Ani Magill, Headteacher at St John the Baptist School, Woking, has compiled almost 400 tips that could help you to improve your school. They are split into 5 groups: leadership; learning and teaching; achievement; behaviour; general.
Ani would like to remind you that you shouldn’t view the tips as a panacea for school improvement – they are simply ideas that have worked at St John the Baptist. Bearing this in mind, here are her achievement tips 203-228…
203. Hound parents who don’t come to parents’ evening, “we were so disappointed” and so on – don’t let them off the hook – visit them at home if necessary.
204. At parents’ evening, have a big screen with a rolling presentation of photos of the children in that year group enjoying their time at school.
205. Parents are a huge untapped resource. Have an evening for them and give them resources to use at home. Most parents want their children to do well but the majority don’t know what to do except nag about revision. Give out booklets for each subject such as ‘Five questions you need to ask your child.’
206. Don’t get too hung up on curriculum. It should be right for the students but it’s not the answer to everything. A child is far better getting a C in a subject with a great teacher than a U in health and social care where you couldn’t appoint so made the PE teacher teach it.
207. Have a window of time where teachers know there will be no interruptions to lessons eg no trips or staff out of school from February half-term to May half-term.
208. Put your mock results in an envelope and model the real thing.
209. Put lazy boys in for higher maths. They only need 30% for a C rather than nearly 80% on foundation where they make daft mistakes.
210. Run a nurture group for the weakest children in year 7 with the students having only about five teachers instead of ten. It makes for a smoother transition to secondary education.
211. Add a level to everyone’s KS2 results or one grade to everyone’s target and don’t tell the teachers! It would amaze you what children can achieve if the teacher believes they can.
212. Individually interview all students (with their parents) in year 11 and year 13 to find out how they are getting on in each subject. It’s very time consuming but well worth it and all the self-evaluation you need!
213. If you have a subject in which the results are weaker, get a few schools together and pay for the chief examiner to attend. It’s £1,000 well spent. A cheaper way is to contact all the local schools, find one that has an outstanding HOD and ask them to provide some support in that subject area. These schools are really willing to help (especially if you pay).
214. Does someone ‘own’ the children in year 11 with regard to achievement across the board? If the answer is the form tutor, then it’s not happening or at best it’s variable. The head of year 11 is such a crucial role and should be a coveted job that staff aspire to. Do you have the right person in post?
215. A-levels are getting harder. How are you preparing the staff to teach weaker students? As part of sixth-form induction have essay writing workshops run by the English department.
216. Try and persuade staff to become examiners if you have an area of weakness, it really helps.
217. If you have any one-man departments ensure you pair up with another school so they have someone to work with and if necessary pay for it. It’s worth it as they can swap ideas and provide support.
218. At staff meetings, show photos of children in danger of underachieving so everyone knows who they are – make it humorous with some music. (We use Help by the Beatles and get each one to hold up a whiteboard giving a message to staff). Our most difficult child wrote “I know I’m a pain but I do want to do well.”
219. Check that the departments divvy up the classes fairly. Some heads of department hog the top sets or the A-level and don’t develop the staff in their department.
220. Don’t stick with a syllabus because you’ve always done it in the past. If you are thinking of changing, visit another school that does it. This will save hours and schools are really generous with resources.
221. As a head of department you need to model the behaviour you want by teaching the key groups in year 11 and fighting your corner with the timetable so that your subject gets what is needed to raise achievement.
222. Make sure every departmental meeting and HOD meeting is focused on learning and teaching and sharing good resources.
223. Put posters around school, even on the back of the toilet doors. Eg ‘Ten things I need to know to get a C in maths.’
224. Go through mock papers with a fine toothcomb to see which children performed badly on which questions. Never just “go through the paper” over a few lessons as no-one benefits and you are asking for behavioural issues.
225. Tell years 11, 12 and 13 they are the best years you’ve ever had and all the indications are that they will beat all previous records (even if they are the worst year ever!)
226. If you have a child with poor attendance ensure that when they do arrive they aren’t pounced on by five teachers who want work from them. Try to get someone else to have an overview of anyone who is struggling and ensure everything is channelled through that person.
227. Ensure the heads of year teach lots of their year group so they get to know the children well.
228. Don’t let any classroom doors be kept shut (even worse with their coat covering the panel of glass – so 70’s!)
SSAT’s High Performance Leadership programme (in conjunction with NASA, HSBC and Phillips) launches on 17th October.
365 Ways to Improve Your School
Ani Magill, Headteacher at St John the Baptist School, Woking, has compiled almost 400 tips that could help you to improve your school. They are split into 5 groups: leadership; learning and teaching; achievement; behaviour; general. Read the entire series below: