Case study

Cambridge School: QA Reviewer experience

Cambridge School is a small special needs secondary school in Shepherd's Bush, London. They have been with Challenge Partners since 2017. Here the assistant headteacher, Nathan Lyons, has reflected on his experience of being a reviewer.

How did being out on a review help your understanding of practice within your own school?

Special schools can be quite specific and a similar school may not always be near. Observing another SEN setting is always so helpful in reflecting on other ways of working and the ways that challenges are met in different, creative ways. Seeing how a school presents itself on its website and through data and information is really helpful to compare with my own school. As a class teacher, I always found observing peers and their classrooms and engaging in professional dialogue to be very useful for my own development. As a leader, it is so beneficial to be able to do this with another school and another leadership team.

What did you gain out of being a reviewer on a QA Review?

My role in school is Assistant Headteacher with responsibility for leading on staff training and development, and initial teacher training. Much of my week is spent in supportive observation of colleagues and in coaching and mentoring dialogue aimed at improving practice. Challenge Partners is such a useful tool and structure for my own development and practice. The concept of the observations and challenge being ‘developmental, not judgemental’ really resonated with my own pedagogy. This has helped teachers to welcome and even look forward to observations that are focused on supporting them to identify areas that they need to develop.

What would be your one piece of advice for a reviewer going out on their first review?

The time flies by so for me it was really important to acclimatise and immerse myself quickly in the experience. Having a clear and quiet mind, open to observing and processing a wide range of information is something that often needs preparing for — the journey was helpful here. My main advice would be to enjoy the opportunity to work with different learners and staff in a different setting — and to enjoy the privilege of supporting a school that wants to be challenged.