Quality Assurance of Teaching and Learning in an Independent School
Mr Gilbert, Deputy Head Teacher, Eastbourne College
Please tell us a little about your school.
The College is an independent co-educational boarding and day school of approximately 650 pupils, located by the sea in the sunniest part of the country. We take advantage of our location to provide a well-balanced education focused on happy, healthy learning. The College was founded 150 years ago and we are proud of our heritage and traditions. We have recently completed a £35m development project and believe that our learners thrive in an environment built upon strong core values, whilst equipping them with the 21st century skills needed to prepare them confidently for life in the next stage.
How were you managing your quality assurance and appraisal prior to using Sisra Observe?
The College is academically selective, but good examination outcomes do not mean that we couldn’t do things better. Prior to adopting Sisra Observe we used a largely paper-based system that ticked the required boxes, affirmed good practice, but lacked traction. Also, the scope to make meaningful, measurable and consistent assessment of the quality of teaching and learning across the school was limited. What we wanted was a means to encourage staff to be more deeply invested in their own performance and professional development, feel valued for their contribution and to have the opportunity to capture reliable school-wide data upon which to set targets and make better-informed CPD decisions. Beneath the primary objective of improving pupils’ experiences and outcomes, these were the key pillars of our project brief.
How did you find the process of moving over to electronic and how did staff react?
We began by building a template focused squarely on lesson observation. Once the template was agreed, Heads of Department trialled the system by completing a lesson observation record using Sisra Observe, rather than our existing paper pro-forma. Heads of Department were able to add their reflections directly into Sisra Observe using an iPad or laptop as they observed the lesson. The simplicity and time efficiency of creating and completing the record this way were key factors in encouraging staff adoption. Similarly, the opportunity for the observed teacher to feedback by adding their own reflections and resources to the record was made easier and more efficient through capturing the observation this way.
Having established that Sisra Observe met the key requirements of our project brief we then began to build our self-evaluation and appraisal templates, together with templates for work scrutiny/learning walks etc. This went hand-in-hand with the development of new policy documentation, refreshing our staff performance expectations with the locus of responsibility falling to staff to evidence their developed skills rather than line managers, or others, making stand-alone judgements.
What’s the main benefit to your school now Sisra Observe is up and running?
As described above, our primary objective in adopting Sisra Observe was to improve experiences and outcomes for our learners. Our secondary aims of better quality assurance of teaching and learning and making staff feel valued and affirmed for best practice were also key and are already evident. Equally, by adopting consistent criteria for our lesson observation, self-evaluation and appraisal templates we now have much more transparency when, for example, we might need to make decisions regarding threshold or pay progression.
We believe that Sisra Observe has helped us develop an approach to our performance management that is genuinely developmental and not judgemental. Teaching staff are encouraged to evidence their developed practice and Heads of Department / other line managers feel empowered to quality assure that development, given that we have adopted uniform criteria with which to make measurement. For senior leaders, the opportunity to analyse whole-school performance data, both in cross-section and longitudinally means that the school can make much better decisions regarding training needs, peer support and resource allocation.
Is there anything you’re hoping to use Sisra Observe for in the future?
We’re still relatively early in our journey and plan to bed down the strategies we have employed so far before diversifying. However, we’re already thinking of ways in which we can similarly monitor, for example, pastoral or co-curricular aspects of a teacher’s contribution. We’re also thinking of mapping our support staff appraisal processes into the platform.