The journey started about 7 years ago, when a group of ex-Teach First teachers including me and Max Haimendorf (now KSA Secondary’s Headteacher), began some coffee-shop thinking about the endemic issue of educational disadvantage. The solution, we concluded, was that Pupils With The Odds Stacked Against Them need an environment where there is a smaller number of teachers caring for them in a higher quality way.
Our merry band was in the right place at the right time, when a visionary Board of Governors was trying to find a headteacher for their small academy. Max was appointed as soon as they realised what a meeting of minds there was. Edu-headlines were all about how young he was and how he didn’t have much experience (compared to most first-time heads). While both true, I’ve never met a 28-year old with his clarity of vision and his strength of leadership. From the beginning, he was unintimidatable, full of integrity and had a “whatever it takes” approach to the care and outcomes of our pupils.
Fast-forward to the summer of 2014 and our pupils achieved establishment-defying results. 58% of the Class of 2016 were on FSM and 75% were pupil premium. 93% earned 5 A* to C grades the hard way. Most did triple science, we chose the exam boards perceived to be the hardest and there wasn’t a percentage-boosting qualification in sight. The pupils, their parents and the teachers can rightly be proud. That’s an *amazing* feeling for all of us that can’t be taken away. When I think of their stories, when I remember the tribulations along the way and when I see their faces on results day, it’s the best shot in the arm you could imagine.
It’s hard to understate how much our school culture means to us. From the home meetings to pupils’ first day at school, from staff training to classroom ambiance, culture is our number one priority. More important than covering curriculum content even. So cut to it Bruno, what is that culture like? I could spend hours on this but if I give you the colours, you can paint the picture.
- Mission driven
- Team focused
- Hard working
- Same page
- Young at heart
Hopefully, you have a sense of what it’s like.
The things that would convince me to work at King Solomon Academy are:
- If I wanted a school where I could really get on with teaching and not spending my whole time fighting behaviour battles.
- If I wanted *all* of my colleagues to care as much as I did.
- If I wanted to raise my practice to the highest levels by learning from very effective teachers.
- If I wanted a supportive head of department.
- If I wanted the autonomy to try new things.
- If I wanted senior leadership to inspire me.
There is a high recruitment bar at KSA but it’s not insurmountable. To be successful in your application and, crucially, beyond, you’ll need to be passionate about the mission and believe in consistency of behaviour management. You should demonstrate you can hold a class (not necessarily by being whizz-bang; interesting is enough) and have evidently high expectations of behaviour and effort. Keep your teacher radar on at all times and pick up on low-level distractions (pupils tapping, not looking at you or slouching) – the rest will take care of itself.
Do yourself the following favours:
- Teach only when you have the whole class’ attention; don’t consider beginning or continuing if you’ve got anything less than 100% focus on you.
- If they’re busy on an activity and you want to give them further instructions, use our clapping signal to draw their attention to you, give them the instructions and let them carry on. Don’t talk over the top of them talking.
- Give instructions while you’re standing still; avoid giving them while you’re handing things out.
- If you’ve said you want something done in a particular way, hold the line.
- Celebrate the pupils you see doing great work. You can use our habit of giving two claps or shout-outs to those doing well.
- Stretch their answers and interrogate their thinking by asking them follow up questions.
- Swot up on books like Work Hard Be Nice, Teach Like Your Hair’s On Fire and Teach Like A Champion.
- Bonus points if you can use their names as much as possible and you remember to smile!
In short, working at KSA will appeal to those who believe their main reason for being in teaching is to give pupils better life chances, who are (eager to become) great teachers and who want to work for a school with a reputation for excellent outcomes.