Is being a Parent/Carer the toughest job of all?

Is being a Parent/Carer the toughest job of all?

The Chief Inspector of OFSTED will this week make a statement claiming that ‘schools are not there to do parents work’ referring to preventing childhood obesity, tackling knife crim and gang related violence. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-46416421

 

We are of course responsible for teaching students about the importance of healthy eating, staying safe and reporting any concerns to the relevant people but all too often it seems that society is quick to blame teachers for failing to educate children in all aspects of social responsibility.  Yet we understand that the job of a Parent/Carer is a demanding one and children often spend more time in school with their teachers than at home with their Parents.

 

I am not a parent myself, though have 2 nieces who mean the world to me, yet I often think about how hard it must be to have children in this age of social media and apparent mobile phone/gaming addiction.  I have seen it myself when trying to engage my nieces in a conversation about school when they have been more interested in the instant messages that keep pinging to their phones than my attempts to get them talking.

Me: How was school today?

Niece 1: Fine.

Me: So, what did you get up to?

Niece 2: Nothing much.

Trying to engage a child in conversation about their day at school can be like getting blood from a stone.  As a parent however, it is so important to let your child know that you care about their education. A recent study by the Royal institute of Science found that ‘it is parents who have the greatest influence on whether or not pupils perform well and stay in school. Pupils whose parents take only a limited interest in their learning are far more likely than their peers to perform badly academically and to drop out of school’.

 

So how can you show your child you care?  Well the first thing is to demonstrate resilience and determination in getting them to tell you about their day.  Rather than asking them the generic ‘how was your day?’ try asking one or more of the suggestions below:

  • Tell me about a lesson that really challenged you today
  • Tell me about something you have done today that made you feel proud
  • Is there anything you are worried or anxious about?
  • Was there any moment today where you felt excited about something you were learning?
  • Can you think of a time in a lesson where you wanted to find out more about what you were learning about?
  • Is there anything you would like to talk about that I can help you understand better?
  • What are you looking forward to tomorrow?

By asking more specific questions and doing this regularly your child is more likely to start talking to you about their school experience and by you persisting with the regular questioning it will soon become routine helping you to find out more about how they are getting on at school and helping them to see how much you care.

 

Finally, no matter what your own experience of school was, it is important to make sure this remains removed from your conversations about your own child’s school days.  Unfortunately many adults did not have a positive experience of school and if your child detects that you didn’t value your own school experience they may feel that they in turn have no need to value their own schooling.

 

I hope this has been of some use to you and over time you can feel far more involved in your child’s school life.  Please also remember that at Ernesford we are always more than happy to have parental contact so please don’t hesitate to call or email your child’s House Head to arrange a meeting.

Ernesford Pride

October blog
Ernesford Pride
I have written before about the importance of assemblies and the messages I try to give to our students and also our staff when I have the privilege of an audience with them for 20 minutes. In my latest assembly I began with the question ‘what have you done so far in your life that has made you feel proud?’ I assured students that I wouldn’t ask them to explain themselves, I simply wanted to give them an opportunity to reflect on the things they have done that they were proud of. After a minute or so of thinking time I asked them to raise their hand if they could think of something and without exception in each of the 5 House assemblies less than 10 students raised their hand. Surprised? Well I actually wasn’t, it seems that in this day and age our young people don’t always recognise when they have done something that they can feel a sense of achievement for. I then asked them to look at the slide below for a little inspiration.

In a time where our students are becoming more and more proud of their school community, I want them to become more and more proud of the influence they are having on the improvements at Ernesford Grange.  Yes, the quality of teaching and learning is going from strength to strength, yes, the behaviour around the school and in lessons is unrecognisable from 2 years ago and the students can see this and will talk about this, yet they don’t seem to recognise their role in these positive improvements.  Ernesford Grange is becoming excellent because of them, the students, the reason we are all here.

 

It seems there is something of a stigma around admitting you are proud of your achievements, it is almost seen as arrogance or un-cool to be proud and I want to eradicate that.  I want every one of our young people to be proud of what they are achieving both within and outside of school, I want them to see the significance of a simple of act of kindness for example or for a show of determination where they have really struggled with a piece of homework but haven’t given up and instead made mistakes and learnt from them.

 

I went on to talk to them about the slide below, which are many of the things I am proud of.  My parents of whom I am immensely proud, who have instilled within me respect for all, determination to achieve whatever I set my mind to and who have always believed in me no matter what.  The staff of Ernesford Grange who work tirelessly to continually improve their own practice to ensure we are giving our students the very best education.  The students, of whom I am incredibly proud every time I walk into a classroom and see them working or simply socialising with maturity at break or lunch.  I want all of these people to be genuinely proud of what they have already achieved and what they will go on to achieve in the future.

My take-away message was this; take time to reflect on what you have achieved, where you have come from, the struggles you have had and the resilience you have shown.  A sense of pride leads to a sense of belief and if you can’t believe in yourself how can you expect anyone else to believe in you?

One of our job as educators is to not only believe in every young person but perhaps more importantly, to make sure that every young person knows that we believe in them, only then can we expect them to start believing in themselves and be prepared to become the leaders of the future.

.

Raising The Bar

Raising the bar

Having an HMI inspection in the last week of the summer term is not an event many Head Teacher’s would embrace! In fact there are many who would argue an inspection at the end of the school year when staff and students are shattered, the weather is hot and trips and rewards are in full swing is simply unfair. However, for myself and the staff at Ernesford, we welcomed our latest inspection as we were confident that the sustained progress we had been making over the course of the year would be recognised. Indeed, the feedback that we received left us able to go into our summer holidays full of belief in what we have been striving towards, that it had been recognised that we ‘have developed a positive and aspirational culture across the school’ and full of the energy and enthusiasm needed to keep on raising our expectations of what we can achieve for our young people upon our return in September.

And so it has begun again. A new year, a new opportunity to raise the bar of expectation once more not only for our students but for our committed staff. We welcomed a magnificent cohort of Year 7 ‘Elite’ students last week. The largest Year 7 cohort the school has had in many years. The community is hearing good things about Ernesford Grange Community Academy, parents want to send their children to our school in the knowledge that we are providing a good quality education, challenging their child to achieve the very best by expecting excellence from every member of staff and student who walks through our doors. The atmosphere around our school is purposeful and as HMI reported in their July inspection ‘there is a clear focus on learning’.

It is an absolute privilege for me to walk into classrooms and feel the love of learning being developed, to see students and staff enjoying their lessons, to observe children actively demonstrating their growing resilience and teachers now courageous enough to step back and allow the struggle time that learners require to gain confidence and independence without fearing the disengagement that may have historically occurred. This is a new era, one of excellence, one of Ernesford Excellence and I could not be more proud of our students and staff and how far they have progressed.

Why would anyone want to teach?

It seems that these days not a day goes by without an article in the news talking about teacher stress due to workload, the pressure of OFSTED, declining student behaviour and the current national teacher recruitment crisis.  Not only are fewer people training to become teachers but more existing teachers are choosing to leave the profession in search of a job that will allow them to regain a work-life balance.

Here at Ernesford we are very fortunate that despite the relentless drive to improve standards, all our teachers are as excited as I am about the journey of progress we are on.  With only half a term left before the end of another academic year it seems fitting to recognise the wonderful, committed teachers and support staff that we have in our Ernesford community.  As I write this blog it is the Friday of the half-term holiday and though I am not at school I know that several of our enthusiastic teachers are in work today.  They are giving up their holiday time to support our super students in preparation for their exams.

This is not an expectation this is simply teachers wanting to do everything they can to help the students who are also giving up their holiday time, to achieve the best results possible.  You see, what we have here is a team ethos where we are all equally determined to work together towards the same goal which is the success of every young person who wants to do well in their education.  What’s more, we are also just as determined to gain success for those students who might not yet recognise the importance of a good education.

So, we have workload stress, expectations of a Headteacher who wants the absolute best for every child, frequent HMI inspections, working long hours planning lessons, providing feedback to guide students to improve their work further, holidays that involve coming into school…the list could go on so, let’s return to my original question, why would anyone want to teach?

The most straightforward response would be ‘to make a difference to the life chances of young people’ noble indeed, yet the video below provides a slightly more developed response about the difference that teachers make.  I played this to our staff in morning briefing at the beginning of term because I wanted them to reflect on what a difference they make to the lives of our Ernesford students and to inspire them to continue to raise their expectations of what our young people can achieve.  I hope after viewing this, you too can reflect on what difference a teacher can make.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=2&v=RGKm201n-U4

 

Impossible is nothing

 

“Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.”-Muhammed Ali

My assemblies following our latest HMI visit have focussed on this famous Muhammed Ali quote. The message of which is a perfect example of our core value of determination. I placed particular emphasis on daring to achieve the impossible and referred to the many times people told me it would be impossible to turn around a school like Ernesford. I told our students how much I have enjoyed rejecting these opinions and making the impossible possible, with their help and the hard-work of the staff.

I believe it is important to remind our students of the occasions last year when many of them and their parents spoke of Ernesford Grange in less than positive terms and I then went on to highlight just how far we have transformed as a school community since those dark December days of 2016 when we went into Special Measures. We are still special, but I see no evidence anymore that we are a school in Special Measures.

Following our most recent HMI inspection at the end of March I was pleased to share the following information with our young people:

 

The lead inspector placed great emphasis on the shift in culture and the new norm we have established for positive behaviour and I want our students to take the credit for the way they have risen to the challenge.

I also wanted to make sure our students are aware of what we need to do to improve further and explained their role and the role of our teachers and support staff in ensuring we achieve Ernesford Excellence together.

 

Finally, I wanted to make sure that both students and staff were reminded that we have no place in our school for those who doubt what we are capable of. We have the highest expectations of every student and every member of staff and it is everyone’s responsibility to put in the hard-work and effort required to equip our students for success in their lives beyond Ernesford Grange.

 

The Business End of the Season

As a PE teacher and lifelong Manchester United fan (no I’m not from Manchester but my Dad supported them since the 1960’s so there is a family tradition), I always find this time of the academic year to be akin to the closing weeks of the football season.

Sir Alex Ferguson famously referred to ‘squeaky bum time’ meaning the supporters were on the edge of their seats as each match came to the final few minutes as they were willing the team to hold on to the lead.

For the staff at Ernesford this time of year is our time to feel anxious, we are the supporters of every young person who is about to sit an exam whether it is a GCSE, BTEC or A Level qualification, we have seen our young people ‘train’ all year for their moment, sitting in the exam hall, performing at their peak and it is at that stage we can have no more influence on their outcomes.

That said, the exams don’t ‘kick-off’ for another 2 months, so now is the time to fine tune that ‘training’, increase the intensity and volume, reduce the periods of rest whilst making sure our students get just the right balance of quality revision and well-deserved relaxation.  Whilst we can influence the work ethic of our students while they are in school, it is much harder to influence how much effort they put into their studies at home.

This is where you, the parents and carers, can have a significant influence.  However, I realise that encouraging a teenager to spend quality time revising, researching and rehearsing is not a simple task, especially with the plethora of issues that encourage the high level of procrastination that is all too familiar (to all of us, not just the children!).

So, what follows in this blog is a selection of 10 top tips that will help you to help your child stay on the pathway to revision success rather than entering the perils of procrastination as demonstrated in the all too familiar scenario in this clip:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4P785j15Tzk

10 Top Tips for Parents/Carers:

1 – Remove the most obvious distractions of modern day technology which is often more of a hindrance than a help when a young person is trying to study i.e. take their mobile phone/iPad/tablet/any device that connects to the internet from them.  It may be just for 30-40 minutes at a time, but by doing this you are enabling them to focus solely on their studies.

2 – Ensure that they have a quiet area in which to study, away from the distractions of noise and that includes the television and radio.  As complex as the human brain is, research shows that if you listen to music whilst revising the brain cannot concentrate on both elements at once so the music is detracting from the studying.

3– Make sure your child has regular breaks.  Chunking their revision into blocks of time with 15 minute rest periods is far more effective than studying for hours on end.  30 minutes working with a 10-15minute break and then another 30-minute block of study is a good place to start.

4– Check that your child has a copy of all the revision guides on offer from the school.  Almost all subjects provide revision materials at a reduced price so make sure your child has a copy of everything they need.  If in doubt, contact your child’s Head of House who will check what they should have.

5 – Revision strategies – reading, making notes and highlighting are actually the least effective strategies for revision.  Instead, your child should be testing themselves with quizzes, questions and practicing from past exam papers (even though there are new exams now, old question papers are still useful).

6 – Learning key words and equations is vital and you should ask your child to give you a list of key words they need to know for each of their subjects with the definitions, so you can test them daily.

7 – Ask your child to explain what topics they are revising and then ask them to give you more detail.  You don’t need to know anything about the subject, you can just keep asking them to explain until you understand!

8 – Avoid cramming sessions – trying to study in one large block just before an exam is a recipe for increasing anxiety.  Revision should be taking place weeks in advance of the exam so your child has time to learn and re-learn key concepts and information.  The diagram below shows that after one day of revision only 50% of information is retained, whereas revisiting every day for 4 days means far more information is retained.

9 – Eat well, sleep well – By providing a healthy diet with plenty of green vegetables, fruit and water-based drinks you will be supporting your child to feel fresh and well energised at what will be the most mentally demanding time of their young life so far.  Ensuring that they go to bed at a reasonable hour, by 10pm and without their mobile phone and aiming for at least 8 hours of sleep will have a significant impact on how much information their brain can retain.

10 – Believe in them and show as much interest and encouragement as you can.  Your child will get the grades that reflect the amount of time and effort they have put into their studies, by telling them how much you believe in them and how proud you are of all the work they are doing you will be reinforcing a positive mindset.

So, as that ‘squeaky bum time’ of the exam season draws ever nearer it is vital to remember that if we want the best results we have to work for them. Whatever your goal in life, it is effort and determination that will lead to success. When my all-time footballing hero, Eric Cantona, arrived at Old Trafford he did something no player had done before, he asked Alex Ferguson if he could stay out after training to do some extra practice.

The other players, none of whom were as good as Eric looked on in amazement before realising that the reason Cantona was such an incredible player was because he put in the hours of practice.  That moment changed the culture of Manchester United because every young player from that point on started staying out after training to practice too.

They realised the power of practice, of repeating a skill, developing their understanding and putting themselves through more work than the rest of the players in the Premier League.  Our students can achieve the same success this year and beyond through effort, determination and ‘training’ harder and for longer than the rest of the Year 11 and Year 13 students across the country.

With parental encouragement, preparation and support from school and their own effort and determination, every student at Ernesford Grange can achieve excellence.

The Importance of Assemblies

Assemblies are such an important part of the school week.  They offer an opportunity for the students and staff to come together in their own House community and they provide a forum for delivering important messages that we want everyone to take on board.  I will quite often use assemblies to pass messages on to staff as much as to the pupils.

Community

Last week my assembly was titled ‘From Special Measures to an ethic of Ernesford Excellence’.  This is a concept that we are working hard to develop across the academy.  I find that as staff we often get so engrossed in driving forward with the improvements we are making that we sometimes forget to highlight these positive changes to the students.  I wanted to stress how important it was to develop a cohesive school community, where everyone feels a sense of belonging and responsibility for the improvements that are being made.  I also strongly believe that if we are to continue to shift the peer culture to one of pride in being a member of the Ernesford Grange Community, that we need to reinforce that Ernesford Grange belongs to the students as much as the staff and that the success of our improvements are as much a result of the improved efforts of the children as anything else.

A Culture of Learning

One of the key points we are continually reinforcing with students is the development of the learning culture.  We are all lifelong learners and students don’t always recognise that.  We need to support our young people to build resilience and encourage them to make mistakes as it is from these small failures that we learn the strategies for success.  Children often fear failure and would rather not try at all than make a mistake; it is our job to encourage the mistakes and offer a safe environment in which to do that.  I also took the opportunity to remind students that no one has the right to stop anyone else from learning.  We are all privileged to be in a position where we are provided with a free education and no one has the right to deprive others of the opportunity to learn.

Respect, determination and kindness

Never wanting to miss an opportunity to reinforce our core values chosen last year by the students and staff collectively, I will always refer to them in every assembly.  They are the foundations upon which our school culture is built and it is my vision that all our students will live the rest of their lives with these values running through everything they do.

The final part of the assembly was a video clip of an American Navy Commander talking about a series of training exercises his junior recruits had to endure.  The essence of the clip was that completing the small tasks would lead to a feeling of success and encouragement to try to achieve harder tasks.  The video epitomises everything we are trying to do at Ernesford as we develop our young people into citizens who will go out into the world showing respect for everyone, understanding that they will fail often and that through perseverance and showing kindness to all, every single one of them is capable of changing the world for the better.  And if you have found that your child has been making their bed everyday recently, this clip might just be the reason why.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U6OoCaGsz94

Welcome back!

It never fails to amaze me how quickly after the summer holidays we get back into the swing of things at school. Those days spent having fun with family and friends quickly pushed to the back of our minds as we dive straight back into our core purpose; developing excellent learning opportunities for all of our young people.

In a change to the standard first staff training day of the new academic year we chose to engage with developing our teaching practice straight away.  For those of you who follow us on Twitter @EGCS1973 you will have seen the tweets of teachers in classrooms learning.  I am a firm believer in the principle of life-long learning and if we want to instil this in our students then as staff we should be modelling the way.

For our students the start of term was also different. With the introduction of the new House system we wanted the opportunity launch it with the gravitas it deserved and so we had a House launch day with team building activities and a whole House assembly to begin this new chapter of competition and community within the academy.

The students were super and I have no doubt the House launch helped our new Year 7s integrate far more quickly into life at Ernesford than may otherwise have been the case.

Two weeks into the new year and we are already focussing on the outcomes for our Year 11 students, who have all been provided with a timetable of additional ‘upgrade’ lessons that will take place after school (parents will also receive a copy in the post).  In this most important period of their education so far it is vital that we provide the support and guidance that they will need in the run up to the summer exams which right now might seem a long way off but will be here before we know it.

One of the many privileges of being a Headteacher that I miss during the holidays is the opportunity to celebrate our fabulous young people and the effort they put into their studies.

This Friday I was able to resume my favourite activity of the week ‘Hot Chocolate Friday’ where a selection of students from each House are invited to join me for a drink and a chat about school.  It is always a delight to listen to their views and opinions and to take these on board and look to see how we can improve school for our most important stakeholders – the pupils themselves.

So, as another academic year begins I look forward to seeing what will be achieved at Ernesford as we continue our relentless approach to improve standards, develop our vision of excellence and focus all our students and staff on a culture of learning.

© 2018 Headteacher's Blog

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑