full on Learning by Zoe Elder.
From next year, Canons will also be trialling a journal club to give teachers the opportunity to engage with academic review articles and discuss how these findings can inform their practice. The school will be working with Sam Sims of UCL’s Institute of Education to evaluate how effective this approach proves.

Importantly, journal clubs are seen as a way of putting teachers in charge of their own learning. As Sam explained:
Participants choose what to read, how to interpret it and work together on how to implement it in the classroom. It’s about empowering teachers by linking them directly with the latest education research.
So if we’re aiming to get teachers enthused about research, school leaders and governors can play a vital role by ensuring that school cultures and CPD programmes encourage teacher-led critical engagement with research. Ultimately, getting to grips with why an intervention is likely to be successful (or not) in a particular context, understanding how to effectively evaluate its outcomes, and knowing when to adapt or abandon a failing strategy are the skills we need to develop. That’ll be what works for pupils.

Friday, 26 June 2015

Canons student band to perform at Wembley Arena Rock Assembly

Canons High School is thrilled to announce that our student band JJ Jam have been invited to perform in front of over 10,000 people at the opening of the Rock Assembly event at Wembley Arena on the 1st of July. The band has been awarded this exciting opportunity following their fantastic victory in this year’s Act 10 talent competition to find the best school band in the UK.  It is a great honour for the band to have been asked to perform at this hugely prestigious event, considered the biggest and best school event in the UK. Previous performers include Professor Green, Ella Eyre and the Saturdays, to name but a few so we are extremely proud that JJ Jam will be able to add their name to this illustrious list of artists. The school’s excitement and pride in JJ Jam’s huge success was echoed by the band’s lead singer…..

 ‘When we found out we had won and made it to Wembley Arena we were so excited. This isn’t something you see every day where you start your school band and get the opportunity to perform at one of the biggest stages in London. We’ve been working towards an opportunity like this now for the past few years or so and it really has showed us that hard work does pay off and we want to send that message across to all young people in England to show them that they can achieve whatever they want as long as they put their mind to it. It will all be worth it. We realise that this huge opportunity comes about because of the vision and dedication of Transformation Trust and our school, Canons High, and we as a band JJ Jam would like to thank them both for this chance as it means the world to all of us.'

Thursday, 21 May 2015

AchieveMeet - an exciting event coming up in July 2015 at Canons High School

In September 2013, Canons High School hosted #TMCollaborate, a TeachMeet whose aims were: 1) to share experiences of effective collaborative working; and 2) bring teachers, departments and schools together in new collaborative ventures.

Almost two years on, Canons High, Park High and Bentley Wood School are joining forces once again to bring you AchieveMeet: a celebration of all the wonderful work that goes on inside and outside the classroom to help raise student achievement in its broadest sense. What exactly is ‘achievement’? Achievement is something that has been done or achieved through effort: a result of hard work.

This AchieveMeet, taking place on Wednesday 8th July from 5.00pm – 7.30pm, will be made up of presentations and information stalls from a wide range of staff across Harrow schools in a variety of different roles. We would like to hear success stories from teaching staff, tutors, LSAs, support staff, pastoral staff – essentially anyone who has played a big part in ensuring that our students have the opportunities to experience a sense of achievement. It may be a considerable improvement in their attendance/punctuality, it might be their commitment to an extra-curricular club, their perseverance to complete a challenging task, their student leadership (mentors, prefects, peer-listeners, literacy leaders, school council, etc.), and so many more things.

Ideas for presentations/stalls could include:
  • Mentoring
  • Student leadership
  • Academic achievement / progress
  • Improved student attendance
  • Successful and meaningful intervention
  • Any opportunity that staff have given students to feel a sense of personal achievement!

It will be a chance for staff to celebrate the hard work we all put in to give our students plenty of opportunities to experience success in some shape or form during their time at school. As the focus is on student achievement, the hope is that a wide range of staff in a variety of roles will be interested in being involved in this AchieveMeet, either as a presenter (individual or part of a group), or to set up an information stall if you're not fond of presenting, or as an audience member.


5.00-5.30: Refreshments served and opportunities to network with other attending colleagues

5.30-6.15: First batch of presentations

6.15-6.30: Break and networking opportunities

6.30-7.15: Second batch of presentations

7.15-7.30: Final words and networking opportunities

Please e-mail me tmegit@canons.harrow.sch.uk if you would like to discuss this in more detail, or if you think you would be interested in getting involved.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

How does Canons crack the code and contribute to improving social mobility?

 Bletchley Park. During WWII the German secret codes were broken here.  

This post will focus on a Teacher Learner Community (TLC) session that ran as part of the discussion forum TLC which focuses on closing the achievement gap. Our TLC has students at the heart and focusses on ensuring that all our students, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds receive a challenging and engaging education which sets them on the right path for success in the future. This particular session focussed on social mobility. It was based on a government report that highlights the worrying impact of gaps in cognitive development between better off and disadvantaged children that open up early and over the years widen rather than narrow. This inevitably has a negative impact on future life chances. Indeed, the report highlights: 

‘nearly six out of ten disadvantaged children in England do not achieve a basic set of qualifications compared to only one in three children from more advantaged backgrounds. The story is broadly similar in Scotland and Wales. The consequence for these children is a lifelong struggle to gain basic skills, avoid unemployment and to find and hold down a good job.’

On a more positive note however, the report also reveals there are schools that have cracked the social mobility code ‘some schools seem to have learnt the secret of how to alleviate the impact of background on life chances. They have found a way of overcoming the barriers that impede social mobility. At a time when social mobility is stalling and child poverty is rising, there is an urgent need to share the lessons so that every school can crack that code.’   The report shares some interesting findings from their investigation about what such code crackers do to make an impact on raising achievement for disadvantaged pupils for example a common feature of such schools is  'properly resourcing teacher recruitment and development, partnering with other schools and ensuring disadvantaged students have (at least) their fair share of the best teachers’ time – not just subcontracting the teaching of low attainers to teaching assistants or focusing the best teachers on students at the C/D borderline' this is clearly an example of good practice.

The report concludes that their investigations into code breaking schools 'suggests that those performing well for disadvantaged students do not apply a single magic formula. Success is incremental and based on a series of small changes rather than a single ‘big bang’ – compared by one headteacher to ‘being like the success of British cycling team: the aggregation of marginal gains’. 

With this idea in mind, the TLC session therefore focussed on discussing and sharing such 'marginal gains', the 'small changes' and key strategies Canons uses to ‘crack that code’. At the same time, as staff at Canons are very reflective and are always looking for ways to build upon areas of strengths so, as well as sharing  what we currently do well academically and pastorally to close the gap, we also collectively discussed ways we could further increase the impact. As the government report makes clear, ‘there is an urgent need to share the lessons so that every school can crack that code’   this post therefore aims to share the good practice at Canons.

A link to the report can be found here. The key findings have been summarised below and were discussed in the TLC:

Social mobility – what is it?

· ‘children doing well as adults… having a job that raises their income relative to their parents... children having a fair roll of the dice, that is, for a given level of talent and effort, being as likely as children from more advantaged backgrounds to get a good job that raises their income’
· From an education system that is ‘seeking to produce autonomous, free, well rounded citizens and adults not just individuals who can make a good living.’     
  Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission Cracking the Code: how schools can improve social mobility 2014

What causes social immobility?

Figure 1. Potential causes of social immobility
Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission Cracking the Code: how schools can improve social mobility 2014

What do good schools do and what makes a code breaker?
Summary of key findings:

1.    There is a lot of scope to improve performance.

2.    New accountability measures will improve social mobility (reduce tendency to focus on C/D borderline groups)

3.    Teacher expectations of disadvantaged students are key

4.    Some schools are ‘code breakers’ they:

a.    Use Pupil Premium strategically to improve social mobility

b.    Build a high expectations, inclusive culture

c.    Incessantly focus on the quality of teaching

d.    Have tailored strategies to engage parents

e.    Prepare students for all aspects of life not just exams

Canons the code breaker

Figure 2. Analysis of 'extreme' performing schools for disadvantaged children
Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission Cracking the Code: how schools can improve social mobility 2014 

According to the criteria outlined by the report, Canons can be seen as an example of one of these ‘code breakers’, there is ample evidence of this in the most recent Ofsted report:
·       ‘Refugees and asylum seekers and those students who join the school outside normal times also make outstanding progress.
·        There are smaller gaps in attainment between students eligible for the pupil premium and other students than are seen nationally – between one third and two thirds of a GCSE grade lower in English and mathematics. In 2012, a very high percentage of eligible students made the expected progress in GCSE English, higher than other students and the opposite of the national picture. In mathematics their progress was very close to that made by the others.
·       Younger and older students also benefit from the pupil premium, which is used to finance their participation in trips and to provide extra staff to teach them in small groups. The school’s Year 6 summer camp will be strengthened by funding for Year 7 catch-up premium.
Canons High School Ofsted Report 2013

These are some of the responses from the group discussion during the TLC:

What are we currently doing well?
·       Trips
·       Quality of T&L (Teaching and Learnig)
·       Atmosphere of challenge
·       Committed teachers
·       Recruitment and retention
·       Y7 SOLO level descriptors to provide a clear explanation of what kind of progress students are making and how they are doing that and how they can improve
·       Feedback
·       High expectations
·       Communication between key stakeholders
·       Pastoral care
·       Communicating with and engaging parents
·       Pupil premium used effectively to give pupils a range of experiences
·       Extra curricular programme
·       Enrichment courses when they are done well
·       IAG  (Information, Advice and Guidance) and careers information (Breda)
·       Sets in subjects
·       Separating genders in PE
·       Behaviour management
·       Consistency in classes
·       Code of conduct

What we can do even better to increase impact?
·       Apprenticeships
·       University links
·       Career advice given to KS3
·       Data sec- to identify minority groups and so that teachers know their disadvantaged students and PP students
·       Consistent approach in CORE and OPTIONS regarding lower ability teaching – to demonstrate Canons leadership qualities
·       Target setting with kids and learning conversations with tutors, more time for learning conversations with tutors
·       More trips for options and entitlement
·       More training for tutors about what is expected – could we have a pastoral inset? What is expected and sharing good practice?
·       A MEG and SEG should not define a student
·       Review of progress –day/half day
·       Mixing sets up a bit to address the issue of motivation and self-fulfilling prophecy
·       More registration time with tutor groups
·       Effective deployment of  TAs/ LSAs (Teaching Assistants / Learning Support Assisstants) and time for teaching staff and learning support staff to communicate with one another
·       6th formers to be more visible (and Y11 prefects)
·       Less focus on MEG (Minimum Estimate Grades)
·       Tutors to look at monitoring long and short term goals – make pathways clearer
·       Relationships with parents
·       More apprenticeship schemes
·       More responsibility given to students
·       Parent tutor meetings during the day

Figures 3-6 Photographs of key points from the discussion during the TLC session 

Our discussions about closing the achievement gap have meant that the importance of the pastoral system and the relationships between tutors and their tutees has continually come up as an area of real significance in terms of closing the gap in student achievement. This is particularly important in light of the changing role of Heads of Year and tutors to also encompass the academic wellbeing of students. Fittingly, our next TLC we will be focussing on the role of the tutor led by our lovely NQT Minal Tailor.

Rebecca and Tom M