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11 December 2023

The Monday Briefing: Future

Monday Briefing 11th December: Future

The last week of term at the College is always taken up with mock exams, ensuring that students are kept honest, right up until the very last possible moment of learning time. They are assessed according to formal examination regulations in exactly the scenario they will face the formal exams come May and June at the end of this academic year for those in Year 11 or 13, or in 2025 for those in Year 10 or 12.

Staff are also kept honest: they have to play a full part in an invigilation rota; they are busy compiling end of term reports; they of course have to mark the exams which the students are sitting. They feedback they provide is utterly vital - and it follows the usual parameters which we abide by when we return student work: it is timely - so that students don’t forget what they were being assessed on; it is detailed, so that students can gain an explicit understanding of their areas for development; it  is deployed in a personal way, encouraging, non-dictatorial way - we are ‘guides by the side’ not ‘sages on the stage.’

Of course, at the start of the exams series, which kicked off on Friday, it takes time for the marking to come through. For me, I won’t get my first batch until Year 13 sit their History paper on Monday afternoon.

As Principal, I insist on being an active invigilator. I remember listening to a five part podcast recently about Napoleon, which stated that he would never make his soldiers do anything which he wouldn’t do himself - and this has always been part of my leadership philosophy too.

It is a chance however, for me to find solace in the silence.

An opportunity to reflect on the term past, the term to come, and the obstacles which lie ahead.

 

In terms of the term just gone, it’s hard to deny that it’s been a very good one. The College is in an increasingly strong position: financially well managed and emboldened to the effect that we can reinvest heavily in the infrastructure of the setting; comfortable and empowered with the culture of the College - now firmly embedded; full in some year groups and filling quickly in others, popularity steadily growing as the College moves forward.

 

How exactly can we tell this is so?

It’s a good question, and the answer goes beyond what one sees on a daily basis - though one certainly gains a sense of it when in College.

No, it can’t just be based on a ‘sense.’ 

Three key touch points have advised this judgement so that one can truly prove what one observes day in day out. As a history teacher, I regularly advise my students that to prove any point in an essay, they need three pieces of evidence to convince. It’s important that I practise what I preach.

The first was our student survey, conducted back in September. The headlines were incredibly pleasing, and they indicated several areas within the College of significant strength, but they also showed room for improvement, which helped supplement the College improvement plan. 

I’ve talked before about net promoter scores, and these helped us to locate these attributes:

 

Some ratings, in the high NPS, truly showed where we excel:

Teachers help me to do my best at Ealing Independent College +33

Teachers listen to what I have to say in lessons +37

I feel safe when I’m at the College +65

The College encourages me to be independent and to take on responsibilities +51

The College encourages me to respect people from other backgrounds and to treat everyone equally +57

 

At the same time, some areas for development were identified in the way in which we advise in terms of careers, the extra-curricular opportunities we offer, and the way we promote physical health at the College.

These were largely corroborated in our recent Parent Survey.

Pleasingly, parents, when asked if they would recommend the College, provided a net promoter score of 56.6.

There was 100% support when asked whether students felt safe and secure, on the premise that behaviour at Ealing was strong, that bullying was dealt with effectively, that the College responds well to concerns or complaints, and that communication is strong.

One aspect of communication which they were keen to see more of was in our explanation of the College priorities, whilst they, like their children, sought an expanded extra-curricular programme.

We’ve been keen not to delay the implementation of positive change.

 

In the last week or so, the students have been out on three trips, one for Art to the Tate, one for English Literature to a local showing of A Christmas Carol, and a combined History and Science trip to the Golden Hinde and the Science Museum.

The end of this week will also see some new awards added to our usual academic recognition of excellence. We will, on either Thursday or Friday, depending on the recipients, honour our students for their achievements in sport, charity work, endeavouring to try something new, or inspiring others with their leadership outside of the classroom.

In terms of careers, I’m looking forward to hosting an evening for parents this coming Thursday to discuss A Level options with our GCSE cohort after they receive their mock results. The fact that I’ll be doing so over mulled wine and mince pies makes it all the more enticing, and I’ve been further developing an idea to create a valuable network to enhance our careers provision.

Where there is an area where we, our students, or our parents see possible improvement, it is important that we listen, plan and act with speed.

 

The third piece of evidence I used to fully grasp the ‘state of the nation’ was our recent governance visit, carried out by our Education Director, David Williams, and a fellow Headteacher from the group, Hilary Marsden, the Headmistress at The Webber Independent School. The multi-faceted approach, which involves learning walks and work scrutiny, alongside student, staff and parent interviews, provides a forensic exploration of the standing of the College.

 

Again, the findings have offered a great deal of encouragement to our approach.

In detail, they gave an indispensable summary of the views of our key stakeholders.

 

Staff experience:

 

There is clearly a great team spirit with staff getting on well. There are now structures in place to acknowledge their work and frame their efforts as we move forward. They feel listened to and empowered but know they are accountable for their performance. Learning walk revealed engaged and motivated learners

 

Student experience:

 

All clear on high expectations academics and work ethic, attendance and punctuality, behaviour etc. Felt doing much better at EIC than at last school.

Appreciate staff relationships, one to one help and small class sizes so lots of extra time and attention. 

All felt making good progress and spoke with pride and confidence when showing revision self study notes ( never did this before EIC but now self motivated), results on past GCSE papers improved with gap analysis and quality and quantity of work being produced now.

 

Parent experience:

 

-spoke of “transformational” nature of the school. Seemed thrilled to have discovered this solution to their issues

-many comments about high quality of the teaching staff (“excellent recruitment”) and how they care and put themselves out

-there is evidently regular dialogue about pupil progress or, if needed, the school responds quickly

-pupils’ opinions are respected and offer is tailored to them. They have a personal connection with teachers

-school not hung up on rules, discipline, uniform etc

-all types of pupils, inclusive

-appreciate close monitoring but attitude of school has led to self-motivation (unlike previous setting)

-complementary about communication in all its forms-written, verbal and reporting

-feel listened to

 

Overall:

 

-The College feels civilised and business-like

-There has been considerable progress on some of the points raised in the previous Autumn visit.

-There is evidence that SLT meet regularly, decisions are shared, discussed and staff feeling involved in the three weekly briefings. 

-parents effusive about the school and its transformational nature. College appears to have found its niche and confident in what it is delivering. A true alternative to mainstream.

-pupils feel respected, known and listened to  and there are excellent relationships with teachers although they know the boundaries eg punctuality, attendance

-monthly reports appreciated by staff, pupils and parents. Pupils feel they are making progress due to appropriate interventions

 

The Blog last week concentrated on the influential visit of Darren Edwards, and he left with exactly the understanding of purpose, drive and cohesion I’d have hoped. He sent me a very welcome message after the left:

 

Hi Allan,

It was great to see you and the students at Ealing Independent College today. Thank you so much for having me back - it was an honour.

It’s a special school, with some of the most grounded students I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. 

Thanks once again.

Darren Edwards

 

Knowing the direction we are headed is essential for our future - and we can’t get there without knowing ourselves: where we’ve just been; where we are now; what we do well; where we need to improve.

It’s only by asking these questions of ourselves, that we can take our next set of positive steps in 2024. The future, both in the short and long term, looks bright for EIC.

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