Northfleet School for Girls

Highlighting best practice as a representative in The Parliamentary Review

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Northfleet School for Girls is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Highlighting best practice
Head teacher, Chris Norwood
Developing talents on our
When Chris Norwood became head teacher at
Northfleet School for Girls in September 2014 it
had been rated as “good” by Ofsted. However, it
quickly became clear that if the school was to truly flourish
and aspire to become an “outstanding” school, there needed
to be significant changes in the culture. Poor pride in uniform,
low attendance, low student intake numbers and the failure to
utilise all the skills available in the organisation were among the
problems. Northfleet needed to take a long-term approach to
creating the right environment for excellence.
We started by working closely with staff, students and parents to create a new
school vision. We used surveys followed up by honest discussions on what people
felt needed to happen to create the right culture within the school. It is my firm
belief that as senior leaders in schools it is not our job to have all the answers,
but to take responsibility for finding the best answer. This approach allowed us to
create a clear vision and improvement strategy based on the views and opinions
of many in the school including non-teaching staff. It is not possible to please
everyone in this process, but by listening we were able to craft a vision document
with valued input from across the community.
We began, perhaps inevitably, by reviewing and improving school uniform as
a marker of high expectations. Students, staff and parents were involved in
developing a smarter, yet cheaper, uniform which portrayed our expectations
and developed a sense of pride in the school. We gave students a year to transfer
to the new uniform; we were very pleased when the vast majority moved over
»Head teacher: Chris Norwood
»Founded in 1952
»Based in Northfleet, Kent
»Type of school: Non-selective
girls secondary school for
students aged 11-18
»No. of students: 900
»No. of teachers: 68
»EAL: 24 per cent
Northfleet School
within a term. In addition to this
we developed a consistent, yet fair,
approach to dealing with students who
were not wearing the uniform with
pride, involving parents and based on
escalating sanctions. We now have
extremely smart students and a clearly
linked improvement in behaviour.
Further improving behaviour has been
key, with a strong focus on consistency
of expectation. By being consistent
our students now know where they
stand and this was strongly reflected in
our February 2017 Ofsted inspection.
Indeed, it is testament to our students
that staff turnover is low and those in
our school cite the behaviour of our
students as a key reason to work here.
Perhaps the most productive aspect
in our vision has been the concept
of working together as one team to
create a great school. We have worked
hard through a variety of strategies to
create a culture where any member of
the community can comment on how
the school could be improved. As an
example, we have been able to work
with student focus groups to develop
effective anti-bullying techniques
and this has led to online reporting
systems, a staged response to
unkindness (again, an escalating range
of sanctions culminating in exclusion),
improved feedback and introducing
student “positive relationship
ambassadors”. Students, staff and
parents tell us that bullying is now rare
and 97 per cent of parents say that
their daughter is happy at school.
Creating a “working together” culture
with staff has been essential. It was
clear that there was considerable
excellent teaching across the school,
but it was not widely shared. We have
now changed our whole professional
development model, focusing on the
“impact loop”. This loop involves
giving responsibility for professional
development back to departments
based on their need and follows the
stages below:
1. Each department writes an
evaluation which identifies what
is working in their area and what
needs to improve, with a clear link
to progress data;
2. Professional development sessions
are used to develop practical
strategies to meet the above needs;
3. Quality assurance activities
like work sampling and lesson
observation are used to examine
impact on learning. There is a clear
focus on ensuring this is a useful
activity that checks our strategies
are working
Working together is key
Our e-learning scheme
in action
It is clear that
governors and
staff at every
level have
established a
culture in which
everyone in the
community is
valued and
treated with
Ofsted 2017
Highlighting best practice
In addition to this we have developed
a strong focus on using meeting time,
including our weekly staff briefing,
to share the best practice across
The final part of our vision has been
working with students to help them
“enjoy the journey”. This has involved
developing the range of clubs/
enrichments, improving rewards based
on feedback and improving trips. We
have also focused on supporting our
students in developing community
and charity work, creating respectful
students who value others.
We are now three years into this vision
and have been extremely pleased with
how it has developed. Attendance
has improved, behaviour is excellent,
standards are rising across all years
and student numbers are increasing.
Indeed, we are now working with
Kent county council on building
programmes to accommodate more
students. However, we do not want to
stand still and are seeking to develop
further in two key areas – student
leadership and e-learning.
We have been working with the
Women’s Business Council to ensure
a greater representation of females in
senior workplace roles. We have been
creating opportunities for students
to lead in school and delivering
specific leadership training courses
for students. We have found that this
not only has an impact on student
leadership aspiration but also engages
students in their lessons now, meaning
more productive and engaged learners.
Our final key drive is the use of
e-learning. In 2016 we launched a
scheme where parents support the
school in ensuring students have their
own laptop for use in school and at
home. There has been an excellent
take up for this, with one-to-one access
across the school now achieved. The
laptops are used in conjunction with
Google Classroom to ensure that
students get help and resources based
on need. This scheme is having a very
positive impact on student progress.
We believe that we now have very
solid foundations to continue moving
towards outstanding. If I have learnt
one thing as a head teacher, it is that
creating the right culture takes time:
there is no such thing as quick fixes if
we want sustainable, excellent schools!
continue to
improve in all
Ofsted 2017
Enjoying the
development of literacy

This article was sponsored by Northfleet School for Girls. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it.