Friday, 12 December 2014


As we face the fallout from Sir Michael Wilshaw's latest Annual Report, it is important to remember that the answer isn't academies and free schools and it isn't the short-term, quick fix interventionist approach led by super-heroes. These things might have their appeal but, even OFSTED agree, they don't work.
Strange that everyone keeps repeating the line about the best teaching force we have ever had in our schools. How did we get here then? What's wrong with our schools? How can it be that on a 30% sample, we now think primary education is OK and secondary education has stalled. The problem now, Sir Michael tells us, is poor secondary leadership. Surely we should be looking at the bigger picture over three years when all the schools will have had a visit by our friends at OFSTED?

This short-sighted approach is not based on any in-depth understanding of the research evidence about what works or a detailed understanding of the context and culture of schools, but on superficial data analysis and instant judgements and doesn't lead to sustainable lasting change or deep school improvement. It is important to remember that the core business of schools is teaching and learning and, to achieve this, the school leaders have to find ways to overcome the many obstacles learners are facing. We need to look carefully at John Hattie's work on 'what works and what doesn't' and stop doing the things that have little impact on outcomes.

Importantly, schools need to focus and to move from a culture of command and control and dependency to a culture of enterprise, discipline and hard work supported by feedback, master coaching and deliberate practice. That requires strong and highly effective learning leadership, powerful governance, an organisational infrastructure with beautiful systems that reinforce and support a learning culture, the creative use of financial resources and autonomy, professional excellence at all levels, brilliantly responsive and flexible support and systems that develop intelligent accountability. We know this works because some schools have already moved very successfully in this direction and achieved great things.

There are no quick fixes but we do know what works and what doesn't! We must develop a "can do" approach where there are only challenges and opportunities not nightmares. We know the task we all face in building brilliant provision and excellence for all is enormous but we know how to do this and we simply need to be break the challenges and opportunities down into bite-sized, manageable chunks and develop the strategies and activities to make a real difference.

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