Ambitious and caring approach helps children back to their schools and settings

Dear colleagues

It has been a pleasure to see the children going into schools and settings over the past three weeks of September. I very much appreciate the work you and your teams did, in advance of September opening, and are now putting in daily, to ensure the education of all our children goes as well as possible. Your high ambitions for our children combined with your caring approach have ensured that the very great majority of children are back in school and settings. Thank you and well done.

As an update across Hackney we have attendance of just below 90% overall with a number of schools having attendance in the high nineties. I know that you are following up your non attenders. We have invested in additional resource in FAST to help you with this: Sue Roberts, who was a school improvement partner last year, is working with FAST to support attendance issues. Please do not hesitate to get in touch with Sue if you have exhausted means at your disposal to get children back into school. Billy Baker remains the key contact for elective home education enquiries and formal attendance follow up. Contacts are:

sue.roberts@hackney.gov.uk and Billy.baker@hackney.gov.uk.

We have had four bubbles sent home across all age groups (nursery, primary, secondary, FE)  over the past three weeks. This amounts to 0.2% of attendance overall. In each school case colleagues moved very rapidly to implement distance learning as appropriate.

The link to the overall Hackney prevalence picture will be sent out in our bulletins each week. It is important to recognise the local picture which, while rising, shows a small proportion of positive tests. The figure for the first fortnight in September was 134 positive cases across Hackney and the City out of a population of 280,000: i.e. 0.05% of the population had a positive test.

We are keen to get the balance right for you between focusing on coronavirus related issues and getting on with giving our Hackney children a brilliant education and our Hackney staff great development. Of course, children, families and colleagues need to feel safe to be able to engage well, so ensuring safety remains a priority for us. It is the foundation on which to take forward educational development. I am happy to hear feedback from you on this balance and also keen to visit your schools over this term to talk further and see your school in action.

Please do keep raising any issues or queries with our team: Hilary Smith or your school improvement link. We will aim to have local answers and we also speak with DfE contacts regularly during the week and can raise any concerns with them.

I wish you well and leave you with a quote from Suzy Kaseem:

“If life throws you a few bad notes or vibrations, don’t let them interrupt or alter your song.”

― Suzy Kassem, Rise Up and Salute the Sun

With very best wishes,

Annie Gammon
Director of Education and Head of Hackney Learning trust
@HackneyDirofEd

2019 secondary performance tables confirm Hackney success

Dear colleagues,

I hope the days since the half term break for your educational setting has gone well for you and your community. I know that all in your setting continue to work very hard for your pupils. This week will be a significant time for Year 6 pupils as they receive their secondary school offer letters.

Since I last wrote to you the 2019 secondary performance tables have been confirmed showing that overall Hackney pupils were achieving 0.29 P8 compared to a national figure of 0.03 – and that 48% of Hackney pupils achieved a strong pass In English and math compared to 43% nationally. These are commendable overall figures. The standard pass figure in Hackney was 69%. Those young people will be in sixth form or equivalent settings now and well on their way with the next stage of their education. Well done to all involved with supporting such significant achievement.

Of course many pupils who worked hard did not achieve the higher pass marks and may not be able to stay in school sixth forms depending on the course offer. We are promoting the two Hackney colleges: BSix and New City College, Hackney for young people who may be in this position or prefer a college setting. Ofsted have recently confirmed how well the colleges are developing and further information can be found on their websites.

I am always struck by the quality of relationships in settings between staff and pupils and the positive impact this has on the children. The importance to our children is long lasting. This was exemplified by ex-footballer Ian Wright recently. Some of you may have heard or read about Ian Wright on Desert Island Discs talking about the importance of a teacher in his life. It is well worth a listen for how intensely the support of a teacher for the 8 year old boy mattered.

I know you will have received separate communications from us about the coronavirus. We have given individual advice to a number of settings with queries. At times like this you are key centres for providing information. We will continue to send out updates but do recommend that you review the government advice daily, which we have condensed on the Hackney Learning Trust website.

Thank you for supporting your communities at this time. Do please let me know if you have any queries or comments.

With every best wish,

Annie Gammon
Director of Education and Head of Hackney Learning trust
@HackneyDirofEd

Our priorities for 2020

Dear colleagues,

Happy New Year. A very warm welcome back to all of you as we return to work for 2020. I hope the holidays and start of term have gone well for you, your staff and pupils.

Here at HLT, our priorities for the year continue to encompass a range of work which we aim adds to the care, education and experiences of all our children, young people and families in Hackney. I wanted to remind you, as we start 2020, of our priorities:

  • Working with you to ensure pupil achievement is high, particularly for those groups who have historically performed less well
  • Working with you and other partners to ensure a high standard of care and education for all, including reducing exclusions
  • Working towards providing excellent provision for SEND young people
  • Developing educational practice for our young people in the Orthodox Jewish community
  • Significantly improving outcomes for black boys and young black men
  • Ensuring excellent workplaces and professional development for all in education
  • Having and providing highly effective and efficient operations, data and service functions
  • Describing and implementing an education service structure which works for our family of schools/settings and our role as part of the council; embedding the work of HSGB.

I know that I will see many of you at the Hackney Headteachers’ Conference: Inspiring through the Curriculum on Friday, 17 January 2020. We will certainly pick up on a number of those priorities at the event. I look forward to an exciting, enjoyable and inspiring day of learning and sharing ideas.

You will also be hearing from your School Improvement Partner in the first part of the year. We are committed to adding to our strong School Improvement Team and are currently recruiting for a primary and secondary Leadership and Management Adviser for April or September 2020.

I also wanted to let you know that I will be writing to you in specific letters about three issues during January. These are:

  • Adding to our special educational needs provision in Hackney – our current provision and how we hope to expand this, including encouraging additional resourced provision
  • More information to follow up regarding my letter of 16 December about plans for Hackney Learning Trust structure
  • An update on rolls, predictions of pupil numbers and how we will support settings at this time.

Do look out for these letters.

I very much look forward to our working with you and your teams, over the coming year to make our children’s lives even better.

With every best wish,

Annie Gammon
Director of Education
@HackneyDirofEd

Listening to and understanding the experience of young people

Dear colleagues,

I hope this term has continued well for you, your staff teams and all our students/children. Thank you for all you continue to do to ensure all our young people from 2 to 19 get the best possible education, achieving highly and thriving personally.

I am really pleased that we now have the Hackney Schools’ Group Board launched. As you will know from either attending the launch or from my subsequent letter, we are going to have three key themes for our panels. These fit well with our shared work on curriculum, pastoral care and being part of the Hackney community. The themes are enhancing belonging for all, reading for all, and leadership on school curricula and research. You will know from my letter that we are inviting applications to be on the HSGB panels: please do consider applying or encouraging your senior leaders to apply. Applications from all phases and settings are welcome. The closing date is Friday, 10 January 2020.

I have been struck on my visits to schools over the past term and year with the articulacy of your school council members or student ambassadors. This has also been the case with the cross borough group: the Young Futures Commission. I am privileged to be on the board of the Commission and I look forward to their report which will be out in the first part of next year. Thank you for your hospitality in welcoming Young Future Commission members into your schools. Listening to and understanding the experience of young people is always valuable.

We have now had seven school Ofsted inspections in the borough under the new framework. Local expertise is building up in terms of what is being looked at by inspectors. Of course, as expected, a major focus has been curriculum: intent, implementation and impact. Do get in touch with your SIP if you have any queries, and there is training at the Tomlinson Centre on Monday, 13 January 2020 on Ofsted Preparation. Briefer updates will be given at primary and secondary headteachers’ meetings.

We continue our emphasis on working to reduce exclusions, with an emphasis on making sure that early effective support for children is in place. The Reducing Exclusions Board is meeting on Monday, 9 December 2019. On the agenda are case studies of successful early help for vulnerable children and the finance of exclusions.

Please do let me, or other colleagues know if you have any questions, thoughts or concerns about our work at HLT.

I wish you all a good final three weeks of term.

With very best wishes,

Annie Gammon
Director of Education
@HackneyDirofEd

Raising the school’s profile through social media

Dear colleagues,

I hope that you and everyone in your staff teams, together with all your children/pupils, have had a good start to the Autumn term. The Autumn term, with over 15 weeks of education, is where almost half the learning in the year takes place. Thank you for all you are doing to ensure that all your children make best progress and achieve well during this term and the rest of the year.

I am conscious that during September and October, as new early years, Year 7 and Year 12 children gain a sense of belonging to your institution and begin making strong educational strides in their new phase, you are also opening your door to prospective pupils for a 2020 start. I was struck, at a recent school visit, by the role which the school’s social media feed (using Twitter) had played in raising its profile and encouraging parents to come and look round on open mornings. It is becoming an increasingly important part of a school’s communication with potential and current families.

Having spoken to parents and headteachers approaching these times of choice, I know that parents/carers are very grateful for the time both prospective and current school staff spend advising them: thank you. The admissions team are always happy to advise parents further.

A number of Hackney schools are due Ofsted visits during this year. We are seeing the first few Ofsted reports across the country under the new framework: see the article “A first look at Ofsted’s new inspection reports”. Here are examples of a “good” primary school report and a “good” secondary school. I have not seen “outstanding” reports published yet, under the new framework, but I am sure they are on their way.

HLT are running preparation for Ofsted sessions on Monday, 7 October and Monday, 13 January. Do sign up. Primary Schools can sign up here and Secondary Schools can sign up here.

We continue our emphasis on working to reduce exclusions, with an emphasis on making sure that early effective support for children is in place. The Reducing Exclusions Board is meeting on Monday, 7 October and will be looking, amongst other topics, at draft advice for schools on reviewing their behaviour policies and relationships with parents/carers.

I am looking forward to the launch of the Hackney Schools’ Group Board on Wednesday, 13 November. We have completed interviewing for places on the board and expect to send out more information shortly.

I look forward to seeing as many of you as possible at the Headteachers’ Termly Briefing on Thursday, 17 October at 8.30am.

Please do let me, or other colleagues know if you have any questions, thoughts or concerns about our work at HLT.

With very best wishes,

Annie Gammon
Director of Education
@HackneyDirofEd