A deep dive
By Dr Jan McKenley-Simpson
Brislington Enterprise College became Oasis Academy, Brislington in February 2015.
Brislington Enterprise College was completely rebuilt in a £34million Public Finance Initiative with Skanska and designed with human scale educational principles at its heart. The college was organized into 8 core learning communities with an Enterprise Learning Zone and was opened by Kevin McCloud, the presenter of ‘Grand Designs’ the Channel 4 architectural programme. The College was designed to accommodate a roll of 1196 and is a larger than average secondary school. It was judged by Ofsted to have serious weaknesses in January 2013, which led to its academisation the following year. In May 2014 Ofsted inspectors found that the school had made progress but still requires improvement. Although teaching quality had improved, there were still concerns about students’ reading, writing, communication and numeracy skills. The importance of addressing those skills through a range of interventions was an urgent priority; the involvement in the REAL Projects Trial was one response. Oasis Academy, Brislington is an inclusive, fully accessible school serving families from South Bristol. The proportion of students who are eligible for pupil premium funding support and those with disabilities or who have special educational needs is above average.
Dr Ina Goldberg has been the strategic lead for the REAL Projects Trial since April 2014 following the initial confirmation meeting ‘Kick Off’ visit in March 2014. Ina is an experienced teacher and researcher. Her PhD is in Human Scale Education. Each REAL Project Trial schools is assigned Classroom Coach, seconded from High Tech High School, San Diego to train and support the project teams in schools. They also have the support of a UK based Leadership Coach. My remit in this context has been to act as a critical friend and latterly as a research resource to capture the project leadership learning.
Resilient – Resi-lire – Latin root meaning to spring back
This definition of resilience is widely applied in a range of disciplines including engineering and was used to connote the ability of a system to return to balance after disruption. It was further refined to encompass how much disruption a system could take and remain viable. It is widely used now by organisations like the Cabinet Office to determine community resilience for example in the face of natural disasters and is accompanied by emergency planning toolkits and risk assessments. Social scientists and social work professionals apply the term to judge the capacity of young people and their families linked to decisions about, for example, interventions in the care system or the suitability of individuals to become adoptive parents. Allison (2011) defines ‘resilience’ as a personal quality that predisposes individuals not just to ‘bounce back’ but to ‘bounce forward’ which conveys the momentum that resilient leaders maintain in the face of challenge or adversity.
Resilience in education
Christopher Day and Qing Gu (2014) describe resilience as a ‘moving forward mindset’ in their recent book ‘Resilient Teachers, Resilient Schools’ (Routledge, 2014). The focus on resilience in education is often associated with the growing interest in wellbeing and happiness, particularly in relation to pupils and students. However there has also been parallel interest in resilience as it applies to teachers and leaders usually associated with concerns about teacher recruitment and retention. Day and Gu seek to answer the essential question: ‘How can teachers’ resilience be fostered?’ and see leadership and context as germane to this task. The question arises from their involvement in the studies of teachers’ lives for the past ten years in the School of Education and the Institute of Work, Health and Organisation at the University of Nottingham. Their research leads them to conclude that resilience is ‘the outcome of a dynamic process of interaction within and between teachers’ biographies and their socio-cultural contexts.’ (p26).
Our interest lies in resilience and innovation. What are the leadership behaviours required to implement, manage and sustain innovation, like REAL projects? How they influence the responses to disruption in a dynamic school context?
I looked at how ‘resilience’ is defined in a range of different domains and agreed initially to adapt the questionnaire developed by E Allison in her article ‘The Resilient Leader’ (2011). Our interest lies not just in systems but in the individuals who lead and implement disruptive change.
You can hear Ina’s responses to the questions below on the following clips:
1. What do you feel have been the key lessons you would want to share with others seeking to introduce and lead project-based learning in secondary schools?
2.What was your original vision for the Y7 trial and how has this changed and adapted?
3.How have you supported teachers in the trial initially and through the recent transition?
4.What about the challenge puts a bounce in your step?
5.What would you have done differently? What will you do differently next year?
6.What elements of your professional/personal biography contribute to your leadership behaviours?