Sunday, 19 February 2017


"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 the news about all the schools in the country being converted to academies by September 2020.
Despite the fact that 80+% of the schools in this country are good or better and only around 3% are inadequate, according to our friends at OFSTED, we are facing another negative and unhelpful onslaught from our friends at the DfE and OFSTED who are ratcheting up the bar and rightly focusing on leadership, teaching, data, outcomes and progress. However, I struggle to understand the arguments about academies since there are great academies and awful ones, great maintained schools and awful ones and surely we should be focusing on the 3% or the 20% rather that criticising by default everyone working in schools today. If we are serious about school improvement it isn't the label that matters but what is going on in classrooms that makes the difference for young people. We also know that 80% of the variation is within schools... which means that it doesn't really matter which school our children go to but which classroom they are in!

We are not going to tackle the real issues facing education in this country by changing the labels and 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 people's impatience with failing schools but I have my doubts about his single solution approach through Academies because we know the keys 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 the critics 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 forty 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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