Who, in school, does not have a role that is learning focused?
Ok, it is a rhetorical question but one that I think schools need to consider.
My view is that no one has a role that cannot be assessed using their impact on the quality of learning. But what I want schools to do is consider how much more strongly they can tie all the roles into student learning. In my own school we always tried to identify the unique contribution that each person and each role made towards our drive for excellence in learning.
We began with teachers and their role in directly impacting on learning. Training, good INSET, etc was always our aim. We then started to look at the things teachers do, and the systems that impacted on them to see if these supported the move towards excellence in learning. For example, we asked ourselves how well were learning assistants supporting learning. When we explored this we noted that some practices by LAs were not particularly helpful. Perhaps you have to check out this blog in the future to see what I mean and what we did?
But I want to take a look at the head of year role. This is often defined as a pastoral role. I have always been rather cautious about pastoral roles, not because students don’t sometimes need pastoral support, but because I know if a school has a good system for something it will usually find lots of work for the role to fulfil.
Let me digress a little. If a school has a great behaviour system, we really mean misbehaviour system, then that school will find lots of misbehaviours that need attention. What would happen if a school, instead of a (mis)behaviour system, had a similarly resourced behaviour for learning system? I bet that they could find lots of examples of great learning to build on! What would such a system look like? Back to the head of year role...
In many schools they know that roles need a learning focus and they say that their heads of year are learning focused. Hmnnn?! Just check what these heads of year actually do. They often are more concerned with removing the negative impact of disruption, misbehaviour, than with furthering the quality of learning for their year group. I know how damaging disruption is in a class - John Hattie cites the highly negative impact of just one disruptive student. What I want to assert is that a focus on that aspect, removing misbehaviour should be overridden by a focus on ensuring there are good learning behaviours and that teachers are fully supported and informed about what constitutes good learning for a year group and for a particular class and for each individual student. That role can be the learning role that a head of year adopts.
If we stop a child misbehaving then what behaviour does that child now adopt. Too often we simply expect the child to now show good learning behaviours as if learning behaviours are simply the absence of misbehaviours. Sometimes a child misbehaves because he or she has no appropriate, secure alternative behaviour. We need to train such students to adopt good learning behaviours not just stop poor behaviour.
So what does a head of year in my learning focused system actually do...? Have to wait for a future blog for some of these details. And we might have some input from a new head of year who wants to explore this new and, for her, exciting role. I am hoping she will blog how it works in practice as it happens.