Chapter 7: Teaching and Learning at its heart
1. Teaching and Learning
1.1 Teaching and learning needs to be at the heart of every school. This is why we are keen that one of the benefits of joining our MAT means that schools do not have to worry about things that get in the way and take up a lot of time and can instead focus on teaching and learning.
1.2 The focus has to be on finding and developing outstanding teachers and - where they are lacking – schools (with the support of the MAT) should be allowed to spot talent and train teachers themselves with the responsibility of ensuring they meet the highest standards. This is best illustrated with the dearth of good/outstanding Maths, Science and Computing teachers. Schools should be able to go to industry and business to find them, make the profession attractive to them and then train them up.
1.3 And to attract and retain the best practitioners, schools will need more funding. Given the public purse will only stretch so far, we would look at ways of encouraging local communities, parents and businesses to ‘buy in’ as stakeholders. It would make schools more accountable. And schools that produce outstanding pupils will benefit businesses, the community, industries, professions and the country as a whole.
1.4 The teachers we need are those who have excellent subject knowledge and can impart it in an interesting way; with the ability to bring a subject to life, to make young people think and question. Teachers who can create independent learners who know what they need to do to improve and can help those around them do the same. Teachers should teach around their subject as well as teach to it, highlighting the social context, demonstrating the ‘real world’ issues, ideas, functional skills and thinking that stems from the curriculum content. The challenge is to motivate every pupil to consider themselves a linguist, a mathematician, a scientist, a historian, an artist, inspiring all pupils to discover their strengths. According to Winston Churchill, “Where my reason, imagination or interest were not engaged, I would not or I could not learn.”
1.5 And for all pupils to succeed, teachers must teach to the top and then scaffold the learning for the rest of the class; teachers need to ask in every lesson: ‘Is the cleverest pupil in front of me being really challenged and stretched?’
1.6 To ensure that the quality of teaching and learning is consistently good or better for all pupils, schools need to set clear teaching and learning expectations and all teachers need to know and understand these.
2. Standards. Standards. Standards.
2.1 We believe that young people need to have the highest standards of attendance and punctuality, uniform and appearance and behaviour and attitude. At FBS, we have an unswerving commitment to strict discipline and firm boundaries. When Ofsted visited the school, they reported that:
“Behaviour in lessons is exemplary.”
“The behaviour of pupils is outstanding.”
“Boys live and breathe good manners and courtesy.”
2.2 We would insist on the same high standards across all our schools.
2.3 We constantly remind our pupils about the importance of standards. Standards, standards, standards! Knowing how to behave appropriately in different settings – assembly, lessons, on the sports field, to and from school, in the dining room, in the library, walking through corridors, relaxing or letting off steam at break and lunch.
2.4 Attitude is everything. Upright posture, firm hand shake, eye contact, good manners and impeccable uniform and appearance; this is what makes the FBS culture tick and however much pressure we come under to change and relax things, we stand firm. We have a strict uniform policy which some people think is too pernickety. But ask British businesses, law firms and banks what they think. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-37244180
2.5 The expectation at all our schools is that these standards are reinforced in five ways:
2.5.1 Firmly. Schools should insist upon the highest standards of uniform, attendance, punctuality, manners and conduct and take a no-nonsense approach to bullying and all other forms of anti-social behaviour.
2.5.2 Consistently. Schools have to uphold these standards: lesson in lesson out, day in day out, week in week out; ensuring that nothing gets missed or is allowed to slip.
2.5.3 Proactively. All schools should appoint a team of staff who are committed to the safety and happiness of their pupils and will show this commitment by being there for them at break and lunchtimes; as they arrive at school in the mornings and by ensuring they go home safely at the end of the school day.
2.5.4 Pastorally. Schools need to understand that growing up in today’s world is not always easy and our pupils, some in particular, face real pressures and difficulties. We must get to know them: over lunch every day, in clubs, in lessons, on school trips; building their confidence and creating an environment where they feel able to share their worries and concerns and trust us to help them sort them out. Furthermore, by getting to know our pupils, we will pick up on issues and sense when things just are not right.
2.5.5 Positively. Our pupils will observe and be taught Christian values: kindness, fairness, honesty, unselfishness, self-control and being a good neighbour. Our hope is that our pupils will adopt these values and model them in their own lives.
2.6 These standards and expectations should not only be for pupils in primary school and in KS3 and KS4, but extend to sixth formers too. If at all possible, all secondary schools should have Sixth Forms. They are the bridge between school and being a boy/girl, and university or the world of work and being a man/woman.
2.7 There is a huge jump from Year 11, with every period accounted for, to Sixth Form where more work is done outside lessons than in class. We think it is right to help young people bridge this transition rather than leaving them to make the leap. In FBS’s Sixth Form, some ‘free’ periods are periods where they can relax and have a cup of tea; other free periods are guided study periods. We are not out to spoil their fun or suffocate them but they need help and guidance to make the transition. Our pastoral care is integral to this: all our sixth formers are known, looked after, helped and given increased freedom and responsibility to make the transition from school to university and beyond.
2.8 Sixth Forms should have the same ethos as the rest of the school, only in a more grown-up guise. Our three pillars run strongly through our Sixth Forms. As with the rest of the school, we insist on high standards in attendance, punctuality, behaviour and uniform and appearance. At FBS, the Sixth Form uniform is a suit, from the school stockists. Why not their own suit? Because the strength of FBS is that we draw boys from all backgrounds. Some of the richest and some of the poorest. Wearing their Sixth Form suit, you have no idea who is who because they all look immaculate.
2.9 Sixth Formers are needed in schools to be role models and active student leaders at the heart of the school - leading some clubs, as lead guardians, as head boy and girl and deputy head boys and girls, as volunteer teaching assistants in curriculum areas once a week, having lunch with the rest of the school a couple of times a week and motivating and leading their school houses.
3. Inspirational Leadership
3.1 To achieve this vision, there must be strong leadership. Leaders who:
3.1.1 Believe in the vision;
3.1.2 Are able to inspire others about the vision;
3.1.3 Have a clear plan in place to accomplish the vision;
3.1.4 Can put the right people in the right places to make it happen;
3.1.5 Secure the resources that are required;
3.1.6 Watch closely (monitor, self-evaluate);
3.1.7 Listen carefully (welcome ideas, suggestions, feedback and advice);
3.1.8 Take necessary action (hold to account, make changes and strengthen).
3.2 At times leaders must take unpopular decisions, should expect people to complain about them and then know how to overcome the complaints.
3.3 Leaders need to be decisive and know how and when to take control. According to Tony Blair, “Leadership without delegation is usually a mess…But when in crisis time, forget delegation. That’s the moment you’re there for: grip it, shape it, decide it and solve it.”
4. Developing and Strengthening
4.1 Far and away the biggest reason for becoming a Multi-Academy Trust, along with the rest of the vision, is because we believe so strongly in our brand of education and want to extend its reach. However, it also provides exciting professional development opportunities. We have outstanding teachers, leaders and support staff whose expertise is crying out to be shared more widely. Putting our vision into action means that we have the means to extend the influence of the most successful leaders and middle leaders. We would have greater capacity to retain them by promoting them within. We would have the opportunity for the best teachers to lead on their subject across many other schools, influencing hundreds of teachers and inspiring thousands of pupils – all the while reducing workloads by sharing resources.
4.2 The best leaders create leaders so that nothing is dependent on particular people doing particular things. Achieving the vision is what is important. It is not about individuals. The New Zealand All Blacks rugby team have a saying: You don’t own the jersey. You’re just the body in the jersey at the time. It is your job to leave the jersey in a better place. The All Blacks team plays for the players that have played in the jersey before and for All Blacks yet to be born.
4.3 To this end, it is important we provide training for senior and middle leaders. Too many people are promoted too quickly, particularly in London and new schools. We need to provide training and coaching for leaders and aspiring leaders on how to be an effective leader.
5. Help and Support
5.1 Our aim is to have half-termly meetings with our Headteachers so they can share where they are feeling the pressure or struggling to meet demands; discuss the curriculum and co-curriculum; the challenges related to teaching and learning such as progress or attainment for groups of pupils with certain characteristics; development planning and self-evaluation; Christian ethos and enterprise; and the quality of the services from the MAT their schools are receiving. We can then work together to identify what the best solutions or support structures would look like to overcome challenges and achieve the best possible outcomes.
5.2 As well as the Trust leaders meeting with Headteachers individually, it is important that Headteachers meet together to help and support each other.
6. Taking the noise away
6.1 An important part of the Trust’s leadership is to provide security for schools and take the ‘noise’ away so that the Headteachers, senior leaders and staff can focus on their core business. To achieve this, the Trust will provide schools with central services:
6.1.1 Non Educational Services
(a) Finance and Procurement
(f) Policies and Risk Assessments
(g) PR, Marketing and Communication
6.1.2 Educational Services:
(a) Development Planning
(c) Staff Handbook
(d) Curriculum Mapping
(e) Programmes of Study
(f) Teaching and Learning
(h) Christian Ethos
6.2 We will work closely with schools to understand what their needs are in each of these areas and then provide the relevant services.
7. Value for money
7.1 We also believe it is important that the Trust and all the schools within the Trust are efficient. We need to have strong long-term strategic and business planning processes in place which identifies future challenges and how we are going to address them.
7.2 It is important to invest in our central services to allow us to support schools more effectively. Investing in the future is important so that as more schools are added to the MAT, there are no greater costs to individual schools. In planning for this investment, it is important to consider and calculate:
7.2.1 Salaries for additional members of staff;
7.2.2 Costs of resources to support existing members of staff to expand their roles;
7.2.3 Costs associated with taking senior leaders out of school to work across the Trust;
7.2.4 Costs to address additional training and professional development needs.
7.3 Transparency is vital. We need to communicate clearly to all our schools the value of the investment. We do not want our schools to feel like they are buying services off us but rather making contributions. When everyone feels like they are sharing the same resources, part of the same vision, with the same goals in mind, a culture of collaboration develops and there is less push-back at the idea of contributing to a central fund.
8. Be part of the Vision
8.1 If you believe and buy into our vision, please get in touch:
8.1.1 Governors and school leaders about joining our MAT;
8.1.2 Teachers and Support Staff about coming to work at one of our schools;
8.1.3 Schools and teachers about how you can access our services;
8.1.4 Young people about training to be teachers;
8.1.5 Churches to explore if there is a need and demand to set up a school in your area or that you know of schools who would benefit from joining our MAT;
8.1.6 Missionaries who know of schools in countries that would benefit from our help;
8.1.7 Businesses and individuals about supporting us financially and providing opportunities for our pupils;
8.1.8 Community leaders about opportunities for our pupils to engage in social enterprise and serve their local areas;
8.1.9 Clubs, companies, organisations and individuals about ways you could help with our co-curricular provision; and
8.1.10 Parents about how you can get more involved.
8.2 What we are trying to achieve may seem impossible. But as Hudson Taylor, the great missionary to China once, said:
“At first it seems impossible. Then it’s difficult. Then it’s done.”