Overcoming initial doubts to embrace a more cohesive approach to school improvement

 

Maria Townsend is headteacher of Raynville Primary School in Bramley, West Leeds. The school has 465 pupils and serves a socially deprived area of the city. Over half of Raynville’s youngsters receive free school meals.

Raynville started using the Bluewave.SWIFT school edition programme in September 2013. Maria was initially unsure about using online systems to manage school improvement processes, preferring to stick with basic tables created in Word documents. She thought online systems were too complicated and a demonstration by a local head of the Bluewave system didn’t persuade her at that time that it was right approach for her.“Although it looked really good the school seemed to be so far ahead in their use of the system that I was a bit intimidated by it,” Maria says.

Maria was eventually persuaded to give the Bluewave.SWIFT system a try after learning that fellow Bramley head David Harrison, of Bramley Primary School, was an enthusiastic user.

“I knew that David was like me in his dislike of unnecessary paperwork and complicated systems so I thought that if he was using the system and liked it then perhaps I should really give it a try,” she says.Maria was taken through the Bluewave.SWIFT school edition system by the Bluewave team and she decided that it was for her.

The school is using Bluewave.SWIFT School Edition, an online system that connects information and documents across self-evaluation, school inspection reports, strategic planning, professional development and performance appraisal. Schools can then drive improvement processes and keep ahead of ever-changing accountability and inspection requirements while saving time and cutting costs.

Maria jumped in and started using the system for performance managementschool development planning and self evaluation. Raynville will shortly start using the system to manage staff CPD as well.

“The greatest thing about the system for me is the way it links everything together. Performance management, CPD and self-evaluation should all inform each other.

“We wanted to have a much more efficient way of managing our school improvement processes and the Bluewave system has helped us to achieve this,” says Maria. “It is certainly more effective in keeping in one place the vital documentation that propels school improvement.”Maria likes the system for the complete picture it gives her of all the processes that are happening to drive forward school improvement in the school. This helps her provide the school’s governing body with a detailed view of everything that is going on. This will also help the school answer any questions that may be put to them by Ofsted.

Maria believes that everyone in the school is clearer about their stake in the school’s mission because they can clearly see the part they are playing in its development.

“There has always been lots going on in the school but without the Bluewave system it was difficult to have a complete picture, let alone track and manage activity. With this system we can link many different projects into the key objectives in the development plan. We can see for the first time how much goes on in our school.”There is still some work to do before the use of Bluewave is second nature to Raynville’s staff but they are getting there. Regular evaluation staff meetings are currently held to ensure that all staff are using the system.

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Maria has plans for increasing the adoption of Bluewave at Raynville giving the governing body access to the system. For example, the governor responsible for English could see progress in this area by looking at the system.

Maria adds: “The greatest thing about the system for me is the way it links everything together. Performance management, CPD and self-evaluation should all inform each other.

“The Bluewave system has already made a major impact. It is making me much stricter with regards to evaluation because the system makes this easier to do. In the past it was me and the senior leadership team who evaluated the school development plan. Now all of the teaching staff are involved in this process. We share responsibility.”Another example of how the Bluewave system is encouraging this shared mission can be seen in the performance management process, says Maria.

“In the past the performance targets were set in discussion with a line manager but then they were often forgotten by both parties until the year end review. The system in Bluewave requires teachers to go into the system and assess against the teacher standards. They have to put in objectives and achievement milestones and then measure and evaluate their progress over time. The onus is on that person taking responsibility for the process.“It’s a similar story with CPD. Because all CPD will now have to be evaluated for its impact my staff will be able to choose professional development that helps them make a real difference to the performance of the school and their professional development. It also helps me because I can justify expenditure on professional development with the governing body.”

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