Parklands is a school with quite a high twitter profile, due largely to the extremely large as life head and recent outstanding ofsted. The opportunity to visit schools as part of CPD came along in my own school so this was were I went.
I have come to think of the advice Alix Ferguson gives to young managers is very apt for teacher. Choose the right chairman is basically choose the right Headteacher. As a teacher you manage a squad (read class) and the results reflect your performance. Realism and support are what teachers need as do football managers. So is Chris Dyson a Simon Jordan (perma-tanned regular on Sky Sports) or Elton John (well… You know Elton John) of chairmen?
First thing that hit me wasn’t the Bear-like hug welcome or the blaring music in the hall that plays all day, it was the ‘fridge’. Most heads offices look the same and can be picked up and placed in most other work places. Not this one, covered with work, letter and pictures that the children have brought in. Imagine the fridge of a nursery child which is covered with paintings multiplied by 1000. That’s the office the head ‘works’ in.
The tour begins and it is basically lots of smiles, praise and of course times table questions. Each class we walk in Mr Dyson throws out a question that children must multiply then subtract from 100. In. An. Instant. This passion for maths bleeds through the day with a great example being later a Y2 busting to share his 4 x’s knowledge with me. This isn’t for show, this is a key part of Parklands. Practice for a purpose. Each coach (read teacher) knows the goal of their team: become times tables masters.
Then the first BIG event of the day, Funday Friday assembly number 1. Wow. In an age were heads can tend to delegate assembly duties to staff, Chris Dyson leads it with input of the kids. Not just any assembly, but a pure and utter celebration of joy. Prizes for great attendance in the form of dodgeball, cakes and lessons with the Head! Handshakes replaced by double hi-5s and hugs, awkward walks to the front with celebrations with the crowd, movement and music – all these aspects are part of what is basically a kids game show in a school hall. No wonder the kids buzz and love school. There is even a catch-phrase like a chant at a football match.
Time in a class was spent watching a rising star in Miss Nolan teach maths. The way AFL is applied in a same day intervention, in fact about 20 mins later due to the use of an assembly or PHSCE oral lesson led by a TA, means that reteaching can occur and improve learning. This same day intervention, burning passion for instant tables recall from the head and the use of TTrockstars means that the children make fabulous progress.
There are no high-stakes tests at Parklands, instead the system of assessment means that teacher collect data based on the learning they see and a team of leaders select a sample of children to assess. Again, the chairman placing trust in the coaches to know what their team can do and what they need to work on to improve.
This picture may appear in every office up and down the country. At some point in the hyper-active day I had to ask Chris if he found time to actually do his job, you know the boring stuff. Turns out he does. In his own words the kids graft Monday to Thursday, making it easy for him to crack on. When Funday Friday comes, well it is non-stop.
- Assembly with array of awards which impact on attendance and behaviour
- Breakfast with the head – sausage butties
- Assembly number 2 (more on that soon)
Times Tables Champs is the final assembly of the day (I have to point out that while writing this that I feel I’m not doing it justice). Starting like a circus by a child announcer and filled with parents who want to come along, the stars of the week find out why they have been selected. It quickly moves into a times table battle in which class champs compete for the right to be the best. All of this is watched by some children who have earned the right to have the best seats in the house (pizza and drinks on sofas at the front). Every child is greeted with sheer love by the head as they go to the front with their achievements held up as the best thing ever… Until the next child. This passion is quite a sight to witness.
It’s clear what type of chairman Chris Dyson is… The Rocket Man he is.
Things I learnt:
- Cash is key – beg, borrow and steal to ensure the best. Small class sizes make a difference.
- Work hard, play hard – if kids love school they will will love learning.
- Work hard, play hard – make the systems work for you staff to reduce workloads
- Passion – enough said.
A huge thanks to all the staff who. Made me feel very welcome as well.
Disclaimer: I’m part of a fantasy football league with @chrisdysonHT hence shoehorned football references!