25 Sep

Welcome back!

Welcome back to a new school year, I trust you all had a restful Summer. The start of term has been a baptism of fire! I’m sitting at my desk and the sunshine, beaches and cold Efes already seem a lifetime ago!!

It appears that we may be entering a period of relative stability. We haven’t seen any major changes to the curriculum for the last 6 months (!), the Ofsted framework has remained settled and there is a suggestion that the funding system may offer some much needed extra funds to LAs and our schools.

We do have some ongoing challenges, however, especially recruitment to senior roles and the anxieties of joint working and collaboration – to join or not to join a Multi Academy Trust. We also continue to await central guidance in relation to assessment systems.

A number of colleagues in our MAT have been working on our revised assessment model, the New Bridge dashboard. Like many schools, we have had to redesign our progress and assessment systems as a result of the move to a life without levels. We, like many others, continue to be concerned that many systems concentrate on academic attainment at the expense of other areas that, we believe, are also essential.

When our staff trialled our new model at the end of the last academic year, the evaluation highlighted several issues, particularly with regards to our ‘learning for life’ assessment areas which proved cumbersome and confusing. This term, a number of us have worked on combining objectives and linking targets to our EHCPs to make the system easier for everyone to both use and understand. We have looked at the areas that allow our young people to succeed and have grouped them into the following:

  • attendance
  • academic progress
  • communication
  • engagement with school
  • behaving appropriately, being healthy and keeping safe
  • being supported by appropriate people
  • taking control of a curriculum that gives you the best opportunity to succeed

Our MAT has a really strong evidence base that conclusively proves that when our children and young people make progress in all of the above areas, they move on to the most appropriate destination. Measuring this, however, is proving a challenge!

Our schools have also compiled our annual analysis of destinations. Like many other schools we track our leavers up to the age of 25. This year, for the first time ever, we have had two young people move on to university – one to Salford and one to Worcester. What a brilliant achievement for them both! I was also delighted to see an improvement in the outcomes for many, many other groups of our learners, although we still need to increase the number of young people moving into employment and volunteering.

I’m in a fortunate position to visit many schools across the country and, more often than not, I come away enthused and motivated. I would argue that the opportunities for our children have never been better. I believe most of us try to operate within a supportive and innovative environment where we value the contribution of each individual. It’s starting to pay dividends.

From a personal perspective, I am very lucky to work alongside a team who share a single minded ambition to constantly progress and modernise everything we do. Our local governors are embarking on the recruitment of a new head for New Bridge School. It promises to be an interesting experience – I’ll let you know how we get on in future blogs.

Can I thank you for your continued support for SSV. I’d like to publically thank both Dame Sue Bourne (Special Schools that are Academies) and Paul Williams (NAHT) who have both retired over the summer. They have been wonderful (and generous) with their support, knowledge and expertise. I know they made a real difference. We are looking to try and recruit replacements and have been delighted with the interest shown. I will write to you all to explain the process we will need to go through in the next few weeks.

Take care,

Graham