Going from unacceptable to impressive
Paddock school caters for pupils with special needs from the London borough of Wandsworth and surrounding areas. The school currently has three sites: Little Paddock nursery school in Southfields, Paddock Primary in Putney and Paddock Secondary in Roehampton. The school has 165 pupils aged 3-19 years with learning difficulties ranging from moderate to severe and complex, many of whom are on the autistic spectrum.
Sarah Santos became headteacher of Paddock School in April 2014. One of her first jobs was to put in place a robust new school improvement plan.
“My first attempt at a school improvement plan was disjointed and the systems we had in place to manage processes like CPD were a bit ad hoc,” she says. “It was clear that what we needed was a cohesive system for tracking staff progress and meeting people’s training needs.
Sarah and her team decided to adopt Bluewave SWIFT on a “slowly, slowly” basis. “We’ve started with evaluating CPD activities,” she says. “We weren’t really evaluating CPD systematically before. Our evaluation started and stopped at staff filling out an evaluation card at the end of a workshop. It was a good way of finding out whether they liked the sandwich buffet but it didn’t give us any idea whether the training made any real difference to their practice.”
The SWIFT system shows us whether our CPD has any impact. If something was a disaster you can see it and we can avoid doing that type of CPD again.
If it works we can see that too, because teachers can link an improvement in their practice or a new way of doing things back to the responsible CPD event. We can see that the money spent on it has been justified.”
“To have it all centralised, linked together and easily accessible is a real godsend.”
The system has also helped Sarah and her team justify CPD expenditure to Paddock’s governing body. “I have drawn reports off the system already and used them in my Headteacher’s report to the governing body,” she explains. “It has helped me justify investing in training because I can prove that it has a direct, positive impact on practice and helps staff meet their performance targets. And because these performance targets are linked directly to the school improvement plan, they can see that this impact has a direct role in helping the school as a whole towards those improvement plan objectives.
My target is to make sure that our CPD is tailored to our teacher’s needs. We have adopted a practice known as ‘blink observations’, which are short, very focused classroom observations. This term we are looking at two areas: the use of support staff in our classrooms, and the use of environment. We worked together as a team to de fi ne the criteria for outstanding practice in these areas and we have shared these criteria through the system. Then we will go around classrooms for observations that focus on these two areas.”
In the past people would ask me in the corridor about whether they could attend a certain CPD course but we are all busy and sometimes it was difficult to make an informed decision.
Now that request can be made through the system I can look at the CPD, see how it links into that colleague’s CPD needs which in turn support school improvement plan objectives.”
“The staff were originally anxious about observations but this approach has been helpful and comfortable for staff. And if there are areas for development they can jump straight into a CPD action.”
It’s been a gradual start to the use of the Bluewave SWIFT system at Paddock School but that changes from September. “From next year we are diving in,” says Sarah. “From next year everyone’s performance management will be on there and I’ll be tying staff performance objectives into the school improvement plans.”
The introduction of the Bluewave system has required Paddock School’s 130 staff members to make some changes to the way they work. It’s a big shift but the change has been made easier through the enthusiasm many colleagues feel for the system, says Sarah. “We are asking people to be more considered about their practice and how this is linked to professional development. “We have staff members who are excited about being able to put information into the system and they are communicating this to their colleagues. Often you find that if the head is excited about something colleagues might be slightly cautious about it, but it is more popular if that enthusiasm comes from the ground up. Many of the enthusiastic users are evangelising about the system because it is helping them to collect evidence which will support their application for upper pay scale.”
As well as helping to transform CPD the system is also saving time, says Sarah. “I love the system. I am really excited about its potential as a tool to make sure everyone is joined up. We did not really have a cohesive plan before. We had paper fi les of performance management data, paper fi les of support staff, all scattered across three sites and this was a real problem.
The school is due an Ofsted inspection in the 2015-16 academic year. It’s a prospect that Sarah and her colleagues are less anxious about because they have so much data in the Bluewave system. “I feel confident that whatever is asked of us we will have the evidence we need at our fingertips,” she says.