When I got to Wembley Park Station I somehow managed to not see the massive sign for the school opposite the station and ended up wandering around near the stadium for about 15 minutes before I eventually found the school.
The office staff were very welcoming and pleasant and I had a nice chat with the Head teacher (@Miss_Snuffy) before going to see a Maths lesson. I watched the end of break time routine which was interesting. Each of the four tutor groups lined up. When the tutor group nearest the door was lined up perfectly they were sent to their lesson. This takes a little while but I think it is probably worth spending 5 minutes ensuring that pupils are calm and in the right frame of mind to learn before going to their lesson after break. I wonder whether the routine will be sustainable as the school grows.
When I went into the lesson there were clearly established routines for taking in homework and giving out books that worked extremely well and were very efficient. All the pupils had done their homework and it appeared to me that they had done it pretty well.
The pupils were doing a test for much of the lesson. The test was a multiple choice test that they were doing on tablets. They were all expected to do their working out in their books and there were clear expectations about how the working out would be presented that all but one of the pupils followed. All the pupils were engaged and working in silence. The tests are self-marking and the feedback is instant. Two of the first 3 pupils to finish had 95% and then had to go through their work and find their error. The test was sufficiently challenging that it took me a little while to find the error (not reading the question fully and thus not simplifying one of the answers).
I then went on a tour of the school with another visitor and two of the pupils that had finished their tests. The pupils guiding us were very articulate, bright and friendly so I was surprised to discover that one of them is quite shy. They told us what they had been learning in all the subjects we visited and myself and other visitor, noting how confident and bright they were, gave them something of a grilling.
I was particularly impressed by the intelligent and considered responses they gave to our questions about Rudyard Kipling’s poem if-. They told us the entire school had learnt the poem off by heart so I thought it would be interesting to ask them some questions about it.
We had quite a lengthy discussion about which bits they agreed with and which they didn’t and why. The level of analysis and interpretation that they responded to our questioning with was fantastic. This is especially true because I was playing devil’s advocate a little bit and throwing them a few curve balls. I found myself wondering if they would be able to analyse a poem they didn’t know off by heart as well. I don’t know. Perhaps an English teacher can tell me.
As part of the tour they took us to the computer lab and showed us what they do for homework. One of our guides showed us Times Table Rock Stars. I haven’t used times table rock stars much recently and was unaware of the website having only used the paper version. Our guide answered 65 questions in a minute whilst talking to us and only made one mistake (a typo rather than a mathematical error). I suspect that had she not been multi-tasking she would have been about as quick as me. We then had a quick wander through the classroom of @joe_kirby where the lesson was about cautionary tales. It seemed pretty demanding for a year 7 class but the pupils were engaged and there was some decent answers coming from the pupils.
They also showed us a couple of other websites they can use for homework including how they can access the tests they have done in their lesson online so they can try to do it again if they have not got 100%.
At this point we had a cup of tea and a chat with the Head of Maths (@Bodiluk) about the school generally and Maths specifically. Bodil is impressive in many ways. I am slightly concerned that she is taking a lot of work and responsibility on herself that should probably be shared but her concern for her department’s workload and work/life balance is admirable. I like that levels have been scrapped. I think the way that pupils are being assessed instead in Maths (and as I understand it across the school) is good but possibly flawed (what system isn’t) in some ways. That being said scrapping levels and replacing them in the way they have is brave and I will be interested to see the outcomes and what OFSTED think. I will be outlining some concerns and offering some unsolicited advice in my next post. The way pupils are being taught (as described by Bodil) is not dissimilar to how I teach and the main difference appears to be in the curriculum. There is a much greater focus on numeracy, number facts and number bonds than I am used to. I think this has real benefits and those benefits could be seen by how quickly, easily and naturally pupils were able to use number facts to answer questions. Typically my pupils, particularly the lower ability ones, would take far longer to answer similar questions because they would be held up by their poor numeracy.
We then went to lunch. Of everything I saw at Michaela School the lunchtime routine was the thing I liked the most. Every table had up to six students and an adult sitting at it. My table had 5 students sitting at it. Two of them were very shy but warmed to me over lunch. The others were very confident and chatty. They were clearly used to talking to visitors. A pupil collected and served lunch to everyone on their table. Joe Kirby talked about the importance of making the most of every minute of every day. We then discussed how we had made the most of the Easter break. Then the lunch stuff was collected up and returned by another pupil and we talked about nice/helpful things that we have done for others. At some point a pupil collected and gave out ice cream to everyone on their table and pupils and staff gave “appreciations” to other pupils and members of staff. This is an opportunity for pupils and staff to thank other pupils/teachers. Then after a pupil had cleared the tables and another pupil had wiped the tables the pupils were dismissed by tables. The pupils then went . The whole thing was absolutely delightful and had a really feeling of family or community.
I then shared my Maths and Science resources and schemes of work as I agree with @Bodiluk that the amount of time teachers spend creating resources and duplicating each others work is ridiculous and unnecessary and went home after having had a lovely day.
Thanks to the staff and pupils of Michaela School for such a nice, informative day.
I will be writing a follow up post in the next few days about some things the school may wish to consider moving forward.