Aim: To ensure that school improvement and the improvement of teaching and learning were the primary focus of senior and middle leaders.

Background: QE Barnet was already a very high achieving boys’ grammar school, however there was a need to improve the boys’ creativity, confidence and self-motivation. A new school improvement plan was launched in 2012.


Year 1: Senior leadership roles were redefined so that they had increased capacity, responsibility and accountability for school improvement. SLT meetings were co-chaired by the assistant heads who each led a quarter of each meeting to ensure equal attention was given to the four themes of the school improvement plan.

A new pro-forma for departmental development planning was introduced which produced plans which had greater focus and were more realistic in terms of what could be achieved. The year heads’ forum was reformed into a Pastoral Development Group, which was similarly constituted to the already established Learning Development Group, with a greater range of staff sitting in on the strategy meetings. A new system for robust self-evaluation, supported by externally appointed critical friends, was introduced.

Year 2: Particular attention was given to the Mathematics department following the appointment of a new Head of Department who, with the assistance of the Assistant Head (Teaching and Learning) and an external consultant needed to shift attitudes in order to initiate dialogue about teaching and learning between colleagues.

Year 3: An extensive evaluation was undertaken aided by detailed pupil, parent and staff surveys. The middle leaders undertook collectively a whole-school evaluation of learning with a series of learning walks over the course of a week.

Evidence: Pupil, parent and staff surveys, exam results.

Impact: Department plans were more tightly aligned to the whole-school priorities and there was a better sense of collective responsibility for their realisation. Senior and middle leaders focused more of their time on the improvement of teaching and learning. Self-evaluation systems became more rigorous, robust and accurate. Outcomes in public examinations at GCSE and A Level improved (from a very high starting point). Marginal gains were made through improved outcomes in areas such as Languages where results were traditionally less strong.

The realisation of school improvement priorities led to more student-led lessons, which were more academically challenging and enjoyable for the boys.

Reflections: We have learned that in order to get to a different outcome, a different process or method is required. The success of this work relied upon careful scaffolding by senior leaders to guide the work of middle leaders. Teams must not work in isolation.

Contact: Neil Enright, Headmaster,