The Power of Collaboration
For the last six and a half years, I have been in the privileged position of being able to visit many schools and see lots of different and wonderful practice. I worked for a Pupil Referral Unit (PRU) from 2010-2014 where I supported children who were at risk of being excluded from their mainstream schools and I also helped to reintegrate permanently excluded children back into mainstream education. This has allowed me to see many effective and ineffective strategies, in terms of dealing with behaviour. The last few years have seen me move from full class teaching to Assistant Headteacher with only a 50% timetable. As well as this, I have become a Specialist Leader in Education (SLE) within the last year or so and have been given lots of opportunities to help schools in my ever-growing multi-academy chain.
As part of my role as an SLE, I have had to make a shift from the days of working for the PRU, where I helped individual children and individual teachers, to supporting school leaders make whole-school impacts on behaviour. This is where the magic happens. This is where building capacity from within the school comes into play.
One fascinating thing that my role has allowed me to do this year was to work alongside a Vice Principal from one of our secondary schools. We created a behaviour audit, using lots of different ideas we found on the Internet, that we would be able to use to support schools, both primary and secondary, in securing their own judgements and highlighting areas in which they need to develop. On the initial draft, we put a section at the end about areas for development and next steps. This seemed like a logical thing – that we (or one of us or indeed someone else) would audit the school and suggest ways forward based on what we saw. The first thing that I did once this audit had been approved by the trust board was to run out and audit one of the school in my cluster. I did this with a member of staff from the SLT and the whole process was extremely positive. I then took my notes away and completed the audit form for the school to have. The problem came when it got to the last part where I was meant to suggest ways forward for the school and this is where I had a light bulb moment… If I constantly have to be the person who suggests the improvements using my skillset and experience, what would happen to the support to the other schools should I move to work for someone else?
I phoned the member of SLT up from the school that I audited and explained that I had completed the audit, emailed her it but I hadn’t filled in any ways forward. I asked her to take the feedback, discuss it in SLT and pull it apart and debate what I had seen etc and then invite me back in once done. I was invited back around three weeks later and I half expected to have to start from the ground up. When I got there, I was blown away. The member of SLT staff who joined me for the audit, led the discussion with the SLT and when I got back there, the amount of scribbling all over the document was phenomenal. They had really pulled it apart and the best thing was, because the recommendations weren’t coming from me, they came from within the school. And the best thing was, the school had already done many of the smaller things and were on the journey. They only needed me to tie up a few bits and offer the external bits of support, such as policy guidance or training that they weren’t in a position to do themselves. This school a month or two later is quickly improving, with minimal impact from me and the audits I have done since, I have done in this same way. The schools are happy because they feel that actually, they only needed guidance and the majority of things they can do themselves. This is collaboration at its finest and this school will soon have the capacity (or at least the SLT member who I worked with) to do this to another local school so that behaviour in the trust is becoming a corporate responsibility, rather than just down to a few individuals.