Free article: Improving teacher recruitment and retention: part 1 Free article: Get ready to win strategic school improvement funding Reputation management for schools Experience shared: Effective mentoring Tackling bullying in schools - part one Aggression at work: Managing yourself and others Managing difficult conversations The art of influence: Creating the best outcome Change management and conflict Managing anxiety at work Interpreting data for 2017 performance Free article: Know your strengths Free article: Developing an ethos of high expectation Achieving an ‘Outstanding’ Grade: Focused on Excellence Free article: HR and the successful school: A case study Free article: Leading the way to outstanding learner progress Free article: Attainment and progress: The Rochford Review Free article: How to create a leadership team that drives school improvement Free article: Prioritising the budget for school improvement Free article: Transforming a failing school Free article: Evaluating alternative and specially resourced provision Free article: Taking a school-wide approach to mental health and wellbeing Free article: The latest developments in education - January 2016 Free article: Managing uncertainty Free article: Pupil voice as an evaluation technique Free article: The latest developments in education - September 2016 Free article: Deconstructing Ofsted: Reflection after inspection Free article: MAT expansion: Don’t let school improvement become a casualty Free article: Ten rules for outstanding leaders Free article: The governing body as a critical friend Free article: Developing an ethos of high expectations Free article: The exam post-mortem Free article: Safeguarding: Everyone’s responsibility Free article: How do inspectors make the judgement about overall effectiveness? The Ofsted model Free article: Effective leadership builds effective teams Free article: Baseline assessment and SEND Free article: Deconstructing the link between SEND and poverty Free article: Making performance management count in school improvement Free article: Joining or setting up a multi-academy trust Free article: Using pupil voice to support school evaluation Free article: What are the signs of a good school improvement service adviser? Free article: Headteachers’ appraisal Free article: Making CPD work harder Free article: Interpreting the inspection dashboard Free article: The government's Prevent guidance Free article: Improving provision for the most able Free article: Personal development, behaviour and welfare Free article: Is there a mental health crisis in our schools? Free article: Evaluating the effectiveness of assessment Free article: Actively promoting fundamental British values Free article: Raising boys’ achievement Free article: National standards of excellence for headteachers Free article: Monitoring and coaching through lesson observation Free article: CPD: Less measurement and more development Free article: Challenging 
the most able Free article: Using the teachers’ standards as a framework for CPD and accountability Free article: Managing behaviour outside the classroom Free article: Managing pupils’ behaviour in lessons Free article: Keeping Children Safe Statutory Guidance Free article: Four steps to school improvement Free article: Finding a way through the jungle: The essence of leadership Free article: How to audit your whole-school literacy provision Free article: Professional development: the growing case for evidence Free article: Getting personal  with CPD Free article: Making performance appraisal an objective and helpful process Free article: Parent View — an update Free article: Raising pupil achievement through parental engagement: a practical approach Free article: Effective parental engagement

Free article: Improving teacher recruitment and retention: part 1

In the first part of a two-part article, Matt Bromley looks at ways to improve teacher recruitment and retention.

Free article: Get ready to win strategic school improvement funding

How do you make a successful bid for a slice of the government’s Strategic School Improvement Fund? Best Practice Network’s Liam Donnison asks two school leaders who have done so…

Reputation management for schools

PLMR’s Sam Dalton talks about how schools can manage reputational impact when a crisis hits.

Experience shared: Effective mentoring

Steve Burnage explores the professional development potential of a productive and focused mentoring relationship from the perspective of the mentor.

Tackling bullying in schools - part one

Bullying is defined as: ‘Behaviour by an individual or group, usually repeated over time, that intentionally hurts another individual or group either physically or emotionally’. This article looks at the…

Aggression at work: Managing yourself and others

Conflict management is a vital skill for managers. Schools have clear policies on managing aggression in the classroom and playground. In this article Louise Wingrove looks at dealing with it…

Managing difficult conversations

Some conversations are always going to be uncomfortable. In this article, Louise Wingrove looks at managing difficult subjects with care and confidence.

The art of influence: Creating the best outcome

Louise Wingrove looks at how being aware of your impact on others can help everybody get what they need.

Change management and conflict

Nazli Hussein looks at the causes of conflict and the best ways to deal with it, with the best outcomes for those involved.

Managing anxiety at work

With growing awareness about anxiety and the impact it can have on both pupils and members of staff, Louis Wingrove looks at some ways to tackle the problem in the…

Interpreting data for 2017 performance

Tony Powell looks at the three different ways that a school’s academic performance is evaluated.

Free article: Know your strengths

Can you make inspection an enriching learning process that is actually good for your school? Heather Clements of Best Practice Network offers some advice. 

Free article: Developing an ethos of high expectation

In this article, Steve Burnage shares some practical strategies to enable school leaders to develop an ethos of high expectation in their schools. 

Achieving an ‘Outstanding’ Grade: Focused on Excellence

Tony Powell outlines a step-by-step approach to support schools in achieving the accolade of ‘outstanding’ as defined by Ofsted.

Free article: HR and the successful school: A case study

Adrian Kneeshaw, Headteacher of Carlton Bolling College, gives a personal viewpoint of the benefits of bringing in the experts.

Free article: Leading the way to outstanding learner progress

Steve Burnage discusses engaging with good practice in the leadership of teaching and learning.

Free article: Attainment and progress: The Rochford Review

Tony Powell reports on the findings of the final Rochford Review.

Free article: How to create a leadership team that drives school improvement

A high-performing leadership team is at the centre of any school improvement mission. But how do you go about creating an excellent SLT? Colin McLean of Best Practice Network asks…

Free article: Prioritising the budget for school improvement

Adrian Kneeshaw of Carlton Bolling school gives advice on how to focus school spending on improvement planning.

Free article: Transforming a failing school

Matt Bromley offers some advice on turning around an underperforming school in a short space of time while laying down the foundations for sustainable improvement.

Free article: Evaluating alternative and specially resourced provision

Tony Powell explains how inspectors gather evidence and make judgements on the quality of alternative and specially resourced provision.

Free article: Taking a school-wide approach to mental health and wellbeing

With concerns about mental health rising, what can schools do to help their pupils? Suzanne O’Connell outlines the advice available from the National Children’s Bureau and how it might be…

Free article: The latest developments in education - January 2016

Suzanne O’Connell provides a look at what’s currently being discussed, debated and determined in the world of education.

Free article: Managing uncertainty

If you are struggling with a sense of uncertainty, be reassured: you are not alone. 2016 has been a year of upheaval, with the promise of big changes on the…

Free article: Pupil voice as an evaluation technique

Tony Powell provides guidance on how to use discussion with pupils as a tool for self-evaluation.

Free article: The latest developments in education - September 2016

Suzanne O’Connell provides a look at what’s currently being discussed, debated and determined in the world of education.

Free article: Deconstructing Ofsted: Reflection after inspection

Tony Powell looks at how to use the feedback from your inspection in school improvement planning.

Free article: MAT expansion: Don’t let school improvement become a casualty

How can an expanding multi-academy trust ensure that school improvement doesn’t become a casualty of change? Colin McLean of Best Practice Network looks at the issue and offers some guidance.

Free article: Ten rules for outstanding leaders

Adrian Kneeshaw looks at how leadership is important to the success of the school, and how to lead effectively.

Free article: The governing body as a critical friend

In his second article on the headteacher and governor relationship, Tony Powell defines what is meant by a ‘critical friend’.

Free article: Developing an ethos of high expectations

Steve Burnage shares some practical strategies to enable school leaders to develop an ethos of high expectations in their schools.

Free article: The exam post-mortem

Matt Bromley considers how schools can learn from exam performance data and build this into school improvement.

Free article: Safeguarding: Everyone’s responsibility

With new safeguarding guidance released, it’s time to check your arrangements and update your staff.

Free article: How do inspectors make the judgement about overall effectiveness? The Ofsted model

This article outlines the Ofsted methodology for determining whether a school is ‘outstanding’, ‘good’, ‘requires improvement’ or ‘inadequate’.

Free article: Effective leadership builds effective teams

Steve Burnage offers advice on motivating staff, getting the best from them and building effective teams.

Free article: Baseline assessment and SEND

Suzanne O’Connell looks at a report on baseline assessment in primary schools and it’s affect on identifying children with SEND.

Free article: Deconstructing the link between SEND and poverty

DfE statistics show a clear link between SEND and children living in poverty. Suzanne O’Connell outlines some of the reasons for this, and recommendations for action, in a Joseph Rowntree…

Free article: Making performance management count in school improvement

What do you need to do to make performance management a watertight process that makes a real contribution to school improvement? Keith Wright has some suggestions.

Free article: Joining or setting up a multi-academy trust

Tony Stephens, of the Co-operative Academies Trust, looks at what is the best type of multi-academy trust for a school to join or establish.

Free article: Using pupil voice to support school evaluation

David Birch explains how capturing the views of students can sharpen school self-evaluation and have a positive impact on your school improvement strategies.

Free article: What are the signs of a good school improvement service adviser?

Frank Norris offers advice on how to choose the most appropriate school improvement partner to work with your school.

Free article: Headteachers’ appraisal

David Birch outlines best practice in the management of the headteacher appraisal process and offers advice for headteachers on how to make the most of appraisal in their own professional development.

Free article: Making CPD work harder

Professional development is a crucial factor in school improvement and improving pupil outcomes, but it could work harder, says Keith Wright.

Free article: Interpreting the inspection dashboard

There is a new inspection dashboard to go with Ofsted's new Common inspection framework. Tony Powell explains how it can be used.

Free article: The government's Prevent guidance

Suzanne O'Connell considers the guidance available regarding Prevent and school leaders' responsibilities.

Free article: Improving provision for the most able

Ofsted reports are making it clear. The DfE wants to see secondary schools challenging their most able students. In this article, Suzanne O’Connell summarises the criticisms and recommendations from ‘The…

Free article: Personal development, behaviour and welfare

Tony Powell looks at the new key area ‘personal development, behaviour and welfare’ under the new Ofsted inspection framework.

Free article: Is there a mental health crisis in our schools?

The mental health of children and young people is at the top of the agenda at the moment. Increased anxiety, self-harm and eating disorders are bringing some schools to crisis…

Free article: Evaluating the effectiveness of assessment

Tony Powell interprets government guidance on assessment to help schools support self-evaluation.

Free article: Actively promoting fundamental British values

Tony Powell advises on how schools can demonstrate that they are actively promoting fundamental British values.

Free article: Raising boys’ achievement

John Viner looks at research into boys’ underachievement and reviews some successful strategies.

Free article: National standards of excellence for headteachers

Tony Powell looks at the revised national standards for headteachers and how they should be used by schools.

Free article: Monitoring and coaching through lesson observation

John Viner explores ways to develop a culture of continual improvement in teaching through lesson observation.

Free article: CPD: Less measurement and more development

How can schools translate CPD into genuine improvement for staff? Keith Wright asked leaders to share their views, and discovered an emerging consensus about which approaches work best.

Free article: Challenging 
the most able

Tony Powell looks at how to identify the most able pupils, and the key factors that enable the brightest pupils to achieve.

Free article: Using the teachers’ standards as a framework for CPD and accountability

Tony Powell looks at how the teachers’ standards can be used to evaluate performance and support improvement.

Free article: Managing behaviour outside the classroom

Since January 2014 there has been increased emphasis on the behaviour of pupils. In this article, Jim Donnelly offers advice on managing behaviour around the school.

Free article: Managing pupils’ behaviour in lessons

David Birch offers advice on effective classroom management and argues that effective practice relies on a combination of the consistent application of agreed policy and the development of awareness and…

Free article: Keeping Children Safe Statutory Guidance

This is statutory guidance, which means that schools and colleges (including academies and free schools) must have regard to it. It contains what schools should do and what they must…

Free article: Four steps to school improvement

School improvement is a complex recipe that takes time to perfect. Keith Wright looks at some of the key barriers to school improvement and suggests strategies and systems to overcome…

Free article: Finding a way through the jungle: The essence of leadership

Louise Wingrove gives practical advice on how to become a leader your team will want to follow.

Free article: How to audit your whole-school literacy provision

Given that whole-school literacy is central to raising standards of achievement in schools and that it is a key focus for Ofsted, David Birch outlines some of the actions schools…

Free article: Professional development: the growing case for evidence

Teachers are good at gathering evidence of pupil progress, but many find it difficult to do the same with regard to their own professional development.  Keith Wright looks at the…

Free article: Getting personal with CPD

Less than a fifth of teachers in England’s schools think their continuing profession development (CPD) is any good, according to a recent survey. One of the keys to unlocking the…

Free article: Making performance appraisal an objective and helpful process

Performance appraisal is crucial to school improvement, but many schools are still without a rigorous and transparent way of carrying it out, says Keith Wright. Here, he analyses the challenges…

Free article: Parent View — an update

Jenny Townsend looks at the importance of Parent View in achieving an outstanding rating in inspection, and how comments from parents are used by Ofsted.

Free article: Raising pupil achievement through parental engagement: a practical approach

Jenny Townsend explores how parental engagement can contribute to school improvement and in particular the role this can play in raising pupil achievement levels.

Free article: Effective parental engagement

Ofsted’s Parent View means that parents have a direct influence on the decision to inspect. Jenny Townsend examines why this matters to schools.

Free article: Transforming a failing school

Published: Friday, 07 April 2017

Matt Bromley offers some advice on turning around an underperforming school in a short space of time while laying down the foundations for sustainable improvement.

Summary

  • Improving standards in the classroom must be a priority.
  • Achievement data should be analysed in order to identify specific gaps in students’ learning and progress.
  • Data should be used to identify one or two priority areas for improving the quality of teaching, in order to invest in targeted professional development.
  • The senior leadership team needs continually to communicate its improvement plans to all stakeholders, including staff, parents and pupils.

Although genuine, sustainable school improvement is a slow, incremental process, time is often in short supply. Never the less, the unrelenting cycle of inspection can put huge pressure on school leaders and senior teams to demonstrate rapidly rising standards.

What, then, is the secret to turning around an underperforming school in a relatively short space of time, while laying down the foundations for sustainable improvement? Here are four suggestions.

1. Change school leadership practices

Assuming that the existing leadership team remains in post, senior staff need overtly to change their leadership practices. Senior leaders need to become ‘instructional leaders’, highly visible around the school and in classrooms, leading by example as excellent teachers first and administrators second.

Standards can only improve if changes are made in the classroom, so senior leaders must put pedagogy first, accepting that high-quality teaching and learning trumps all. They can signal this in tangible ways by maximising the amount of time teachers spend in the classroom with students and removing as many distractions to teachers as is feasible.

If teaching and learning are of the highest quality, there will be less need for bolt-on intervention strategies outside the classroom and school hours for disadvantaged students, and more chance of students’ socio-economic differences being reduced to a negligible level. As research suggests (Hamre and Pianta 2005), in classrooms run by the most effective teachers, disadvantaged students progress at the same rate as non-disadvantaged students.

The senior leadership team (SLT) also needs continually to communicate its improvement plans to all stakeholders and ensure that it makes each improvement public. It can do this by consulting on, agreeing and communicating a new vision and mission for the school, and by using this to remind staff, students and parents of the school’s purpose. This vision must be premised on the notion of high expectations for all, and on strong values such as educational excellence and fair access, affording every student an equal opportunity to achieve his or her potential.

Strong leadership teams also share leadership. This is not the same as delegating tasks; it means genuinely empowering all staff, and indeed the student body, with ‘real’ leadership and authority.
Senior leaders can also change their leadership practices by building a consensus among their staff, forging a cohesive culture in which everybody works towards the same
end goal.

2. Use data to improve teaching and learning

Schools in search of rapid improvement should examine their achievement data in order to identify specific gaps in students’ learning and progress. They should ensure that every teacher uses formative data about individual students in order to analyse the effectiveness of their teaching.

Data should be used to identify one or two priority areas for improving the quality of teaching. Senior leaders should then invest in targeted professional development, differentiated according to the needs of individual teachers and subject areas. The best CPD focuses on a small number of ‘tweaks’ over the long term, and is collaborative and practitioner led, grounded in research. It also balances the need to improve content knowledge with the need to improve pedagogic knowledge: developing teachers’ knowledge of their subject and their knowledge of how to teach that subject to young people, pre-empting students’ questions and misconceptions, and explaining complex concepts in a way that makes sense to students.

All staff, not just senior leaders, should be responsible for monitoring and evaluating student progress. They should do this regularly and systematically, making adjustments where necessary in order to strengthen teaching, as well as student learning and progress.

Underperforming schools in need of rapid improvement also need to examine student achievement data in order to identify the gaps and weaknesses in student learning. The headteacher may decide to establish a data leader on the SLT to organise and lead this effort. This person can examine student learning through test outcomes and classroom assessments.

This senior leader can also look at the data in order to ascertain the factors that contribute to or impede student learning. These might include problems with attendance and punctuality, poor discipline, problems within a student’s family unit, language limitations, and so on.

School leaders should be ‘lead learners’, demonstrating the importance of engaging in professional development based on an analysis of achievement and quality data, and that is tailored to meet the needs of individual teachers and subject areas.

3. Achieve ‘quick wins’ to motivate staff

Senior leaders need to keep staff morale high and make ongoing improvements visible and public by sharing ‘quick wins’ early in the turnaround process. The best way to achieve this is to start with a goal that is important but can also be achieved quickly and can provide visible, tangible evidence of improvement. Some examples of quick wins might be:

  • changing the school’s use of time – scheduling a common, weekly slot for CPD or joint lesson
  • planning time
  • improving access to resources – a CPD library, subscriptions to online materials, ICT equipment, textbooks, etc.
  • the physical environment – painting corridors, fixing broken fixtures and fittings, tidying up the school grounds, etc.
  • improving discipline – establishing a safe and orderly environment with clear rules that are known and applied consistently by all teachers and fully supported by senior leaders.

Another way to ensure that a school achieves quick wins is to identify one or two goals that build on the school’s existing needs and strengths, are important to staff, and can be achieved quickly. A narrow goal, such as increasing Year 7 students’ reading achievement on a high-stakes test, can be achieved faster than a broad goal such as increasing attainment for all students in all subjects.

4. Achieve a staff consensus and develop leadership capacity

The SLT needs to ensure that all staff ‘sign up’ to the improvement agenda and are committed to change. An assessment could be carried out in order to identify staff who are not fully committed to the school improvement goals or who do not have the qualifications to carry them out. The SLT could redeploy staff who have valuable skills but are not effective in their current role.

It may be necessary to replace some staff members who actively resist the school’s turnaround efforts and recruit new staff who have the requisite skills and competencies. However, a principal’s starting point should be that all staff have the potential and capability to help turn the school around; any negativity or seeming lack of skill is likely to be the result of poor leadership and support in the past.

It may also be necessary to create new posts in order to carry out the improvements required, and some existing staff may be well suited and qualified to fulfil these posts. Providing new opportunities to existing staff may help motivate and energise them.

Toolkit

Use the following item in the Toolkit to put the ideas in this article into practice:

About the author

Matt Bromley is an experienced education writer, consultant, speaker and trainer. In a leadership career of more than 15 years, he was Group Director of a large FE college and multi-academy trust, acting Headteacher of one of the top five most improved schools in England, Deputy Headteacher of a small rural school, and Assistant Headteacher of a large inner-city school. He is the author of several best-selling books and regularly speaks at national and international conferences. You can find out more at www.bromleyeducation.co.uk and follow him on Twitter @mj_bromley.

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