Putting values at the heart of a school development plan: Roydon Primary School
Roydon was one of the schools that piloted the use of the Index for Inclusion in 2010/2011; it was a great pleasure for Tony Booth and I to revisit it as a hub school in the current Norfolk-wide project. Both the Head and the lead teacher for the Index had changed since then, so we were interested both to find out how the Index has been used since, and to support its future use.
At the start of the earlier pilot, Cassie Beckett, the previous lead teacher, remarked, “On receiving the Index I was daunted. However, I soon realised that it is not a document to be read all in one go. It is a document to use continuously by dipping into it and using it to support your school’s development”. This is an observation we have heard from many other teachers also. Tony Booth likens the Index to a travel guide: you use it by looking up the places that you want to visit rather than trying to read up on the whole country at once. The rest is there when you need it! Cassie drew together a team of staff, governors and parents onto a steering group to use the Index in Roydon; she found the activities in Section 3 of the Index (“Using the Index to take action”) to be valuable in familiarising them with the Index’s layout and philosophy.
The steering group then sent out questionnaires from the Index to staff and parents in order to identify main concerns. One of these was staff communication; as a result, the group looked at A1.2 (‘Staff co-operate’) to identify possible solutions. Cassie also used the Index to address her own pressing issue: the threats to inclusion of a child within a particular class. Cassie found dimension C2 (‘Orchestrating learning’) a valuable resource in communicating with parent and student, and in finding ways to support both class teacher and support staff in keeping the student in the classroom. Cassie said, “This is where I think the Index is hugely valuable: if a member of staff has a concern they can use the Index and the indicators to help begin to resolve it”.
Soon after this, and towards the end of the pilot period, the school appointed a new Head and entered into a partnership with another school. For Cassie, this meant starting the “Index journey” again with new colleagues – a prospect she was looking forward to. Her initial impression, however, was that she “… was amazed at how giving people the opportunity to voice their opinions made them feel valued and appreciated”.
Recent use of the Index
Before the hub meeting with other local schools, we met with the Head, Sarah Bradford, and with the new lead teacher for the Index, Susanna Sadd. Susanna was upfront in saying that there had been a lull in the school’s use of the Index since the pilot period, but was now excited by the prospect of picking it up and taking it in new directions.
Although a recent Ofsted report had cited Sarah’s “clear vision” for the school, she had the courage to question this. In the course of our conversation, she became increasingly confident in rejecting the idea of “vision” as a form of “eduspeak” that encourages clichéd phrases that are meaningless in practice. Instead, her interest was in identifying the values that underpin the school and building support for them from across the school community, starting with the staff. She is also committed to building these values into the school development plan; as an example of this, she showed us how the current plan draws on the input of every member of staff in the school – including support staff – by including them in a subject area team that directly informs the plan. Above all, despite the pressures to do so, Sarah made it clear that she would not allow the school to be directly driven by Ofsted recommendations; instead, she would develop a values-led approach that would in turn inform the responses to those recommendations. Tony and I hope that the Index for Inclusion will provide a valuable set of tools in enabling her to bring this about.
In taking on her new role, Susanna said that she wants to focus on particular sections of the Index rather than taking a “broad brush approach”. Again, she found Section 3 of the Index, on ‘taking practical action’, useful in thinking of practical activities she could run with staff, students and others to do this. Her first focus would be on A2.1 (The school develops shared inclusive values); she plans to use this as the focus of an upcoming staff training day, and to use a modified questionnaire subsequently to provide evidence that inclusive values do indeed take hold across the school. One example will be using B1.11 (The buildings and grounds are developed to support the participation of all) to explore how the school environment itself is used to bring people together. Another initiative she will undertake in time for the next Forum meeting is to organise “values walks” in the school to see if and how inclusive values are put into practice in the classroom and in the school as a whole.
Promoting the Index in the hub
Susanna’s commitment and energy were equally visible in the subsequent Index Forum meeting, where she acted as Chair. In a meeting of 7 representatives of local schools, she kept bringing participants back to their recent experiences of the Index, and to how the indicators might be used to address the issues raised. We greatly look forward to tracking the progress of Roydon’s use of the Index, and that of the other schools in the hub. We left with the impression that other participants were inspired to start using the Index in their own schools.
29th October, 2013