The Polesworth School in Tamworth, Staffordshire is a larger than average phase-two academy in with approximately 1500 students aged 11-18, over 100 teaching staff and over 130 non-teaching staff. In 2007, it was rated Outstanding by Ofsted.
Concerned that the next visit by Ofsted was imminent, Head of School Maura Favell implemented an online performance management solution to ensure the school is ‘inspection ready’ when notification arrives.
Challenges “Upon joining Polesworth as Deputy Head (School Self-Evaluation) one of my first challenges was to update the paper-based Performance Management procedures. The process was not consistent and did not allow staff or line managers to easily track progress in relations to targets set. I realised that keeping track of the progress made by the school’s 245 staff would present a significant challenge.
“I needed a system that could manage staff performance, empower individuals to take ownership of their progress, support whole staff analysis and provide detailed evidence for Ofsted.
The solution “Having reviewed a range of solutions, we settled upon BlueSky Education’s online performance management and CPD software because it provided the tools required to implement, manage and track a clear, consistent and robust appraisal policy, linked to school improvement priorities. It covers reviews, objective setting, CPD, lesson observations, work scrutiny, learning walks and self-evaluation, and enables us to capture all the data we need to measure the quality of teaching effectively, focusing resources where they will have the most impact.
“I can review appraisal objectives across the teams quickly, ensuring individual objectives are contributing to whole-school improvement priorities. Our staff are confident that the appraisal process is rigorous, transparent fair and confidential.”
The software’s self-evaluation module ensures the school’s data is current, live and accurate. It can also be accessed immediately by middle and senior leaders, so encouraging them to play an active role in self-evaluation exercises.
Benefits and results Flavell continues: “By analysing the quality of teaching across Polesworth, we can identify strengths and weaknesses and target CPD effectively, clearly linking it to individual or collective needs. We are now delivering in-house tightly-focused CPD that really makes a difference. For example, staff completing their online review documents must rate their questioning skills using an A, B, C or D marking system. Those who have the confidence to give their students time to reflect before answering a question typically rank themselves an A. Those less able often rate themselves a C or a D, so it is easy to identify which members of staff need extra help with developing their skills. Confident A-rated staff are then called upon to share their best practice at in-house professional learning sessions, so helping all to develop professionally.
“It is interesting to see that this in-house training is viewed by our staff as ‘more worthy and credible’ because they have witnessed the effectiveness of their peers operating within the classroom.
“The reporting tool within the self‑evaluation module accurately pinpoints trends and outcomes to inform whole school planning. We can clearly demonstrate that self-evaluation is positively impacting on pupil progress and achievement. For example, by conducting learning walks, we can gather evidence about how the school is performing on a daily basis. And when we eventually get the call from Ofsted, we know we will have the evidence that backs up the outstanding qualities of the school.
Cost savings “Sharing best practice in this way has enabled us to save money. External courses, typically attended by just one member of staff, are now few and far between and instead have been replaced with a comprehensive in‑house professional learning programme. The money we save means we can afford to bring in high-quality trainers - for example, a lead Ofsted inspector - to deliver whole school CPD that benefits everyone.
“Most importantly, we are now able to use our £40K CPD budget more effectively and I now have the funds to pay for staff to take Masters Degrees at Warwick University and to enrol senior and middle management staff on national professional qualification.
Future plans In a drive to share best practice and address local pockets of under-performance, Polesworth joined with neighbouring primary school Birchwood to create The Community Academies Trust (CAT) which now includes Dordon and Wood End primary schools. Further schools are set to join the CAT within the next few months and the plan is to implement BlueSky across the board, with typical costs for a secondary school at £2500 and £500 for a primary.