Wednesday, 8 January 2014


I was interviewed on BBC Radio Leeds yesterday morning following the publication of OFSTED's report on the effectiveness of school improvement in Wakefield... which they judged as inadequate!

It is worrying that OFSTED see themselves becoming the middle tier and replacing local authority school improvement teams. Inspection doesn't improve education... you don't fatten the pig by constantly weighing it!! HMI and OFSTED used to be a force for good but the current model is a disaster for education and this bullying and command and control approach will only develop mediocrity. We need to develop a coaching culture where deliberate practice and hard work builds success.

We need to remember that even by OFSTED's dodgy data we have 79% of schools graded as good or better, 19% requiring improvement ( the old satisfactory ) and only 3% unsatisfactory. Interesting that OFSTED should claim any credit for these results! I say dodgy because OFSTED observed 137,000 brief lessons last year out of a total of 100,000,000 teacher days. I am not in any way complacent and recognise that we do need to constantly ask ourselves how we can do better and work hard to improve what we are doing looking carefully at the data. I seem to remember that the research suggests in school variation is four times more than across school variation so it doesn't matter very much which school you go to but it does matter which classroom you are in!

The schools I am working with and the vast majority of teachers I know have high expectations and want the very best for their students. We need a different approach based on what works! The London Challenge, Education Leeds, and the City of York’s Schools Learning Together were all highly supportive and encouraging approaches in which headteachers, teachers and teaching assistants came to feel more valued, more confident and as a result more effective. The approaches were based on research, evidence and data not dogma and recognised three different views of a school: OFSTED's, the local authority and the school itself! All are important and complimentary but the most important is the school's own view because after all they are the ones who will turn up tomorrow morning to do the job!!!

Of course, we need to continue to improve schools. The answers aren't rocket science and we simply need:
  • Strong, successful and passionate learning leadership, we are currently over-managed and under-led;
  • To develop personalised approaches that recognise that schools are unique and special places and need different things at different times; 
  • To identify outstanding practice and develop school to school and teacher to teacher sharing of successes and best practice.
  • To focus on what happens in classrooms; it doesn't matter much which school you attend but it does matter which classroom you are in!
  • Intelligent accountability based on trust, support and encouragement;
  • Teachers need to be engaged, motivated and inspired and passionate about teaching and learning.
This is one of the biggest issues facing communities and councils in Yorkshire and the Humber and the North East. Children's services has been a disaster for education and school improvement because local authorities have understandably focused on keeping children safe and taken their eyes off the school improvement ball.

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