Hayesbrook School visit

I had the great pleasure of visiting the outstanding Hayesbrook School on 19th and 20th March 2009.  The co-heads, Nigel and Debbie, and their staff were extremely generous with their time in showing us around.

Hayesbrook School is an all boys non-selective school in Tonbridge, Kent. It is located literally, but certainly not metaphorically, in the shadow of the Judd School, a local grammar school.

Co-headship with an emphasis on distributed leadership – Nigel and Debbie. Co-headship started when Nigel was asked to run another school and Debbie became acting head – this continued for 18 months. When Nigel returned he was unknown by 2 year groups and some staff and Debbie had a desire to continue with headship.

Led to a model of co headship being adopted. Questionnaires have confirmed that the majority of governors, staff and students belief it has been an improvement on the previous model.

They describe the SLT as being HOT – honest, open and trust. Focus upon the importance of open discussions remaining within SLT.

Preference for schools is set after results of 11 plus is known. Just had a survey ofsted and it looked at the impact of leadership in each area of the school.

How do boys learn best? Teachers don’t sit down! Staff must use their full repertoire of skills to ensure the boys are compliant. One hour lessons are split into small chunks. Many activities ensure busy and compliant boys.

DVD has been produced by students that has been a vehicle to promote student achievement. Display everything!

ICT young leaders in addition to sports leaders. This is on the verge of being accredited. Also leaders in languages, literacy and humanities. They take sports leaders out to Thailand through the dreams and teams project run by the British Council.

Effort league tables are shown throughout the school for each of the years. End of year raffle for top students. League table based upon effort. Letters home for improvement and absolute positions. Areas on league are based upon football leagues.

Unsung heroes’ lunch with parents invited. The task is to raise self belief; this is vital after the failure to get into the grammar schools. Sports presentation evening takes places annually.

All staff are given the option to be a mentor and the local lions club are invited to be mentors as well.

Litaracy leaders spoke about working with Tower Hamlets primary schools. Introduced secondary school life and then played a variety of games, for example, line up the leader based upon how old they were – the moral being not to judge a book by it’s cover. Next they will be working with year 7 students who are C/D borderline with the aim of improving literacy skills.

Watched a drama group that were unsupervised as teacher was assessing a group in a side room. All boys were on-task despite being left alone. On the wall in the drama classroom was a board that gave clear indicators of the progress of each student. This was found to be a great motivator.

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In each room there are key words, level descriptors, GCSE coursework chart, results that celebrate success, topics that will be taught in each year.

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On tutor board there is: our vision learning together, how your tie must look.

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Maths is the top performing department. Business and PE are the most popular subjects.

Subjects are taught differently to the various sets. English lessons were observed – sets 1 and 2 were being taught in lines with fairly traditional teaching. A set 4 group were taught with all tables pushed to one side acting out a section from the book.

Interestingly, there are two female teachers in the PE department!

Points are awarded onto the students’ smart card for healthy eating choices. These can then be converted into free meals or saved up for cinema tickets.

There is a focus upon improving literacy for the boys.

Boy specific teaching activities have been identified.

FFT data is used as a baseline to provide targets.

Learning support assistants rather than teaching assistants.

The sports specialism is embedded throughout the school. It is also used with the student leaders. Subjects use their notice boards to highlight the links with sport.

Applied learning specialism is design to ensure learning is applied, not just the applied courses. Timetable is suspended for 5 days a year for each year group.

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