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New academic year: time to recalibrate

Helena Marsh, Executive Headteacher, Linton Village College, reflects upon the start of the new academic year 2017/18.

This summer’s anticipated wait for the release of GCSE results had an added level of uncertainty and required extra reserves of hope and optimism. Without any real knowledge of how the longer, tougher and more challenging specifications in English and maths would fare or what would be deemed a ‘good pass’ or ‘strong pass’ for school performance, it was quite refreshing to go back to basics: to focus on the achievements of individual students.

At Linton Village College, we have been really pleased with students’ exceptional outcomes. There has been lots to celebrate and a huge number of success stories across the cohort and departments. While it’s impossible to compare with previous years, this year’s outcomes have held up well and have demonstrated that our focus on high quality daily teaching and learning has paid off.

Autopsy without blame

This time of year is ripe for a reflection of the achievements of the outgoing year group. I am fond of a phrase coined by a fellow head teacher: autopsy without blame. Analysing and scrutinising results should be for the purpose of learning for future benefit, rather than starting the term feeling guilty or boastful.

Ultimately the start of a new academic year is a time for renewed enthusiasm, to recalibrate and restate expectations and ambitions. Helping new staff to settle in effectively and building relationships is of optimum importance. School leaders need to set the tone with colleagues and make sure that the priorities for the coming year are clearly shared with the necessary support.

Teacher training days create a programme that is not too overwhelming, and creates time for teams to gel and develop together

We in teaching are fortunate to have two opportunities for New Year’s resolutions; we are using the September one to sharpen our focus on what matters and to encourage all colleagues to do the same. We use our two teacher training days at Linton to create a programme that is not too overwhelming, and creates time for teams to gel and develop together in preparation for the coming year.

Encouraging colleagues to pace themselves

Addressing workload and wellbeing is a significant focus for us this year. SLT-led training day sessions have explained changes to school systems that will reduce data management and admin tasks. We have also encouraged colleagues to reflect on how they manage their energy, in addition to their time and to-do lists, to pace themselves over the coming terms.

There is a definite window of opportunity at the start of the year to establish routines and expectations with staff and students. Much of this is implicit through starting the term as we mean to go on with lessons that are challenging and foster effective learning. I’m personally not a fan of introductory lessons that require a diatribe of classroom rules – I think students benefit a great deal more from a stimulating learning experience with high quality content and activities.

While the excitement of new, shiny stationery will fade, we want the passion and enthusiasm for teaching and learning to endure. An important part of this is having staff that are refreshed and rejuvenated from a decent holiday.

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