Growing Effective Independent Learners

This is the title of my research project. I’ve spent the last term reading, researching and making contact with senior leaders in other schools about workable strategies that they use to improve outcomes for students without putting the students, themselves or their staff under unnecessary pressure. Easy gains is what I’m aiming for. Different and smarter ways of working – not putting in extra hours. I needed time to negotiate my way through the woods of all the excellent research-based learning that exists and is readily shared and of the established ways of working at my current school to give my project the best chance of succeeding.

Then I designed my intervention programme and got ready to launch it, which I did at the start of this term. It’s a pilot and is still under construction with some year groups, whilst proceeding apace with others. I have a team of teachers across all departments working with me, some handpicked by me and other volunteers. We have cake at all our meetings. The launch meeting we established a consensus for reporting on Independent Learning a recent addition to the frequent school reports. Teachers, students and parents need to know what is being measured and that we are all using the same criteria.

It’s exciting and scary in equal measure. It’s twenty years since I last led a team in a school; I started off at my current school as a part-time teacher, returning to the classroom after fifteen years of being a full-time mum with a small income stream from running workshops, tutoring and writing educational materials. I had no kudos as a senior manager, many people had no idea of my past experience and at the moment I have no real budget with which to run the intervention programme.

But I have vision, bags of energy, a determination to create something worthwhile for the teachers and the students at my school, a great mentor and team to help me – and home-baked cake. In next week’s meeting we’ll be looking at the great activities that are already happening in the school to promote independent learning and finding ways to share and celebrate them all.

Keep in touch.


Back to school

I’m dipping a toe in the water and getting back into the business of school leadership after a very extended break away. I have a pile of reading to complete in preparation and a lot of plates to spin during the course of this academic year.

There has been an explosion in recent years of evidence based research to guide teachers – subject-based and whole school. Thousands of teachers are connecting via Twitter to share resources and spend their free time attending CPD, often on Saturdays and during school holidays. This is a good thing. Teaching is as much about learning as it is about imparting knowledge, igniting a spark and fanning the flames of enthusiasm, sowing a seed that will grow into a lifetime of learning and guiding your charges through the forest of knowledge that surrounds them at school. It’s about walking alongside your students. That’s why I sit the exams my students do in real time every year! Never forget what it is like to be a student.

This is one of the guiding principles for the school project on independent learning which I’ll be leading over the next school year as part of my senior leadership qualification. Twenty years ago before I had my own children, when I was a senior leader in a secondary school in Bath there were few excellent books to read and little sharing of resources and best practice. Times have changed – and mostly for the better.

I’m going to get my head down into the planning of my project and all the associated reading. Once it’s up and running I’ll be providing updates here.

See you after Christmas I expect.

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