Friday, June 20, 2008

Initial Training

I'm not going to define what the creative partnership is yet, because I don't really know. I'm going to start with the questions it raised for me.

QUESTION 1 - why are we here?
Firstly, before we start, why are we here? (an interesting philosophical question at the best of times). On one level we (as in Paganel Primary - my school) are here because we succeeded in an application and interview, but we did that because we have identified that our children need motivation. And that comes down to our core purpose that we are here to raise standards of achievement and attainment. At Paganel we have come so far, but feel we are now stuck because our children will perform for us, i.e. they do well in tests when a member of staff they like is present, but they will not perform for their own purposes. So the children are not motivated by academic success and that's what we want to change. But if I'm honest, the reason I want them to change is so they can acheive and attain more.

There was an interesting exercise on Day 1 where we were asked to stand in different parts of the room according to why we thought we were there. The categories included "to create a fun and exciting school", "to give children skills for the future" (which, being a bit of idealist, was where I stood) and the like. The only person who stood by the poster labelled "to raise standards of attainment and achievement" was my good colleague Penny Thompson. But she was right - the core purpose behind all the reasons represented by the schools there, from developing a skills based curriculum, to getting professional artists in school, to raising staff knowledge was to raise standards of achievement and attainment.

I think we don't like to admit that, because in our heads it somehow pollutes the creative arts by limiting them with such language that we associate with inspection, rigour, success and failure. However I suspect, although I don't know yet, that some of us in teaching have a rather patronising view of the arts (and indeed artists), and that actually artists exist within a world where rigour and inspection is required, possibly even more intensely than in schools - in fact, now I'm thinking about it, I suppose artists don't get second chances like we do when we fluff a lesson or fail to indentify the learning needs of a child or groups of children - I don't know, but could it be that an artists reputation is down to their most recent piece of work and if that fails...

QUESTION 2 - have we got everyone on board?
The next thing impressed on me is the question 'but have we got everyone on board?'

The SLT (senior leadership team) have identified that improving the intrinsic motivation of the children is key to raising standards. We've told the staff, and informed the governors that we are on the creative partnerships programme, but what do they actually think about that? And what do the children and parents think about having this programme 'done to them'?

Pat Thompson, the professer from Nottingam Uni who gave the keynote address on the first day, talked about a process of change that involved all stakeholders (which we all know, but what do actually do about it...?). It would go something like this:

  1. What are we changing?
  2. Why are we changing?
  3. How do we know this is the right thing to change?
  4. Who says this?
  5. Who address this?
  6. What is going on here?

It made me think that if we are going to do this properly, then we're should use the first few weeks / months of the programme to go through that process with the staff, parents and pupils, otherwise the programme will only ever remain that, and when we finish, we will simply revert to how we were before. I'll sum it up by saying...

"for sustainability, we must all subscribe to the process."

It's probably still the case that the SLT should have 90% of the answers, but at the same time be prepared for tweaks, twists and surprising alterations to come from the other stakeholders involved. It's not our job to be patronising, but neither should we be obsequious...

QUESTION 3 - Can we design a complex plan for multiple phases with different start dates…?

Pat Thompson talked about 5 phases of change

  1. Stuff
  2. New ways of thinking
  3. Changes for staff and students
  4. Embedded changes
  5. Changes across the board

What was scary about this was that every organisation dips after phase 5, so you need to have new things that have already started to kick in when phase 5 in the last thing has been reached. I drew a picture...

I guess by asking this, I'm recognising that we are already involved in change... We are honing our assessment systems, integrating new government policies, such as the new frameworks for English and Maths, and other stuff too. We are at different points along the track of introducing these and need to recognise that we need to do all of them. Some of those things are short term and involve doing the best we can with what we've got, but what I like about the creative partnership is this notion of 'building capacity'. These means longer term change, but at the end of it, with more capacity built (for better teaching, better learning environment, or whatever), the future changes will be even more effective.

I don't know much about building capacity yet, although I did draw a picture of it.

QUESTION 4 - Are we committed to being explicit around the issues of building capacity?
Such as... completing dialogue, distributing leadership (and therefore management), government agenda for schooling to 18 and what that means for our families…

Because I don't know enough about this yet, I can't say much more, except that if we are committed to this notion of 'building capacity' then we need to change how we talk and work with each other. I just don't know what that looks like yet...

I'm about done now, except I did come up with some other questions for future consideration that we may need to think through...


Can we be honest about many start times for differing plans?

How many plates can we spin?

What about the process? Is it robust? Will it cope with staff change?

What about a decision making policy? Are children (SRC) involved in this or is it just tokenism?

We already have a 'change team' – can it represent the whole school and still drive the change school agenda?


We won’t finish. We can’t. Change goes on for ever. The old Chinese curse says, “May you live in interesting times.” We do. Tough. Get on with it.

I'd like to finish with the change halberd. The sharp axe bit is the quick short term, doing-the-best-we've-got-with-what-we've-been-given thing, and the pointy bit is the long term change to remove sticky problems, be more versatile and do more different things. I know it's a rather violent image, but it works for me...


Blogger Marcus said...

Hi Steve,

I've read your blog. So glad to see how much CP stuff is getting you thinking. I hope we can live upto expectations! I'm reallly impressed with the time and effort you've all put into this so far, and I know everyone at BS will be impressed with progress we've already made. Looking forward to 3rd October - Stan's Cafe have confirmed for afternoon, and will contact to arrange details - should I ask them to ring you for final arrangements?

September 19, 2008 at 9:12 AM  

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