The Governors of an 11-16 school community school in our Local Authority approached Notre Dame with a request that one of our Deputy Heads be seconded to the school to serve as Head Teacher. This request was made following the resignation of the previous Head Teacher in the spring of 2013. As part of this package, Notre Dame was asked to provide wider support to strengthen leadership and management. This approach was made under the advice of a National Leader of Governance who was working with the governing body and was intended as a means to try to secure sustainable improvement in both progress made by students and in the quality of leadership and management in the school before seeking to appoint a permanent head teacher.
While the school’s previous Ofsted inspection had resulted in a grading of ‘Good’ the results had dipped significantly in the summer immediately after the inspection and there had been a continued downward trend in the progress made by students in the subsequent years.
Furthermore, following a settled period with a long standing head teacher, the school had three head teachers in four years.
The arrangement was initially to last for one year (Sept 2013 to Aug 2014), but following a local authority report on the impact of the partnership during the first term, the governors chose to extend the contract to 3 years in order to provide a period of stability in the school’s improvement programme. This new 3 year contract involved 2 years of secondment to headship, support with recruitment of a permanent head teacher then a year of transitional support during the new head teacher’s first year.
In addition to the secondment of the Deputy Head to serve as head teacher, Notre Dame provided a range of additional support:
•The Head of Notre Dame, who was an NLE, acted as mentor to the seconded Head and provided support to the governing body, including guidance through the recruitment of the permanent head teacher
• Leader of South Yorkshire Maths Hub (who is a former Head of an Outstanding Maths Department) provided mentoring and development of new subject leaders in Maths at Stocksbridge, while teaching some lessons in the school.
• Delivery of CPD via the Teaching School, including Outstanding Teacher Programme and bespoke training to develop the middle leadership team
• Support for newly appointed data manager to completely overhaul data systems in school with the aim of providing consistent and clear analysis, focusing on student progress, that informed the cyclical improvement planning and monitoring cycle for middle leaders, senior leaders and governors.In the first instance, with the school’s value added score placing them in the 94th centile nationally and significant underperformance across the majority of progress measures, the first priority was to avoid special measures.
During the inspection in March 2014, a term and a half after joining the school, the school received a grade of ‘Requires Improvement’ with inspectors recognising the steps that had already been taken to address the causes of underachievement. Between 2013 and 2015, value added measures improved in consecutive years. Particular improvement in value added was seen between 2013 and 2015 in Maths (92nd centile to 65th centile), MFL (88th to 65th centile) and Humanities (78th to 25th centile).The wider focus was on improving the quality of leadership and teaching within the school in order to provide the capacity for sustained improvement. There was a significant restructure of the senior management team over the two years of the secondment and there was a particular emphasis on strengthening the accountability and autonomy for middle leaders in the school. This was supported through bespoke training for the middle leaders and revised systems for quality assurance and improvement planning, with the middle leaders at the heart of the process. Performance management and quality assurance cycles were simplified and tightened up, with a much more explicit focus on critical self-reflection to inform development. Rigour was maintained through the role of SLT in the process.Through the Outstanding Teacher Programme and extensive work to create a culture of open classrooms, the quality of teaching was strengthened. Staff who had been through the OTP took an active lead, formally and informally, in sharing good practice through teaching triads, teach meets, etc. During the inspection, it was recognised that governors had developed a much more accurate view of the school and were enabled to take steps to ensure continued improvement. In his monitoring visits, the HMI endorsed the view that the quality of teaching in the school was improving and furthermore, leadership was developing the capacity to continue this improvement.