Published on: 31 Aug 2016

Clichéd though it can seem, school does not offer any dress rehearsals; every day, week, month and year matters.

Amnesia: a solution for schools?

By Matthew Savage, Head of Secondary, International Community School of Amman

Schools can have very short memories. We spend a whole year getting to know our children, and yet, too often, at the start of the new school year, it can seem like students are starting afresh. In the international school sector, this can be doubly the case, with teacher mobility typically high, and changes in leadership often even more commonplace. And yet, clichéd though it can seem, school does not offer any dress rehearsals; every day, week, month and year matters.

I have recently assumed the Secondary headship of the International Community School of Amman, Jordan, the school of choice for local, embassy and NGO families in this most critical of countries. Such is the deployment of their parents, many of our children are itinerant, and we have welcomed a large number of new students to the Primary and Secondary schools this term, as well as a significant number of new teachers. As a result, as a learning community, we do not yet know each other.

I am a disciple of #themonalisaeffect, a unique brand of personalised learning the pursuit of which ensures that every single child experiences life and learning tailored specifically for them. This means that, as a school, we have no time to waste, if we are to ensure that a bespoke provision, cognizant of the individual needs and strengths of each student. Yet again, to what do I turn, in order as quickly and fully as possible to ensure that all my teachers are able to keep #themonalisaeffect firmly in their sights?

The data triangle, of course. We have a duty to collect, collate and learn from the full range of student-level data, in order that we can see what lies beneath the masks naturally worn by today’s young learner: aptitude, attainment and attitude. A new role in a new school has enabled me to set every wheel in motion from the outset, a useful example to other schools who are taking their first steps down this road. In other words, it is eminently possible to start with data from scratch.

We have tested the entire school from Years 2-10 in terms of standardised attainment, but not to placate any government machine – rather so that we can have a robust understanding of where they are now. We are now in the midst of administering, to all students in Years 3-13, the CAT4, so that we have a comprehensive understanding of their aptitude, and where they could be. And, in November, we will ask all students from Reception to Year 13 to sit the PASS (Pupil Attitudes to Self and School) survey, so that we can see what lies beneath, and understand and respond to the attitudinal clutter and baggage which can, if ignored, be an insurmountable obstacle to student learning and wellbeing.

Therefore, I am excited to be back to school, because, at my new school, this means the first steps down the essential, exciting and energizing road on which every school should tread – especially at the beginning of the school year, when a school’s memory is at its weakest.

Follow Matthew on Twitter @savageeducation 

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