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Rainey Endowed School This month we speak to Neil McClements,

Vice Principal of Rainey Endowed School in Belfast

Tell us a little about your school The school was started in 1713 by Hugh Rainey, a wealthy merchant and iron smelter. He donated half of his estate to fund a charity school for 24 boys in what was then the rural community of Magherafelt in County Londonderry. Today, we are a successful mixed secondary school of around 720 students that continues to be graded ‘very good’ by the Education and Training Inspectorate. Our exam results are excellent and 99 per cent of students go on to university.

So how has a school graded ‘very good’ made further improvements? Well, it was quite simple. We wanted to find a way of giving staff instant access to information about the progress of individuals and groups of students. Teachers needed a more effective way of improving efficiency and monitoring achievement. Academic, extra curricula and pastoral information was being held in multiple filing cabinets scattered across the school. As you can imagine, that posed quite a logistical challenge.

It also meant teachers were wasting time on administration too. Let’s imagine a member of staff wanted to distribute the results of a test sat by all year nine geography students. They would have to either photocopy the relevant pieces of paper or send the file as an attachment to an email. Only attendance was logged electronically.

Clearly ensuring everyone had a single point of access to all this information was a priority for the school? Naturally, but where do you begin? It was important that we asked ourselves some difficult questions. We needed to pinpoint where small improvements could be made that would have a big impact across the school. For example, did we know details about how individuals were behaving in every lesson? Were we effectively monitoring changes from term to term and across an academic year?

I decided to start by introducing a behaviour monitoring system for lessons. Spreadsheets were being used by staff to record details about students. Information was then pasted into a separate document. But if Johnny had misbehaved in English during the first period of the day, all the teachers for his remaining lessons had to rely on their colleagues finding the time to draft an email outlining what had happened and who was involved.


Now, every member of staff can enter such information directly into our SIMS management information system (MIS) immediately after the incident occurred. This means it is instantly available to teaching staff across the school. Our senior leadership team and year heads can also be kept informed. It also enables us to create an up-to-date record about every individual student which is automatically updated on their journey through the school.

Are students invited to contribute to their profile?

Actually, yes. The student, their parents and every member of staff can submit information from which we compile a one-page profile. They detail what staff like and admire about themselves, what is important to them and any support that they require. But the profiles also play a much more important role. They enable teachers to get a real sense of how each individual student learns and what specifically they have responded well to. This allows teachers to match the right support to their particular need.

The document could point to the fact that Jane recently suffered the loss of a parent or that she started school later than the rest of her class. She may even be a gifted and talented student for whom challenge is vital.

June 2014

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