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
@HackneyDirofEd

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
@HackneyDirofEd

Message for Hackney headteachers and school governors

Dear colleagues,

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. To help with this I am going to write an informal “blog style” update every four weeks to go out to schools and settings in Hackney. This will add to the regular communications from HLT and the ad hoc formal letters (you will hear formally from HLT about any forthcoming events which I mention here). This is the first one in the series! Feedback is welcome.

I have been in post for 4 weeks now and have been getting to know teams and individuals at Hackney Learning Trust (HLT) and Hackney Council. I’ve been finding out about the work of my colleagues here in more detail as well as talking about my aims and priorities. I have been very impressed by the expertise and commitment to Hackney, its educational settings and young people, which I find here at HLT. We’re working on revising our mission, values and vision for the next five years so that our sense of purpose, our goals, and how we work are fresh and explicit: do look out for more information about this.

It has been a pleasure to meet with headteacher colleagues at the primary and secondary meetings last week. I hope the start of term has gone very well for all of you. I congratulate you collectively on the overall results for our Hackney young people this summer. Please keep up the high standards, the ambition and aspiration, for each individual child, which underpins that work. I was really pleased to see examples of headteachers and other leaders working together last Thursday, sharing best practice and supporting each other. I know we are stronger when we work together than if we are isolated.

You will know that my background is in secondary education, so it has been a valuable learning experience for me to meet and work further with colleagues from primary and early years’ settings. I’ve prioritized meeting colleagues who work with our more vulnerable students: those in the SEND team, those in the exclusions team and those in the reintegration team. It was good to see, this week, the strong work going on in the Boxing Academy alternative provision. You will be aware of national concern about exclusions and what happens to students permanently excluded from schools: that national concern is also acutely felt locally. I have put additional resource into enacting our exclusions action plan which we have almost finalized. You may know we have asked for headteacher representatives for the board to oversee this: thank you to colleagues who have volunteered.

One part of my role is to be part of meshing together all the services which work closely with schools. These include council led services such as social care, and the wider services such as health. It has been really instructive meeting colleagues who work in these fields and talking together about shared projects, including those taking place through the integrated commissioning pilots. I will talk further about this at the Director’s Meeting on 14 November.

I had time to talk at the primary headteachers’ meeting about the position re the Hackney Schools Group concept. We have had very useful workstream meetings with representative headteachers and governors. I look forward to the next stage of the consultation which is likely to be meetings with clusters of schools in the second half of term. We hope to open these up to slightly larger numbers of governors.

More has been going on than 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
@HackneyDirofEd