Confident leadership does not pile paper on teachers

The Key

See all posts by FergalI visited William Tyndale primary school in Islington on Monday. What a refreshing experience. The head, Tanya Watson, has been at the school for more than a decade. She was brought up in America, trained as a concert pianist at the Royal Academy, then started taking piano pupils while she developed her performance career. She was so taken by teaching that she eventually decided to qualify as a teacher.

Good job for the kids at William Tyndale.

Tanya knows her own mind. Oh yes she does.

And she and her deputy make sure that teachers can get on with their main work. They want them to teach rather than produce paper. So, staff spend significant amounts of time in professional dialogue (Tanya would think this term far too pompous) and every term teachers take ‘time out’ to analyse in detail the progress made by each child. But there isn’t much in the way of form filling.

Teachers know what they need the children to have learned by the end of each stage. They make sure they have done so. They carefully analyse where the targeted learning has not taken root, and intervene quickly to redress the issue. This completely accords with John Hattie’s exhortation to stop talking about teaching and to talk instead about the impact of, and outcomes from, teaching.

The school is informal (children call teachers by their first names) but rigorous, rigorous, rigorous when it comes to standards. No surprises, then, that Ofsted gave it outstanding on every measure in 2013.

I loved the mix of a calm, light, humane environment, the chronological history of the school painted by pupils seen as you walk up the staircases and the high expectation of children I saw as I walked around the school – particularly in the Latin class.

And before people think … oh, Islington, champagne socialists, BBC producers, etc. … 35% of pupils receive pupil premium money, well above the national average of about 20%.

It is uplifting to see great things happening because a head and her team are so getting it right.

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