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No vision kills creativity and serendipity, not Ofsted or SLT or 'INSERT EXCUSE HERE'

It may be the old man in me, but Jo's post last night triggered some reflections about my time at Priory School. I also found myself nodding along to Stephen's post here about JFDI (Just Frigging Do It).  Please, take the following as a story from experience.  Don't ask me how we got away with it (it had a big part to do with rising results). But, we did a lot of work around our mission.  If you're a leader, at any level, have a go at this:

1. Get yourself off site.  

In the original days we managed to get a day out of school as a team.  I used some of the department budget (don't have much budget - then get money into the dept from grants etc.).  When we weren't allowed to do that, the team took the decision to use one Saturday in the year to talk about where we were going.  Don't get me wrong, I saw it as my responsibility, as Head of Department,  to set the priorities and vision in September, but we needed a discussion.  
There were two aims in the day. The first to revisit our vision (making a video) and the second to develop vital Schemes of Work.

2. Bring objects

I like objects.  And I like notice for meetings (at least a week is needed to think). I asked the others to bring along three objects that represented what we wanted geography to feel, be, sound, taste like.  I believe that you need to start with what type of child do we aim to develop.  The qualifications are the obvious bit, but how can we encourage them to think like a geographer, measure like a scientist, write like an author?  Objects generate far more discussion that a list.  And the discussion is important.  During this we would record the main points. It's important to note that results and progress always figured (I've never understood the obsession with borderlines and attainment at the expense of progress - I hope that Progress 8 will address this).

3. Share

I always liked a video to share the vision.  I used to show it to all classes and reviewed it myself many times to see if we were still on track.  It was important to strip the vision back each year and make it simple. It's important to remember that its about the process and conversation and not the video.

4. Live it

I'm most proud of one achievement in my time as a leader, and it will be difficult to top.  I'd love to replicate it whole school.  At Priory Geography, we operated as a normal day when Ofsted came calling.  Or SLT were on the hunt.  Quality teaching and learning from lesson one of Year 7.  No exceptions.  Of course, we did a little polishing like talking over the plans, but we didn't alter them. Our view was that the planned learning sequence was more important. Of course, there was always room for improvement.

5. Put the excuses in the drawer

I had to fight each year to cover the costs etc. We gained grants and money into the department (one year this topped £22k).  No time or a Saturday? This process saved time and reduced workload, for example using Dropbox for resources, Google Docs for our curriculum documents and a wiki for the department handbook came out of this process also.
My belief is that is you have a strong vision, a bomber mission, then you can sail through the turbulence of curriculum and government changes.  You can subvert or ignore what comes in.


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