‘Invest in the best! People are our priority and from this investment great things will happen.’

Reading Time: 5 minutes

A case study by @JoMcShaneEdu from The Little Book of Flourishing Schools.

Catherine Skinn, Principal, Kingfisher Primary, Doncaster


Contact: principal@astrea-kingfisher.org 

Kingfisher Primary

In a time where teaching is more challenging than it has ever been with greater and greater expectations placed on teachers, a school MUST invest in teachers as professionals to enable them to be more than just the role they have in school, as Catherine Skinn’s valuable contribution to our case-studies outlines.

‘A flourishing school is an environment which puts the whole person, child and adult at the centre of their ethos. A happy, healthy and productive group of people striving for the same vision in order to succeed and support all to flourish within a safe and secure environment so that challenge is a positive experience and not a negative outcome.’

Catherine Skinn, Principal

How did staff feel before my intervention?

  •  Insecure and not sure of what needed to be achieved, or what they were working towards
  •  A sense of worry and fear
  •  Overwhelm- “How could everything be achieved….more and more to do”
  •  Unable to separate themselves from work
  • Little sense of pride in their work or achievements

How did students feel?

  •  They had no voice
  •  Students did not enjoy their learning
  •  It was clear that they didn’t know how to play or learn together
  • There were incidents of verbal and physical aggression towards each other
  • Students had no collective identity – they were not proud of their school

 What was the impact on standards?

  •  Poor quality outcomes in books
  •  Pupils were not able to speak confidently about their learning
  • Staff were unsure about what an effective teaching sequence should look like within new curriculum expectations
  • The percentage of children working at ARE in each year group was low and staff not always sure how to assess this

How did you feel as a leader?

I was extremely frustrated for the children and staff who were all working hard but really going around in circles without moving forward. I felt responsible for the change which needed to happen, and at times slightly overwhelmed!

What was the turning point?

In the light of the negative factors listed above, I realised it was essential to build a reflective culture where it was ok to make mistakes, where staff development was a huge priority and investment. Professional development needed to become regular and delivered at the point of need. I realised the urgent need to drive the creation of a school where systems were appropriate and not over burdening, and where wellbeing and value of staff and pupils was front and centre of all we did.

Your intervention: Summarise what you did to bring about change:

  • I appointed subject consultants who work alongside staff to develop both subject and pedagogical understanding
  • I revisited and created a new leadership structure and I empowered staff already in the school to lead
  • PPA Time was scheduled to allow staff to work together
  •  Development work with a psychologist was initiated to understand how people think and feel in their work, to promote staff wellbeing and in the development of a ‘team’.
  • All staff were included in INSET Days and training
  • I appointed Playworkers to create opportunities for children to experience positive free time – a ‘Menu of Fun’ to cater for all at lunchtime and break time to promote positive interaction and discussion for the children
  •  Staff ‘down time’ became high priority, characterised by a staff meeting a term as a social event, Friday Breakfast for all staff and end of term buffet lunches
  •  Lesson Observations are now ‘Tweaks for Teaching’ sessions, and involve teams who work collectively using video recording to improve their own practice, and not the formal SLT ‘clipboard’ affairs!

I ensured the School Development Plan has Wellbeing Foundations which support and promote the outcomes of the key strands in the plan, which include:

  •  Rational and reasonable dialogue with staff about all aspects of their professional lives
  •  A wellbeing INSET Day each year to invest in the staff
  •  All staff have access to a ’Family Day’ each year – this is for staff to have to undertake something which they want to do for themselves and is in addition to any other leave of absence granted
  • PSHE has been implemented as the main driver for the foundation curriculum,
  • We have a monitoring and evaluation programme that fits the current profile of teaching and avoids unnecessary overload on staff
  • The implementation of a ‘Mindfulness Curriculum’
  • Performance Management based on a research-informed approach and engages staff in shared ownership for outcomes, as opposed to data-driven targets
  • Celebration opportunities to share learning with families and community
  • Flexible PPA time

Why was this change essential?

In a time where teaching is more challenging than it has ever been with greater and greater expectations placed on teachers a school MUST invest in teachers, not just pay lip service but make a real difference to them as professionals to enable them to be more than just the role they have in school. Schools need to ensure that staff wellbeing is at the centre of all that it does as our children deserve the best and we only get the best if we ensure they feel happy, well and able to give to the children every day.

What were the outcomes?

  • We reduced our staff turnover
  • Our strategy led to a reduction in staff absence due to illnes
  • A positive staff ethos and discussions have been characterised by a feeling of ‘I am happy working here and whilst I am happy I will want to stay’
  • We have a visible commitment to the children and their families   We have seen an improved quality of learning experience for children and staff

How do your staff and pupils feel now?

 All within our community feel have a voice and can ‘make things’ happen in their school. They enjoy free time and are proud of what they achieve and to be part of Kingfisher.

Summarise the three top leadership strategies you would recommend to school leaders seeking to develop a flourishing school:

1   Stand back look at what needs to change and don’t try to achieve this in an academic year – the pace will mean you lose the people you are wanting to work that journey with you

2  Listen, Listen and listen again but harder……the people you walk the journey with have the answers, but not always the confidence or knowledge to how to make the difference

3   Encourage mistakes as the means via which the best ideas and outcomes are achieved

What steps will you take to sustain the flourishing school culture you’ve created?

 We will continue to celebrate the positive learning environment we have in school and carry out Action Research to impact on the Wellbeing Agenda for the Trust we belong to.

Your personal quote or mission statement about flourishing schools:

‘Invest in the best! People are our priority and from this investment great things will happen.’

The Little Book of Flourishing Schools by Jo McShane is A FREE resource for schools seeking to create a school ethos and culture where all can flourish.

Please email further case studies to jomcshaneeducation@gmail.com

This post originally appeared in Jo’s LinkedIn articles and is reproduced here with her kind permission.