Time in the helicopter not on the express train…


A reflection of our College Leadership Team Away Day – January 2014

It’s a busy life for everyone in school.  Thankfully at St Paul’s we are not summoned by bells, but the pace is very fast, and every day is action-packed.    And there is sometimes a risk that in dealing with all the day-to-day stuff we lose sight of the big picture.  That is why Inset days, learning communities, staff meetings and so on are so important – they give us a little bit of breathing space to sit back and reflect on what we are all here for and, hopefully, they re-energise and inspire us.

Being on the College Leadership Team is no different.  We meet every Monday after school and every Wednesday before school but, inevitably, much of this time is spent discussing what is happening now, and planning for things coming up later this week, this term or maybe this year.   It’s a bit like being on a steam train, speeding through the landscape – full of energy and purpose and with a clear sense of direction.  But it’s good to stop now and again to get in a helicopter to check the lie of the land – especially to check we are on the right track!

So that’s what we did on 21st January.  Not in a real helicopter, obviously, but we did go offsite away from the phones, emails and knocks on the door.  We started the day, as we start all our meetings, with a moment of prayer and reflection, then the first item on the agenda (as it usually is) concerned learning and teaching.  There is much to celebrate about everything we are doing here, including the impact of our new Learning Strategy Team.  Our key focus this term is on assessment, but looking ahead we would like to do more with supporting staff through the current changes in the curriculum, engaging parents and creating a love of learning in all our students.

We also reviewed our activities as the lead school in the Inspire Teaching School Alliance.  There are six main areas of focus for teaching schools (the “Big Six”) and we have made great progress in five of them since our designation last April: ITT, CPD, Raising Achievement, Leadership Development and appointing SLEs.  However we haven’t got as far yet with the sixth area, Research, so this will be a focus for future development.

And we wouldn’t be an outstanding school without outstanding staff, so we always spend time on awaydays looking at how we can best support, nurture and develop all our staff.  This includes looking at succession planning and providing opportunities for professional development, as well as taking account of curriculum developments and the practicalities of growing student numbers, Y9 options and 6th form choices.  We also want to use Pupil Premium funding to create more capacity to provide targeted support for relevant students.

And, of course, our students are what we are all here for, so we spend a lot of time talking about them!  Whilst we want them all to do the best they possibly can in their exams, we recognise that learning, achieving their potential, and life in general at St Paul’s is so much more than that.  So we are looking at ways of recording and recognising that breadth and depth of experience and achievement.     More news on this to follow later in the year!

So helicopter back on the pad, and us back on the train – but with some new insights and ideas in our luggage.   We’ll be unpacking them in the weeks and months ahead!

Laurie Perry

Director of Support Services

Twitter @SBMStPauls


6 thoughts on “Time in the helicopter not on the express train…

  1. A big thanks to Laurie for sharing the reflection of our work together… it also makes you realise how “life goes on” without you. This is down ton the strength in depths and culture at St. Paul’s. It was clear that it was “business as usual” on Tuesday so thanks to all who supported the work we were doing. I will look forward to unpacking the outcomes of the day and building them into 2014 and beyond.

  2. Reblogged this on robcarter2012's Blog and commented:
    Some excellent reflections relating to our recent College Leadership Team Away Day. May well have some resonance to other school leaders relating to the need to press “pause” at times or step back to see the big picture. Worth keeping ourselves honest with and finding others time to do the same.

    1. The Learning Strategy Team has been a key group of people, working closely with the leadership team, who have moved us all on this year in three key areas…

      1. Learning and teaching
      2. INSET and CPD including leading Learning Communities
      3. School improvement and self review

      We have looked to ensure that we go for an approach where “less is more” in that we have identified a theme for each term. So far we have looked at differentiation and are now working on assessment. In doing this the aim is to explore these areas fully and allow people time to “digest”, try key ideas out and evaluate the impact. They have done a brilliant job so far and I am sure it will flourish further – no pressure!!

      Our focus on research is a key area as a Teaching School. We are looking to ensure research gives us the tools and language to articulate “what works and why” as well as evaluating how we could do even better. I hope the learning and teaching blog will be a way to express this further and engage in dialogue with others.

  3. Thanks for this Laurie. It is good to know you are not all just getting manicures on your away day! I liked the analogy of the train and the helicopter and it is good to see what you discuss and your overview of future developments. Looks like a day well spent (Nice nails too)

    1. Gabrielle – we definitely need to talk about the reality of senior leadership. May not be as glamorous as you think – happy to show my nails to you sometime!!

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