Thank you and have a great summer holiday

Dear colleagues,

As we reach the end of this academic year I want to thank all of you, and your teams, for your dedication, collegiality and professionalism during this year.

I have been fortunate to visit a great many Hackney schools over the past months. I have always been impressed by the deep understanding, care and ambition with which our headteachers serve our communities.

I have also been struck by the closeness of ties across our education community. As you will be aware we aim to continue to develop further productive joint work. This is both through sharing the strong educational capital which already exists in Hackney, and by developing innovation in practice. Do look out for more on these next term.

Part of shaping the future network of our schools is the introduction of the Hackney Schools Group Board. I am pleased to be interviewing for the Hackney Schools Group Board Chair this week: there has been very strong interest in this role from highly skilled candidates. We look forward to the launch and implementation of the work of the HSG Board in the autumn.

I know primary colleagues will have been analysing their summer results closely, and secondary colleagues will follow suit in August. We have much across our borough to celebrate in terms of young people making excellent progress and being ready for their next step. Well done.

I wish you a well-deserved rest over the summer vacation and I look forward to seeing you in the autumn.

Best wishes,

Annie Gammon
Director of Education
@HackneyDirofEd

Half term update

Dear colleagues,

I hope you have had a restful half term break, and that you, with your teams, have returned happily to school for the second half of the summer term. I wish you, your staff and all your students well for the rest of the term, particular best wishes to those students taking tests or exams and preparing for a move onwards at the end of term.

Since I last wrote a blog we have had the tragic death of a young person on our streets. Our thoughts have been with his family and friends. As well as grieving for him we also need to look to what we can collectively do to lessen the risk of any recurrence and as you know being engaged in education is a strong mitigating factor in preventing involvement in risky activity. Following this incident, HLT have taken forward some education based actions around prevention: building on the educational and pastoral work you already lead; through increasingly close work with support services based outside schools; and around information sharing. We are holding a follow up meeting about information sharing later in June. I will keep you informed of developments.

I attended the termly London Heads of School Improvement (HOSI) meeting just before half term. We had some highly relevant input from Mike Sheridan, Ofsted Regional Director for London. You will be well aware that the documentation about the new framework  is now publicly available and it’s certainly worth reading when you and your senior leadership team have any spare time.

I was struck that one of Mike’s comments, in thinking about curriculum intent was about us, considering what we would want the curriculum to look like if we were freed of examination constraints. We know that is not going to happen, but thinking about this does give us a sense of our own purpose for our curriculum. Ofsted are going to run some webinars at twilight times on the new framework, do look out for information about these – and HLT will continue to keep you updated via briefings.

One of the points I would affirm in the framework is the clear expectation that schools are analysing records of children being out of school (e.g. absences, fixed term exclusions, internal exclusions) and reasons why children leave any school at times other than Year 6, Year 11 and 13. See section 53 in the inspection handbook.

Another speaker at the HOSI meeting talked about the DfE analysis of educational issues surrounding children who have some contact with social care. We know that these children are those who often have overlapping vulnerabilities.  A key point the speaker made was that leaders need to recognise that school for these children and families can “either be a source of strength or a source of stress”. I know that we would all aim that our institutions and communities are a source of strength to these pupils. The speaker also spoke about those secondary schools which had introduced trauma informed proactive and has seen a clear drop in fixed term exclusions. I am pleased to say that we will be offering increased access to training on trauma informed practice during 2019-20.

A brief reminder from me that there is a session for any interested parents/carers on social media, Sleep and Health on Tuesday, 11 June at the Tomlinson Centre at 6.30pm. This was flagged in my letter of 3 April, which went via you to all parents/carers.

I am delighted to have been able to announce the appointment of Stephen Hall, Executive Headteacher at the Viridis Foundation, to the role of Assistant Director, School Standards and Improvement at Hackney Learning Trust. Stephen joins us from Monday 2 September 2019.

I look forward to seeing you soon, in your school or setting or elsewhere: the Headteachers’ Briefing is on Thursday 6 June at 8.30am. Thank you very much for all you and your teams are doing.

Best wishes,

Annie Gammon
Director of Education
@HackneyDirofEd

What the focus of the new Ofsted framework means for schools

Dear colleagues,

I hope you have had a restful Easter break, and that you, with your teams, have returned happily to school for the summer term. I wish you, your staff and all your students well for the term ahead, particular best wishes to those students taking tests or exams and preparing for a move onwards at the end of term.

I continue to reflect on what the focus of the new Ofsted framework means for us. I do think that we should be confident and purposeful in leading our schools forward. I know we aim to ensure each child really achieves and appreciates learning, interweaving this with each individual feeling a strong sense of belonging and an understanding of their contribution to our community. This all leads to a sense of personal and communal wellbeing. I am sure that your school values have some overlap with what I have written above, and that your school values will underpin your curriculum statements and intention. We, at HLT are well aware that you will have been thinking about the curriculum in the light of the Ofsted guidance and we know that you will be discussing this internally and with your school improvement partner. Please do let us know if you would like to have more opportunities to discuss this further together, or if you would like further guidance sent from HLT.

We have seen national attention over the last two weeks on two aspects of schools where young people are not fully engaged. The first was the NASUWT report about some incidents of behaviour which are abusive to teachers. I very much appreciate the work you all do to ensure that engagement and behavior are excellent. I think that the great majority of teachers in Hackney are able to teach without persistent disruption; and the majority rarely have to deal with disruption. This is a credit to the quality of teaching you lead and the systems you have to support our young people. Do contact your school improvement partner, or Helena Burke or Rachel Thompson at HLT if you would like any input re behaviour. The second report was the information from the Education Policy Institute about children moving from secondary schools, some without appearing on another school’s roll. We will be producing some further information for secondary schools about students moving later this term.

I am pleased to confirm that the Hackney Schools Group Board proposal will go to Hackney Cabinet this week and we will write to you formally, in the first week of May about next steps.

I do also want to let you know that HLT have a further meeting with the Hackney based Teaching School Alliances next week as we are aiming to coordinate the professional development offer so that everyone is clear about the strong Hackney based courses available. Do look out for more information later this term about next year’s offer.

Thank you for your support in sending out the social media letter to all parents. I am very keen to ensure full coverage of Hackney families. Our aim is that all parents have a copy via their schools by Friday, 26 April 2019.

We will be sending out information to schools and colleges with students aged 18 or above about registering to vote before Tuesday, 7 May 2019 for the European elections.

Also coming up at the end of this week is the London Marathon on Sunday, 28 April 2019. I have been fortunate enough to be given a charity place in this and I would be very grateful for any support for me (number 36000), and the East London and City Bereavement Trust for which I am fundraising. Good luck to any other Hackney based runners in this or the Hackney Half Marathon on Sunday, 19 May 2019. I am always impressed with how much charitable activity, including fundraising, occurs in our educational settings.

I look forward to seeing you soon, in your school or setting or elsewhere. Thank you very much to you for all you and your teams are doing.

Best wishes,

Annie Gammon
Director of Education
@HackneyDirofEd

Curriculum is all about power

Dear colleagues,

“Curriculum is all about power.” Christine Counsell starts off her article entitled “Taking curriculum seriously” (IMPACT – the Journal of the Chartered College of Teaching) in this way.  We are all thinking about the opportunities and risks that the new OFSTED framework’s focus on curriculum: intent, implementation and impact. There is certainly an opportunity to hear more input at the Deputy and Assistant Headteachers’ Conference focused on the curriculum and leadership – at the Tomlinson Centre on Friday, 22 March 2019. Christine Counsell will be speaking and there are workshops on drafting curriculum statements of intent. We are also working on additional guidance re curriculum in the near future.

I firmly believe that consistently excellent teaching and learning is always based on strong schemes of work that wherever possible are made relevant to our young people. Those schemes and their implementation need to deliver development of core skills – and cover relevant exam syllabi. The opportunity to reconsider the intent (what we want most) from the curriculum for our young people, and use the power invested in our leadership, is an exciting one.

There is free training run by Educate and Celebrate on Friday, 15 March 2019 on LGBTQ, jointly hosted by NEU and HLT at the Tomlinson Centre. I hope that you will be able to release someone to join the work on making our schools more LGBTQ+ friendly. More information is in this flyer.

I have visited some schools, which is always a pleasure, since the start of March. It is good to hear the Year 6 children talking about their secondary school choices: they now know where they will be learning in six months’ time and for at least the five-year period ahead. Thank you for the work you are doing in preparing for that transition. You will know from the Headteachers’ Briefing on 28 February that we are asking you to pay particular attention to the information transfer and the welcome for vulnerable children.

I was pleased to join a group of twenty of our secondary headteachers and deputies on their morning tour of a special school, pupil referral unit and alternative provision last week. Helena Burke and Rachel Thompson from HLT have a particular remit to ensure our systems enable vulnerable children to be engaged, thrive and do well. Helena organised these very successful learning visits: we will be taking forward further thinking about our provision for these young people. This is a focus for the Reducing Exclusions work, which I wrote to you about recently.

I look forward to seeing you soon, in your school or setting or elsewhere. Thank you very much to you for all you and your teams are doing.

Best wishes,

Annie Gammon
Director of Education
@HackneyDirofEd

Professional development and career routes for teachers

Dear colleagues,

I hope term has gone very well for you, your team and your pupils thus far.

I have been visiting schools and settings during the past weeks and have been impressed, though not surprised, by seeing great teaching practice on my visits to classrooms. This has been underpinned by very strong school, setting and subject organisation, and clear intent for the pupils’ learning. Thank you for all you do to make this a core part of your organisation.

I have been thinking about the professional development of colleagues, which is also behind successful teaching. That professional development is much to do with in-school work, linked with a collegiate approach. In addition, our colleagues have talked about the value of between school work and cross borough professional development. I am firmly committed to professional development in Hackney being excellent. Hackney Learning Trust are having a series of meetings with the teaching schools about the professional development offer over the coming years: we want to make sure that excellent input and developmental experiences are available for all our staff. Do look out for more information over the coming weeks.

The professional development and career routes of teachers is also a key part of the DfE discussion paper on recruitment and retention published this week.  There is no magic wand solution included in the document, but there is a suggestion about support for recently qualified teachers, suitable career pathways for those who want to stay in the classroom, a work life balance discussion and interesting points about accountability pressures. The discussion document also links with the proposed new Ofsted framework. The DfE and Ofsted have picked up the concerns of teachers about dealing with persistent poor behavior, where it occurs – and behavior is currently proposed to be a separate strand in the new framework. I think you will be aware that we have Q and A about the proposed Ofsted framework as a key part of the Heads’ Briefing on Thursday, 28 February 2019.

It has been very good to see so many of you at the Hackney Schools Group Board meetings. We appreciate and welcome your input. We are now working on the final version of the proposal, which will go to the council for approval next month. We will write to you about this in April. I look forward to this being a pillar of a continued excellent education strategy for Hackney for the coming years.

I attended the Hackney Council ceremony to commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day last week. It was an intensely moving ceremony. The children from the three schools were an embodiment of hope, with their beautiful performances and readings. There was also a personal account from a Holocaust survivor: Mrs Irma Tunka, who had been 8 years old when interned in the Second World War. The whole ceremony reminded me of the crucial work all our schools do affirming inclusion and appreciation of diversity, and tackling discrimination. Thank you for your part in ensuring this is part of your school’s ethos.

I also want to affirm our commitment and appreciation for all our staff, especially at this time those from EU countries (other than the UK).

I look forward to seeing you soon. Do let me know if there if you have any queries or comments.

Very best wishes,

Annie Gammon
Director of Education
@HackneyDirofEd