Glenavon School is in the headlines again - for all the right reasons.
Five years ago the school was under close government monitoring, with ERO reviews every one to two years. Young principal Phil Toomer, aged just 28 at the time, was tasked with turning the school around and that is exactly what he did. In 2016 the school received an outstanding review resulting in a 4-5 year monitoring status, considered an “exceptional standard”. Never one to take all the credit, Toomer accredited this outcome to the staff, board of trustees, the students and the community.
Now, Glenavon School has recently been announced as a finalist in the 2018 Prime Minister's Education Excellence Awards, in the category of leadership.
Glenavon School set out to restructure the leadership of the school. They were very intentional about cultivating a culture that empowers staff, adjusting systems and school structures to allow staff to be challenged, motivated, and to reach their potential.
Principal Phil Toomer gives an example of how this change in leadership structure achieved the desired outcomes with students:
“We had this project called “Step up the Talk” designed to lift student agency [the level of control, autonomy, and power that a student experiences in regard to their own learning].
“We used to have the classic principal-DP-team leader pyramid. We eliminated the entire middle leadership tier, so we have a principal and DPs now, but also have small autonomous teams who focus on learning. For this project we said to teachers, “Get into teams of three, go into the class and start experimenting and come back and tell us what worked”. We found that by teachers taking the leadership themselves we were able to get through that project far faster and be able to scale results a lot better.
“So that’s an example of us ‘reducing the noise’ and allowing teachers to just get on with it themselves. We find that it’s nice and streamlined, it’s consistent and it means there’s no double up of work, so teachers can just get on with the job of teaching.”
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