QM Evaluation: Wootton Upper School

Wootton Upper School were awarded a silver Quality Mark in June 2019. Here is what subject leader Kristina Johns had to say about the process: 

QM assessors now contact schools at 3, 6, 9 and 12 months in the process. 

We hoped that the Quality Mark would be an opportunity to move the department forward and to reflect on our practice. We also hoped it would help build the status of history and our department across the school and in our local community.

What was the most challenging/daunting aspect of working towards the Quality Mark? 

The audit took a great deal of careful thought and discussion as a department. We also found it difficult to know how to approach this.

What were your biggest success stories during the process? What impact has QM had?

We have built a real sense of enthusiasm and community through enrichment and lessons, especially with our year 9 and 10 cohort and we feel the quality mark process helped us to develop this. At present we hope it will raise the aspirations of other departments across the school. It has also pushed the team to think reflectively and strategically about long term curriculum planning which we believe will benefit the whole school as we share our vision and methodology with others. We are more limited in scope as we have year 9 in KS3 only. It did help to push us to build links with our feeder schools and influence their history curriculum. We have embedded more routine and consistency across the curriculum throughout the year which has helped students become more knowledgeable. We also have planned a two-year strategy to push the curriculum on. The process has been a launch pad for curriculum improvement from the input came during the assessment.

Our team have worked hard to ensure lessons are enquiry based, challenging and encourage deep historical thinking at every opportunity. We have definitely improved the quality of teaching over the course of the year. We hope the changes we have made will have had an impact on results in August, we’ve certainly seen early evidence of this from our Year 10 cohort.

The Quality Mark has also been instrumental in highlighting the importance of history to wider school leadership and also in pushing me to guide the department towards meeting the standards.

Students choosing history in both KS4 and 5 has increased this year and I believe that is in part due to the improvements we’ve made as part of the QM process. We also have reached out more to the community and will continue to do so, with the added clout of having the silver quality mark. The process has been a launching point for further improvement. We hope to ‘go for gold’ next time as we have a very clear vision, now that we have been through the process, of what needs to be done to get there.

How supportive was documentation? 

The documentation was very clear and I found it easy to use, especially in conjunction with the case studies. We actually found it difficult to know if we were ‘doing it right’. Not in terms of following the steps but actually the ‘hard thinking’ and reflection that the audit requires is quite difficult to self-generate. I think some early input via phone or video call would be extremely helpful. The online portfolio was very easy to use. I replicated the documents in number order which made it easy to upload them.

How supportive was your assessor?

Robin was easy to work with and had a very clear vision of what he expects good history teaching to look like. We communicated well and enjoyed working with him. He challenged us appropriately and we agreed on what our development areas are as a department. Speaking to Robin earlier in the process would have been beneficial. Essentially, We felt Robin’s input was extremely helpful and would have liked more of it!

Final thoughts

The Quality Mark is an excellent opportunity for departments to reflect and move forward in all aspects of teaching and learning. The focus on good quality history gives a powerful message to the school and helps to empower teachers. Raising the profile of our subject and teachers within our school and community is a really big positive for us. But more importantly the professional input on how we can improve our department is undoubtedly going to have the biggest long term impact. It has also given us the momentum we need to develop links with our feeder schools and the wider community.

How can we improve? 

An interim ‘chat’ about priorities would be useful. We could have made more effective progress.  It would also be useful to know of any ‘red flags’ that the HA has. For example, many schools have a 3 year GCSE now.

Perhaps some video clips of other schools explaining how they approached the audit would be useful as this would help with the ‘self-generated’ reflection.

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