🏫 The 20-Question Autonomous School Test

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In 2010, Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit from a simple Twitter account through which he rapidly became the ‘most followed teacher on social media in the UK’. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the ‘500 Most Influential People in Britain’ by The Sunday…
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How autonomous is your school?

Last week, I visited a school in Staffordshire, England. It stands out as a ‘work’ highlight!

For many years, I’ve advocated a research model for teacher appraisal, professional development and developing whole-school culture. Throughout this website, you will find ideas, resources and countless practical examples (just ask and I’ll signpost them in the comments).

It’s worth at least defining what we mean by autonomy (Conditions for teacher efficacy – Hattie, 2020).

Defining teacher autonomy

  1. School staff are trusted to make important decisions
  2. Developing common conceptions of progress
  3. Shared beliefs about effective instruction, approaches and assessment
  4. Teachers are aware of what others are doing in the classrooms
  5. Goals are established/agreed upon by everyone; collaborative CPD
  6. Support staff help teachers carry out their duties
  7. School leaders show concern for the staff and protect them.

.. and what the opposite of being autonomous looks like (in this video).

Reflection questions

Visiting this school and playing a small part in their celebration of the work all staff have done throughout the year was a small indication of what all schools can achieve. I’ve listed a set of reflection questions below to consider as a benchmark when comparing your school culture to the one I visited:

  1. Does your site manager engage with appraisal?
  2. Do your support staff engage with professional development?
  3. Do your support staff also get the same diet of CPD as the teaching staff?
  4. Do all your members of staff participate in education research?
  5. Are your appraisal targets set from above, or curated bottom-up?
  6. Other than the traditional INSET days, do all your staff have regular CPD throughout the year?
  7. Do you have a process for nurturing and developing your own talent?
  8. Do your staff feel like they are part of a community or just a cog in a machine?
  9. Do you have a process for dealing with underperforming staff?
  10. How can the minutiae of lesson observation be separated from your capability procedures?
  11. Does your school still grade lessons?!
  12. Is there an established coaching culture?
  13. Is there a dedicated teaching and learning team?
  14. Do all staff receive coaching?
  15. Is there a wellbeing policy?
  16. Is there a wellbeing budget and staff lead?
  17. Does your school protect 0.1 per cent of its overall budget for staff professional development?
  18. Does your school grade teacher appraisal?
  19. Do you have a way of celebrating the great work that your staff do?
  20. Is your headteacher present at all CPD events?

As ever, school leaders must start with culture and end with cake!

It’s a very fine balance for school leaders to ensure all accountability measures and procedures are met, whilst also enabling their staff to be autonomous …


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