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

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

Happy New Year

Dear colleagues,

I hope you, and all your colleagues, in your setting have had an excellent and well deserved break over the Christmas/New Year period. A very happy New Year to you.

I have enjoyed seeing the children on their way into schools and settings this morning for the new term. I know you will be giving them a warm welcome back, whether they begin learning today or tomorrow. I look forward to all our individual, and shared, actions in 2019, leading to the continued improvement of life chances for all of our young people.

I hope to see you soon at one of the Hackney School Group Board proposal briefings, at the Tomlinson Centre, during January: do contact Tracey Caldwell if you need further information about timings.

I am continuing my introductory visits to schools and settings during this term and aim to have visited all of you by the end of Spring 2019. Thank you very much to those of you who have made me so welcome thus far. I have been delighted to visit such excellent settings. Seeing the work which you lead in your schools shows me the very positive experiences which almost all our young people have in education. My thanks also to your colleagues for their part in the day to day learning and care going on which leads to such good academic and personal outcomes for our children.

Some of my other work involves liaising with other public services in Hackney, including Children’s Social Care and the health services. We are keen to make sure that we join up initiatives around children’s wellbeing wherever possible. I am certainly aiming to take forward advice to parents about social media, during this coming term: this type of communication was discussed recently by secondary headteachers. Please do let me know if you have ideas or thoughts about preventative health strategies which you think could be helpful across all our schools.

I also want to confirm a couple of key dates coming up this term.

Many of you will be aware of the inclusive leadership training: “Young Black Men: Promoting Inclusive Practice” conference at The Tomlinson Centre on 7th February 2019: this has an exciting and engaging agenda with many local and other London speakers talking about strategies to ensure achievement of this key group. Do contact Nezihe Oguzkan if you would like more information.

Also please do note that, attending the headteachers’ briefing on Thursday 28th February will be Mark Phillips, Senior HMI, who will be talking about the new OFSTED framework which comes into practice from September 2019. I know that many of you will find this helpful.

I look forward to seeing you soon.

With every best wish for you personally and professionally for 2019,

Annie Gammon
Director of Education

Notes from the headteachers’ conference

Dear headteachers and chairs of governors,

Thank you for all your work leading the education and care of our children, young people and learners.

It was a pleasure to meet, alongside HLT colleagues, with so many school leaders at the 2018 Hackney headteachers’ conference last week. I was delighted to share the strong sense of commitment from all. The conference engendered a warm sense of enthusiasm about possibilities and shared opportunities to further improve the life chances of our Hackney children, young people and learners. The focus of this year’s conference was the curriculum. There have been ongoing discussions about this over the past year since OFSTED began to emphasise the importance of our curriculum: it is highly likely to have significant weight in the new OFSTED framework (due to come into practice September 2019). I’m excited about this development of the fundamental discussion about what our children learn. The 24 hours at the conference gave four different perspectives on the curriculum, which together really enriched our thinking and planning. We will be sending you more information about curriculum and new OFSTED framework workshops in 2019.

What also came across to me at the conference was the deep care which headteachers and their teams provide for our young people. Every headteacher spoke about the additional support which some children need. One of the pieces of work we are currently discussing in Hackney Council is how best to shape and support early help for young people – working across education, health and social care. I look forward to communicating with you further about this.

I was very pleased to send out our Hackney Schools Group Board proposals on 21 November. Since then I have been able to talk to some headteachers and to HLT staff about this. The proposals have been largely welcomed. There has been a range of questions, including about making the board as effective as possible, and the appointment process of board members. Of course, the announcement about the Hackney Schools Group Board also affirms the stability of HLT over the coming years. I hope that this is helpful for you as you look to the future. Do remember to sign up for the January briefing sessions, and that you can feed back to Tracey Caldwell any comments or queries.

My thanks to St John the Baptist Primary School for an inspiring workshop at the headteachers’ conference about shaping the curriculum to fit the children at the school. I recommend a book the lead speaker referenced called “Why I’m no longer talking to white people about race” by Reni Eddo-Lodge for a really strong articulation of race relations in Britain. It has certainly given me additional perspective and awareness. For any of us thinking hard about disproportionality of outcomes for our young people this is a valuable read.

I hope that you are looking forward to a productive and enjoyable last few weeks of term and holiday beyond. I wish you all warmest and seasonal greetings.

Best wishes,

Annie Gammon
Director of Education

Hackney schools continue to ensure high achievement

Dear colleagues,

I hope you had a good half term break and the start of Autumn 2 has gone well.

I am keen to stay in touch with you and let you know what I have been up to as Head of Hackney Learning Trust/Director of Education. This is my second informal “blog style” update going out to schools and settings in Hackney. This adds to the regular communications from HLT and the ad hoc formal letters. Feedback is most welcome.

One of the activities we undertake every year is close reviews of achievements of our Hackney schools: individually and collectively. I am proud to tell you that you are part of a Hackney community of schools which continues to ensure high achievement. All the overall outcomes for Hackney at KS1, KS2 and KS4 place the headline figures (reading, writing and Maths for primary; Maths and English for secondary) at least 5% above national equivalent outcomes. These achievements are built on the excellent foundations of the early years’ education in our schools and settings. Well done: I congratulate you on your part in the shared work which leads to our young people’s success.

The work I have seen in schools, and talked about with headteachers, indicates that our shared ambition for our young people, a key factor in their success, always shines strongly. Every headteacher I have spoken to is completely committed to doing the best for their pupils and is working out the right developments for their school to further enhance achievement. At some point on their journey most schools do need some tailored external support. We aim that HLT core support is in proportion to the needs of the school or setting at the particular phase of their journey. We are working more intensively, as we do each year, with a number of settings to enable them to achieve more rapid improvement.

A crucial part of the work that you do, and which we support, is the professional development of colleagues. I know much excellent work goes on in schools ensuring that newer teachers begin their career strongly. There is also much strong work across Hackney in developing colleagues who are more experienced and taking on leadership roles. I was pleased to hear about the enthusiastic take up (28 schools) of the “inclusive leadership and cultural competency” course (part of the young black men project) which ran earlier this term. A repeat of the course is being held in December: do contact Nezihe Oguzkan or Anton Francic, if you would like to attend. In looking ahead at the wider Hackney and the HLT professional development offer we are shortly holding a meeting with teaching school leaders to develop future strategy. I am keen to ensure a strong school led element to our work in this area. HLT colleagues will be writing, following that meeting, to get your views about our professional development offer and the role all schools and settings might play in both offering and taking up training.

I have been talking with senior councillors and officers about the Hackney Schools Group next phase. I look forward to talking to you further about this at the Directors’ Briefing, the Headteachers’ Conference and some focused group sessions for headteachers and governors in January.

I loved hearing Hackney young people performing at the Music Gala last week. It was a delight to see enthusiastic and skilled performances from a great number of pupils from a wide range of schools. Thank you for all you continue to do to support the performing arts for all your pupils.

More has been going on that I have space to write about – and, of course, I know that 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 make a difference to each child and to their family.

Please do let me, or other colleagues, know if you have any questions, thoughts or concerns about our work at HLT. I look forward to meeting you over the coming period.

With very best wishes,
Annie Gammon