Performance management software helps The Polesworth School meet the challenge of an impending inspection

About The Polesworth School

The Polesworth School is a larger than average phase-two academy in Tamworth, Staffordshire, 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. Pupils gaining five or more GCSEs, including English and Maths, reached an all-time high of 65% in 2013. 

Concerned that the next visit by Ofsted was imminent, Head of School, Maura Favell, implemented an online performance management solution called BlueSky Education to ensure the school is inspection ready when notification arrives.

The Community Academies Trust

In a drive to share best practice and address local pockets of under-performance, Polesworth joined forces with neighbouring primary school Birchwood  to create The Community Academies Trust (CAT) which now includes Dordon Primary School and Wood End Primary School. Further schools are set to join the CAT within the next few months and the plan is to implement BlueSky across them all to enhance consistency and ensure that they too are inspection ready. Each school will nominate a member of the leadership management team (LMT) to take responsibility for BlueSky and together will ensure that the process of evaluation is consistent across the Trust.

Secondary Executive Head Teacher, Philip Hamilton, working alongside Primary Executive Head, Ed May, play an active role in the Trust. Mauras remit is to ensure standards are maintained at Polesworth.

Here Maura describes the impact BlueSky has made on her school.....

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 discovered the solution when I attended the Association of School and College Leaders’ Annual Conference and saw a live demonstration of BlueSky Education, an online performance management and CPD tool for schools.

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, designed to reduce the burden of performance management, we settled upon BlueSky Education because it provided the tools required to implement, manage and track a clear, consistent and robust appraisal policy, linked to school improvement priorities. BlueSky, creators of the software, offered the complete solution covering reviews, objective setting, CPD, lesson observations, work scrutiny, learning walks and self-evaluation.

BlueSky Education enables us to capture all the data we need to measure the quality of teaching effectively and accurately focus 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.

Implementation of the solution across all the schools will give the Executive Headteacher and Director an accurate overview of the whole Trust, whilst maintaining appropriate access for other colleagues.

Benefits and results

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 enroll senior and middle management staff on national professional qualification courses run by HTI.  BlueSky has enabled us to make SMARTER decisions.

     
   
   
 
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