Quality Mark Evaluation - Sketchley Hill Primary School
Before setting out on the Quality Mark project, we felt that history already had a high-profile throughout the school. As a subject leader I was lucky that the staff and pupils were enthusiastic about all things historical. The opportunity to complete the QM process would help us to delve deeper into how we as teachers were delivering history and how we could improve our existing practice, especially in terms of historical concepts such as enquiry.
During the year long process itself, the most difficult aspect to deal with was the fact that as a school we were also dealing with the build up to an important OFSTED inspection. It would have been so easy to focus on the core subjects during this time, so it was crucial for us to keep our curriculum balanced and for me to plan carefully for the rest of the year, in order to meet the criteria on the HA list.
Our biggest success has to be the link that we have developed with our local history society. The coincidental anniversary of the beginning of the First World War, and the needs of the HA criteria, provided a perfect opportunity to develop a whole school project with help from outside agencies. As a result, we now have a long term connection to people with an interest in history in the community.
The impact of the process on the school has been a highly positive one. Obviously, gaining the award has been good for morale, after a difficult and stressful couple of years for the staff. It has also shown us that there is life outside of ‘English' and ‘Maths'! As history leader, I now have a detailed understanding of the teaching and learning that occurs at Sketchley Hill, to a depth that perhaps other leaders do not. Additionally, I have been able to clearly identify future areas for development, with the aim of improving our silver award to gold.
Developments made as a result of meeting QM criteria:
Teaching and Learning - detailed analysis of pupil voice; system for evaluating trips and outside agencies established; lesson plan evaluation generated clear next steps for future action plans
Leadership - strong links with the community established; long term planning rationale for the new history curriculum; staff and subject leader CPD; parent voice obtained with positive actionable outcomes
Curriculum - year group planning adapted to meet the needs of the new curriculum; history policy updated; CPD delivered to encourage historical enquiry in lessons
Achievement - evaluation of classroom display; new assessment system in readiness for ‘life without levels'
Enrichment - discreet history webpage created for school website; cross-curricular links identified and embedded; whole school project undertaken with help from links with the community
Guidance and Process
The online registration and payment process was very easy to complete; the office staff were happy to help, especially as an invoice system was available.
Because we participated in the pilot, some of the materials sent to schools developed and changed as the year progressed - it was important that the primary and secondary criteria were differentiated. Although there were options on what evidence to present for each of the points, it was not clear at first that specific pieces would be required, for example: a rationale for our curriculum overview.
The process itself is easy to complete provided that long term goals are set at the beginning. For instance: INSET time is set aside; events in the school calendar are decided early and staff are given plenty of time to provide planning and examples of work.
I understand that the online portfolio is useful for assessors to gauge where a school is at but a physical portfolio enabled me to see developments taking place as time went on, and it gave me some confidence in that I could refer to it if I forgot anything, particularly during the assessor's visit. (Additionally, a 4mb upload limit made it quite difficult, at times, to submit some files such as photographs). I can now keep the physical portfolio, continue to add to it and use it as evidence in performance management.
I would be deceiving if I did not admit that I was nervous about our assessment visit. The intention of the assessor is to celebrate success but it is difficult not to equate the experience with OFSTED! Our assessor certainly knew his subject and was more than happy to offer help and advice; it was good that it became a two-way process, not just an ‘inspection'. I would advise other subject leaders to plan their day well, get the staff and head on-board and highlight practice that the school does as the norm, not just for show. (Interestingly, we have now developed a link with the shadowing assessor, who has asked me to speak to his education students!)
Costs and Benefits
The main benefit of the quality mark process, as stated earlier, was the opportunity to complete a rigorous self-evaluation of history throughout the school. There are some aspects of the criteria that could be adapted for other curricular areas if leaders wished to examine their own subject. Inevitably, achieving the award helps to advertise to parents and the wider community what we already thought - that we teach history well! It is nice to celebrate a range of successes at school rather than just through obligatory national results. This means the school can gain some publicity in the local press, increasing our profile to prospective parents.
Because the cost was removed as a participator in the pilot process, it is difficult to say at this early stage whether it would be affordable for schools. It has to recognised however that there will be administrative costs involved for HA and if high quality assessors are going to be employed, then the price will have to take this into account.
Finally, in terms of on-going impact, our process has just begun. We were delighted to achieve the silver award but I know there will be a determination to go one better and go for gold. This guarantees that history will continue to develop at our school for the foreseeable future.
- Sketchley Final Report
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