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Raising the bar at St John the Baptist

Ani Magill

Ani Magill, Headteacher, St John the Baptist School

One of the three themes at the SSAT National Conference 2015 is ‘Raising the bar’ – the continual improvement of a range of educational outcomes for all students. Introducing this theme on the first day of the conference is Ani Magill, Headteacher, St John the Baptist School. Ani recently spoke to SecEd for their brilliant SSAT National Conference 2015 supplement, from which this piece is taken.

Headteacher Ani Magill is determined that the 1,200 students at St John the Baptist School in Woking, Surrey, should receive the best education possible.

“As well as wanting the children to be happy and successful we’ve got three aims,” she said. “The first is that they get better results than they would at any other school. The second is that they gain the skills and attributes needed to live and work in tomorrow’s global society (including lots of opportunities for leadership, clubs, sports, activities and trips), and the third is that we give them the values and morals to make a contribution to society.”

Ms Magill has been head of the comprehensive for more than 20 years, during which time she has also held six interim headships at schools in difficulty. She firmly believes that improving educational outcomes for all students is a matter of concentrating on teaching and learning rather than on excessive paperwork.

senior leadership teams should be “focused 100 per cent on enabling the teachers to teach and the children to learn”

She says that senior leadership teams should be “focused 100 per cent on enabling the teachers to teach and the children to learn”. With that in mind, she has written a booklet for her own leadership team. Entitled 365 (+45) Ways to Improve Your School, it includes advice like being visible around school and speaking to every member of staff each week.

Ms Magill is particularly concerned that some schools focus far too much on Ofsted: “I worry that heads have swapped the word ‘children’ for the word ‘Ofsted’. They say things like ‘we need to do these things for Ofsted’ – but the trouble is that when people get obsessed with Ofsted they lose sight of the real point of education.”

“I worry that heads have swapped the word ‘children’ for the word ‘Ofsted’”

St John the Baptist’s leadership team makes it a priority “to find, recruit, develop and retain good teachers”. The team spends all day in lessons, supporting teachers and monitoring the quality of teaching.

“Because of Ofsted, some schools have these elaborate systems where teachers are observed three times a year,” Ms Magill continued. “I think that’s a complete waste of time because teachers teach 1,000 lessons a year. I’m not interested in how somebody can teach a lesson with two weeks’ notice.

“The quality of teaching is what happens when it’s raining and it’s last lesson on a Thursday in November. It’s about what happens every day and in every lesson.

“Teachers here know they have to prepare good lessons and teach well. The lessons are fun and staff morale is very high. As long as teachers deliver on the grades then it’s up to them how they do it.”

“As long as teachers deliver on the grades then it’s up to them how they do it”

The school’s approach is paying dividends. In 2014, Ofsted judged it outstanding in every category and 90 per cent of pupils achieved at least five A* to Cs at GCSE this year including English and maths.

Sue Williamson, Chief Executive SSAT, saw for herself the positive atmosphere during a recent visit to the school. “When I visited St. John, I saw happy children, who were enjoying their learning. Year 8s were going off on a geography field trip; there was a buzz in each of the classrooms as students worked on the challenges set by their teachers.

“There was mutual respect between staff and students. I loved my visit and I could not stop talking about what I had seen. To me St. John represents all that I would want from a school.

“The teachers at St. John know they have to prepare good lessons and teach well. The lessons are fun and staff morale is high. They have to teach well throughout the academic year and not just when Ofsted calls or it is lesson observation time.”


Download a copy of the SecEd SSAT National Conference 2015 supplement.

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Follow St John the Baptist School on Twitter: @sjbsurrey


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