How to Innovate My School: #IMSchat

Innovate My School invited me to host their first #IMSchat on 2017 on Thursday 5th January 2017. I used this as an opportunity to crowd source my thinking on what I want to do differently as I begin my Headship at Aureus School. I see a new school, in a new  build, in a new community as an exciting opportunity to innovate my school and model a different way of doing things.

We discussed 8 questions over an hour, below are my reflections on the discussions and you can check out the storify here: #IMSchat

Q1. How can we recruit and retain teachers in a more innovative way?

I am recruiting differently. I think it is ridiculous how much money schools spend on big national adverts, money that should be resourcing the school and spent on the students. I pledged at interview to recruit through my #PLN and retain through the school culture being values-led and focused on #wellbeing. I know how much time and energy it takes to trawl the net finding jobs, do the research for the application, then prepare for the interview. Then the emotional toil of going through the recruitment process. All the while juggling your day job and setting cover.

So I am leading my recruitment with open events. We do them for the students and parents/ carers, why don’t we do them for our staff? I did one last term for Governors – from which I have engaged 3 fantastic volunteers who are aligned with my values of #diversity #equality #wellbeing #coaching #flexibility. Next I am holding an open event next weekend for teaching staff – we have 45 registered already. People will de-deselect if what I say does not resonate, they may have driven and given up a few hours of their time, but they will have coffee, cake and get to network at the same time. They will apply with the conviction we are aligned. Once we start the interviewing for teaching staff and leaders, I will repeat the process fo the non-teaching staff. Yes this will know out some of my Saturdays bu I know I will ‘get the right people on the bus’.

#IMSchat discussion on Q1:

  • Create flexibility including allowing part-timers to have TLRs and job sharing of leadership roles
  • Nurture wellbeing
  • Invest in career progression
  • Get the right staff on the bus who are signed up to the new vision is key
  • Identify the hornets of teaching and eliminate them for long term retention
  • ‘Talk up’ teaching as a career much more, inc with our own pupils
  • Be brave and distributing leadership
  • Focus on the needs of our children
  • Ignore the external diktat
  • Engage staff in decision making and ownership
  • Market differently –  a showcase event where prospective interested folk can mingle & lay out their visions
  • Retain – opportunities for staff to share good practice in less traditional ways eg Teachmeets, T&L coffee mornings
  • Create responsibilities from areas for development in the school development plan
  • Promote learning organisations where staff will not want to leave & others will want to join the whole school team
  • Ensure transparency
  • Vocalise and amplify a more positive rhetoric about teaching
  • ‘Grow our own’ both middle & senior leaders
  • Lead with vision & values and re-enmgage what brought us into teaching as this can keep us there

I am quite confident that the feedback rom the chat reinforces that I being bold doing things a little differenrly, but in turn the outcome will be different. A a Headteacher who will teach and who is passionate about professional learning, wellbeing and leadership development I am confident I can retain the staff I appoint to this brand new school as they will own it and help to shape it, plus they will grow and progress with it. The only other thing I am considering is appointing/ offering roles for September 2017 and 2018 in spring 2017 so that the team can bond and stay in touch – I only need a small start up team but with some people  need time to relocate/ get affairs into order etc – I am interested to know your throughts on this idea….

Q2. How would you innovate your school’s staffing model?

This is an easy one. I have spent so much time reflecting on and discussion the range of different reasons around the ‘recruitment’ crisis, which I believe is in fact a ‘retention’ crisis. I have been very vocal about the fact we neeed more flexibility in the system, we need to offer part time roles and job shares, we need to detach TLRs from teaching loads, we need to offer better KIT programmes and support those wishing to return to the sector, we need to challenge the workload and nurture the wellbneing of teachers. I haven’t got a magic want but I have alot of best practice through #womened to share, plus I am working in a really forward-thinking trust who are keen to do more and to do things differently. I want to lead with diversity, equality and flexibility, I want to create a school that operates differently including longers half-term holidays and half days on Friday. All things that will support those with commitments who are striving to thrive and not just survive!

#IMSchat discussion on Q2:

  • UsE every opportunity to communicate its rewards & satisfactions & not to fixate just on its challenges/demands
  • Celebrate the small wins and lead with positive reinforcement
  • Keep perspective on bigger picture.
  • Make your own vision and live it.
  • Preventativ retention, not reactive retention.
  • Offer retention and career interviews to engage staff and know where they are heading/ what they are seeking
  • Focus on sustainability, workload & stress management too
  • Lead compassionately

I think most schools create a timetable that suits the school rather than the staff, I know it is a complicated process  and things like CPD and communications get harder when people are not always in the building at the same time, but surely agile working for teachers who are not teaching is a way to help us get some work life balance?


Q3. What does innovative look and feel like?

  • Dynamic, personalised and innovative should be the norm.
  • Weekly sharing of highlight is good within dept and then across school
  • Make it clear that you don’t have to present something whizzy. ‘Humdrum’ is good too- the simple strategies are often the most impactful
  • Implement bite size learning so doesn’t overwhelm or take up too much time in a day
  • Offer CPD that gets everyone involve ie CPD speed dating, anything that’s active rather than passive
  • speed dating. How can you keep it fresh tho? Lots of new ideas get old quicky?Focus on sharing a ‘golden nugget’, 1 thing to go and try to change practice. How do you follow up tho & check impact?
  • Solution Focused Coaching should become central for all staff & all staff need a whole school open discussion forum
  • Involve MLs as leads is key as they have teams of staff who can take part
  • Ask NQTs to be part of thiscreating a culture where collaborative learning is the norm: everyone can learn from the other w/out feeling judged
  • Give Ts the opportunity to think about something they did the previous term that no-one previously has presented
  • Share ‘Good’ practice more regularly rather than making it ‘special’
  • Set aside time in dept meetings to share good practice
  • Share / display bright ideas area in staffroom – next step displaying in toilets
  • Put  ideas into practice through bespoke/targeted/relevant/flexible CPD where recipients have choice/agency
  • Work out what works and cascade/ disseminate
  • Interact & engage outside of own school.
  • Promote and celebrate collaborative CPD.

Q4. How can we innovate the curriculum to support the recruitment, staffing and CPD, and vice versa? Is it chicken or egg?

  • Prioritise staff over the curriculum – makes  TT harder to construct but flips the ‘why?’
  • Be open mindset re the curriculum  -what is offered and how it is offered
  • Look at Year 8 curriculum and the freedom it provides no SATs no GCSEs simply
  • Drop the TT some days – simply create subject specific days
  • Enable teachers and leaders to take risks and learn from mistakes
  • Inspect and adapt…try one new thing out at a time in order to isolate / reflect on pedagogy that works.

Q5. Your curriculum is innovative, how does this translate in to an innovative classroom and innovative pedagogy?

  • Focus classroom practice on progress – that’s the only innovation necessary
  • Guide the curriculum design with the school values – they should inform assessment- whole child, empowering, preparing for LLL and active citizenship
  • Planning saves time but needs time, long term goals and vision needed then mapped back is key.

Q6. What does innovative assessment look like?

  • Allow staff to be creative in lesson delivery, evidence progress in different ways, not just written e.g iRISconnect
  • Strip back your  marking policy – don’t mark notes in books, just tests.

Q7. How do we innovate what happens outside of the classroom?

  • Engage parents, business & local orgs to see how school innov. adds value to the whole community
  • Bring in industry – like with  NESTA project a few years back, and similar to @ST3AMCo

Q8. My wildcard question – How do we innovate and ?

Final thoughts:

  • School culture
  • School vision
  • School values
  • Trust is key, all down to the culture of the school and the culture of the profession.
  • No more secret teacher, open, transparency needed

Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

  • Modelling that schools can be flexible and wellbeing can be a value

Currently reading and thinking about:

  • Lead from the Heart, Mark Crowley

Currently feeling grateful for:

  • Being asked to host this chat by James Cain at IMS – it was fast and furious but consolidated alot of my ideas and reflections on flipping the system at Aureus