How long have you worked here?
Four years.
So it was the current head when you started?
That’s right.
Is this your first teaching job?
Yes it is.
As a teacher how do you see the wider policy landscape? Do you think that
influences your work at all?
Yes definitely. I think it influences my work quite a lot so, for example, as a
language teacher the introduction of the English Baccalaureate has had a
massive impact on us because we need to now have bigger classes at GCSE and
more classes because there is a lot of pressure to make sure that everybody
achieves their five A Star to C and now that includes a language and a
humanities subject as well so, in terms of the subject teacher, that has had
quite a big impact. Prior to that the role of languages was actually in decline in
the school but since that has come in it’s been boosted quite a lot.
But in this particular school you’ve always had quite a strong language
We had but it is now slightly bigger in terms of the number of students and
every year we are trying to get more and more students to take languages. But
in the job market generally there are a lot more opportunities for language
When were you promoted to head of year?
This is my second year of doing the job so a year and a half ago.
What kind of strategies have you and your colleagues used to make sure that
the standard of teaching keeps improving?
In terms of subject area? Well obviously we are constantly striving to improve
our lessons and to improve our pass rate so it is in two areas really: one is the
quality of teaching and making sure that we are teaching outstanding lessons.
How do you do that?
A lot of different things really. I always keep my eye out for training and
obviously we observe one another to get best practice. I suppose having a lot of
practice really and in this school there is a lot of observations. We have a formal
one every term – minimum – but informal ones as well. So each time that
happens you gain a little bit more insight into what you need to do to improve.
And we have these learning area reviews and we have them at the beginning
and end of the year so in October time every single teacher in the school gets
observed and it’s always by one of the SLT and then, after you’ve had that
observation, you get feedback directly from them. And a similar thing happens
at the end of the year to check that you’ve made progress in between. So, over
the course of a few years, having had all those conversations, you get quite a
good idea really of what it is that they are looking for in terms of having an
Stockdale – head of yr. 7
outstanding lesson. You do kind of worry that this is just in this school and that
you might be doing well in this school but maybe you mightn’t somewhere else
but we had an external Ofsted inspection as well in June which kind of tied in
with our own findings and that confirmed that what we were doing fitted with
what other schools are doing as well.
Is there anything additional that you do to make sure that you are still ahead of
the game?
For the English Baccalaureate in particular? It’s just about making sure that
everyone gets to Grade C really. The more people who take French sometimes
that will mean that the quality of pupils isn’t necessarily as good and that means
that we’ve had to put in quite a lot more interventions now than we ever had to
before. For example we run extra classes on a Friday after school for Year 11
and they can come for an hour after school and have more intensive tuition. We
have sessions on a Saturday morning where Year 11 come in for intensive
coaching for speaking exams. We have a lot more meetings with parents; we
monitor pupils’ progress and give them a report card and we share results with
the pupils a lot and we make sure that the pupils really understand exactly
where they are. So, even from the beginning of Year 10, we are explaining to
them how the exam works and how the percentages are weighted and we make
sure that they are aware of all that. Because with the English Baccalaureate it’s
not just them taking this extra subject but they have to pass it as well. So we
have to put in a lot more work to make sure that everyone does pass.
Whose idea was it to have the additional lessons on a Friday afternoon and
Saturday morning?
It was something that the school does generally so we are not the only subject
that does it. The head of languages organises it but the school in general has
extra lessons for every subject on a different day of the week. Lots of subjects
do Saturday morning as well.
So that was before you even got here?
There has been some of it before I got here but I think it’s more organised and
consistent now and every subject has its own set day for doing it whereas
before it was a bit more up to individuals as to whether they wanted to do it or
not whereas now everyone does it.
Can you think of a policy which was introduced by the school or initiated by the
government which has made a difference to your own teaching?
To be honest I think the English Baccalaureate has been the biggest impact on
me just in terms of the pressure we are facing. So I think that is the main thing
Have additional professional learning opportunities been created to facilitate
Not in addition. I suppose the point of the policy is that we just need to do what
we did before only for more students and with a wider variety of ability levels.
So there hasn’t really needed to be extra training it’s just more extra work.
So how do you manage that extra work?
To be honest I think just by working more //
Stockdale – head of yr. 7
We are paid the same but since I started teaching, which is only four years ago,
I think it has become a lot more intense and you just have to work very, very
hard to keep up with all of these things. I think the only problem is that
sometimes it feels like there is not much time for experimentation. So you don’t
really have the time to think about doing things differently. A lot of that has
been squeezed out really and now you just have a list of what to do and you
need to get through it. I suppose there is a bit less creativity than when I first
started. Although I have an additional responsibility which means that I am
going to be busier anyway because I mentor new staff and NQTs and I feel it’s
the same for them really as well and there is less time to just be creative and
imaginative because that does take time.
And how do the staff feel about that?
I think everyone just feels a bit stretched really. I mean we all want to do the
best job for the pupils and that is the most important thing. But there is a lot of
data, for example, which can be a good thing because you know what everyone
is doing but is it a better thing than spending that time thinking up a really good
lesson? I’m not sure but I think the balance is definitely going towards more
data and filling in spread sheets and things like that and less time for just
planning the lessons which is getting squeezed out a little bit.
Have you any experience where things have been introduced which are against
what you believe?
I don’t particularly think so but I suppose I hear about things which I’m a little
bit unsure about but, within the school, I don’t think there is anything that I’m
having to do that I’m not happy about. But the main thing is the constant filling
in and tracking of spread sheets. I think that is the main thing where I feel that
it is not really the best use of our time. In terms of the observations I think
that’s a good thing really because the more often you are observed the better
because it keeps you on your toes. In terms of the English Baccalaureate I don’t
really have a problem with it.
Do you think it is a good thing?
Yeah I do but I don’t really think that it is for everyone. For some people it is
not necessarily appropriate to force them to do a language and a humanities
and I do think that it is good for everybody to get literacy and numeracy but I
don’t think that it is advantageous for all pupils to struggle through the
Baccalaureate particularly if they’ve got poor literacy. For the bright pupils it is a
good thing and I think that average to bright pupils can cope with that and it’s a
good thing because it makes them choose a broad range of subjects but, for
some of the lower ability ones, they shouldn’t really be forced into it because if
it’s not a subject they enjoy then they are going to struggle with it and I don’t
think that is really going to benefit them.
And is there anything specifically that you or the school have done to help those
who are struggling?
Well when they’re in Year 9 they don’t have to choose because the school is
divided into three sections when they are in Year 9 and only the top section
have to do the full English Baccalaureate range of subjects. The middle section
are advised to and the lower section don’t have to at all. So I think it is
Stockdale – head of yr. 7
recognised that, for some pupils, there is no advantage in forcing them. If they
want to do a language or do geography or history they are allowed to but if they
want to they can do more creative subjects and they can still do some BTEC and
construction and things like that as well.
Do you think that any of your ideas have influenced the senior leadership team?
In terms of teaching languages? No I wouldn’t really say so. I wouldn’t say it
influenced the senior leadership team but I feel that I am influencing other staff
quite a lot because I get called on a lot to train a lot of new staff. That’s because
the senior leadership team have seen what I do and decided that I am going to
be responsible for some of the training of new staff so I kind of take that as
them approving of what I’m doing and decided that they want me to pass it on
to other people. So I am kind of sharing my ideas that way rather than directly.
How was the academy conversion communicated to you and were you
supportive of it at the beginning?
I was obviously concerned but we were told a lot about it before it happened
and we had regular all staff meetings. So, right at the beginning of the process,
they explained what the advantages would be of becoming an academy and, as
we got closer, they were telling us what stage we were at in terms of approval
or not and so I think it was very well communicated. They were very clear about
explaining our pay and conditions and how that wouldn’t change. So I was
cautious because it was a new thing and the idea of an academy used to be a
very bad thing and it’s very unfortunate that they have the same name for the
bad ones and the good ones because people get confused and assume that if
you work in an academy that’s because you work in a terrible, terrible school.
But I was quite supportive and, since it’s come in, I don’t think there has been
any negative impact really.
Can you think of any examples of the positive impact?
It just seems that the school has more money to do things so it you want some
resources for your pupils the money is generally available as long as it’s a
reasonable request. For example, for Year 11 we’ve bought them all revision
books rather than them having to buy them. And things like that obviously helps
in the sort of school we are and the area we work in. The playground facilities
for the pupils have massively improved as have all the facilities for the pupils.
So, as far as I’m concerned, we’ve kind of got a newer school – and part of that
is through BSF of course – but still we’ve got the money for resources and for
subsidising trips //
What about the culture of the school or within your department – have you
noticed any difference?
No, not at all. From what I understand from people who have been here a bit
longer I think the change in culture has been with the new head teacher coming
in which was before the academy conversion. People now work a lot harder and
take their job more seriously whereas before I think some people were slacking
off a little bit from what I’ve heard. But I don’t think any of that is connected
with being an academy.
[break in recording]
A lot of the policies that are really unpopular quite often concern things like
pensions and things that don’t really impact on work with the children, if you
Stockdale – head of yr. 7
see what I mean. So I think what the government is doing is very unpopular in a
lot of ways but only a limited number of things do filter through to actual
interaction with the children and some of it is more to do with the fact that
working as a teacher is not as attractive a proposition as it used to be in terms
of the pension contributions. It’s more things like to do with general pay and
conditions I think and general workload where there are problems but, in terms
of the impact on the pupils, I think the only impact is just the fact that we are
so busy these days to be honest.
Thank you.
Stockdale – head of yr. 7
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