Making a difference: A focus on relationships as we start a new year
7 September 2018
Author: Kate Mouncey
Like most schools, we start the academic year (and most terms) with an inset day to convey key information to staff, offer training on key priorities and allow for some planning time. Most of our training has been on teaching and learning, which is hardly surprising when this is our core business, and it is certainly something that will continue as the focus for further improvement and development each year. We never stop learning and trying to improve things! However, at our staff conference in February last year, the theme was set as ‘Refresh and Review’. This was really welcomed by staff as we have been embroiled in the difficult and all-consuming task of huge curriculum change over the last three years and it was a great opportunity to really reflect on our work and think about how to embed current strategies that we thought would be most beneficial to our students.
As we start the new academic year, we wanted to continue this reflective approach and think through a slightly different focus. Based on findings from the latest Kirkland Rowell survey, staff conversations and on-going self-assessment, the Leadership group decided that it would be timely to look at the core role of the form tutor, taking time to really consider the critical role of relationships and care in our role of teacher. In the last couple of weeks, we have gone through the annual cycle of results days and it is especially clear in observing the interactions in these days between students and staff that there are very special relationships at the centre of everything that we do. It is the relationship and communication between a teacher and their students which seems to have a huge impact on their progress and success. Testing this through research evidence is extremely difficult as there are so many unquantifiable factors at play. However, there are some findings from a variety of contexts which can offer some an insight into aspects of relationships and their influence on successful outcomes:
A study highlighted by Best Evidence in Brief from the journal ‘Economics Education Review’ suggests that assigning pupils to the same teacher for two years may improve academic performance as the teacher knows the students better and can target their needs more specifically. Read these findings here.
Another interesting article points towards the importance of a strong relationship between parents and school. Researcher Keith Herman from the University of Missouri found that; ““If a teacher has a good relationship with a student’s parents or perceives that those parents are positively engaged in their child’s education, that teacher may be more likely to give extra attention or go the extra mile for that student. If the same teacher perceives another child’s parents to be uninvolved or to have a negative influence on the child’s education, it likely will affect how the teacher interacts with both the child and the parent.” Full article here. This is something that has really struck a chord with me, and I am going to reflect on how this affects some of my decision making and unconscious bias within my job.
It is also worth referring to a previous blog from our Research School colleague, Marc Rowland at Rosendale Research School; ‘Opinion: Marc Rowland on working with parents’. Marc applies the research from Missouri with some excellent suggestions for parental engagement, and for helping the most vulnerable students in challenging circumstances where relationship with school is of critical importance.
We think that relationships at Sandringham are very strong, but these articles challenge us all to think carefully about multiple aspects of our behaviour which may affect our relationships in our daily work. We are also facing new considerations as the school undergoes a significant increase in size from September with the second year of 8 form entry in Year 7 and the Sixth Form growing by 90+ students. This means that we need to be even more mindful of catering for every student’s needs, both pastorally and academically. There are more resources available and an increase in staff numbers, but the tutor role will be critical in ensuring that every student has a ‘go to’ person and that we can spot issues as they arise to avoid fire-fighting problems which could be avoided.
To start thinking about this, we are asking two questions of all staff;
‘Why do you do this job?’ and ‘What is the best part of your job’? In the vast majority of cases, the answer is along the lines of; ‘I want to make a difference to the future of my students’. Whilst this is absolutely through the teaching of our subject and the results that we help to facilitate, it is also through our every day care for the students in our classes, through the questions that we ask and the interest that we show aside from the tasks set in lessons. It is this very basic priority that we hope to highlight as we start the new year as we seek to help young people in our care grow and prepare for the next steps in their lives.Posted on 7 September 2018
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