Today, I visited a school in Coggeshall, near Colchester, Essex, called the Honywood Community school. Uncharacteristically I hadn’t had the time or the opportunity to do my research before the visit, normally I read the most recent Ofsted report and look at the headline figures posted online. This normally provides context to what I observe.
Meeting the headteacher James Saunders, who talked through his, sorry, their vision for the school and how this is decimated into capitals, socially, cultural, knowledge and organisation and professional (for the staff and pupils). Capital is a great analogy because for me any capital (business or personal) affords you opportunities and all of the above are required to seize all that is given to our pupils.
We talked about James’ own children and their love of learning, which has been nurtured through enrichment, I really got the sense that he wanted to give his pupils the same life chance as his own children.
In my tour around the school, I was shown a multitude of lessons. The most pupils seemed completely engaged in most lessons, but what really struck me was how happy the pupils were. All the pupils, I spoke to, could articulate the why, what and how they were learning and how much they enjoyed the subject and the aspect of the lesson they particularly enjoyed. With P8 being a prevailing factor in many schools I have visited, it was refreshing to see such appreciation of the arts and the open bucket subjects. Pupils are actively encouraged into these subjects;
‘You serve the children first and foremost.’
Observing Science, Music, Maths, English, Humanities lessons they were in the form of different shapes and sizes; different styles and structures. James assures me that he works on a trust basis, teachers are the professionals in the classroom and make decisions as professionals in their lessons.
Continuing professional development, at Honywood Community school all teachers will visit another school as part of their development and bring back an idea or stimulus to impact their classrooms and teams this includes the headteacher and his senior leadership team. This will form an action research style project where the aim isn’t necessarily success in the classroom but the learning and development of the teacher.
This outward facing element of development is rarely utilised. It will be fascinated to see the gain when I next visit.
Finally Honywood’s use of Edtech. Every pupil is provided with an iPad. In the lessons I saw these were used in a variety of different ways, most impressive was the way a young science teacher has built his resources and round their virtual learning area. If you want to see something innovative around Edtech and something that has an impact on pupil outcomes I would advise a visit.
I’m glad I hadn’t looked at the data or Ofsted report pre-visit and I’m not going to either. Today, I visited a school where the
pupils and teachers were both respected, were happy and their well being was
valued. Take a bow Honywood Community School, today you taught an old dog new tricks.