Reflecting on the last couple of weeks at Highbury Grove, I’m struck by just how amazing the work is that we do. I was sitting in an incredible maths lesson thinking: what’s happening here is extraordinary. All of these complicated young people and their teacher are wrapped up in a process that is so complex, nuanced, dynamic, multi-layered; so difficult and yet so brilliant. Simply at the level of human interaction, never mind the learning itself, teaching well is an extraordinary challenge – one that my staff meet day in day out, very often with young people with highly complex social and emotional challenges that they in turn are tackling day in day out.
In fact I saw several fabulous lessons last week; each teacher had worked incredibly hard to plot out a learning path using a range of strategies, tasks, questions, modes of assessment and so on. Layered on top of this technical stuff is the complex web of warm interpersonal interactions that fuel the learning – kindness, patience, the right level of assertive enforcement and praise. There is nothing here you can take for granted; it’s all crafted and considered. I’m fortunate to have so many teachers working at this level; it’s inspiring to see.
All week I’ve been involved in conversations with staff about the best ways to support some of our young people: opportunities to stretch our high attainers even further; developing our provision for those students with the greatest challenges – (see the Pinball Kids); our systems for behaviour management and tackling persistent absence; the issues of social exclusion exacerbated by digital divide issues. This is the sharp end – we have a high number of highly disadvantaged young people on the wrong side of the chasm; this takes immense energy, commitment, emotional investment, persistence, resilience. It’s huge; it’s often unrecognised. This was reflected further in the conversations at Year 10 parents’ evening; teachers reaching out to parents, engaging them in the learning process, working hard to bridge the gap – not to mention the whole complex business of making sense of the curriculum and assessment data to make things seem possible.
Beyond the classrooms, we’ve been running a raft of events and activities that enrich students’ lives – that make school a place to belong, a community. The school twitter feed captures this – as in the gallery above. Remembrance day silences beautifully observed; a superb guided reading scheme; an anti-bullying conference; our fabulous sports academy launch – and some more regular events such as the work of our nurture group, specialist school orchestra, visits from Diversity Role Models as part of PSHE. This is all incredible stuff, run by super-committed people striving to give our students the best and broadest education.
On Friday we had a fantastic day celebrating the Unison Stars in our Schools day, giving recognition to support staff. This was driven by one of the support staff who is, without question, a star – someone who epitomises the commitment to our young people that all our support staff share; that we all share.
Schools and teachers get more than our share of knocks and the data never ever tells the full story – not even close. But I think we do incredible work. Schools are amazing. Mine certainly is.
My personal highlight of the week was this. A small act of kindness or recognition can mean a lot: