Dear Dave, can you ask them if it was an accident? 

Dear Dave,

When you next see Nicky Morgan and Nick Gibb could you ask them if the SATs fiasco was an accident? 

I only suggest this as it often is a good way to start talking about mistakes made, saying sorry and then moving on.

Maybe they think you will sack them and are worried about confessing. After all the back benches are only appealing if you are very tired after a long day.

So, if you could sit them both down, tell them you like them both very much and you won’t make them Chief Whip for admitting where they went wrong – maybe we can all move on? 

Ooooo and probably best not to mention Nicky’s video – it will only upset her. 

Just a thought….

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Coasting schools – the art of perception without direction

Unless you have have been away from education for a while then the issue of coasting schools is unlikely to have passed you by.

It is CLEAR , from recent announcements, that there ARE coasting schools.

It is CLEAR, from recent announcements, that this government ARE NOT going to stand for it. 

HOWEVER what is decidedly UNCLEAR is what a coasting school might be. Nobody seems able or willing to say. OFSTED don’t know and are leaving it to politicians and politicians who tweet about everything from coffee in a local academy to a walk along the beach seem studiously silient on a subject which is leaving all pondering and some, no doubt, without sleep. 

This is not picking out new curtains for the ministerial pad or deciding which charity to give our 10% pay rise to – this is people’s careers and mental health that is being toyed with.

So, after the coffee is finished, the curtains are chosen, the walk is complete and the charity is finalised politicians might be so kind as to cease creating the perception of a “Coasting school” and give some direction in none ambiguous terms as to what this phrase means. 

Great effort has been given to creating a perception in the public mind now let us all have a little direction – otherwise, well, you’re simply COASTING. 

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Does respect come from Union?

Whilst on Twitter this morning I read this:

In an open letter to education ministers around the world, the leaders say that a “declining respect for teachers” will “weaken teaching, damage the learning opportunities for millions and ultimately weaken societies around the world”. 

The full article is here:

http://schoolsimprovement.net/world-leaders-warn-of-damaging-effects-of-erosion-in-respect-for-teachers/

This got me thinking about what we actually mean when we talk about respect and what others use this phrase to mean. As it certainly has the capacity to be used as a mask for something altogether different.

Politicians are forever banging on about the other party failing to respect our profession – this is a noticeable theme quite close to an election – here’s Tristram for example:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-32181849

But often respect seems a way of sugaring the pill of a new initiative or at least a substantial change in an existing one – do this, the profession is told, and you will be respected. Feels rather like telling the pianist in the restaurant that if he/she plays “I did it my way” he/she will be respected as a musician- although the “way” they are doing “it” is clearly somebody else’s.

Perhaps the first step would be to have self respect and have a united voice and approach on things that matter to our profession. I was discussing this with a colleague on Twitter who was firmly of the opinion that there could never be one teaching Union as teachers were all too different. 

I don’t doubt that we are all very different- but so are doctors, the difference being that when doctors speak their Union is – well union and people listen. 

Perhaps this is the first step to the elusive grail of respect – after that we may be in stronger position to conduct     the music rather than simply and occasionally unwillingly dance along?

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OFSTED – it’s all about trust!

In Red Dwarf, Dave Lister knew he was in the game Better Than Life when the second cup of coffee tasted better than the first. This is my second blog of the day and if you didn’t think much of the first one this is hardly going to help matters…

The reason for my ramblings was in response to #helpsean who asked how could school leaders be convinced to serve in Requires Improvement schools. My response was to train all headteachers with five years or more experience as HMI and make inspection a peer support process. 

OFSTED, to change for the better? http://wp.me/p4o37M-3a 

There were a number of people kind enough to respond positively to this and some who questioned my thinking (Am flattered they thought there was any…) 

The first question was around trust – a key point. For me trust is a sore point for OFSTED and the system almost seems to under line a lack of it. Short notice inspections hardly say trust – more it says we think you are probably putting on a performance and we don’t believe you. That sort of thing is a big enough issue by itself without the curious judgements of some poorly trained teams under sub contract. My personal favourite was the lead Inspector delivering training who claimed things had changed since Mike Cladingbowl had written his clarification about lesson grading and this chap didn’t mean since 2009! In house training will improve consistency by my point was wider and it was about capacity. 

If heads are trained in house and inspect and then form lasting collaborations with the schools they have inspected then schools become about learning as well as teaching as schools learn from each other.

I am not swayed by the counter which states that heads are already serving inspectors as this is a case of new people in an old role and it doesn’t build capacity moreover it will only certain Heads who feel confident and able to do this – rather than it being an expectation of all.

Tweaking the old system will mak  it better than before but that is a sticking plaster for a broken leg.

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OFSTED – to change for the better?

Ok, so yesterday I had an idea and quite frankly I am worried – as there seemed to be a notion that it might not be as silly as my usual ideas. This is worrying as it has taken 39 years for this to happen which means I will be 78 before it happens again – a big gap.

The question was about incentives to support schools who “Require improvement” – I love this euphemism. I once had a personal trainer if he told me my technique at what ever thing I wasn’t very good at required improvement I saw it as positive- in so much as he would help me get better. Sadly if a school requires improvement that collegiate nature of support and optimism is sadly lacking.

What isn’t lacking is scrutiny and now an assigned HMI (A professional inspector – one whose role is to inspect) supports the school. In this hot house environment a hero is needed (so the popular narrative runs) to help the school out of this purgatory- there being a shortage of such willing Lone Rangers gave rise to Sean’s question.

My suggestion was this – train all Headteachers with over five years experience as HMI – this would then remove the need for professional inspectors- instead you would have professionals who inspected.This would cover all colleagues, not just those in a certain category of school – the perverse notion that only colleagues in a certain category of school have ideas worth listening to seems absurd. 

Create an “Inspection duty” in which heads (in the first instance) are expected to support inspections within  a certain geographical range. The funding for this could come from the reduction of professional inspectors. 

Now we come to trust – inspecting schools has come to be seen in the same light as cheating athletes- we have to catch them at it! If we accept that everyone, everywhere could improve at something then let’s treat inspection in this vein. Tell schools when their next inspection will be as their last one finishes – and have the expectation that the team, not simply an inspector will stay in touch with the school – sharing practice and perhaps colleagues with school inspected. 

But what about all those professional inspectors? We need some but not too many and nowhere near the number we have. Often they are committed professionals who want to change things for the better – Mike Cladingbowl a good case in point. So let them return to schools and enrich from within.

My answer to Sean’s question is in effect not to answer it specifically but to answer it more generally and to use the inspection framework as a stimulus for peer support. Will it work? Well here’s the thing said the king – let’s give it a try.

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On the fad of leader lopping…

So yesterday we arrived at a Conservative majority – the reaction was a tad predictable. Leaders from Liberal Democrats, Labour and UKIP announcing they are stepping down. This isn’t a political blog so the rights and wrongs of parties and their leaders I’ll leave for others to decide. 

But for me the point is wider (football equally falls into this) which is the curious short tolerance we have all developed to a perceived failure to deliver in the short term what was hoped for. 

A Miaculpa moment is cathartic but standing down isn’t always the best course of action. Leadership is tough and can sometimes be intensely lonely. Mistakes are a given towards any success and five years is a perilously short time. 

Perhaps Ed et al will enjoy the rest and come to regret their decisions. But maybe in the words of that soppy song – we should all try to have a little patience.  

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OFSTED – wearing a badge and putting it in perspective 

 

On Twitter this morning and this tweet caught my eye. Now, let me put this post in perspective and be clear what it is not:

  • It is not a side swipe at SLTchat and those who organise it.
  • It is not a side swipe at OFSTED

Great, so why bother writing it then? Ok fair point – having a side swipe at something usually drives up hits but my point is more to do with our desire to give people who work for one organisation a voice to share their view on education matters over another. I am as guilty as anybody else and when I have approached OFSTED and asked somebody to speak to a conference or to my governing body they have always been most obliging, engaging and generous with their time. 

Does it point to our desire to know what those who inspect are thinking rather than following? Why does Mrs Miggins talking about mathematics say have less interest than Mrs Miggins, Lead Inspector, talking about mathematics and does this matter? 

All that said, I’ll try and tune in to SLTchat tonight. 

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