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Bren's Blog - May 2017

Investing in excellence – not letting wisdom get in the way of decision making

by Bren Taylor, Senior Education Advisor.

 

It was all going so well – slides prepared, throat lubricated, ready to stand up and share my missive with the massive.

Or something like that. Anyway, it didn’t happen. If I thought they were out to get me, I would think it was deliberate, but actually, it was pragmatics that got in the way. So here I’m going to try to sum up what I was going to say at the Link2ICT conference a few weeks ago.

blog 01If the press are to be believed, and if what I see in schools and hear from headteachers and senior leaders is the truth (none of this fake news stuff), then the financial pressures on our education system are increasing exponentially and pretty soon every school in the land will either be in debt or unrecognisable from what they are in a few years. Really hard decisions are being taken that ultimately affect the very thing that schools are charged to do and measured upon - summed up perhaps, in two phrases – keeping children safe and raising attainment.

You could argue therefore, that every single tax pound spent by schools must in some way contribute to delivering improvement in these two areas. I’m not going to take time here discussing the pros and cons of shrinking the breadth of the curriculum offered, of reducing the staff required to deliver that curriculum and so on. Do take a look though at someone who has seen the education system evolve from the start of the 20th century – a fascinating story from Len Goldman, 100 years of age and who has clearly dedicated his life to serving others. Whatever your politics, his story is fascinating.

 

My history in schools is a little shorter than Len’s (some would argue I look like I’ve been involved in education longer than Len). I’ve seen many changes yet feel we are in the middle of something as significant as at any time during the last thirty years. Part of my response is promoting a further challenge, that I hope contributes in some small way to negotiating the decisions taken in that danger zone of balancing finances against safeguarding and school improvement.

In some cases, we are indeed seeing technology provide “magic” and raise outcomes, without, perhaps it could be argued, any teacher intervention whatsoever. I’m sure those who are fans of Skoolbo or Mathletics might concur with this. Indeed, there are clear examples of such technology actually saving schools money as other resources can be diverted to support elsewhere.

Now though is the time where the need is greater than ever to maximise what you have already got. An idea to help this, I will share below.

blog 02What is already going on in your school that uses technology to make a real difference to pupil outcomes? Why not ask your staff to share one or two simple things happening in their classrooms that they believe clearly demonstrates increasing attainment as a result of using the technology in that particular way. Make sure too – and this is really important - that they can evidence that. If it is some sort of maths software, what progress is being made over the same period of time by youngsters not using it compared to those who are? If the difference is significant – use that member of staff to champion its use across the school, across the phase etc. Similarly, if a member of staff states that their Year 6 boys are writing more prolifically, more creatively, more collaboratively when using J2Bloggy as part of the BGfL 365 Tool Suite then ask them to demonstrate the evidence for that. If that evidence is convincing, then senior leadership teams should be providing space at staff meetings for these teachers to champion what they do and get others in their school doing the same – and following it up with learning walks and observations to monitor and ensure it is happening. We mustn’t let improvement be limited to the boundaries of one teacher and one class. Sometimes you may need extra help doing this, and for a small outlay, you might maximise these outcomes by using other members of my team here. They are in schools every day, helping others get the very best from what they have already invested in.

I hope you find this suggestion as useful as much as it is challenging. But you are used to challenge, and time and time again I have seen the profession face up to it, always doing its best for those it seeks to serve. It is hard, but some of the answers might be simple. Applying a bit of wisdom will make the world of difference.

If you have some great ideas about maximising your investment in technology, do drop me a line - bren.taylor@servicebirmingham.co.uk.

 

 

 This blog post is available via www.link2ict.org/brensblog or the May 2017 edition of School News. Click the button below if you want to see the rest of the newsletter.

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Bren's Blog - April 2017

The journey to excellence never ends...

by Bren Taylor, Senior Education Advisor.

 

We've recently had the great privilege to celebrate the fantastic achievements of Our Lady's Catholic Primary School. Perhaps you were at the recent Link2ICT conference and were there to witness the handing over of the prestigious Paul Shoesmith Award for innovation in technology. You will have seen in the November newsletter what they have done to get our vote this time.

How tremendous then that we now see this school reaching out to others to help them in their mission, as well as continuing to seek to improve themselves through partnerships with those that seek to make a real difference. The challenge, in Ofsted terms, to move from good to outstanding, to move from outstanding to maintaining outstanding...is just that - continuous movement, building on great foundations but always seeking to do better. Great schools and great leaders don't stand still. They will also take a moment to pause - and reflect - but that, in itself, is part of a continued successful journey.

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Bren's Blog - March 2017

Nurturing excellence

by Bren Taylor, Senior Education Advisor.

 

Well, we didn’t win outright but we’ve done the right thing, haven’t we? See www.link2ict.org/monitoringservice. We were of course, delighted to have been shortlisted for the prestigious BETT Awards. Not only were we in great company, but also thrilled that some of our partners, whose products and services we believe make a very real and positive difference to the schools we work with, had also been shortlisted and indeed are winners themselves. You can see them here.

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