Today is the start of a new school year. It doesn’t necessarily mean that there are any teachers or children around yet, but it means a level of mental and physical preparation for the task ahead that makes 1st September feel different from the middle of August. The school has undergone a number of physical changes – we have rearranged the teaching areas in the Foundation Stage so that the two teachers no longer have to hear each other teach (a design fault of the original plan which has only taken us 10 years to rectify!); we have built a new greenhouse, courtesy of Friends Together (our PTA), for both Gardening Club and class work; we have redecorated most of the office area and remodelled the staff room; and, perhaps most significantly for those that clean that area, put new urinals in the Y1/2 boys’ toilet. Aim, gentlemen, please.
A huge amount of effort was expended by the leadership team last year in supporting the work of Y6 teachers in the face of some real pupil progress challenges. For at least three of us, this took a large time budget with consequent knock-on effects on other areas of school life. For another of the leadership team, the commitment has extended to her being willing and determined to take on a Y6 class and teach it. So this holiday has been, above all, a chance to reconsider the story of our school, its purpose under God and what we have learnt from one another and from evidence and research about teaching and learning. Part of that story we will explore again tomorrow. It will contain challenges, for sure, but the most important message is this: we have learnt together what makes for effective learning in children, and it works. Now we have to pay deep and sustained attention to our own craftsmanship, particularly in those areas where either individually or collectively we know we do not do as well as in others.
This is a critical process. Part of our work has always been to understand why we are doing what we are doing and to do it with intention and purpose, with the outcomes we want clearly in front of us. Our curriculum and our management of pupil conduct and adult relationships have all been done with this intentionality. I would motivate for all of us this year to ask the question, whether we are teachers or teaching assistants:
Am I teaching with craft and intent, or am I just “delivering a lesson”?
The answer to this question will tell each of us a lot about where we are and where we need to work harder at our craft.