Harlington School is a large secondary school in Hillingdon, Middlesex. It has held the IQM award since 2011 with reaccreditation in 2014 when it became an IQM Centre of Excellence. The school and its practices have been reviewed annually since then and it once again gained reaccreditation in May 2017.
A great deal of important developmental work has taken place in the last year since the previous IQM Centre of Excellence review. This has been an extremely positive year, with the school building on its successes of the past few years and going from strength to strength in all aspects of its work.
The school now has a full cohort of pupils in year 7 and is oversubscribed for the new intake in September 2017, which is a great achievement for the school that has clearly transformed its reputation in the local area, due to its successes in recent years, in terms of the progress and the very positive behaviour of its students.
Developments – Improving Teaching and Learning
Developments this year have included a major focus on changing the approach to improving teaching and learning across the school. ‘Culture walks’ take place regularly and focus on the challenge and engagement of students. The approach adopted is one that helps teachers to move forward in their teaching skills in a very positive way that is tailored to their individual needs. This contrasts with the rather formal approach with grades for all lesson observations that had been needed in the past. No notice is given to teachers when lesson ‘drop-ins’ take place and, as the approach is non-threatening and the culture walks are a regular occurrence, it means that there is ongoing and open dialogue between teachers and line managers, coaches, lead practitioners or SLT re the teaching and learning seen.
This is a measure of the step change that has taken place in the school, which is clearly now in a new phase of development with great self-confidence in its ability to continue to progress in its own way and with its own priorities.
An important aspect of this work has been developing the leadership role of middle leaders with a coaching approach supporting this, under the reflective and strategic leadership of the Deputy head teacher, who was previously the Inclusion Leader.
The strategy adopted has involved empowering middle leaders through a supportive line management structure, underpinned by CPD, enabling good practice and ideas to be shared collegiately by subject leaders. The school’s approach to teaching and learning now has a major focus on stretching and challenging more able students, due partly to the changing nature of the intake. Teachers are encouraged to plan to the higher ability students in their classes and differentiate downwards. This strategy ensures that more able students are genuinely challenged and are not simply provided with additional/ harder work.
The approach is having a positive impact and teachers are supported by subject leaders and lead practitioners. Subject leaders spoken to highlighted the dramatic changes that have taken place in recent years. They feel that there is a great deal of consistency across the school and there is excellent teamwork along with supportive structures to enable staff to progress in a less pressured way. They like the open-door approach to monitoring through culture walks and they also encourage peer observations to take place within and across their teams.
Coaching to Improve Practice
The team of four lead practitioners also play an important role in coaching individual teachers and whole teams to improve practice. They also focus on developing stretch and challenge and aim “to move teachers from good to great”! They are also trying to develop ‘FLIP’ learning; the use of technology by teachers and strategies for students on pupil premium. They meet regularly with the Deputy head to discuss their priorities and have recently introduced working lunches that staff are invited to if they wish to discuss ideas over a meal. The lead practitioners have noticed an improvement in the self-confidence of staff, that students arrive in class more prepared for learning and that they are more engaged in learning.
Excellent Student Behaviour
They also mentioned the excellent behaviour of students, due to the consistency of application of the behaviour management policy and the superb CPD, which is tailored to their needs and enables very useful sharing of good practice to take place.
“I enjoy teaching here. We are part of a team. There is always someone to talk to you and to support you. There are no cliques here”.
Students are very happy, articulate and positive and behave very well around the school and in lessons. They speak very highly of their school and its staff, for whom they have great respect and they know that they are genuinely listened to and cared for.
Year 7 students spoken to, explained confidently and with enthusiasm, the many ways in which they are provided with opportunities to develop their individual skills and talents and the support given to them whatever their needs. “I used to struggle with Maths but now I am confident and I have improved because my teacher gave me extra help at lunchtime”, “The teachers are very nice and kind here and they help you to go above and beyond”, “We love the rewards we get for scholarship, passion and inspiration, which make you really want to get involved”, “We get exciting rewards such as ice skating, bowling and a visit to Thorpe Park”, “It’s exciting because teachers push you and they all encourage you, so you improve and then you’re surprised at what you’ve achieved”, “The teachers are wonderful and everyone is very friendly to you”, “It helps me to do better and to have aspirations for the future”.
Support for Students
Two bilingual learners, who have attended Ascension School and are now in mainstream classes, explained how they were befriended and supported in the early days when they arrived at the school from other countries, speaking no English. They have high praise for the school, the students and the staff, who have helped them greatly. They now speak fluent English, after only a short time at the school, and are self-confident and aspirational about their futures.
The school’s work with its feeder primary schools has continued this year with great success. The school is now very popular in the borough and large numbers of pupils are applying for the school, some travelling from different parts of the borough or neighbouring boroughs.
Parents are also more engaged and turn up to the school in large numbers for the transition visits/parents’ evenings that are arranged. There are three taster afternoons for new pupils in the summer term and their parents are invited to attend at the same time, to find out more about the school. There is also a transition day in July, which helps teachers to find out more about the new children.
Primary schools are now providing very good information about students and the transition project on renewable energy, which is in its second year of development, is being fine-tuned in the light of issues in the first year.
The School Ethos
The ethos of the school is characterised by its welcoming atmosphere, its high expectations and its very supportive, friendly, happy, calm and caring approach. The Head teacher and SLT provide superb leadership, with very clear direction and a supportive, open approach. As a result, the school is an energetic, happy and harmonious place to learn. Students are expected to make excellent progress during their time at the school and staff go to great lengths to help them to achieve the best possible results. Students are encouraged to try hard to build their self-confidence and, because of this consistent effort, students’ progress, often from low starting points, is excellent.
Inclusion is at the heart of the school’s purpose and there is a consistent drive to ensure that everything that can be done will be done to meet the diverse needs of students. Teaching and support staff are valued for their skills and expertise with support staff playing an important role in the school, providing crucial support, for pupils with a range of different needs.
Staff are proactive, flexible and motivated and their ideas and expertise are valued. This is a reflective community where very interesting developmental work takes place to ensure strategies meet the needs of pupils.
Exceptional features of this school include the overall positive ethos of including, listening to, challenging and supporting all students; the embedded culture of inclusion throughout the school; the aspirational leadership of the Head teacher and SLT, the self-confidence, engagement and friendliness of students and the excellent teamwork and reflective practice of teaching and support staff ensures that the school is always moving forward.
The school is continually developing its practice on inclusion. It was at its most recent review last month that the school was awarded IQM Flagship School status. It joins a large and growing number of schools pursuing one of the coveted IQM enhanced awards.
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