Thursday, 16 June 2011

Devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning!

"Devote yourself to loving others,
devote yourself to your community around you,
and devote yourself to creating something 
that gives you purpose and meaning."
Morrie Schwarz

I have been thinking this morning, dangerous I know, as I listened to Michael Gove and the news coverage about the 200 'worst primary schools in the country' being converted to Academy status in September 2012. It would be interesting to see the list and to know how those colleagues are feeling as they turn up to work and teach in one of the 'worst primary schools in the country'! We all know and we all understand that we are facing another onslaught from our friends at OFSTED who are visiting our 'satisfactory schools' and ratcheting up the bar and rightly focusing on leadership, teaching, data, outcomes and progress. At times like this I often ask myself what are we trying to achieve together?
What is our vision for our children and young people? How do we continue to build brilliant learning, in brilliant learning places to serve brilliant learning communities? What is the trick to releasing the magic and unlocking the potential of each and every child, of each and every colleague and of every family and every community to be their brilliant best? Of course, I understand Michael Gove's impatience with local authorities and failing schools but I have my doubts about his single solution approach through Academies. We know the key to school improvement. It’s the quality of what goes on in the classrooms and everything points to the fact that teacher quality is the key to success. We need to focus on how we improve teacher quality and the key must be to love the one’s we’ve got. Evidence suggests that big improvements are possible provided we focus vigorously on the things that make a difference. We must also remember that there is also a strong relationship between well-being and child poverty and between well-being and inequality. All the research I have read suggests that poverty and parenting both matter and that the eradication of child poverty is a great cause which must remain a high priority. This isn't intended as an excuse because , Michael Gove and OFSTED are right, satisfactory will never be good enough and we must constantly strive for answers to the endemic underachievement and low expectations that have dogged our steps for so long. We need to build world class schools with world class standards.

I have worked for over thirty years trying to answer these challenges and those of us who have spent our lives at the front line know the real answers lie where they have always been...
  • strong, disciplined, focused and passionate leadership;
  • clear, shared vision, values and beliefs;
  • talented, energetic, enthusiastic and creative teaching teams;
  • empowered, trusted and disciplined colleagues;
  • brilliant teaching supported by strong assessment for learning;
  • stimulating, exciting and engaging curriculum pathways;
  • powerful, stimulating and interesting learning environments;
  • high self-esteem and high expectations of everyone;
  • strong, dynamic and meaningful coaching relationships;
  • high engagement and involvement of young people;
  • positive engagement and involvement of parents and carers.
We need to be determined, persistent and focused even if it is hard.… whatever it takes!

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