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

Wishing you all every success for the forthcoming school year

Image of Hackney schoolchildren

Dear colleagues,

I hope that you and everyone in your staff teams, together with all your children/pupils, have had as good a summer holiday as possible. I wish you all every success for the forthcoming school year.

You will be aware that primary colleagues knew their results in early July while secondary colleagues have received theirs in mid/late August. I am pleased to say that GCSE results have, when taken across the borough, improved on a number of measures. I think it also worth noting that, for the first time, over a thousand young people got A-level results in Hackney school sixth forms. This figure is up over 20% from the previous year: it is a good sign of strong GCSE results, and the strength of the A-level offer in Hackney.

I know that you will have high quality training and preparation time planned for these first INSET days of term. Our school standards and improvement team, led by Stephen Hall, have also been preparing for their work with you – using the updated Good to Great policy as a basis for this planning – and incorporating the known OFSTED changes coming our way. As you will know the Good to Great policy has always focused on supporting schools to improve quality of education. We have extended the remit of the support we provide to include some of the other aspects of leadership: governance, finance and premises so that where a school is experiencing any challenges in these areas we have a framework for support. The welcome letter from Stephen Hall, which you will have received has more details about this. Please do let us know if you have any queries about this.

The professional development of all our staff is key to their fulfillment and to ensuring the best quality provision for our young people. I have been thinking about all the new colleagues starting this week: their induction, and then their ongoing professional development, is so important for their sense of belonging to their new institution and their future success. I do want to encourage you and your team to join the many training and networking sessions on offer across the borough, via HLT sessions, network meetings or via the teaching schools offer. You will have been sent the hard copy booklets, which are also available here: Early Years and Childminders Training Programme; Primary CPD Training Programme; Secondary CPD Training Programme.

Every child matters to us. I have been thinking, too, about all the students starting at schools new to them this week. You will be ensuring they are well inducted and get a strong sense of belonging and ambition from the start. I started off this blog talking about achievement of pupils and the many strengths in Hackney. One of the areas where we are going to improve further across all phases is in further raising the achievement of our black Caribbean children. I am pleased to welcome Orlene Badu to our team as the leader of education initiatives in this area. Orlene will be in touch with you about her remit.

Most crucial to our young people is the face to face work you and your staff do with our young people in children’s centres, nurseries, primary school, secondary schools and colleges and other settings. Thank you for all you do, as leaders, to ensure this is of the highest quality, it really makes a difference to each child and to their family.

I very much look forward to seeing you at the primary headteachers’ meeting on Thursday, 19 September at 8.30am, or the secondary headteachers’ meetings on Thursday, 3 October at 2.30pm. One of the key topics at these meetings will be the role and launch of the Hackney Schools’ Group Board. We have been interviewing for places on the board and expect to send out more information later this month.

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

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