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The Journey out of Special Measures


The Manor Academy was placed in Special Measures in October 2011. Just 14 months later they have been lifted out of category and told by HMI that they could be outstanding within 18 months. Deputy Headteacher, Donna Casey explains why she feels that Bluewave.SWIFT played a crucial role in the journey out of Special Measures.

When The Manor Academy in Mansfield Woodhouse, Nottinghamshire was placed in special measures in autumn 2011, Ofsted inspectors said ‘the school needed to rigorously monitor and evaluate the quality of teaching and trends in the school’s performance data.’

It was an area that the leadership team were determined to tackle. This prompted a search for a management information system that would provide the rigour needed. “That was where the decision to buy Bluewave.SWIFT came in,” explains deputy headteacher Donna Casey.

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

“I had used another system at my previous school – that was for performance management and review,” says Donna. “Bluewave was a step up which gave you performance management and review as well as a whole host of other things. It did all the things that we needed to do and now provides the foundation for all of our quality assurance work.”

“The inspectors were clear that our new performance management review procedure was robust, and linked heavily to our development plan

In December 2012, just 14 months after the school was put into special measures, the inspectors made their third monitoring visit and lifted the school out of category, telling a delighted leadership team that the school could be ‘outstanding’ within 18 months.

The school’s management and tracking of school improvement processes such as performance management, development planning and CPD, were singled out for praise by the inspectors. Donna believes that Bluewave.SWIFT has played a crucial role in the school’s journey out of special measures.

“The inspectors were clear that our new performance management review procedure, done through Bluewave.SWIFT was robust, and linked heavily to our development plan and the new professional standards. It provided a firm backbone for the safeguarding of standards throughout the institution,”says Donna.“They also commented on the transparency and clarity of our development planning, again done through Bluewave.SWIFT. They loved the fact that our school development plan was directly linked to faculty development plans, which then linked to performance management reviews and informed our CPD schedule, all of which was viewed at the click of the mouse.

The lesson observation information, linked to performance management, enables all leadership members to have a view of every area within our large institution anywhere and at any time

“Ofsted also said that our quality assurance systems were rigorous with an emphasis on accountability and attention to detail.”

Although The Manor Academy has only been using the system since the start of the 2012-13 academic year it is already making full use of most of the elements of Bluewave.SWIFT and all 250 staff members use the system on an almost daily basis.

“I was advised that we should implement Bluewave.SWIFT with a phased approach but we have done it all in one go,” Donna says. “In July we spent two twilight sessions training the leadership team and in September training was delivered for all staff.”

Donna acted as the lead advocate for the system – supporting staff and putting together bespoke ‘how to’ guides so that colleagues could quickly get up to speed with how to use the system.

The reports element allows leaders to create bespoke evaluation reports quickly and easily for a range of subjects, from exams analysis and coaching reports to the school SEF.

The system’s school development planning element allows The Manor Academy to develop a whole school strategic plan which then feeds into the development plans of individual faculties – and the staff who work in them.

The performance management feature provides the academy with a complete picture of staff performance. This includes the ability to track and evaluate staff CPD, record classroom observations and review statements and objectives linked to the school development plan.

Donna Casey believes that Bluewave SWIFT’s observation analysis feature is an underplayed part of the system. “This allows you to do lesson observations live and then upload immediately to the system,” she explains. “This gives me a picture of which teachers are outstanding and which might need support to improve. It also tells me what their particular teaching strengths are.

“That’s hugely powerful. I can be doing a lesson observation, inputting directly into the system using my iPad and attaching video and other material such as lesson plans onto the record and the teacher can see the observation immediately after the lesson. It also means that if I am out of school I can see lesson observations remotely wherever I am.”

This feature has won the support of teaching staff. “Teachers are really pleased with it,” says Donna.“The quality of feedback you can give is really impressive. You can build up a rich picture of practice that is helpful to me and helpful to the teacher as well.

“We were told by Ofsted that the school had no capability to properly assess lessons. Now they are satisfied that we have that capability.”

The CPD recording feature also comes in for praise. “We’d never evaluated the impact of CPD before. Now we know what CPD results in changes and impact.”

“I feel like we know what is going on in the institution,” Donna adds. “There is no way I can see everyone all the time but I now have a good view across the academy.”

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