Matthew Moss High School is a secondary school in Rochdale, Greater Manchester. It has a significantly higher number of pupils in receipt of pupil premium (44.6%), English as Additional Language (50.9%) and receiving SEN support (16.4%) compared to national averages.
After a challenging Ofsted (moving from Good to RI) the school recommitted to innovative practice to meet the needs of their learners, with emerging evidence of success: they are now back at a ‘Good’ rating and Ofsted noted that the most-able pupils make progress which is above their peers nationally. A Bristol University study found that Matthew Moss High School learners perform better than others when they go on to college. In 2019, MMHS Progress 8 score was second highest of the twelve local secondaries.
Matthew Moss High School’s Ignite Speech
Matthew Moss High School’s stand out practice
What is it?
D6 (day 6) is an entirely voluntary, student-directed ‘Saturday school’ (a term the school avoids). It aims to improve outcomes for students, particularly focused on disadvantaged students, while developing their wider life skills like resilience and independence.
It is designed so that it doesn’t feel like ‘just another school day’. There are no uniforms, no ‘curriculum’, and an emphasis on social learning. The school is open for four hours, and students choose what to focus on, helping them take ownership of their learning – some might work individually on homework, others revise with a friend, while other groups tackle difficult concepts together.
How does it work?
Other than one member of SLT, no school staff take part in D6. Instead, local sixth form college students are paid (a higher wage than the Saturday jobs they were previously doing) to act as coaches and mentors – supporting learners while developing their own skills in a meaningful setting.
What’s the impact?
It has high engagement, with 100-200 learners taking part every Saturday, entirely voluntarily.
— Mark Moorhouse (@MarkMoorhouseMM) September 28, 2019
Learners that attend on average achieve an entire grade higher than those that don’t. It has a particularly large impact on students in receipt of pupil premium.
The outcomes from D6 have been impressive: a year after leaving MMHS, only 1.1% of their 2016 Y11 cohort were NEET, compared with 2.5% national and 3.5% LEA averages.
2. Transactional Analysis informed approach to relationships
The school also showcased their impressive approach to building relationships, informed by Transactional Analysis (TA) theory.
What is it?
This is a psychoanalytical theory based around understanding behaviour through three modes – parent, child, and adult.
Why does it matter?
Too often, MMHS argue, school dialogue is in parent to child modes – typically with teachers playing the role of corrective parent, and students as a defensive child. This is a barrier to meaningful learning taking place.
What do MMHS do?
To foster healthy, respectful dialogue and relationships, the school bases its approach around supporting adult-to-adult interactions at all times. Staff are trained in the theory of TA, then explicitly use this language in their own practice. It is also integrated into policies, displays and posters across the school.
The school’s research questions
- How can we build on our strength of our relationships to engage WB learners in further studies and D6?
- Is TA successfully embedded in relationships between staff and new learners?
- How long does TA take to be embedded for new staff?
What evidence did we see?
Relationships were a real strength across the school, both for students…
Seekers particularly noticed the school’s consistent emphasis on the idea that “it’s their [students] school”. They trusted them to be stewards of the learning and their school environment.
Headteacher Mark Moorhouse argued school life is often organised around a ‘fear of losing control’ – “we overstructure because we fear chaos”. Yet the vast majority of students want to succeed with their learning. MMHS choses to trust them, rather than punishing and disempowering them with systems/structures catered to the small number of the most challenging students. This is the heart of their TA-informed approach: bringing the best out of students that want to learn.
Students who had joined MMHS recently across different year groups backed this up. Boys articulated how MMHS felt different to their previous schools. They all shared the belief that, as one student expressed it, their teachers “genuinely cared more“. They felt trusted to make decisions- the choice of wearing a tie or badge was mentioned as a small symbol of their increased independence. Girls also felt that being at Matthew Moss was a different experience – at the start of a new week they felt ‘excited to go back’ rather than dreading it.
Seekers were excited about this school’s focus on “relationships in adult mode between staff and students.” They felt that the TA-informed practice had created a culture of positive accountability, co-ownership, and was leading to great learning – “The difference [TA] is making is… accountability, involvement by all, positive learning environment, enhanced learning experience.” One was impressed by seeing “transactional analysis – and how effective relationships based on trust and respect can impact a whole school structure.”
The sense of shared mission, based around good relationships, was evident among staff. One seeker highlighted the “sense of community that is visible throughout the school” – a community that felt shared by all, rather than ‘done to’ new staff or students.
New staff appreciated the benefits of TA for the school’s unique culture, and liked the balance of having a consistent approach and language, and freedom for them to interpret it in an authentic, individual way.
Evidence of success of Matthew Moss’ approach for the quality of staff relationships was how many seekers went away keen to try it in their own context. One felt that, in their own school, it could “make relationships even better and make some staff think!” . Another was excited that “it will provide staff/students with the freedom to enjoy learning! Teaching!”
Conclusion: why it works and our main WE takeaways
Above all, the same theme kept coming through from the day. The school succeeds because they are “focusing on students as humans” – and trusting them.
Seekers felt the approach worked so successfully because it was embedded so authentically – seeing how much the school really lived by the idea of “letting go” because after all “it’s their school”. D6 is designed around that principle – trusting students with both their learning and the physical school environment and building.
Indeed this trust was visible across the whole day: in conversations with the Headteacher, the members of SLT, new members of staff, and students. All articulated that students are trusted with the school and their learning – and that trust is being rewarded.