Topic:  Building the resilient school by trying to be more intelligent – Chris Gerry

Resources: You can download Chris’ slides set 1 and set 1.

Session summary: An academy in Maidstone was an amalgamation of two small secondary schools serving mostly white working class estates where poverty and deprivation were high. The predecessor schools had been declared ‘failing’ by Ofsted.  The school noticed that the pupils were for the most part lacking in social competency and unable to stick at their work, especially when confronted with setbacks. They began to build a ‘risk profile’ on each child that focused as much on non-cognitive skills and attributes as much as cognitive ones. The question was whether improvement to non-cognitive skills would have an impact on academic outcomes. The focus was not necessarily on solving pupil difficulties but providing strategies for them to cope and be able to bounce back from adversity.

Building the model from the ground up generated new insights amongst teaching staff and allowed the school to try out interventions to see which were successful. As the programme developed the school began to assess pupils for attachment to the school and looked at strengths and difficulties. Increasing levels of attachment resulted in pupils confiding in the school with regards to various abusive behaviours that they had suffered.

The results of these approaches resulting in attendance improving from 83 to 94%; behavioural (or self-management challenges as the school preferred to call them) reduced significantly with permanent exclusions falling from a peak of 25 to just 1 in a year. Children seemed better able to cope as significant numbers of them formed attachment to the school. Numbers wanting to stay in the sixth form increased from 3 to 100 whilst overall exam results more than doubled from 40% 5A*-Cs to 80% and from 19% (with English and Maths) to 40%.

The talk will focus on the mechanics of putting such a programme in place and the difficulties and setbacks that we encountered.

Biography: Chris Gerry was a secondary headteacher and executive head in six secondary schools in England over an 18 year period.  He managed to achieve the rebuilding of five of them and has been innovative in adapting ideas from other disciplines to improve pupils’ lives.  In 2011 he left to set up The Skills Lab, a company aimed at developing the use of new approaches to education both in the UK and around the world.  Chris’s views can be summarised as ‘We need to stop sending our children to hell in an examination driven handcart and focus on developing well balanced people.’

Most interested: This session will look at risk profiling and resilience building amongst disadvantaged children and is aimed at anyone involved in the work of schools.

This session took place on Monday 20 May 2013.

The Resilience Forum is for ANYBODY (with a pulse!) involved with or interested in resilience research!