HPL is an educational philosophy that aims to deliver high performance for the many - whatever their background - not the few.
The pillars in the image above represent the traits of HPL World Class schools. As we start a new academic year, freshly departed from the turmoils of COVID school management and TAGs, we are consciously refocusing our efforts on delivering excellence for our students. During the long Spanish summer we have gone back to these pillars to help reinforce the best practices that have underpinned so much of the school’s recent growth and success.
On a daily basis we have embedded the use of the word ‘yet’ to promote a mindset shift. Our cohort is almost exclusively made of second language learners who have Spanish or other first languages but have chosen a British education pathway. For them, academic success in a second, third or even fourth language is a daunting gauntlet. Whenever they are unable to complete a task to their full potential, or do not achieve a test score that they had aimed for, we reply that it has not happened ‘yet’. This summer we have released a range of videos from alumni who have succeeded in exactly that journey in our school to show them the possibilities of what can be achieved if they trust in their own abilities to develop the cognitive competencies and values required to achieve their academic goals.
During the holidays the school’s leadership took part in its own enquiry based learning. Each member of the team nominated the book that has most influenced their educational beliefs and practices. These were then shared amongst us for our own summer reading. This process was a real blessing for me as I was lent a copy of ‘Embedded Formative Assessment’ by Dylan William. This is an almost canonical book in education and one I thoroughly enjoyed revisiting, having completed my own PGCE at the Institute of Education during Dylan William’s time there. I was grateful for the reminder that ‘the quality of teachers is the single most important factor in the education system’ and invigorated by the opportunity to retry the formative assessment classroom strategies outlined in the book. A brilliant read.
Of course, any new year begins with a great deal of expertise development in school. For us, the challenge of integrating new staff, fresh from post Brexit visa troubles and battered by the 40 degree plus heat of August in Madrid, was significant. We started with two days of small group work with the new joiners. We focused on the everyday practices of our school and introduced them to the HPL philosophy.
After the newly appointed teachers had spent a Monday and Tuesday in intense sessions and existing staff had had time to refresh planning and display walls our thoughts turned to staff practice and training. We have focussed our professional development this year on areas arising from our school evaluation. There is a sharp focus on lesson planning consistency. Teachers from different age groups and subjects shared best practice on planning, hybrid teaching and the use of data to inform teaching and learning. Another of the sessions reviewed the school’s feedback procedures. We aim to agree on a fresh approach which takes into account the development of online marking tools and the health and safety restrictions which have limited certain practices over the last 18 months.
As we moved through the accreditation process to becoming a World Class School in 2020 an area we wanted to improve was our engagement with parents. This coincided with the sudden frequent use of online over face to face meetings. We took the chance to completely review our practices. Engagement has been ramped up over the last year and a half with regular Tuesday meetings with parents on varying topics and a much more frequent opportunity for parents to meet with school teachers and leaders. On the final Friday before school re-opening we held large scale parent meetings with the different sections of the school. Every single parent was able to attend if they wished and recordings were sent to the entire school community. This was a wonderful opportunity to talk through the arrangements the school has made for safe re-opening and to allay many of the nerves that families have felt about students returning to school en masse after the summer break.
Finally, after a well deserved weekend off, we welcomed our student body back to school at the normal time on a Monday. The conscious decision to start a week in as normal and regular a way as possible was the right thing to do as school very quickly settled into its routines of lessons, changeovers, breaks and food servings. We take all organisational decisions with students and not to them. Student voice, especially from our student leadership team, helps inform the practical steps we take to organise daily life in our school.
As we move into week two of the academic year I admit I am personally relieved and downright happy to be back. An academic year wounded by long term lockdown, followed by a year of significant restrictions and restructuring to cope with the threat of COVID has certainly taken its toll on us all. However this academic year has started with smiles and joy. We are back to doing what we joined the profession for: deliver high performance for the many - whatever their background - not the few.
King’s College School is part of the Inspired Group of Schools, a leading global premium schools group educating over 48,000 students across an international network of over 60 schools on 5 continents. All the Inspired schools are individually developed and designed in response to their environment and location, delivering an excellent education to their respective communities.
If you are interested in finding out more about our school or our work with High Performance Learning then feel free to reach out to us. Our contact details are readily available online or you can contact me directly through Twitter or LinkedIn, search Jeremy Newton / @jeremycnewton.