Visit Toynton All Saints Primary School today and you will see a school that is bursting with positive staff, engaged children, and inspiring learning environments. The school, which sits at the heart of this East Lincolnshire village, is valued and celebrated by the local community – not least by its children and parents – as a place of opportunity and aspiration. Yet it is sometimes too easy to assume that such cultures fall readily into place.
At Toynton – as in all good schools – one only need dig a little deeper to hear the stories of resilience, hope, team effort and determination that underpin the school’s journey to success. When Lesley Coulthurst became head teacher in 2011 the school had been experiencing what can only be described as the most challenging period in its history.
To find out more about Toynton All Saints Primary School’s journey of school improvement in the Case study……..
Key learning points for school improvement:
- Be clear on (and seek to constantly and consistently model) your high expectations from the outset. Seek to make use of available forums – such as staff and governor meetings and assemblies with pupils – to reinforce this.
- Invest as much time as possible up front in understanding the strengths and weaknesses of the school. Use observations, learning walks, review data and speak to a wide range of members of the school community. Know the school inside out before planning improvement.
- Improvement depends on a calm and respectful environment in classrooms. Ensure that there are consistent messages of expectations, and common and well understood policies and approaches towards addressing poor behaviour.
- Do not compromise on your high expectations and be honest with staff about the improvements expected (both at an individual and at a team level). Ensure that your discussions are fair and are driven by values and your ambition for children.
- Be prepared for the fact that some staff may choose to leave.
- Look to identify high potential long-standing members of staff who can provide that crucial initial capacity in key roles whilst also supporting you to build trust with the community. Be mindful that they may need some mentoring and training support in order to ‘step up’.
- It is characteristic of a school experiencing significant change and embarking onrapid improvement to initially see a high turnover of staff. Carefully choose alliances that are aligned with your values and expectations and who can support you to recruit and train high potential new staff. Ensure that new teachers are well supported through access to ongoing, relevant professional development and that they have access to coaches and/or mentors.
- Look to the potential of the school environment and the local community to enhance children’s experience of school and to inspire new ways in which to engage pupils in learning. These opportunities can often be neglected, or go unidentified while schools are experiencing challenging times.
- Always ensure you have access to at least one supportive and credible colleague in another school who can act as a ‘sounding board’ during tough times. Encourage them to be a ‘critical friend’.
- Seek to become involved in local collaborative networks which can provide you with access to resources, people, or advice during challenging periods.