The Purest Treasure

WhatsApp Image 2018-02-15 at 20.49.39

A jewel in a ten-times-barr’d-up chest

Is a bold spirit in a loyal breast.

William Shakespeare: Richard II – 1.1.178-183

As the data comes in on results’ day – or perhaps you’ll have had your data on download day – you’ll be starting your faculty analysis. Seeing individual flashes of joy in the data is something I will always treasure before starting the analysis. The stories, the memories, the battles, all reduced somewhat pitifully into a single number. I then love seeing patterns that emerge and – later – working out how the results translate to our curriculum planning and delivery.

Here are some thoughts on the communication side of things for results day – the nuances of communication with our teams and some leadership points I’ve picked up over the years.

Look for the positives

It’s easy to read doom on the faces of everybody around you when a set of uncomfortable results comes in. Try to see the positives. It’s important. You have plenty to celebrate and your team need to hear that. Perhaps, when talking to your team, you could make explicit:

  • Names of pupils who’ve exceeded expectations
  • Names of pupils who’ve met expectations, despite challenging circumstances
  • Any emerging patterns of successful key groups within your faculty
  • How bloody hard everybody has worked this year.

This will take some time, but I try to find a positive for every teacher to carry home with them. Remember: (and Doug has just tweeted this exact sentiment) these pupils have had 11 years of education. Not two. It’s a collective responsibility. As a leader, reassure people with that fact.

Avoid blame and gloating

Along the same lines, it’s so important that any analysis of each class’ performance is done with a level head. EAL students are, nationally, likely to make more progress. The story behind that data, and whether they really are making that progress, is another blogpost. Students registered as Pupil Premium are, nationally, likely to make less progress. You need to wait until the national P8 data is in (…not for ages!) before seeing how these groups have performed nationally. These results are not an opportunity to prove a point – good or bad – about a colleague.

If your own class(es) have done brilliantly, then of course you want to celebrate. Perhaps I’m old-fashioned, but I think that leaders should probably be silent on this. Be magnanimous on results’ day. It’s hard, especially when you’re close with your team, but non-TLR teachers are just thinking about their own groups and don’t need to hear about your successes immediately. If you’re transparent in your leadership, you’ll share the data at a later date and your team will be able to see these patterns for themselves. Praise for you can come from your own line-manager and also comes in your remuneration. It wouldn’t be a brilliant endorsement of our leadership positions if we weren’t getting that side of things right.

Any comparisons need to be made in context

You’ll need to wait until the national A8 /P8 data is in. When you get this information, share it with your teams. Look at the national scores for each group before using data to set your faculty targets, or decide that they need to improve in certain areas. You can use this data (from my #TENC18 talk; source on the slide) to see how your cohort have performed. There are problems with using the P8 score to look at individual and class progress – the scores are designed to contribute to an overall average – but you can use it to see how your students fared overall.

Present on Results Day pic

Think whole-school

Every year, one department gloat at me. I won’t name and shame. They’d be proud, anyway. This department enters between 15 and 20 students and usually gets, oh, I don’t know, 99.8% A*-C. The fact that English and Maths departments are judged on every single child on roll, even if we’ve never met them is, apparently, irrelevant. I laugh along, spitting venom into my heart and losing every shred of that magnanimous spirit of which I spoke earlier.

There’s a point to be made here, though. It’s not just about us and our own faculties. We need to think of the whole picture. A school’s successful P8 score is only that if a child has scored well across 8 subjects. We need the EBacc and the Open elements, or our efforts are for nothing (and vice versa, of course). One of the things that I like about P8 is the upping of the moral imperative, as I see it. It’s no longer about C/D borderliners in English and Maths. It’s about succeeding in a rounded curriculum, for every child, regardless of prior attainment and inevitable target grades. The success of History, PE, Art, and all the other subjects are for us to celebrate too.

I’ll be present on results’ day this year and blogging again soon after.

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The image at the top is Rich, my husband. He’s an arborist. I love the stories about the views and the perspective he gets from up there. I am slightly more queasy about the fact that he’s only attached by a rope or two and armed with a couple of chainsaws.