This blog is an extract taken from Defining High Expectations in Your School by Tim Nelson. To find out more click here.
As you may expect, many schools use the phrase ‘high expectations’ in their mission statement, prospectus, website and other similar material when describing outcomes for their pupils.
When asked to define what this means, the typical responses are:
“Ensuring every child fulfils his or her potential.”
“Realising the talents of all.”
“Treating every child as an individual and ensuring their needs are met in full.”
“Everyone has the chance to shine.”
Whilst not wishing to criticise any of these statements, all of which are worthy aims, the difficulty can be that one sentence is neither expansive enough to cover the wealth of provision and outcomes, nor specific enough to be truly meaningful and measurable.
Another common issue is that an agreed definition of ‘high expectations’ does not exist within a school. The head teacher may give one response, a deputy head teacher a different response and the chair of the governing body yet another differing response.
Define High Expectations
Before reading any further, it may be useful to consider what your response would be if you were asked to define ‘high expectations’ in your context.
- Would your answer differ if you were asked the same question by different people? For example, what if you were asked by a parent, a governor, a member of staff, a pupil or an inspector?
- What would be the responses from your colleagues in the same situation?
The format below can be used to sample the existing views of stakeholders. It could be given out at a staff meeting, governors’ meeting or parents’ evening.
School Inspection Handbook
The phrase ‘high expectations’ is often used in the School Inspection Handbook 2015, for example in the grade descriptors:
From the ‘Quality of teaching in the school’
‘Teachers have consistently high expectations of all pupils’ attitudes to learning.
From ‘The effectiveness of leadership and management’
‘Leaders and governors have created a culture that enables pupils and staff to excel. They are committed unwaveringly to setting high expectations for the conduct of pupils and staff’
‘Leaders set high expectations of pupils and staff’
School inspection is an evidence based process. Inspectors will need to find strong evidence to support a judgement based on a school’s ‘high expectations’ in both these areas.
The Teachers’ Standards also uses the phrase in the very first section. The bullet points offer some guidance as to what this looks like in practice:
A teacher must:
1) Set high expectations which inspire, motivate and challenge pupils
- establish a safe and stimulating environment for pupils, rooted in mutual respect
- set goals that stretch and challenge pupils of all backgrounds, abilities and dispositions
- demonstrate consistently the positive attitudes, values and behaviour which are expected of pupils.
Because of the importance of the Teachers’ Standards in appraisal systems and pay progression it is vital that schools have a clear understanding of what these elements actually look like in their context.
Continue the Conversation
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Tim has been a headteacher with a successful track record; his last school had a reputation for innovation and their initiatives have been utilised by others and presented internationally.
School improvement has been at the heart of his career, working as an LLE, a School Improvement Partner, Professional Partner as well as an Ofsted inspector and mentor for trainee inspectors.