The challenges facing the school were simple. How to continue to build on the real strengths in the early years. How to develop literacy policy and practice to ensure that every child is a listener, communicator, reader and writer. How to develop numeracy policy and practice to ensure that every child is a counter, can calculate and is confident with numbers. Critically we also needed to focus on discipline, behaviour and building character to prepare young people for secondary education and life!
William Booth Primary and Nursery School is a small city primary school going through the transition from an infant school to a primary school and I was delighted to be asked to do this. It was wonderful to work with David Harris, who sadly died recently, Lesley Odell and Sue Thornton, the experienced, passionate and totally committed members of the original IEB who were supported brilliantly by Pete Cumberland, our patient and supportive clerk. It was a steep learning curve for me but incredible to work and learn with Gary Fullwood, the executive headteacher, Claire Wilkinson, the deputy headteacher, Tammy Swift and Claire Goodfellow the other members of the school's senior leadership team, and to help the school on it's journey to delivering outstanding primary provision for the local children... whatever it took! It was a real privilege to work with the staff team and Vicky Humpston the wonderful face of the school office who always greeted me with a smile.
There were fantastic opportunities at William Booth Primary School to build a great primary school; a young enthusiastic and committed senior team leading a school where colleagues want to do a great job. We needed to build a strong performance management and a coaching culture where everyone has access to training and personal development. We needed to help everyone improve and continuously develop their practice drawing on assessment for learning and the intelligent use of data to ensure that every child is provided with the curriculum and the opportunities to reach their potential. We also needed to recognise the key role parents and carers play in all this and work to develop and support parents as partners in learning.
Funny though, reviewing the journey this great little primary school has been on, you realise that school improvement is not rocket science and the strategies needed to take a school from inadequate to good to outstanding are really simple. The McKinsey report was right about the scaffolding schools need at different stages on the journey and also on the critical importance of passionate, sustained and committed leadership at all levels throughout the school. However it is obvious when you visit schools that a positive, creative, imaginative culture is at the heart of every great school and that we need to create a culture of excellence and link it to a determination to constantly learn and improve. We also need to create 'beautiful' systems that reinforce and underpin the culture and are connected to a persistent and unshakeable belief in what can be achieved through hard work. These systems must be based on trust, respect and intelligent accountability that is deeply rooted in research and evidence about what works. So there you have it: the keys to success lie in brilliant leadership, beautiful systems and intelligent accountability! Simple really. I don't understand why everyone isn't doing it!