Monthly Archives: March 2010

Exercising student voice – The Assembly Committee

I meet each week with our Assembly Committee.   They are a group of pupils from Y6 who discuss, plan and deliver whole school assemblies each half term.   Their enthusiasm and creativity is fantastic and represents student voice at it’s best.   They canvass opinion, share ideas and provide their peers with interactive and fun assemblies.

Most recently they have prepared an assembly on the SEAL theme ‘It’s Good to be Me’.   When we initially met to plan for this theme we came up with a great number of ideas.  The initial assembly to introduce the theme took place at the begining of this half term.   The group read a story that put the idea across then they shared their own thoughts with the school, they chose appropriate music and displayed posters exclaiming ‘It’s Good to be me’.

Following the initial assembly, we discussed what it would be realistically possible to achieve within a few weeks for the follow up.   The chidren decided on a huge display board featuring the work of different classes around the theme; talent inventories, leaflets and posters were collected in by the Assembly Committee following discussion with staff, to form a fantastic display which will be positioned in the school entrance area for parents and visitors to view, after being shared at the assembly.   The group were also keen to create a presentation that featured the full range of talents people have in the school, they set to work creating a great piece that will be shown repeatedly on the school life channel following Monday’s assembly.   They also made two films which will be ‘premiered’ on Monday before going straight to the life channel!   In the first they went around the school asking poeple to say why ‘it’s good to be me’ talking about what they like doing, what they’re good at and what they like about they’re friends.  A hugely self affirming experience with those they filmed enjoying it as much as the film makers!   The second film took a similar path, his time with staff.   Potentially a more tricky proposition for as we all know, school staff are not very good at saying what they are good at – it seems to go with the territory doesn’t it-  we’re more comfortable as a profession saying what we don’t do well!   The children put staff on the spot, they asked them to share what they are good at and why it is good to be themselves, what is it about school that makes it ‘good to be me’.

The whole experience has been a positive, celebratory one, brought about by the children and deliberately used by them to focus on strengths, talents and gifts inherent across the school community.   It’s a great example of student voice playing a significant role in developing the school’s values across the community.

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Peer Observations

Something we’ve tried a couple of times at school is peer observations. The idea is really to build on the sharing of good practice combined with a supportive approach to lesson observations. We wanted to make the process a supportive, rather than a judgmental one, to take the fear and worry out of the equation and make it something staff would value and be able to build on and progress from. The process is refined a little more each time we do it but the feedback is positive and staff see this as something that is about building on existing strengths rather than criticising weaknesses.

When we first had a go at peer observations we left the focus down to staff to agree. This time around we have chosen an area that fits in more closely with our school development plan. The most important aspect is that this way of conducting observations gets staff out of their own class and into colleagues rooms to talk, share ideas, offer advice and agree one or two action points to take forward. The process asks staff to think carefully about a colleagues’ approach to support their professional development – this in turn asks staff to consider their own practice. It makes them think about what is working well for them, why and how it might be shared to benefit others.

We have also seen staff developing projects and collaborative approaches following peer observations which is really exciting. Y5 and Y1 children had a great time working together following last year’s round of peer observations, others too, have chosen to link up to create exciting learning opportunities for their classes following initial peer observations and discussions.

We are now considering how this approach might work across our network, enabling staff to build on this with colleagues in other schools. This is already happening with one or two classes in an informal way and the children are benefiting from the opportunity to work with their peers in other settings as much as the staff.

Does this process need formalising any further? I’m not sure. Would this ‘kill it’ for staff making it too much like regular observations? We ask for minimal paperwork – just enough to monitor and support the process. It will be interesting to see how this next round of peer observation develops, the process has changed each time following review and discussions. Staff see this way of operating as far more beneficial to their professional development and it has certainly supported professional dialogue, both formally and informally – not a bad thing at all.