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14 September 2020

The Monday Briefing: Getting Better

The Monday Briefing: Getting Better

In the lead up to a new academic year, it is extremely important for schools and colleges to clarify a roadmap for improvement - a vision and development plan - where key priorities are outlined in order to build on the strengths of the institution, whilst addressing any weaknesses identified. The need to ensure that such a document was in place for Ealing Independent College was especially pressing this year with the change of Principal. It presented a chance for me to quickly get my ideas across and to hit the ground running by making changes in the hope of making my vision for the future here a reality.

Following our strong Educational Quality Inspection, carried out last September by the Independent Schools Association, we took time to consider their recommendations for improvement, as well as looking to embolden the strengths they outlined as part of the College’s provision. The ‘good’ rating awarded to the school provided a sense of affirmation that we were doing many things well, but also provided us with a tangible ambition: to push for an ‘excellent’ grading when our next inspection comes around.

The inspectors highlighted our strong academic performance, particularly at GCSE where results were well above national averages, and praised our approach which has helped us to consistently ensure that students add value to their grades. They also were keen to highlight positive student attitudes to learning and the welcoming, diverse community of the College.

They made two key recommendations for improvement, and staff at the College have embraced the challenge of improving our provision in these areas. Firstly, they felt that there was a need for improved ICT provision across the different lessons in the College, and they also wanted to see a wider programme of enrichment, encompassing external visits and activities. Taking these into account, and then canvassing the staff body in a wide ranging consultation during the summer, we were able to identify the three key priorities which we are looking to improve this academic year: to expand student leadership within the College; to embed a truly excellent enrichment programme for our students; and to invest in staff development and wellbeing.

I’m pleased to say that, two weeks in, progress is already being made towards the goals which we have set ourselves to make the College an even better educational establishment. 

Student leadership has certainly come to the fore. Over 10% of the student population applied to become part of the new student council, which will have four projects to tackle this academic year, including the transformation of the Reading Room into a student area and charity work. Google classroom, introduced smoothly during the lockdown, has remained in place. We found the benefits of increased student independence, alongside the organisational support for students who may have missed some learning, conducive to a more productive learning environment. A new mentoring programme for students has been introduced, and every student has become a signatory to the College’s Charter Against Racism, an initiative proposed by Alexandra, in Year 13. The timetable has also been manipulated to ensure that students can accelerate their study of GCSEs where possible, taking some early in order to challenge themselves to better achievement.

As stressed above, we conducted an extensive consultation with staff during the summer, within which we explored several key aspects of the College’s provision. Following suggestions from staff, the length of lessons and breaks has been adapted to maximise productivity, the mobile phone policy has been modified to further entrust students, and the extra-curricular provision within the College has been expanded: a wider range of activities, to a set programme providing students with opportunity, challenge and extension of their skills. Specific enrichment programmes for Business, Law, Medicine and Engineering are in development, encompassing expert advice, work related learning, community participation and competition. It is with great pleasure that I’ll be, for the first time in the College’s history, recommending one of our students this year for the ISA Whitbread Memorial Prize - for outstanding performance in their GCSEs. I wouldn’t be doing so if the nomination wasn’t fully deserved.

The third strand of our plan to improve the College is in investing in staff - development and wellbeing - and we are already making strong inroads in this area too. Our weekly Friday CPD programme has been very well received, with an effective balance of educational theory and practical advice being shared across the staff so that we can disseminate good teaching and learning ideas effectively. A number of staff have already enrolled for exam board CPD sessions this term, keen to gain an edge in preparing students within their courses this year. They have also shown a desire to get involved in leadership programmes across the Bellevue group.

The busy start to the year has convinced me that I am a very fortunate Principal. 

Not only do I work in a College unafraid of change and keen to embrace the principles of improvement through hard work, I know that I am surrounded by an excellent group of staff and students, all part of a community striving to make the very best of themselves.

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