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Andy Smith is Head of Middle School at Manchster Grammar School


Working Together for Change at MGS

As part of the development of the One Page Profiles work at MGS we used some of the activities we had completed with pupils to inform a process that HSA call ‘Working Together For Change’. This is a simple eight stage process that uses a person centred approach to gathering information and themes to help inform strategic change within an organisation.  The ‘Working Together for Change’ exercise usually takes up two days, the first day focuses on theming and understanding the information in terms of root causes and success, and then second day develops solutions leading to strategic action planning. At MGS, given competing pressures during a busy time of year we only had one day to get the ball rolling.

Before Gill and Helen arrived we had agreed that our pupils would reflect on what was working and not working for them in school in the light of the summative comments and advice from teachers and form tutors on their most recent report. We also communicated our intention to do this with parents as we had also decided to use the information gathered from the process alongside the One Page Profile as the key area of focus for the imminent MGS Form Tutors’ Day (This is an opportunity for pupils and parents to come into school to discuss their progress in school from a more global perspective than the more subject based Parents’ Evenings.) The paragraph below is an excerpt from an email we sent to Year 10 parents to try and explain the concept and what we hoped to achieve.

The next stage in the process is for your son to engage in a process of critical analysis of his year so far. In the light of his One Page Profile and his most recent report, he is being asked to identify two aspects of his academic performance in school which are working well and two which he perceives to be in need of improvement. He will also conduct a similar analysis of other aspects of his school and co-curricular life. He will then be asked to identify his personal targets for the rest of the year.’

In preparation for the exercise the information collected from Year 10 boys was cut into strips and divided into four different envelopes representing working/not working academic and working/not working ‘beyond the classroom’. Then we decided to focus on the non academic category and with Gill and Helen’s help we themed the general information under a wide range of different sub-headings dealing with things like sport, foreign trek. This took quite some time and once complete we began to entitle each theme under an “I” statement, for example ‘I am really enjoying water polo this season’ or ‘I spend too long playing computer games in the evening’.

After a break we were joined by some Year 10 pupils who had previously talked to Gill about their One Page Profiles who were going to provide us with their input during the next set of activities. We decided to focus our attention on some of themes that were presenting problems or ‘not working’ for Middle School pupils in the non-academic sphere. With our pupils able assistance we grouped these ‘Not Workings’ into similar batches each with their own particular ‘I’ phrase. Our pupils were then asked, from their perspective, to identify one of these areas which gave them significant problems. The boys were quick to point to the ‘I’m not getting enough sleep’ category as one they recognized as being relevant and problematic for a lot of Middle School Pupils. We then, using the information gathered from the exercise with the whole Year Group to try and identify root causes of this ‘not working theme’. The underlying issues that this exposed were revelatory. We learned that the ‘lack of sleep thing’ was a more debilitating issue for our Middle School pupils than we’d ever imagined and that there were multiple causes for this ranging from playing computer games too late at night, adolescent nocturnalism, work anxiety and, tellingly for the school, the pressure points where homework seems to become unmanageable without working late into the night.

We then began thinking about initial action plans for some of the themes, considering what a successful resolution of these problems would look like from the different perspectives of pupils, teachers  and the ‘whole school’. From this an action plan emerged dealing with some of the issues described ranging from initiative as diverse as a new elements in the PSHE curriculum on diet, exercise, computers and the importance of a good night’s sleep to attempting to modify  the Middle School homework timetable.  This whole experience took us in an unexpected and very helpful direction and we left the day thinking we had barely begun to tap its immense potential as a methodology for informing positive strategic change within the school.