First Name Terms

Whenever I tell people about my new school, they’re always most interested in one of the things that we do differently: every adult (in primary, secondary and SLT) is known and addressed by their first name.

This is odd to me. I’ve been surprised by how much I like the culture that first name terms brings to our school, but it wouldn’t feature on my list of what makes working at Reach so invigorating and rewarding.

Spoiler alert: the rest of the post is going to be nauseatingly sycophantic. I can’t help it. Moving to Reach was the best professional decision of my life, and I feel so proud and lucky to wake up every morning delighted to jump on the tube, and leave every day feeling valued and energised.

In what follows I want to list what I think what makes our small, all-through school so wonderful. There are two reasons for doing this, first, we are recruiting and I’d love for you to join us to help make our school be even better. Second, and more important, I believe that the way we work represents an example of how all schools can (and should) work:

 

1. Professional Development
In so many schools, professional development is an hilarious euphemism for a gruelling meeting that must sadly be endured once a week. At Reach, we do things a little differently. The school works from Dylan Wiliam’s famous aphorism: “every teacher needs to improve, not because they are not good enough but because they can be even better.”

It is seen as an inalienable right for every teacher to improve their practice, but this is done from a place of deep professional respect. Senior leaders regularly (at least once a week) drop into my classroom. A short coaching session follows in which a small action step is given to help improve my practice. Small, low stakes, incremental improvements.

 

2. A culture of saying ‘yes’.

Linked to the above, leadership are clear in that they want to develop a culture in which teachers are able to develop autonomy and expertise. What does this mean in practice? Several teachers (including me) are pursuing masters degrees whilst they teach, and are released from timetabled commitments to do this. Visits to other interesting schools are encouraged. After I sent out a blog about assessment changes, my boss asked me if I’d like to lead a piece of work reviewing our own assessment practices.

(Who covers the classes whilst this happens? I hear you ask. Our senior leadership team teach. A lot. It is sad that this has become so uncommon, and it is something that I was immediately struck by when I first visited the school).

 

3. Working with families.

We are lucky enough to have amazingly engaged and supportive parents and families, who we believe are crucial to ensuring that every child leaves our school with everything they need to do whatever they like with their life. Every year group has a mobile and we are in frequent contact through text, email and phone. We work together to make sure every child succeeds, and the community that we are building together is a pleasure to be a part of.

 

4. An open-mind and mutual respect.

Although we’re pretty proud about the work we’re currently doing, everyone has an open-mind about what might work in terms of teaching, curriculum, assessment, or any other aspect of our education. Everyone at Reach is really, really good at their job, and everyone knows that, so if a teacher wants to give some initiative a whirl, they’ll be given the time and space to try out new ideas.

 

5. Additional perks.

We have a performance related pay system, which means that teams can earn a bonus additional to their salary. We also give teachers 5 days of holiday during term time.

There’s more. But if this sounds like it might be up your street, we’d love to hear from you. You can call the Principal (ed.vainker@reachacademy.org.uk) for an informal chat, visit the school or go straight to the website to apply: http://www.reachacademyfeltham.com/prospective-staff/vacancies/

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