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Transforming schools in Uganda

Jacquie Smith, our Designated OLEVI Leader in Africa, shares an update on the engagement and impact of OLEVI programmes in Scholé schools in Uganda.

 

Students at Kisubi High School. Photograph courtesy of Scholé

Students at Kisubi High School. Photograph courtesy of Scholé

Question: ‘Will the Outstanding Teacher Programme (OTP) work in a different school system?’ Kisubi High School, situated along the Entebbe Road linking Entebbe to Kampala, has over 800 students from all over East Africa and 40 plus teachers, and seemed an ideal school to answer the question. There are also worse places to try this out than Entebbe in 35 degrees of sunshine in late February!

Kisubi High School (KHS ) was taken over by Scholé nearly three years ago, with a mandate to develop a more child-centred approach to learning. During this time I have been working alongside KHS staff and Scholé School Development Directors to do exactly that, whilst also being conscious that we were working within the context of an exam system that rewards the ability to retrieve knowledge, and for Ugandan O’levels where students are tested over a four-year curriculum.

Most challenging for us is the fact that most of the students have not been in the school for four years and many have gaps in their education. Here, we don’t have CATS tests or Reading Ages or SATS tests, but we are in a great position to develop the use of prior attainment data – for the first time.

So, we have introduced the Outstanding Teacher Programme for a group of twelve ‘excellent teachers’ who are driving forward pedagogy across the school. Alongside this we are also introducing elements of the Outstanding Leadership in Education (OLE) programme to middle leader training.

We have focused on ‘challenge’ and ‘engagement’ to support teachers moving away from a traditional model of teaching, and introduced ‘differentiation’ to help grapple with the key challenges for Ugandan teachers – gaps in student’s learning.

So far, we have focused on ‘challenge’ and ‘engagement’ to support teachers moving away from a traditional model of teaching, and developed our own ‘retrieval’ module to support the development of long-term strategies in class to deal with the exam specifications.

On my latest visit, we focused on ‘differentiation’ – borrowed and developed from the Improving Teacher Programme (ITP). Here we grappled with the key challenges for Ugandan teachers – gaps in prior learning which have a greater impact than we would experience in the UK.

All students learn through the medium of English, but with large numbers of students from southern Sudan – where education may be interrupted – we will have to develop a new module to focus on literacy/ EAL in this very different context.

KHS has introduced triads, each led by an excellent teacher, and we have added to this, OTP triads – with the ‘best growing the best’. In our most recent whole-staff CPD, our triads led detailed discussions in what differentiation might look like in their classrooms.

We have also begun the coaching training element of the OTP, starting with internal, focused, and global listening. When we introduced this alongside a middle leadership session on ‘holding people to account’, we witnessed a real impact on thinking. “I am going to listen more to colleagues and students with challenges to get to the bottom of their challenge before any solution is arrived at,” commented one delegate. And, as with British teachers, all promised to practise with their families first!

Also profound in its impact was consultant/collaborate/coach. The simplicity of the continuum resulted in deep learning on when you would use each style.

As we move in KHS towards personalised CPD, we hope that this flexibility will continue our commitment to the improvement of all, and upwards convergence.

So, where next? Well, Scholé is in the process of acquiring Makini – a highly successful group of schools in Nairobi and beyond – and the OTP (and hopefully other programmes) will be part of that package!”

We are proud to provide sponsorship to Scholé, with the use of our programmes, to help raise the quality of teaching and learning within schools in Africa and to ensure all children have the best opportunity to succeed.