Know Your Students: The Life Of A Deputy Headteacher

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Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit in 2010, and today, he is one of the 'most followed educators'on social media in the world. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the '500 Most Influential People in Britain' by The Sunday Times as a result of...
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How well do teachers know their students?

I am a traditional teacher from the old-school of thought, where relationships between teacher and student trump everything we do in schools. However, over the past decade, schools and the way we teach has become more sophisticated with data increasingly prominent in our conversations with young people. As a result, my teaching is richer because I am better informed regarding how students are performing. This means the relationships I have with my students is more powerful and meaningful when a) I have a good relationship with them and b) I can present useful data to my students that helps them progress and helps me understand their progress better. For example, when live marking.

A Secure Overview:

How can we gain a secure overview of every child we teach?

Our teaching and learning policy was 18 months in the pipeline before it was published in the summer of 2016; the policy went to print for the new academic year and is to be ratified by our governing body in our next governors meeting. It will become a standard document to promote consistent classroom practice. In the very first line of our Mark-Plan-Teach approach, the Learning Policy says:

A secure overview means that teachers must have a secure overview of the starting points, progress and context of all.”

What is a secure overview?

As part of our new, weekly breakfast CPD sessions, we are slowly working through each section of our one-page summary to share best practice. Yesterday, a group of teachers met at 8.15am to discuss ‘a secure overview’ and below is an image of my personal brainstorm.

Secure Overview LEarning Policy

Here’s are the details of what a ‘secure overview’ entails:

  1. The information in the ‘progress tracker’ is understood. This includes
    1. prior attainment data from primary school
    2. reading age
    3. how the student is doing in your subject compared to others
    4. how the student has done in the subject prior to you teaching them.
  2. Teachers should understand the student’s overall strengths and weaknesses, in examined courses it is mandatory to have a Personalised Learning Checklist.
  3. Teachers should be aware of the context of each class because;
    1. of the relationships you form with them, in line with the behaviour for learning policy.
    2. you make at least a mental note of announcements about student welfare, for example at briefings or in the school bulletin and the ‘end of day report’
    3. you liaise with the year team where necessary.

How to achieve a Secure Overview?

So, how can having a secure overview fit in with school policy? What can we do with a secure overview and how will it help us build pupil relationships? If we use this simple step-by-step chart below to improve our practice, we can become better at having an impact on our pupils.

Secure Overview LEarning Policy

High Expectations:

It is important that a student’s context rarely means you should adjust your aspirations of what they can achieve. Sometimes there are events in a student’s life that makes it very hard to learn anything. These students are the exception and not the rule.

Without a secure overview, it is impossible for classroom teachers to form the first wave of intervention and deliver ‘Quality First’ teaching. Marking provides excellent feedback to the teacher as to whether students have learned what they have been taught. This does not mean that the progress tracker should be completed. Members of staff may do so if they wish, but cannot be directed to do so.

Whether or not you have great relationships with your students, how well do you know their (prior data) starting points and current pathways?


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