How Ysgol Cwm Rhymni identifies and grows teachers leadership potential.

Context and background

Ysgol Cwm Rhymni is a Welsh-medium community comprehensive school for learners aged 11 to 18 years maintained by Caerphilly local authority. There are 1,439 learners at the school, including 269 in the sixth form and 130 members of staff. Learner numbers are growing rapidly. Forecasts suggest that there will be around 2,000 learners at the school by 2020.

The proportion of learners eligible for free school meals is 12.8 per cent, which is lower than the national average of 17.4 per cent. About 25 per cent of learners live in the 20 per cent most deprived areas of Wales. Around 21 per cent of learners have a special educational need, which is below the national average of 25.1 per cent. The proportion of learners who have a statement of special educational need is 2 per cent, which is lower than the 2.5 per cent average in Wales.

The school is situated on two sites in the village of Fleur de Lys and the town of Caerphilly. The growth in the school’s size led to the opening of a second site seven miles away, which had staffing and leadership implications for both locations. Performance management needs to challenge and support growing numbers of staff at all levels. This process allows both the talents of staff to be developed and underperformance to be identified and addressed promptly.

Description of nature of strategy or activity

The school has created a strategy to foster leaders of the future through careful succession planning using the school’s ‘Realising Potential Strategy’. This strategy enables leaders to identify the leadership potential of teachers early in their career. They then support them to gain the appropriate skills to enable them to undertake leadership roles effectively in the future.

Performance management principles were well established in the school. These were built upon through the introduction of a ‘Realising Potential Plan’ for all staff.

Leaders established:

  • a creative staffing structure that could evolve to include more leaders with responsibility for raising standards, pedagogy leaders and senior pedagogy leaders, in addition to heads of department and coordinators for specific educational aspects
  • a strong team of middle managers and senior middle managers to work closely with the experienced senior leadership team (who would challenge and support them)
  • a powerful team of experienced members of staff to cooperate on setting and checking suitable and constructive objectives for staff at all levels
  • effective processes linking evaluators with teachers not necessarily in the same department
  • a core curriculum panel of middle and senior leaders to agree the performance management plan, taking into account teachers’ and leadership standards, the school’s vision and local and national developments to suggest specific examples of relevant objectives for staff at all levels.

Each teacher chooses three objectives from a list suggested by the core curriculum panel, or sets their own objectives, following a discussion with the evaluator. These objectives must have a sharp focus on improving aspects of learning and teaching.

Leaders realise that it is necessary for:

  • teachers aspiring to move up the pay scale to be clear about the need to set objectives that will enable them to demonstrate their skills, knowledge and understanding, and impact on improving learning and teaching
  • teachers who have learning and teaching responsibilities to set objectives that focus particularly on their role in leading and developing the teaching of others.

The evaluator:

  • agrees objectives and appropriate training
  • takes steps in order to evidence achievement of objectives, e.g. through more challenging lesson observations, paying particular attention to the requirements outlined in the ‘Observing Cwm Rhymni’ booklet
  • evaluates and discusses the next cycle.

The senior leadership team maintain an overview of the objectives in order to ensure consistency across the team of evaluators.

What impact has this work had on provision and learners’ standards?

The professional development of potential leaders has led to good outcomes for learners in terms of their well-being, progress and skills. Leaders at all levels have gained confidence and experience on the basis of their new responsibilities, e.g. by leading pedagogy meetings. Ultimately, talented leaders have emerged to safeguard the leadership of Welsh-medium education for the future.

Sharing best practice

These ideas and the ‘Realising Potential Strategy’ have been shared in a senior leadership meeting with the cluster of schools.