Saturday, 17 March 2012

What makes a good science faculty? (ofsted related post)

I wanted to write up my notes from the 2011 ofsted report about science education in the UK. This should help me gain an idea on how I need to lead my new faculty towards being a strong unit educating our students to the best of our ability.

According to the Ofsted subject report for science, high performing schools have:
i) clear priorities for raising standards
ii) rigorous monitoring and evaluation of performance
iii) challenging target setting for individual pupils (I read this as high expectations of pupil performance)
iv) strong focus on the improvement of the quality of teaching and learning
v) staff planning together and sharing practice

To me this list makes perfect sense. The evaluation is an important part. Do schools and departments really look at what they are doing and the impact it is making or do they hope that it is happening? What does it take for something to genuinely be embedded and how can you tell?

Good evaluation means that clear priorities can be set and monitoring means that we can work towards reaching them and not going off target.

In terms of working together and sharing practice, I have seen this happen and know what it can look like. Staff planning together formally because they team teach or are teaching the same topic and also informally as they sit in the staffroom and discuss lessons. However, not all of the schools I have worked in have had a culture of discussing teaching and learning. And I do have a question mark hanging over what makes the difference.

The ofsted report goes on to discuss the curriculum of an outstanding science department.
- The curriculum will be planned collaboratively using the best ideas from the team and there will be a forum for sharing practice.
- There is a 'plan, do, review' cycle of the curriculum plans
- There are cross curricular elements of the schemes of work, allowing students to see the uses of science in society
- Clubs are used to engage students with less focus and confidence in science
- Key stage 4 curriculum options are best suited to the students

It is interesting that the clubs can be used to engage less focused students, when often they are targeted at gifted and talented and/or students. This is something I plan to bare in mind. But it poses a challenge, how do you engage students in science during their own time when they won't engage in lessons?

The leadership and management of an outstanding science faculty has a long list of characteristics:
1. There is tracking of the progress and attainment of students
2. Intervention and planning is informed by this tracking data
3. There are clear roles and responsibilities within the faculty
4. A clear standard of the quality of teaching
5. Any evaluation takes into account the views of all the major stakeholders
6. There is a vision for the inclusion of all Learners, breaking down the barriers to engagement
7. Leadership will have good links with parents and other outside agencies
8. Departmental training is focused on areas that most teachers find problematic
9. The departmental handbook has (i) clear guidance on teaching and learning and (ii) procedures for assessment for informing planning
10. "How science works" is a significant part of the schemes of work
11. Management must challenge the performance of less effective teachers
12. There is a balanced view of the strengths and weaknesses resulting from systematic monitoring of standards
13. Tracking of students will focus on HSW as well as knowledge and understanding
14. Information on the progress of students should be passed on to the next teachers
15. Training of teachers gives subject leaders a better understanding of the issues effecting standards

From this list my main issue is with taking the views of stakeholders into account. I have managed to build relationships with parents in my current role by making myself available to them so I hope to do that in my next role.

The teaching in good science departments is described as having variety of activities such as presentations by students, investigative work, research, projects, use of models, demonstrations, use of video clips and other media resources, card sorts and group discussions. Teachers don't talk for too long, they manage time well and provide sufficient challenge in lessons. The departments also have lively and enthusiastic science teachers who are reflective and keen to improve. There is also good assessment, peer and self assessment as well as marking of work.

I will use this when I review what is happening in my science faculty. How enthusiastic are the staff and how creative are they in the types of activity they are using.

All of the comments made in the ofsted report make sense. But seeing them written in one place help to focus be mind and give me a vision for the development of my own faculty in the future.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

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