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Headmaster’s Blog - October 2013

Posted: 14th October 2013 | Category: Headmaster's Blog

Last week I visited one of our sister schools, Weston Green in Thames Ditton, as it was the termly Governance Meeting for Heads in the Southern Group of Bellevue Schools.  Lucia, ever-charming and illustrious, treated us to a Year 5 assembly about a visit to the Marie Rose.  It was a fact-filled, fun-filled presentation given by eloquent and confident pupils – most enjoyable!

The theme of our meeting was the Quality of Teaching and Learning in our respective schools.  Each Head delivered an in-depth presentation which examined achievement in his or her respective school; the governors and the other heads then examined the evidence and suggestions were made as to how we could further improve the quality of teaching and learning in our schools.

One of the best ways to promote an environment of excellence is through lesson observations.  This is a developmental and supportive process.  Lesson observation and surrounding dialogue is a part of a teacher’s “language of learning”. We teachers can learn a lot from watching others and being observed can provide a valuable perspective on our own practice.

At Skippers we are all involved in lesson observations.  The Head, members of the SLT and Subject Co-ordinators run a cycle of observations, judge the lesson according to established criteria and feedback to the teachers.  Teachers are actively encouraged to watch the lessons of other staff and they derive benefit from the process.  Together with an inspection visit each term by one of the Bellevue Heads and annual lesson observations by the UK Schools Director, Steven Wade, this all helps to drive up standards.

The governor who has responsibility on the Bellevue Education Committee for overseeing the Quality of Learning and Teaching in our schools is Jerry Goddard.  He is the Director of the Training and Learning Centre in Portsmouth; he is also a highly regarded member of the National Advanced Skills Teacher Assessment Agency and is very experienced in observing and judging high quality teaching and learning.  Jerry also has his own education consultancy company specializing in leadership development.

At the end of the meeting Jerry gave a stirring presentation about what makes an excellent teacher and gave us all food for thought about how we should continue to develop our Staff Appraisal Systems.

I came away invigorated and keen to embark on the next cycle of lesson obs!

On the journey home, whilst stuck in the habitual jam on the M25, my mind wandered back through the aeons of time to the halcyon days of my childhood and I reflected on teachers past.

 A number I admired:  a Latin teacher who enthused us and never used a text book; a German teacher who taught us through spy stories, songs and expletives; all my Rugby and Cricket coaches; and the lecturers in Medieval High German and the Goethe, Brecht and Schiller specialists at Exeter University.

The majority, however, I did not hold in high esteem.  They were an admixture of the indolent, the sadistic, the well-intentioned and the inept.  They probably entered the vocation and profession of teaching for the wrong reasons  - as Terry Pratchett once stated: “It would seem that you have no useful skill or talent whatsoever," he said. "Have you thought of going into teaching?” 

Thank goodness the new breed of teacher and trainee teacher is not of this ilk!  And I am glad that at Skippers we actively encourage people considering a teaching career to come in and observe our teachers in action. 

So far this term we have enjoyed the company of Helena (a 1st Class Honours Graduate, fresh out of uni) who stayed with us for a week and wanted to get experience of Key Stages 1 and 2 at work.  She worked alongside our practitioners and this has revitalised her wish to become a teacher.

On her heels followed Steve Little.  Steve wanted to become part of the Graduate Teacher Programme using his specialism in English and Drama.  This would be a big change in his career and he wanted to gain some experience about the teaching of our more Senior pupils, especially Years 6 – 8, before launching himself into some serious retraining!

Steve is an absolute natural!  Bright, charismatic and approachable with a real sense of theatre…just the key elements of a teacher who, with training, will fit the top echelon of William Arthur Ward’s hierarchy of teachers: “The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” 

I received the following email from Steve after his final day with us and by publishing it, I can pass on his thanks and kind sentiments to the whole of our vibrant community!


Dear Tim

Thank you so much for allowing me to come in to Skippers Hill over
the last few days for my classroom observations. It has been a great
experience for me and has enhanced my overall impression of the
teaching profession.

Your teachers have shown me that by being at ease, yet in control,
they are able to impart knowledge, encourage opinions (both individual
and collective) and nurture independent development. The classroom
atmosphere they create is a safe, almost cosy, environment where all
pupils are heard and none fear ridicule. It's very special and is very
inspirational. The kind of teaching that I will try to replicate.

But after my observations it is the children who have left the biggest
impression on me. I have a new found respect for Key Stage 2 and 3 children.
They are bombarded with information, data, facts, figures, theories
and rules at an alarming rate. Yet they take it in their stride.
Captivated in Latin, laughing in Maths, stretched in Poetry,
stimulated in Geography, challenged in Games and encouraged in
Music... and that was just me! Plus very well fed at lunchtime too.

You are creating confident, gracious and happy young people. They are
well cared for in your institution and, most importantly, prepared for
the next stage of their development and their later life even.

And then of course there's the Head. He's a pretty inspirational chap too!

Thank you so much again for making me feel so welcome and giving me
such freedom to roam. All of your staff were brilliant and went out of
their way to make me feel at ease. They also gave me that precious
commodity, time. Over lunch and in the staff room I asked them for
their frank opinions on a career as a teacher. Their responses were
resoundingly positive.

I'm not put off yet. Quite the opposite.

Thank you again Tim. I look forward to seeing you soon.

Best wishes


Steven Little

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