Gary King on great ideas and being a ‘changemaker’ [interview]

Gary King

Gary King is deputy headteacher at Isca Academy in Exeter, where he leads Teaching and Learning. He frequently writes an educational blog focusing on all aspects of teaching, learning and wellbeing, and is also a keynote speaker. Gary works with every member of staff across the College to promote excellence in the classroom, and his vision is to encourage collaboration across the learning community to ensure Isca’s young people are the best they can possibly be. 

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Gary King is deputy headteacher at Devon’s Isca Academy, as well as a blogger and frequent TeachMeet speaker. As his school goes from strength-to-strength, we pick the mind of one of the UK’s most enthusiastic educators.

1) In 2016, Ofsted graded Isca Academy in Exeter as 'a Good School in every category'. As deputy headteacher, how do you help Isca to achieve its goals?

Obviously I work tirelessly to drive whole school improvement along with the rest of our fantastic team, and when I say team, I mean everyone at Isca Academy. My primary focus has been around teaching & learning and, in particular, addressing workload and enhancing teacher wellbeing. Also, to ensure that all teachers can focus on their practice in order to secure the best possible progress for all our students, we have moved away from lesson observations and instead are moving to a model of triangulating the big picture over time, focussing on typicality rather than one-off ‘show pony’ observations.

From Gary King

2) The school's range of extracurricular activities stood out to Ofsted inspectors. Tell us more about them.

We offer an extensive range of extracurricular activities spread across a wide range of subject areas. Not only do we run these in the traditional sense (lunchtime, after school and so on), we also look to integrate extraordinary learning into our curriculum too. For example, we offer a Duke Of Edinburgh to all Year 9 students as a timetabled lesson. In addition to this, we also ensure that everything we do is fully inclusive and accessible to all our students, including all our trips and visits.

From Isca Academy

3) Your Twitter bio describes you as a 'changemaker'. What does this word mean to you, and how to you put it into action?

I believe we need to challenge the mindset around teaching and learning. We need to move away from the perceived ‘process’ and doing more of the same, usually underpinned by a tick box mentality to satisfy what we think external bodies may want to see. I actively look deeper into what really matters: cognition, pedagogy and pupil progress. I think I’ve used the term ‘changemaker’ to outline my risk-taking approach to all aspects around the leadership of teaching and learning.


4) You're an active education community member, with quite the following on Twitter. What do you get from collaborating and networking with others online?

Ideas, ideas, ideas! I think it’s great and highly-effective to have the ability to reach out to colleagues across the world. Being able to share ideas, thoughts and gain opinion on educational thinking helps to inform how I shape various aspects of school development here at Isca Academy.


5) What would be your top tips for supplying a colleague with feedback?

I believe feedback has to be based on a clear and agreed focus, and of course, factual. All too often I hear anecdotes and tales of woe (usually via social media) whereby teachers are furnished with feedback focusing on nonsense policy - for example, ‘how much green pen was missing from students books’! My advice is to offer feedback that is incisive, factual and will prompt developmental and meaningful dialogue around pedagogy.

6) What do you hope to achieve in the next year?

More of the same: collaboration with colleagues on the latest and emerging thinking around pedagogy, leading to high levels of pupil progress. Providing support and opportunities for all teachers who are CPD and research-rich in their practice, and growing a school culture that continues to embrace risk taking, underpinned with high levels of challenge in a low threat environment.

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