Our thanks to Pepe Erskine, Holy Trinity School, Crawley for hosting the Inclusion forum and writing this blog.  It serves us well to remember Inclusion is increasingly a feature of  a school’s performance measures and inspected judgements both in their own right (Closing the Gap, British Values, SMSC, Personal Development, attendance, exclusion, destinations data) but also in the wider support for students embarking on new courses with greater rigour, content and high stakes testing. At a time of so much change, ‘inclusion’ has never mattered more. Presentations from this forum are included at the end of this blog.

Running strongly through three very different presentations given in the final WSDN Forum of the year were strands which echo this year’s WSDN theme: values led leadership in a climate of high stakes accountability. All three presenters spoke of providing an education with highest expectations for every child, and how these expectations may best be realised through an education which addresses emotional as well as academic needs. An experience which is sensitive to students’ social and cultural contexts and which allows them to reach beyond the initial limitations. They equally spoke on the challenge of developing robust provision with accountability systems that acknowledge and report on the impact of the ‘soft’ interventions alongside quantifiable academic progress data.

The forum opened with Yvonne Watkins from the Bourne Community College speaking on Pupil Premium: Ensuring Successful Outcomes. Yvonne’s detailed, wide-ranging presentation reminded us of the importance of setting ambitious goals for all students, whilst being attentive to which subsections of our vulnerable groups are likely to underachieve and why. She explored our current and projected strategies for addressing underachievement and closing the gap.  The centrality of early identification, followed by high quality teaching and learning, 1-2-1, small group and whole class, emerged very strongly from this – no surprises there maybe but Yvonne also emphasised the importance of systematic CPD; thorough staff training to ensure all relevant staff understand and can deliver agreed approaches effectively. She reminded us of the need to record all interventions funded by Pupil Premium and to track their impact, ideally through an audit trail that should be on display on the school website. The more detail, the better. Don’t forget to record and assess the impact of the ‘wider’ curriculum such as enrichment opportunities, personal, learning and thinking skills interventions, or life skills mentoring that PP may fund. If you are spending money on it, you need to be ready to account for why, and the difference it makes. Evidence does not all have to be in the form of progress tables, useful though these are. Don’t shy away from case study evidence, and/ or student voice surveys or interviews. Finally, Yvonne encouraged us to use new Curriculum freedoms to ‘Give a whole education’ that addresses the needs of the whole child; and to be prepared to work with families and the wider community to achieve this. Anecdotal evidence from delegates suggests recent Ofsted visits have focused on ‘soft’ as well as ‘hard’ data and interventions, which seems a step forward and we hope, may even be indicative of a more holistic and balanced approach from our Inspectorate.

Building on this theme of the wider inclusion Curriculum, Sarah Edwards and Hannah Kinchin-Frost then led a fascinating session on the application of Mindfulness practice in schools, illustrated by a case study of a project Hannah has run at the Weald this year. The session, neatly titled “Mind Full or Mindful?” opened with a reflection on what Mindfuness is and isn’t (its secular; not religious) This was followed by a practical demonstration of ‘Mindful’ breathing and centring, which, judging from the delegates’ responses, made an immediate positive impact on their own well-being. Sarah shared insights from the SSAT Mind the Gap Conference which offer a research based rationale for exploring Mindful approaches with students and staff. Growing levels of anxiety, stress in a lifestyle where it is increasingly difficult to switch off from technology and social media, are affecting students and staff’s ability to be self-aware and function fully effectively academically or personally. Mindful practice effectively ‘declutters’ thought processes, allowing a calmer, more centred approach which can lead to better focus, concentration and achievement. Hannah and Sarah were however careful to provide a health warning about the introduction of Mindfulness practice and approaches. It’s not a blanket solution or cure-all. Nor is it for everyone, staff or students, and needs to be rolled out carefully. In the case of the Weald, Hannah ran taster sessions for staff, followed by an ‘opt in’ for interested staff to be trained to use the approaches with classes or small groups. Although it initially, in students’ words, ‘freaked them out’ to encounter receptiveness and silence, Mindful approaches have been well received by students across the ability range. Some students took the ideas home to share with parents. In the Weald study, it definitely passed the Oliver Twist test – students asked for more. Sarah and Hannah presented a persuasive case that if used judiciously Mindfulness can offer a powerful contribution to high quality provision for personal development, behaviour, and welfare.

Our final session was presented by Emma Waldron, Barrister in Personal Injury and Education Law and a Governor at Manor Green College in Crawley. Emma started with the reminder the new legislation is vast; enough to fill two lever arch files when printed out and in an hour and a quarter she could afford us no more than a whistle-stop tour of the headlines. She drew our attention to two websites – The Special Needs Jungle  and IPSEA  which are both aimed at parents but are useful ‘go to’ sites for educational professionals, parents and legal professionals alike and which will help flesh out some of the detail inevitably left out of an overview presentation. Emma then took us through key aspects of the 2014 Children and Families Act and the new SEND Regulations, providing an impressively lucid and accessible overview of complex legislation in just over an hour. She emphasised that as well as placing the child firmly at the centre and ensuring integrated provision from Health, Education and Social Care providers, there is an expectation of the highest possible quality provision and outcomes so that young people ‘achieve the best possible educational or other outcomes’ what Emma termed a ‘Rolls Royce’ service for all young people.  As yet there is no case-law to help define what ‘other outcomes’ may be. Concerns were raised by delegates that despite the emphasis on ‘integrated’ provision, once again schools were often left carrying the can for students with complex needs. Emma’s response was that the key term is ‘best endeavours’ within the finances available, and to ensure schools continue to liaise with County co-ordinators. No school should run the risk of providing complex care without properly trained staff. The ‘new’ Personal Budgets offer in the SEND regulations sounds more impressive than it is, in reality there is no extra funding. Emma concluded by referring us back to the need to ensure we’ve read the new SEND Code and to the two websites mentioned above. She is happy for delegates to contact her with any queries.

As individuals and professionals we cannot help but accept we are operating in times of high stakes accountability. We have not had the period of peace and calm we were promised post-election and there is no shortage of challenge for school leaders. It has never been more important to ensure that we are clear and strong on the principles and values that best support our students and our staff. To be clear on what we do, why we do it and with what impact. It really is a time for  “values led leadership”.

Pupil premium

SEN Talk – PP


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JPD and research informed practice to raise boys achievement

As part of a new series of posts we are reporting back the progress made on the Joint Practice Development Projects that ran last year.  We have sent out details of how you can request a JPD partnership this year with WSDN support (here).  Here is the second blog sharing the cross-school collaboration that defines our network and makes WSDN a unique and vibrant example of effective  and purposeful networking.

JPD and research informed practice to raise boys achievement:  Joint practice work in this area took place between The Forest School and Downlands School, here Downlands share their experience, outcomes and future plans.

So far our JPD work is moving forward nicely. We have an established Boys Achievement Programme embedded within year 11 and we are beginning to see a real impact with some of the students involved. We have also integrated a new behaviour policy that has been very successful.  Our JPD focus was boys achievement and behaviour. We worked alongside The Forest School to plan and implement new systems that would improve and enhance our current policies and provisions.  We have had reciprocal visits with Forest to share good practice and  review the systems in place at both schools.

Through this partnership we have also completely remodeled our behaviour policy. This has had a profound affect on behaviour; evident through our achievement and behaviour data. The short term impact has been pleasing but we feel that the full affect will be clear next academic year.

We have also implemented a new ‘Boys Achievements Programme’; this has involved targeting the 20 boys who are most below target across subjects. The main focus of the programme is competition and students work in groups to compete against other in an achievement league. Students also have regular mentor meetings in their groups to set targets and review progress. This programme is the result of our collaboration with the Forest and our research into boys achievement.

In addition to this we are also running an Expansive Education Network Programme for staff; this involves teachers completing action research projects with the support of the University of Winchester. This has linked in well with our boys achievements focus as one of the action research projects is based on the use of competition with underachieving boys. We have five staff involved and the projects will be concluded and evaluated by Easter.

There are a number of clear benefits to the programmes we have implemented; improved behaviour across the school, a clear intervention for boys underachievement and action research into some of our key areas for development as a school. The obvious challenge was for us to gain consistency across the school with the new programmes. An integrated introduction to all programmes has really helped to get this consistency and we are now in a position where all staff and students are familiar with the changes and the benefits are clear to all members of the school community.

It is clear that there was substantial benefit from this relationship, boys achievement is an issue that affects all schools potentially and it will be interesting to hear the outcomes of their programmes after Easter.  Don’t forget for more details of this year’s JPD opportunities, look at the blog page (here) and try to get your submissions in by close of March 27th (send to

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Joint Practice Development and Collaboration 2015

Following the wider work of the WSDN last year in seeking to find ways to broaden and deepen collaboration, we have decided to continue this thread in 2015 and offer another opportunity for county wide Joint Practice Development.  It is clear that there is much to be gained and much work being done on both research powered development in schools and opportunities for growth when schools work collaboratively together.

We intend to use our network and it’s links with the SSAT to allow schools in West Sussex to work collaboratively, share experience and develop ideas together. This will be based around the core themes from last year which echo the principles of Redesigning Schooling. We believe ours is a network based on mutual trust and professional respect, despite many different settings and contexts, we still have much to benefit from working together and there is a sense of a real willingness to do so across the county at all levels.

Working under the umbrella of the headings from Redesigning Schools all suggestions for projects are welcome. (RS in Action containing handy wall chart here!)

Think about what you are doing anyway: Is it Lesson Observations without grades, is it methods of tracking for Progress 8, is it mastery at KS3, is it effective intervention that actually works with middle ability/low ability/PPG ……… other???? It’s not as if we are short of things to do and its always so much better to work with someone else to share ideas!

We will receive submissions of projects that colleagues are working on or are developing which they would be interested in sharing with colleagues, we will then try to match you with with other colleagues who are interested in a similar area – of course if you already have partners in mind please indicate this on the sheet or submit as a group. We will then signpost research that might inform that process or project. Colleagues will be supported in working together to enhance or develop the project/s mutually. If we cannot match you then we will not be able to set up a JPD project but we may well be able to signpost other schools nationally or research which may help you develop your work.

In constructing this we will be supported by Tom Middlehurst (@Tom_Middlehurst) from the SSAT and as last year we also have the potential support of Expansive Education (@eed_net) who would like to help us and support the research side of the development, they might be able to come on board once the partnerships are set up to look at how this will best work and move forward.

Dates and Details

  • WSDN Research Forum submission
  • The first step would be to complete the form of interest (above) and return by the close of March 27th (send to
  • For all other details and information about other forthcoming WSDN events, continue following us via @WSDN3 or this blog.
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Courageous Leadership for Professional Accountability

We were delighted to welcome both Mary Myatt and Chris Moyse to West Sussex last week for our annual Forum on Accountability. Particular thanks to them for their generosity of time and materials, they were exceptionally professional and informative as well as being very good company! We deliberately set a wider theme to this year’s event, seeking to include but also go beyond ‘preparing for inspection’. To set an outline and tone for the forum, I began by seeking to outline what “Intelligent Accountability” might mean when applied to a school leadership context and how this fits in the wider perspective of our theme for the year.

Arguably the phrase can be traced to the Redesigning Schooling seminars of 2012 and the “Professional Accountability” pamphlet of July 2014 where this sparked a very real debate about the future of accountability in the system which has now started to gather real momentum:

“We need leaders and teachers who share a clear vision for their school and community, based on a clear set of values and professional judgement that lead to exceptional outcomes for young people” Redesigning Schooling 2012

More recently ACSL have published their Blueprint which takes a clear view on this issue around our ownership of this process and responsibility within it:

…professional accountability for the quality of his or her own work and to the people who the profession serves. In a self-improving system, we believe that teachers and school leaders must be agents of their own accountability” ASCL Blueprint 2015

The Headteachers’ Roundtable have also published their 2015 Education Election Manifesto which makes clear practical policy proposals that tackle the issues surrounding the high stakes accountability of our current frameworks restricting the rate of improvement needed and deterring schools leaders from seeking the responsibility of Headship.

From my own work with the SSAT and the Redesigning Schooling in Action campaign, I shared the core principles of “Courageous Leadership for Professional Accountability” which are hard to dispute but sometimes can seem hard to apply.

  • A clear vision for our school and community
  • Internal self-evaluation as an ongoing priority, to inform refection and development
  • Doing things differently to do them better
  • Confident awareness of external accountability
  • Ownership of accountability and willingness to collaborate
  • Developing capacity

Intelligence comes from our knowledge of our schools, both  hard and soft data, understanding the context of our students, staff and community. Having a clear sense of what is needed now and what will be needed in 3-5 years’ time. The robust and transparent processes that lead us to that knowledge will enable us to make the decisions that are more likely to lead to successful outcomes. It can often seem courageous to make the decisions that are required (assessment without levels, lesson observations without grades, different curriculum structures…) but with secure knowledge of our context comes the conviction that allows us to meet external accountability with confidence and equally seek to instill that professional confidence in staff.

Finally on collaboration, it is a brave school that seeks to work in isolation these days even if that is possible. However there are different approaches and tokenism with little impact on students, staff or outcomes will not safeguard or support schools nor will it model the peer review that is starting to become a genuine possibility in our future. Only through genuine collaboration for impact and open, honest professional challenge and support can we show the ‘professional intelligent accountability’ that will allow us greater ownership of the frameworks in which we work.

West Sussex Heads are trialing triads for this purpose of peer review, the WSDN will shortly be offering JPD projects that might help develop some of the strands of self-evaluation and internal accountability that were discussed in this forum.  How much each school engages is a matter for their context and current priorities but there can be little doubt that collectively we have the powerful potential for intelligent collaboration leading to professional accountability with real impact.

All slides and materials from the forum that can be shared are listed below:

Mary Myatt

Mary Myatt

Chris Moyse

Chris Moyse

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As part of a new series of posts we are reporting back the progress made on the Joint Practice Development Projects that ran last year.  Shortly we will be sending out details of how you can request a JPD partnership this year with WSDN support. More details will be out via email shortly but for now here is the first of 3 blogs sharing the cross-school collaboration that defines our network and makes WSDN a unique and vibrant example of effective  and purposeful networking.


 The Weald decided to utilise the WSDN JPD Project opportunity in 2013/4 to support the cross phase development it has started earlier that year. It lent a context and purpose to the work that was already underway and meant that all parties involved could take advantage of the training from Professor Bill Lucas and membership of Expansive Education to assist the research and development of their project.

 The Secondary perspective

The Weald decided in 2013, as a locality that, rather than waiting for others to produce curriculum models and assessment schemes, we would take the opportunity to design a system that could work for us from reception up to the end of KS3. We worked with 3 of our locality feeder schools throughout 2013-4 on mastery approaches to curriculum and assessment. We have worked with Wisborough Green in particular since the Expansive Education input to the WSDN group in the summer term of 2014.

A group of three primary Headteachers and the Assistant Head T&L had a series of meetings to determine how the model might work and what the criteria for assessment would be.  The group undertook research into curriculum models and assessment models and a mastery approach to the curriculum was adopted.  KS3 leaders in the core secondary subjects met with English and maths representatives from the primary schools to plan skills coverage across the key stages.

On Tuesday 21st October 2014 we held a joint INSET day between the Weald and the primary schools.  All of the feeder primary schools were present at the INSET day.

The project has already enhanced cross-phase work. English and maths teachers especially are undertaking shared moderation of students’ work to ensure similar standards are being adopted and maintain across our locality. Primary staff are jointly moderating in core subjects.

The research supported by Expansive Education was instrumental in terms of shaping our thinking and the joint planning has meant that most schools are now approaching the new curriculum using a mastery approach.  A second phase will now launch with KS2 and 3 teachers using Lesson Study to jointly plan and deliver lessons to Year 5 and Year 7 using the mastery concepts.  This will be followed by joint planning meetings for the non-core subjects in the summer term.

The Primary perspective:

As a locality we felt it was important for us to work together on planning our new curriculum and assessment systems.  The most important aspect of this was to ensure continuity from primary to secondary.  This was also a great opportunity to start with what we all believed was high quality teaching, learning and assessment.

A steering group comprising primary headteachers from the locality and leaders from the Weald met several times to look in more depth at assessment criteria for core subjects.  We believed very strongly that a mastery approach to the curriculum was the way forward.  Each colleague undertook their own research to inform this.  We were looking for resources that might support this approach. Primary and secondary representatives met to create plans for English and Maths.  Each group produced documents which are now shared amongst the schools in the locality.  The Weald also produced documents for Years 7-9 so that primary colleagues could see clearly how each skill could be progressed.

 As a locality we select joint INSET days throughout the year.  In the Autumn Term 2014/5 we held a joint INSET day with the Weald and the primary schools which was led by a member of the Chris Quigley team.  The steering group planned the day with the consultant to ensure that it met the needs of all of the schools as far as possible. As a follow up to this, the resources are being used across the locality to trial assessment systems.

Locality moderation continues, with involvement from the primary and secondary schools.  The focus is very much on core subjects.  Currently all locality schools are involved in these moderation sessions.  This ensures that teacher assessment across schools is consistent.  It also gives colleagues the opportunity to share excellent practice.  All of the primary schools have adopted the mastery approach to the curriculum.  The Weald has begun its transition work for Y6/7 teachers from a selection of the locality schools.  

Therefore whilst both primary and secondary schools are pursuing different key stage curriculum programmes of study it is clear that their common approaches will deliver significant benefits to the students in the locality. Their work is enhanced by the awareness and understanding by the joint planning afforded by this work. The mastery model is in place at The Weald and rolled out through the primary schools in the locality, provides a valuable consistency of language and approach for students, parents and staff.

If you would like to know more details about this project please contact us at  Watch this space for the next JPD progress update on Boys Achievement….

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Notes from the Post-16 underground

With no obvious similarities to the dark world of Dostoyevsky (other than a pithy title and some miserable weather) we were instead hoping for rays of sunshine and hope as Sixth Form lead professionals gathered together for the WSDN Sixth Form Forum? Sylvia King, Head of Post 16 and Vocational and Regional Lead for SSAT South East, took on this challenge and spoke to thirteen colleagues from schools across the county on the current and future picture for Sixth form qualifications, programmes of study & funding. Her wide ranging talk provided detailed and useful information on a number of areas.

She reflected that with the departure of the previous Secretary of State, there is a view that Ofqual is pushing back on aspects of Gove’s ‘reforms’, however there is no doubt that the pace and scope of change at post 16 is significant, colleagues in schools often have a number of roles and staying abreast of the changes post-16 is not easy.

 A Level and Vocational Qualifications

In the attached PPT that accompanied the forum, Slides 2-6 provide a recap on the timeline for main changes to both A Level and vocational qualifications, as does the timeline included with this blog. We were reminded that many of the new qualifications are far more content heavy, with potential implications for Curriculum time allocation that many schools are already juggling.

There are a number of implications at post 16 that have impact on the wider school, staffing and resourcing which schools with sixth forms will need to consider. For example it is considered likely that the proposed Level Three Maths qualification will become statutory. However, there is no additional funding for this at a time of acute shortage of Maths teachers, there are suggestions that if all Maths undergraduates currently at University were to go in to teaching there would still be a recruitment gap. Alternatives were discussed, possibly using web based learning and teaching, but these are not currently being discussed officially. Therefore for each decision whether curriculum time, staffing or resourcing for new courses that is made in post-16 schools will need to consider the knock on implications on the wider school.

Accountability measures

It was useful to gain a refresher on the new measures which will apply to students starting two-year courses in September 2014, whose 2016 examination results will be reported in January 2017. The guidance is to be reviewed in 2015 after a trial run. Five headline measures will be published in the 16 to 18 performance tables in 2016:

  • Progress
  • Attainment
  • progress in English and maths
  • retention
  • destinations

Sylvia reminded us that students will be counted as retained if they only do AS. There will inevitably be a data gap as measures change. Slides 8-15 give the detail of these measures and how they can be broken down. Schools will need to reflect and potentially model the likely implications of these measures (retention, different progress measurements and achievement measurements for each qualification) as they are likely applied to individual school contexts and cohorts.

AS/A2 ‘Better together or apart’? (slides 16-19)

We were reminded that different skills sets are now required for AS and A2. This presents a challenge in a number of ways: if combining AS and A2, teaching AS in Year 12 and A2 in Year 13 is no longer straightforward progression. With the new qualifications teaching to AS can easily shut down learning options for A2. The requirements for A2 will emphasize the synoptic element of the whole course; and will have a much greater focus on analysis and evaluation; exams are unlikely to have the ‘scaffolded’ mark schemes’ we have become used to and the exam questions are more likely to be reminiscent of the pre-curriculum 2000 type questions; open ended without prompts. We will need to consider the best ways to prepare our students for each of these new qualifications and assessments.

The Study Programme: (slide 20)

Ofsted will be looking closely not just at what qualifications students are studying for, but that these are clearly set in a wider context. We are familiar with the rhetoric from government that the qualification reforms provide qualifications that are now of sufficient size and rigour to stretch the students and that are clearly linked to suitable progression opportunities that will allow our young people to compete globally. Students should be very aware of where these qualifications may lead; appropriate Information and Guidance should be provided and students need to be making informed choices about their study options and qualifications. Vocational qualifications should be complemented by appropriate hands on vocational experience – BTEC level 3 students should be doing some type of work experience.

These conversations become particularly apparent this year for schools with sixth forms as the participation age of 18 applies from summer 2015, having appropriate programmes for a potentially wider range of students will become a factor in our planning with clear implications.


Colleagues will have completed their census returns that support the funding allocation but it was useful to be made aware of the monitoring reports and timescales (slides 21-15) that support this, tracking students movements in year will be important to keep a close handle on the funding for sixth forms.


Discussion in break out groups focused on the different content of new AS / A2 specifications, the challenge of teaching AS with A2s; the demise of the IGCSE as a qualification counting towards league tables, managing the GLH offer, and pathways. What was strongly apparent was that the schools represented at the forum are seeking to ensure that the curriculum offer post 16 meets the needs of a broad range of students across West Sussex Schools. Equally the commitment to ensure quality is not compromised for our students whilst also endeavouring to balance an increasingly squeezed budget is a challenge for all.

In conclusion!

Colleagues welcomed the opportunity both hear up to the minute insights and to network and discuss these issues with other colleagues. We are considering an informal re-grouping later this term and again in the summer term to allow for Sixth form leads to come together and share ideas, experiences and developments. We would be keen to hear feedback on this from colleagues.

In the meantime very warm thanks to Sylvia for her presentation, and to St Wilfrid’s for hosting the event.


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Values-led leadership in a climate of high stakes accountability: The Reality

It is interesting that as I write this, large numbers of our profession are gathering in Birmingham for the #claimyourcollege meeting with a strong focus emerging about building capacity and taking ownership. It draws me to reflection on the concluding thoughts of our Annual Leadership Conference in November and:

“the absolute belief that leadership has to be values-led. …..It is clear colleagues are not on their own. It is through the collaboration and networking  evident throughout the day and across the county that we will be able to maintain the courageous principled leadership that is required ……to provide the educational experience and outcomes that West Sussex deserves.

The conference certainly set a tone and a theme for the year, we can now give further details of the forums that will continue the discussion (all booking details are at the bottom of this blog).  The absolute intention of our work through WSDN is to enable colleagues to meet and share ideas and current issues. To gain a little extra knowledge or wisdom each time and through collaboration with peers, develop the confidence and understanding necessary to make the choices and decisions that not only meet the requirements of the accountability we all experience but do so by putting our learners and our schools at the heart of all that we do.

VI Form Forum on 29th January reflects issues high on the agenda for schools with sixth forms; whether it’s funding, curriculum change or performance measures there are pressing accountability issues to be considered. Our forum with Sylvia King (SSAT Head of Post 16 and Vocational and Regional Lead South East) explores all of these. We will balance the need for updates and information with the importance of discussing different approaches and at each turn question the impact on the learner in the decisions we make as well as wider issues around the care and provision for 16-18 year olds in a school setting.

Our Accountability Forum on 26th February is headlined by Mary Myatt (lead inspector for Ofsted, adviser, writer and trainer supporting schools) and Chris Moyse (Head of Staff Development at Bridgwater College Academy and Educational consultant). The programme will enable Mary to guide colleagues to address head on, the recent changes in the framework, updates and implications for schools preparing for inspection. Mary will also be able to expand on her thinking around feedback and marking, addressing some of the issues surrounding this and how it is being managed in schools. Chris will then be explaining his schools approach to lesson observation without grades, the impact of developing a coaching approach to lesson feedback and how this fits with a requirement to self-evaluate for accountability. Book fast on this if you are interested as we will be opening up to non-WSDN members.

Back by popular demand, on 6th March our Curriculum Forum this year unpicks the nitty-gritty of Progress 8 and Attainment 8, getting under the skin of these measures and the implicit curriculum choices that can result.  Guiding us through the finer details will be Andrew Hill from the FFT, colleagues are advised to bring their FFT Aspire log-ins as there will be opportunity to explore your own data and curriculum model in that context.  We will also be exploring the currently available and “countable” vocational courses as well as opportunity to discuss and consider the impact of all the available choices on the students in our schools and their future choices.

In the summer term, our usual Inclusion Forum will evolve to represent input from this year’s SecEd Pupil Premium Conference and aim to give colleagues chance to discuss not just successful strategies and case studies for intervention with Pupil Premium but also SEND provision under the new code. We will focus as well on the methods and ideas around demonstrating not just impact but effectiveness and value for money of spend in both these areas.

At every event we host for WSDN we are struck by the positivity and willingness of colleagues to collaborate, share ideas and support one another. This year is no different and we look forward to more healthy debate and discussion in these forums and other opportunities as they arise.  We will continue to support and share the work of the JPD projects from last year whilst also looking to open up new opportunities this term for colleagues who wish to work positively and collaboratively with others to develop interesting work that “provides the educational experience and outcomes that West Sussex deserves……. Watch this space!

Booking details:

VI Form Forum 29th January at St Wilfrid’s School: WSDN Members (no cost) by email to

 Accountability Forum 26th February at The Weald School :  WSDN Members (no cost) via e-PD: click here.  Non-members please indicate interest via (there will be a £50 charge invoiced)

Curriculum Forum 6tH March at Downlands School:  WSDN members (no cost) via e-PD: click here. West Sussex non-members please return the booking form and £15 admin fee to e-PD

Inclusion Forum Summer term: Details to be confirmed

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A values-led leadership conference for 2015

On November 13th fifty West Sussex Deputy Heads gathered for our annual Leadership Conference. Representing 33 of the 39 secondary schools in West Sussex, both academies and maintained schools; faith and secular; and age ranges between 10-13, 11-16 and 11-18.  This is now a well-established conference offering local schools the ability to meet, network and learn from each other as well the opportunity to be inspired by exceptional national educationalists and practitioners.  This year was no exception and local expertise, national updates and inspirational speakers provided a day that not only lived up to its hugely relevant theme but also echoed the principles behind the network:

Run for West Sussex deputies by West Sussex deputies. 

Sharing, talking, learning, leading. Inspire and be inspired!

Making Sense of Change: Bill Watkin’s aptly titled presentation again set the scene for the discussion as he ensured that colleagues had the up to date information to be able to make the choices that will impact on students and schools outcomes for the next 2-3 years.

WSDN Local update: provided colleagues with the context of the network, our activities and outcomes for the year 2013-4. This slot also saw us profile the work of local Teaching School alliances that are well placed to serve the needs of all member schools and keen to develop collaborative professional links: The Millais Alliance, Inspire, Blue Flag Alliance and the collaborative South Downs Alliance. Shaun Allison also profiled the interesting work that Durrington High School had done with the DfE Innovation grant, developing approaches to assessment without levels.

The aim of the conference was to explore in more depth the extent to which it is still possible for school leaders to develop values-led leadership in the current climate of education. The high stakes nature of accountability is very real and local schools have felt the harsh effects of its application whether through inspection frameworks, changing exam results, squeezed budgets or incessant curriculum change. Are we doomed to simply become the technicians delivering the prescribed experience decreed by the government of the day?

Martin RobinsonMR had given us all a teaser to his ideas in this Leaders: who do you love? before the conference when he asked to what extent should teachers “love” children and by extension to what extent should school leaders “love” their staff?  In Athena versus The Machine: Values-led Leadership in a Time of Change he took this a step further, he challenged us to create and protect the environment in which staff can flourish and grow, shield them from the “tanks on the lawn” that Bill Watkin referred to and allow them the support, trust and professionalism to be the excellent teachers we appointed them to be.  He challenged us to consider that in seeking change we often overlook what already exists Values are principles, morals, standards, we pass them on because they matter”. Referencing 1789 he asked us “as a leader are you a complete Burke or an absolute Paine?” Are we like Paine trying to establishing a new identity from scratch, based on “better” principles and new ways or are we like Burke willing to remain true to old habits and traditions, seeing the inherent value that was once even if no longer absolutely relevant. Martin argued “Education is a place where the generations, past and future meet, the teacher representing the past meets the pupil who will make the future and they meet, crucially, in the present.” It is here in the present that we work and impact on the staff and students of our schools “Here we are heirs of the past and makers of the future, but we are of the present… in the now, working collegiately in doubt, and hope and love.”

RWAs a “maker of the future” Robert Wilne, currently working with NCETM gave us an insight into his innovative and bold experience as founding Headteacher of the London Academy of Excellence, the first 16-19 sixth form to open as part of the “free school” programme.  With only a flip chart and a high level of energy as his tools he had us working and thinking about our values, brand and collegiality. To establish what we fundamentally believe in, to recruit and develop the talent to develop it and give it meaning and life in all aspects of the schools work “the problem with vision statements is that they become meaningless simulacra”. He reminded us of the importance of working collaboratively such that there is commitment and common understanding; “words don’t have innate meaning, so when we say achievement, outstanding etc, do all staff mean the same thing?” To ensure there is sufficient support to keep focus and engagement, but enough challenge to ensure that your supporters are not simply a collection of “yes-men”. His message seamlessly built on the principles that Martin Robinson had explored

Vic GoddardVG, headteacher of Passmores Academy was charismatic and highly credible, exploring the experience and understanding gained from the Educating Essex experience he made clear the principled and authentic approach to school leadership for which he has become known. “Remember you make the weather”, he characterised a deeply values-led approach to school leadership that reminded us in no uncertain terms that our role is to create the environment that is right for our students, albeit with a weather eye on the framework in which we work, but with outcomes and well-being for them as the immovable priority. Vic provided some salutary advice about the importance of working alongside people to ensure they are with you, to understand and to be understood; to support and hold all staff and students in “unconditional positive regard”, being clear about the difference between “radiators and drains”. Referencing Jim Collins work Vic revealed how much investment and importance he places on the quality recruitment and development of staff. There were clear links to the points made earlier by both Martin and Robert in developing trust, identity and commitment. Vic left us in no doubt that he does indeed have “the best job in the world”!

There was little debate about the value of the principles outlined throughout the conference; the panel discussion at the end of the day showed the clear thread between all three speakers and the absolute belief that leadership has to be values-led. Acknowledging the challenge for schools in differing contexts to balance this against a climate of high stakes accountability, the input over the course of the day left us inspired and reinvigorated. It is clear colleagues are not on their own. It is through the collaboration and networking  evident throughout the day and across the county that we will be able to maintain the courageous principled leadership that is required to ensure we hold true to the values that brought us together in the first place and that will provide the educational experience and outcomes that West Sussex deserves.

 Watch this space for how the network will  support you to do just that!

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Values-led leadership in a climate of high stakes accountability?

In preparation for our Annual Leadership Conference this year, our blog serves to raise a series of questions around the central theme of the conference: Is it possible to demonstrate values-led leadership in a climate of high stakes accountability. If it is, what should those values be?

In seeking to prompt these thoughts I shamelessly call upon the wisdom of Headteacher and Vision 2040 leader, Stephen Tierney who, in this March blog, asked the question “if you were building a world class education system what would be the values you would put in place to guide future actions and decisions?” As we pause to reflect on our schools and our leadership we have inspiration from local and national references.

It is a critical time for us to do exactly that; reflect on our current position and the direction in which we wish our schools, our locality and our education system to take. Within the current global and political instability we have been warned of “sleepwalking” towards a dark future through choices made without depth of thought or clarity. We are also embarking on the cyclical return to our profession being bounced between politicians in the run up to a general election. Therefore as the rhetoric gets louder with promises made on one side and oaths sworn on the other, it is more important than ever that we are clear and grounded in our values and our core purpose. Can we step beyond the ever present pressure of the next set of results, implementing the next round of curriculum or examination changes, the next inspection judgement – such high stakes accountability within all of these? What do we hold as fundamental for our staff, our students and our context? What are the “wildly important, big hairy goals” towards which all efforts and resources will be focused?

My role with the SSAT so far this year has enabled me revisit some of these questions, developing the next phase of Redesigning Schooling. I have been fortunate to be able to reflect on the work so far on teaching for learning, principled curriculum and assessment and intelligent accountability as established in the 2013 campaign. Within the current climate it raises again the dichotomy by which we are often challenged: is securing the right results for the child and the school more important than the holistic development of both the individual and the collective environment? Or is it possible to do both?

In “The Highs of Education” Stephen Tierney set out a series of “highs” identified as core principles by Vision 2040 providing interesting and challenging questions for educational leadership. They are relevant to us now. Our speakers, both local and national will provide opportunities for reflection on some of these principles.

High equity: with such a long tail of underachievement in the national picture, with the number of NEETS and achievement of PPG students a regional concern there is an unassailable truth that our system must be able to deliver outcomes for all students that enable them to move into their futures with genuine choices.

High moral purpose: Equally we would all accept the absolute responsibility to develop the broader abilities and well-being of the children within our school. To work with the agencies available to deliver the best support possible for them and their families. We see in our region the redefining of Think Family/Early Help trying to make the most of the sparse resources to meet the growing needs; the new SEN code has made us all look again at what defines need and how as schools we are working to meet those needs for all students. We know that Passmores Academy and the work of No Child Without holds this as a vital part of their work. Martin Robinson’s Book 21st Trivium sets out an approach to education that encompasses, among other things, an outcome that includes “wisdom and the ability to live a good life”.

However, to what extent are we working collectively towards this as clusters of schools for the children of our localities? Are we locked in local competition and positioning or are we deepening our professional links and responsibilities in a wider sense. How broad is our moral purpose? Martin Robinson’s blog offers many cogent thoughts on this matter and the importance of doing what is right versus what is seen as important right now.

High Challenge: Whether it is through attainment or achievement there is a truth that we are currently measured by our outcomes, as are our students. Bill Watkin will bring us up to speed with the critical changes we need to consider to make sure we are informed to meet the challenge. Our work designing principled curriculums and approaches to assessment without levels must sit in this context. Whether it is a passport of 5+GCSE A*-CEM or AAB as facilitating grades, we have a responsibility to enable young people to move to the next stage in the best possible position. Both Vic Goddard’s Passmores academy and LAE under Robert Wilne did well by these measures, they may be able to tell us how and why they think that is.

So do we wait for an external judgement to inform our success in this or do we hold ourselves, our staff and each other to account for these outcomes? Intelligent accountability makes clear that peer challenge and support is a more powerful driver of school improvement. Stephen Tierney argues that creating cultures of High Trust within schools, within networks of schools and within an education system requires integrity and reciprocity. To be willing to work together in both challenge and support requires all of these ingredients. There are examples of it being highly effective, to what extent is there a will to model this in our region and our locality?

High professional capital: Developing human, social and professional capital is an established success of the WSDN among many other collaborative, developmental West Sussex partnerships both within and across schools. We will hear from the JPD projects for last year and how they are being taken forward this year. Our teaching schools and other local alliances will be giving us an update on developing and established partnerships as schools work collaboratively to the benefit of their staff and communities. Equally our speakers will be able to share their thoughts on the development of professional capital in a range of different environments.

Our Annual Leadership Conference comes at a fascinating time this year, with Ofsted consultation out and election fever beginning to warm up, our profession sits in an interesting yet critical position. Redesigning Schooling challenged us last year to find new professionalism, to re-claim the core principles by which we want our schools and our system to be led. So we seek to challenge you this year: do you know what those principles are? Do you know what your non-negotiables are? Where are you now – honestly – in your journey towards your big hairy, important goals? Where is your support and your challenge?

We will not provide you with your answers but we will provide you with the information you need to meet the challenges ahead, the thought provoking input to help determine your direction of travel and the reassurance of the collective support of your peers and colleagues. I would argue values-led leadership is not impossible in this climate of high stakes accountability but is a great deal more achievable and has more impact if we do it together.

Look forward to seeing you at conference!

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Sing a Song for Sixpence? Sixth Form Funding 2014-5


Do we have to sing for our sixth form supper?

Over the last year many schools with sixth forms will have been trying to get their collective heads around the implications of the funding changes. Many will already be au-fait with all of these changes and have their Sixth Form team, data team and business managers all working in beautiful harmony to produce sweet music to the tune of thousands!

However even if this is the case, with the October Census looming large this week and many of us “in our counting houses” checking all the relevant data, we hope this is a timely moment to remind colleagues of a few salient points to check before you hit “send” on the Census. With many thanks to a range of colleagues who have sat through briefings, been on courses contributed to and checked the details of this. We can’t claim it’s bullet (or even blackbird) proof but we hope it’s at least useful.

The PowerPoint attached at the end of this blog provides the details and this short blog simply highlights the main points that are covered within it.


Slides 1-4 provide the background to the changes, the context of school sixth forms nationally and the agendas that have shaped the position in which we now find ourselves. The key messages of Slide 4 make it clear the burden of responsibility lies with schools and the potential impact is considerable.

Formula and Banding

Slides 5 and 7 give a detailed understanding of the components of the formula for funding. This will allow you to understand how much you are likely to be affected by the hours each student is registered for, the weighting of each programme and the slight difference in deprivation calculations. It hopefully also makes clear slight changes such as the retention factor is not qualification driven anymore but student driven. The banding on Slide 6 show the current understanding of the funding rates and the differences based on hours or age. This could have implications for those sixth forms who have higher numbers of 18 year olds (Note: 18 before the start of the academic year not during!) or those who hold more students who are not classed as full-time.

Slide 7 summarises the critical exceptions to watch out for and consider: conditional English and Maths funding, resits, retakes and withdrawals could all potentially have an impact on the total funding.

Census data collection

Slides 8-12 summarise what is collected by the census and therefore what is eligible for funding and those aspects which, whilst possibly considered valuable, will not attract funding. A useful list to double-check on Slide 12 explains the common things that schools get wrong on their data entry – well worth a double, triple check as mistakes could be very costly.

In-school variation

Slides 13 to 17 show some examples of how schools may choose to vary their approaches to guided learning hours. This allows a consistent approach without creating huge workload. A useful summary on Slide 17 explains how Sims can make this task more effective; it provides the opportunity perhaps to be more reflective about the effect of choices that have been made along the way with regard to individual students.


Slides 18-20 simple offers some checklists that may be useful, we cannot pretend they are exhaustive as every school will have it is own nuances that make their data entry unique. However they may act as a useful starting point.


We would have loved to gather colleagues together to discuss these changes but it was simply too close to the start of term. However we would be keen to gather feedback on this. We hope it’s been useful and then when your pie or pot comes in it really does allow you to sing!

Moving forward we would also like to meet and collaboratively discuss wider approaches to Sixth Form later in the term with a VI Form WSDN Forum. It would be great to share approaches to curriculum, qualifications, admissions and intervention across the county. Please do let us know if you have something unique to share or a specific aspect you think it would be useful explore.

Sixth Form Funding 2014-5: Sixth Form funding v2

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