The Year Ahead

Thank you to Michael Tidd for the following article. 

And so...the end is near!

There’s something rather marvellous about the cycle of the academic year. For a start, there’s the joy of a six-week change in routine. I won’t argue that it’s six weeks off, but it’s certainly a different pace of life once the summer break rolls around.

The other thing I’ve always loved, is the opportunity to start afresh. I know that come September, I won’t be behind with my marking for once. My desk will be tidy (I’m determined!) and we’ll each have a fresh-faced class of cherubs to work our magic on.

After what has been an exceptionally hectic year, it’s understandable that we’ll all be looking forward to some well-earned rest, but what about the year ahead? What ought we to be thinking about?

Assessment

The most obvious thing in light of recent events is the use of assessment. There were many schools that were taken by surprise by the new Key Stage 2 tests – especially the Reading test. Schools which have used the Rising Stars Optional Tests and Progress Tests series had already been through this learning curve in experiencing the new higher level of challenge in preparation for the tests, but for many, the changes wrought in this summer’s results will have implications for the coming term. School leaders will want to look at how accurate their internal tracking systems were – including how well they align with the new raised expectations – and to evaluate their use of tests and other indicators through the year to help prepare for the coming year’s tests.

Pupil Premium Spending

As this becomes an increasingly important part of the Ofsted inspection cycle, September brings with it a new requirement to publish a school’s Pupil Premium strategy online. Alongside the existing requirement to report on how funding is used, schools will now need to include a strategy which outlines the main barriers to achievement and how the school intends to tackle them.

As ever, it seems that drawing on the best practice available is wise. This summer may be a time for pupil premium leaders to review the quality of their intervention programmes in school, particularly where funding is currently used to pay for Teaching Assistants. Research from the EEF recommends that TAs are best used in providing highly structured interventions, such as the WordBlaze programme. Now is a good time to look at what interventions are used in school to evaluate if they’re the best use of Pupil Premium funding.

Reducing Workload

If the first two sections made you panic about when you’re going to fit it all in, then the third of my suggestions perhaps ought to be a priority. Everyone - from the new Chief Inspector at Ofsted to parents at the gate - recognises that workload has increasingly become a challenge for schools. Ofsted and the DfE have tried to do their bit in setting a framework for reducing the burden, and now it’s over to schools to take a lead. Perhaps before anything else, this summer, and the early days of the new term, ought to be dedicated to finding ways in which we can reduce the demands on teachers’ and school leaders’ time. The DfE identified the 3 core strands of marking, planning and data as the major burdens for teachers; perhaps we should each reflect on how these impact on teachers in our own schools, and what we can do to reduce those demands.

The Rising Stars Eliminating Unnecessary Workload conferences being held in September may be the perfect opportunity to get some ideas from others. Perhaps your last act before the summer holidays ought to be to book onto that… and then take a rest until September!

Happy holidays.

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