Leading by example: Archbishop Sancroft School
Last week, Tony Booth and I had a very warm welcome to Archbishop Sancroft Church of England Secondary School in Harleston, Norfolk. We had come for an Index for Inclusion Forum meeting with representatives of other local schools. There were clues as we approached: the school’s values, including friendship and generosity, were printed in bold on the outside walls. However, the friendliness and abundance of tea and food offered were all the more remarkable since our host, Deputy Head Rob Connelly, was awaiting a call any second heralding the near immediate arrival of Ofsted.
The tensions that Rob and his colleagues felt between their determination to embody the school’s Christian values on the one hand, and to justify their actions in terms of the Ofsted framework on the other, were a recurrent theme throughout our meeting. Both Rob and the Head, Rob Cramner, said they knew what values the school stood for, and that they would consider any betrayal of those values in order to meet imposed targets as the ultimate failure on their part. As in so many other schools we have visited, they were looking for a way to meet the demands placed on them from the outside while retaining the courage, confidence and motivation that comes from holding one’s own actions to account against one’s own values, beliefs and standards. The work of the Index for Inclusion in Norfolk is increasingly focused on helping schools to do this. We discussed it over a generous lunch before the meeting.
Opening the meeting, Rob said that it was energising to meet with local colleagues to discuss the use of the Index for Inclusion because it offered the opportunity to discuss values and leads to dialogues that are of real practical benefit. “The Index”, he said, “has given like-minded people the opportunity to come together to discuss school improvement”. He went on to discuss several ways he and his colleagues had recently used the Index in the school.
Firstly, Rob had used the Index as a tool to evaluate the quality of student experience within a specific department in the school, and particularly as a means to move from authoritarian and aggressive teacher/student relationships towards respectful and consensual ones (Indicator A1.4). This, he argued, had already led to an impact on the quality of teaching and learning in that department. He is now looking at ways to build Index values into lesson plans.
Secondly, Rob told us that, when Acting Head, he had used the Index to help put together a Self Evaluation Framework for the school, substituting standard Ofsted headings with ones from the Index – especially around the issue of parental response. He then introduced his colleague, Lucy Rogerson, to give further details of the school’s work, saying: “Lucy has transformed what we’re doing in this school using the Index. We’ve had a big impact, making cultural change.”
Lucy’s focus as Head of Learning Support has been on changing the culture towards teachers taking on responsibility for students seen as requiring additional support, rather than seeing this as a SENCO’s role. In trying to do so, Lucy had adapted and used the questionnaires from the Index to gauge teachers’, support staff’s and parents’ perspectives on this. She said that the Index had been crucial in identifying the issue of staff confidence, particularly in thinking more broadly about the role of Learning Assistants in the classroom (Indicator C2.11). Lucy said that teachers and LAs now meet regularly for joint planning and evaluation.
At the end of the meeting, I agreed with Rob and Lucy to come back to the school soon to gather more evidence for an in-depth case study of Archbishop Sancroft’s use of the Index. As a hub school, they are committed to leading by example to encourage school improvement in their school and among others in the region. Lucy was full of good ideas for how we might involve the students in gathering that evidence. I greatly look forward to it – and of course will report on the website in due course.
Research Coordinator, Index for Inclusion Network