Review by Zara Simpson

Deputy head of prep, Streatham and Clapham High School

27 Jan 2024, 5:00


The Conversation – with Zara Simpson

Driving the coach

As deputy head, I found the latest podcast by Headteacher Update very informative. In this episode, the focus is on incorporating instructional coaching into your school’s staff CPD strategy to enhance teaching and learning. The discussion delves into practical aspects, detailing the distinct stages of instructional coaching and offering numerous tips and examples.  

With expert commentary from head of school, Sarah Morris, the Teacher Development Trust’s Sharon Ealing and teaching school hub director, Kay Shepherd, it touches on the importance of deliberate practice and makes the important point that instructional coaching should be kept separate from line management. Plenty of food for thought for all leaders committed to driving improvement across their settings.

Blue Monday

As a school family, we started the year with a focus on our values of kindness, respect, compassion and integrity. During PHSE lessons, our girls have taken the opportunity to establish personal goals and targets for the remainder of the academic year, serving as motivational reminders to consistently strive for their best.   

To an extent, this action was a cushion for Blue Monday last week, known as the most depressing day of the year. While marking the day itself can help to bring mental health to light, the better long-term solution is to create positive classroom cultures for pupils and educators alike.

In this blog, deputy CEO, Lisa Fathers and leadership consultant Patrick Ottley-O’Connor offer their suggestions focusing specifically on staff. It starts by looking at goal-setting (So far, so good!), and goes on to give plenty of other ideas for staff at all levels to take control of their own wellbeing through January and beyond. “Remember who you are outside of school,” they urge. Words I will certainly quote to our hard-working staff.

Doing what is right

While no blogs or podcasts were published to mark the day, I can’t let this opportunity go by to draw attention to last week’ Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. A national holiday in the United States, we observed it during assembly, reflecting on the civil rights leader’s words and sparking powerful conversations with our girls.

“The function of education,” he once said, “is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.” This resonates deeply with our curriculum and our commitment to teaching.

Our ‘Message of the Week’ was another King quote: “The time is always right to do what is right”. And we modelled that by launching our annual Undivided survey – an important information-gathering exercise that is part of our ongoing work towards our equality and diversity charter for action. Only by truly listening to our students’ views and experiences can we hope to make a real difference to their lives.

Safer online  

Finally this week, I’ve been preparing for the fast-approaching Safer Internet Day. And with mental health so high on the agenda for young people, it’s never been more important.  Four in ten teenagers told the Mental Health Foundation that images on social media had caused them to worry about body image, and NHS England reports that girls are less likely than boys to agree with the statement “I feel safe using social media” (only 56 per cent of them do).

That puts a strong onus on us to deliver on our commitment to digital literacy, which we start from age 3. Computing at School’s new resources for primary school teachers will make a valuable addition to our PSHE and English lessons this year. But our focus isn’t just about knowing risks; it’s about empowerment too. From age 3, our pupils – and pupils we invite from other schools – also start lessons in coding taught by specialist teachers, preparing them for an inevitable future of technological advancement.

Of course, we must be models here too, and with Data Protection Day also coming up, this useful blog by Dimitri Bongers sets out the key cybersecurity risks faced by schools as well as 13 best practices for better data protection. Like everything else, it starts with culture, and it requires staff training. And like everything else, the time is always right to start getting it right.

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