Online system combines efficiency with power to drive improvement

William de Ferrers Secondary School, Essex

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William de Ferrers is a large secondary school in Essex, with around 1,200 students including a sixth form. The school is rated Good by Ofsted and prides itself on a personalised approach to all its students. It has used BlueSky for several years. Melanie Ozer is Deputy Headteacher and has responsibility for performance management across the school.

"Having the information about staff performance all together in one place helps us to spot skills gaps but also to identify areas of expertise staff may have and utilise them as appropriate."

Melanie Ozer
Deputy Headteacher, William de Ferrers

How is BlueSky supporting William de Ferrers?

The school began using BlueSky for performance management, professional development and lesson observations in 2013, and has gradually extended its use to self-evaluation for learning walks and book scrutinies.

Criteria for lesson observations are all held on BlueSky, so that the member of the senior leadership team performing the observation and the staff can easily refer to them. On performance management, objectives are broadly linked to the quality of education - covering key areas such as disadvantaged pupils, feedback or quick starts to lessons to encourage independent learners – with a separate objective for personal professional development, or linked to specific areas of responsibility for TLR holders.

"We introduced BlueSky when we wanted to move some of our processes from a paper based system to online and it is well embedded across the school now," says Mel.

"We use it to manage performance management objectives for staff, raising and recording CPD requests and for recording lesson observations. We are now also using it for self-evaluation reports, which collate outcomes from lesson observations and other processes, for school improvement purposes. They are very useful for giving feedback to governors, for example, as you can show a pie chart or graph with all of the data brought together in a way that's easy to absorb quickly."

What is the impact?

Online access to key data across the range of areas has made processes more efficient but also enabled the school to gain a deeper understanding of performance and other elements.

"The whole process is much easier, particularly from the point of view of reporting, because everything is online," says Mel. "You can go into the administration section and just run off any report you need for individuals, teams or departments. For example, when the Headteacher and I have met staff to discuss setting objectives and pay, we can bring up someone's objectives at the touch of a button. If they've been on the upper pay scale (UPS) for the last year, we can discuss responsibilities they might take on next and how that aligns with the wider school remit. It's all at your fingertips."

From a whole school perspective, it helps with planning. Staff record their professional development activity on BlueSky, linking it to their own objectives and to the school's strategic aims.

"It means we can set out the key points from our development plan, and then staff can link it to what they are doing in terms of training, research, reading or other evidence throughout the year, and leaders can ensure development is aligned to the school's needs."

The portability of BlueSky, which means staff who join from another school can simply move their account across, has been another practical benefit. "A number of staff have used BlueSky at their previous school and, with a quick call to the BlueSky team, it's been very easy for their information to be brought across when they join us."

"The support from BlueSky overall is very, very good. There's always somebody at the end of the phone and the help is just there when we need it."

What’s next?

The school is planning to further develop its use of the self-evaluation tool on BlueSky to inform strategic planning and give leaders an increasingly detailed picture of what their professional development priorities need to be.

"Over the last few years, the reports that we've been able to produce for our book scrutinies and learning walks have enabled us to identify and home in on key areas," says Mel.