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What Changes Will your School be Making to Improve This Year?

We’ve all had enough of externally driven changes to what is required of us in schools – but that doesn’t mean we can’t make some adjustments of our own, says Vic Goddard...

  • What Changes Will your School be Making to Improve This Year?

So, the fallout from last summer’s exams is coming to an end, you have your head around your timetable and you are just about getting to remember the names of the kids in the classes you are teaching. But have you found time yet to decide your own priorities for change and improvement this year?

Between when the GCSE results came out and the start of term, headteachers up and down the country will have pored over the data and made decisions on what adjustments to introduce in order to ensure progress.

However, the amount of change that has already gone on over the last few years, on a central government agenda, has already caused a huge amount of stress for staff and students.

It is vital, then, that any further alterations driven by SLT are balanced, with the extent of improvement measured carefully against the amount of staff time and energy expended.

What do we want?

I have really tried to think about what SLT-driven actions staff have to undertake and their impact on the outcomes and general life of our school.

For most of us, this revolves around such things as ‘data drops’, extra lessons, mentoring, interventions etc. Many of these are easy to justify along the lines of ‘if we work harder then results must improve’ – but really, our thinking needs to be more nuanced than that these days.

One of the big challenges that I have seen blogged about a lot recently is how schools are stuck using data in the same way as we used to when the importance of moving Ds to Cs was immense. Now that an increase in every grade improves our Progress 8 score this should have changed our practice, surely?

I wonder how many school leaders have found the ‘predicted grades’ they were given were some way off the actual outcomes gained? In which case, is the issue a lack of teacher expertise – or are we asking for information that is no longer easy to predict, or even valuable?

And if we are going to change from predicting grades what do we need to know? How about, is the student doing all that we ask of them? Would they benefit from additional support/challenge from us?

That seems to be logical, and a shift worth making, as it should cut workload and actually provide worthwhile information for us to act on. A win win result like this has to always be the ultimate goal, doesn’t it?

Check the list

So back to you… have you found that space to reflect on what you spent your time doing last year and the impact it had? I think it’s vital that you do this, but also that you don’t overthink it.

Start with the basics, as it is never too late to make improvements, by thinking about these questions:

  1. Did you have effective classroom routines in place with all classes last year?
  2. Were the expectations of the students clear and did you reinforce them consistently and fairly?
  3. Did you have control over the aspects of your environment that you can? An example of this would be that if you didn’t have a seating plan, why not? I know the person I am sitting next to impacts on my behaviour, so surely it is the same for our students?
  4. Did you support your colleagues by reinforcing the school expectations at the end of your lessons? The contribution that you have to the success of your fellow educators is much, much bigger than you could ever imagine. Being the ‘cool’ teacher who ‘gives students a chance’ can be the most damaging thing for the next staff member who tries to follow the school rules.

This isn’t about stifling autonomy. Quite simply, if every teacher, in every school, can answer yes to each of these questions it will allow relationships to flourish, whilst ensuring that classrooms are calm environments for educators and students alike to achieve success.

What changes are you making this year?

Vic Goddard is headteacher at Passmores Academy, as seen on Channel 4’s Educating Essex, and is the author of The Best Job in the World; for more information, visit or follow @vicgoddard.

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