Visit to Salford Cluster of Schools

On Day 2 half of the Tour Group visited schools within the Salford area of Manchester. Within Salford there area a number of schools involved in a Teaching School Cluster – two of these schools we visited on this day. Check out one of the schools information:

St Patricks Roman  Catholic school in the area of Manchester was our first school visit today. Five years ago this school was performing well below the national standards and had a reputation for behavior problems, low standards and very low morale amongst students and staff. Now this school is performing in and above the top three schools in the UK and specializes in the arts. Barbara who is head teacher of St Patricks took us through her, and the schools, journey as they changed the shape and culture of education for the students of this school.

Developing systems was a key aspect of laying the foundation for the successful cultural change that transformed “surviving” into “thriving” for this school. A quality leadership team with a contributive leadership approach across the entire staff was also established and Barbara lead us through the need for holding all staff accountable for every student. To do this data was used and leadership did not accept the excuse of ‘poor clientele’ – rather the challenge was for everyone to lift outcomes and to accurately assess student levels and ensure that every child performed above the expected levels. Three years on, staff are able to predict accurately all student levels with this confirmed through government testing.

Walking into one of the meeting rooms you see a wall of student photos with individualized goals; expected level of achievement; and as tests from the authorities are sat and result come in these are added.

Talking to students about their learning, highlighted how well they articulated their understanding of what was expected of them in their learning. They spoke about one to one sessions at lunchtime and after school to assist student in areas they required additional help. They spoke of not only individual learning plans but of teacher support in planning both weekly and a term comprehensive timetables extending past the school day to include extra curricula commitments, social time and study. When asked what makes a good teacher and if they considered their teachers to be good, without hesitation students informed us how teachers developed their confidence by encouraging them – and if they were struggling with a learning concept, teachers would find other ways to develop the skill or knowledge to attack the problem until they were successful (differentiated learning and planning in action).

At lunch time in a large hall that had earlier echoed when we sat and chatted, saw hundreds of students respectfully wander through to purchase their lunch and find a seat to eat it, we were able to chat quietly with them and was amazed how orderly and respectful everyone was.

To try and capture our full visit would require Barbara and her team to publish a book around their journey, however this brief synopsis has hopefully given you a small window into the successes of this inspirational leader and her team.

In relation to recruitment of teaching staff within St Pats, any teacher appointment is undertaken via a rigorous process of observing the applicant teaching, student feedback and participation in the interview; and finally if they are still on the short list then a panel interview. It was a clear message that only teachers with that ‘WOW’ factor will be appointed. A no appointment will often be made rather than the wrong appointment.  As was clearly evident, if outstanding educational outcomes are to be achieved then only outstanding teachers can produce them.  If we settle for ok and average then you need to expect ok and average results and school culture.