Scene 1 – Meeting between John and Mary
John: Well Mary thank you for coming.
Mary: That's OK.
John: I've been here for two terms and I'm getting to know all heads of department, finding...
John: ...out how things are running so how, tell me about the maths department. How are you, how are things going as far as you're concerned?
Mary: Oh yeah, great I think. I think there are some very strong players in my team. We all get on very well and work well as a team. And everyone seems very happy...
Mary: ...which for me is a great benchmark I think you know.
John: Yeah I, yeah I believe you know a happy team leads to, you know, can lead to good teaching, good practice.
John: OK that's great. Obviously I've been looking at some of the reporting that's been coming. I've looked at the LA review and the Ofsted report and GCSE results. And some of the findings are a bit disappointing in the maths department. You know there are pointers to it underperforming, somewhat really. And when we look at GCSE results and only 54% of students gained A to C compared with 79% in science and English.
Mary: But yeah, but I mean you know as well as I do that these children are coming to us below average.
John: But if, if we, we could say that that's the same in science and English. And when we look at the value added in science and English, we can see that that's higher in those areas and I wondered what you think about possibly the reasons for that.
Mary: I don't know. I mean as I say I think you know my teaching's never been in question.
John: Absol... I've observed your teaching and I think it's absolutely fantastic and I think that there's a lot that we could, that your colleagues could learn from you. Consistency across the department is something that I've observed, that for instance, some people are using target stickers, other people aren't.
Mary: Oh right.
John: I know from the deputy head that the deadline for Year 9 data wasn't achieved so data, the data manager... .
Mary: But yeah, I mean the, yeah, but I mean p..., if people come to me and say they need more time I give them more time.
John: But then that has a huge knock on effect of the rest of school.
Mary: Yeah, but if people are having to rush just to get this data completed, then it makes a mockery of the data.
John: But you've had, the dates have been set in place and..
Mary: Right. Well I mean I don't, it's very difficult. I mean some of these people are my friends you know.
John: Ok. Ok.
Mary: I socialise with some of these people and..
John: And – Ok. Have you, have you asked your staff how they see you as a leader?
Mary: No. I think they'd feel very uncomfortable giving that kind of feedback. I mean you know... .
John: Well it can be very hard for you as a leader to get that feedback. But in my experience to have some kind of formalised way of getting feedback from them can be incredibly useful. And then you can look at the team as a whole, see what direction that they might need in particular areas. And I want to look at how we can bring the results up in the maths department and I wondered about looking at humanities, for instance, where Joanne is leading there. She's somebody who I wondered about getting in to do some coaching with you, to look at the skills that she's using in her department and maybe bringing that practice into your department and to look at how to use those skills with your team.
Mary: Yeah. They're very different departments. But, I mean, if you want to look at them then we can do.
John: OK good. Well let's set up a meeting with Joanne to look at some coaching. OK.
Scene 2 – Meeting between John, Mary and Joanne
John: So the Vikings I hear went... .
Joanne: The Vikings went really well yes. It wasn't the first time we'd been cos we'd done it with this Year 7s already. But anyway we went to York and we did the whole Viking experience thing and the sound, the movement and everything.
Joanne: And so I think when it comes to the competition I think we're really quite in with a good chance.
John: Good. And you've got drama involved in that?
Joanne: We have yes. So it's right across the whole department actually and we did also incorporate... .
Mary: So how is this going to work? I mean is the idea just that I copy everything that Joanne does, because she's brilliant or what?
Joanne: Oh the coaching? No I don't think it's – well you can shadow if you want to. But I mean I'd envisaged possibly something like an hour a week.
John: Yeah. It's absolutely not about you copying everything that Joanne does.
John: It's about finding out about the skills that Joanne is using to lead the team in the humanities department. And about using those skills. Not copying. And seeing how you can take those and apply them to your department to bring your results up.
Joanne: Absolutely. I mean I, I didn't, I, what I thought, I mean obviously coming from industry, I've got possibly a slightly different take. But I thought that you know you could come with your own agenda. We could look at your own unique strengths and weaknesses in terms of yourself. Explore different practices with the team, different ways that you might want to lead colleagues. That kind of thing. And then take it from there really.
Mary: And is this, I mean is this confidential or, I mean it feels a little bit like I'm going to be spied on for several months and you can feed back what you want to the Head and I won't know what you're saying.
John: No Mary, it's absolutely not about you being spied on. Just to reiterate, it is about you taking on skills and I think we could have these meetings recorded.
Joanne: Absolutely, definitely. We could record them and then we don't
need to review it for some, some months.
John: No. No.
Mary: I mean I'd, I suppose I'd be interested in looking at, you know, how do you lead colleagues who are friends. But... .
John: Good. OK. Shall we set a date?
Joanne: Yeah. Absolutely fine. Mondays are quite good for me actually.
John: OK Mary?
John: OK. After school. Good.
Scene 3 – Meeting between John and Joanne
John: OK Joanne come in. Have a seat.
Joanne: Thanks so much.
John: So no disasters on that, on that outing?
Joanne: Oh no, just Darren. But then that was expected.
Joanne: But I think he enjoyed it. I mean I think he found it quite beneficial.
John: Yeah. Good. Good. So obviously I'm eager to find out about the coaching... .
John: ...with, with Mary Powell and the maths department.
John: Been eight weeks. So tell me?
Joanne: Well I think it's been, it's been quite mixed to be honest. I think she's made genuine progress in her understanding of the impact that she has as a head of department on her team. And in fact she was very open and very brave really at actually going along with the questionnaire idea to... .
John: Good. Good.
Joanne: ...get feedback from other members of her department. So that was good. And it was courageous, because it wasn't quite what she expected.
Joanne: But however, having said that... .
John: Tell me more on that.
Joanne: Well I will, but I mean I would just say first, I think that when I talk about things being mixed, I mean there are still accountability issues, although we spent quite a lot of time on that. But, nonetheless, still there were books not being marked on time, there was another, yet another deadline missed in terms of data collection. So that was disappointing really. But one of the things I found even more disappointing was her lack of preparation for a meeting. So no agendas, nothing went out on time to other... .
Joanne: ...members of staff so they couldn't come prepared either. So you know meetings tend to be pretty chaotic, it has to be said. But just going back to the questionnaire, I mean it was brave of her, because, you know, I mean you remember her saying that a lot of people in her team are her friends.
Joanne: So you know, and what was revealed actually was that a lot of the staff were really quite frustrated at not being led. They wanted to be held to account. They actually wanted to be challenged and obviously feel they're not being challenged. They want to be led and they're not, don't feel that they're being led at all.
John: And has Mary taken this analysis on board?
Joanne: She has. She has. But I don't, I don't really think she understands what leadership means.
Joanne: And she needs to lead. She needs to be seen to lead. She needs to be able to distance herself.
John: Yeah. What do you see as a way forward then?
Joanne: Well if you want, if you want to continue in this coaching vein, then I think from my point of view I'm really going to need a bit more help and guidance on this, because I haven't actually had any formal training myself.
John: OK. Well that's something that we can look, look at, look into... .
Joanne: Oh what for...?
John: For you yes.
Joanne: Oh that would be great.
Joanne: Yeah that would be good. Because that would be part of my own personal development.
Joanne: Cos I'm enjoying it.
Joanne: Yeah. I really am enjoying it.
John: But we do need to see results from it. Yes and I mean I suppose for me, I mean Mary, she needs to lead, she needs to be seen to be leading. But I, I suppose my feeling is that she's a great teacher.
Joanne: Yeah, absolutely. But maybe she's not a leader.
There are two questions that are uppermost in parents’ minds when thinking about their child’s move from primary to secondary school.
Will my child enjoy the school?
Will my child achieve at school?
If we can get these two things right then everything else will fall into place.
Nearly 1000 families who chose Woodcote High School last year trusted us to deliver on these two vital outcomes. The 210 lucky students who obtained a place are now settled into a school that has seen eight years of continual improvement in examination results and an ever increasing range of activities both within and outside the curriculum; to give them experiences that they will treasure for a lifetime.
We are a non-selective school that both serves the local community and has the faith of the local community, a classic example of the good local school that all parents should have a right to send their children to.
Our aim is to give our students seven years of a world-class education and equip them for the wider world of higher education and exciting job opportunities.
No one is saying that this is an easy journey, from time to time things go wrong. However, if parents work with us, support what the school stands for, and stay a part of that essential team of school – parent – student, then we will all continue to grow in success.
At well over 1200 students, we are a large institution and we have a responsibility for many future lives. A school of this size can’t operate successfully without excellent staff, both teachers and colleagues who support the teaching and learning in school. It has always been our priority to recruit the best people possible, colleagues committed to ensuring that every student, no matter what their ability, achieves the very best they can in years to come.
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Mark A Southworth