Uffculme School is an 11-16 comprehensive school serving a small town in east Devon. It is highly regarded in the local community and performs extremely well in public examinations. Relationships within the school are exceptional and the atmosphere calm and purposeful. The Oftsed inspection of 2007 rated the school outstanding.
Headteacher, Lorraine Heath, knew that she had a highly successful school but – in her commitment to continuous improvement – wanted a coherent whole school approach that would commit to sustainable growth in learning and teaching. Her hard-working teachers would never be complacent about their achievements but she knew that their students were far too reliant on their teachers and less inclined to be the independent learners that she knew they would need to be in the future.
The school began to work with Building Learning Power at the beginning of the school year 2011-12 and adopted a rigorous bespoke programme that was assiduously managed by deputy headteacher, Alan Blackburn.
In the first instance, the school identified a team of lead practitioners: highly respected and experienced teachers who would be influential throughout the school and act as champions to these radical approaches to learning and teaching. The first thing they did was to review the quality of learning in lessons having been trained to know how to look at lessons through a Building Learning Power lens. Two days of intensive observations – often in pairs in order to assure consistency – led to a full and detailed report that recognised the many strengths in current practice but also the missed opportunities on which the school could capitalise. This review led to a two day training course for the lead practitioners to raise their awareness and equip them to contribute to a staff development day in January 2012 – led by an external consultant with follow-up workshops from team members.
In response, Alan Blackburn posted the following:
I can honestly say that we have not had a training day where so many people have sought me out afterwards to say how much they enjoyed it and valued it. Staff said they really enjoyed your keynote and also got a lot out of the workshops.
The lead practitioners continued to work on their own practice and were given additional, regular inputs to shape their teaching approaches. A second tranche of teachers were introduced to Building Learning Power in practice and linked to coaching partners from the initial team. This led to wider curriculum involvement and an infectious discourse about learning across departments.
Training of the leadership team then followed to ensure that their quality assurance procedures were consistent with the approaches being taken – this involved joint classroom observations with the external consultant. A member of the SLT, who had been Ofsted trained, readily recognised the links between Building Learning Power and, in a briefing to middle leaders, stated that outstanding teaching and learning would come from staying consistent to the coherent Building Learning Power approaches.
Meanwhile, the lead practitioners adopted individual departments – not their own – and acted as mentors to nominated teachers in these curriculum areas.
The external consultant continued to provide bespoke support and challenge through
- Focus work with individual departments
- One-to one work with heads of department or nominated leaders of learning
- Training of new teaching staff
- Formative reviews and reports on progress
Ofsted inspected the school again in March 2014 and graded the school outstanding in all aspects.
Lorraine Heath emailed in response:
Thank you for all of your input and support over the last two and a bit years. I don’t know if you heard on the grapevine that we’ve just had our inspection I’m delighted to say that it was outstanding in every category (and for every bullet point in the framework). As you would expect the students were fantastic and staff were too: 40% lessons judged outstanding and 52% good.
Your work with Alan and our lead practitioners has clearly had a significant impact and I know it’s not finished yet (as such things never are) but I want to thank you really sincerely for the manner in which you have helped and supported us.