I was inspired to write this short blog after seeing some slides produced by a friend and colleague, Phil Wood (A founder member of HTRT). It made me think about the term I have chosen for this title and how relevant it is to the work we do in schools today. Put simply, it is impossible to run a successful school without staff working longer than their contracted time. Continue reading
By writing this I am simply avoiding doing my preparation for the second of three days of admissions appeals. An occurrence that is quite common throughout the year but the key year 6 into 7 ones are always the most stressful. I have had the disappointment of not getting the first choice as a parent so I do understand how it feels; I think that probably makes the whole process even more uncomfortable.
Like lots of schools we ‘commission’ our local authority to run the process and it is this involvement that brings in to sharp focus the important role Essex LA still has in Passmores’ life despite being an academy. It also makes me think about how we desperately need their involvement in other aspects of the education landscape. Don’t get me wrong I, like many others, have had my frustrations with what felt like wasted money providing things that I didn’t need but had no option but to pay for. However, I am convinced that there are some really important parts of our education system that a LA are the best to support.
There will probably not be a Headteacher or governing body anywhere that does not believe that safeguarding the young people is their first priority. However we have this system that ties safeguarding checks to Ofsted inspections (I know there are exceptions but generally…) which may be over a decade apart.
This is simply not good enough.
Just because a school has gained an Outstanding judgement from Ofsted does not mean that safeguarding practices remain sound just because academic performance remains high. If a school has to publish when it last had a formal, independent check on safeguarding I wonder how many parents would be put off?
As a parent I’d be worried if my local school had not been inspected for several years that complacency may have slipped in around safeguarding. Obviously, I don’t think it would be a common occurrence but I’d like the reassurance nevertheless.
The oversight of safeguarding currently is focused on what you’ve done not how you ensure you stay up to date and sharply focused on what is important.
It is time for a rethink. If we take safeguarding seriously it needs to be more than just an additional task that an already stretched team of inspectors has to tick off. We could save the time for the inspection team but also ensure a robust and developmental process that keeps schools both compliant and forward thinking.
I am not clever enough to work this out but if we added together all of the time potentially saved during an Ofsted inspection, and costed it, that saving could be used to set up a much more regular and proactive system overseen by the LA. If it needed extra funding on top of that surely it is that important.
Whilst safeguarding remains something that feels like a pass or fail in the inspection process we will never be doing it justice. Ongoing dialogues between knowledgeable colleagues about the developing challenges we all face are vital. If the LA was given a very specific role to facilitate, challenge and support ALL schools in safeguarding our young people it could provide a conduit for all services, that work with young people, to share vital information and resources.
The current system of checks feels like the bare minimum we should be doing and when it comes to keeping our children safe the minimum is not good enough.
Vic Goddard is a founding member of Heads’ Roundtable, co-principal of Passmores Academy and CEO of Passmores Cooperative Learning Community.
“The thing that struck me most when I first became a headteacher 14 years ago was…”
For the remainder of our latest blog from Duncan Spalding please click this link: https://bit.ly/2KrYPZS
Duncan is a member of the Core Group of HTRT and is the (non-academy) Executive Headteacher of Aylsham Learning Federation (Aylsham High School, Bure Valley School and John of Gaunt Infant and Nursery School)
It has been a week marked by political leaders stepping down from office. The Prime Minister has officially ended her tenure and the short-lived leader of the Change UK party quit her leadership role and the party. Both women, arguably, had an impossible job to do resulting in their decisions to resign.
Somewhat more concerning is the proliferation of school leaders stepping away from headship for similar reasons. Head teacher Roundtable colleagues leaving executive leadership roles have expressed frustration and anger about the impossibility of having to navigate a flawed inspection system, be responsible for ameliorating society’s ills and staffing their schools on a shoestring budget.
The toxic triangle of insufficient funding, inhumane accountability measures and a recruitment and retention crisis is taking its toll on our leaders.
Amongst the high profile departures, similarly passionate and accomplished professionals are walking away from headship and SLT roles this term having resigned in recent weeks due to untenable and unethical leadership expectations.
James Pope’s key note at this year’s HTRT summit ‘Where’s your head at?’ provided a sobering and salutary reflection on the negative personal impact that impossible professional demands are having on school leaders. The root causes of the current crisis are not just affecting shortage subjects, they are eroding every level of the profession.
Despite the doom, I remain optimistic.
I am presenting on the subject of hopeful leadership at the Cambridgeshire Festival of Education* this weekend. The substance of my workshop, which I shared at the HTRT Summit, ‘Birds of a Feather: Being flamingos of hope not lemmings of despair’ involves the importance of creating a positive school culture, leading with hope, not fear and using constructive, professional networks to achieve this. My head teacher colleagues and fellow festival organisers, Rae Snape and Adrian Kidd, epitomise this approach in spades.
However, it is important to acknowledge that channelling reservoirs of hope has become trickier in recent times. As Mary Myatt asserts in ‘Hopeful Schools’, while collective optimism for our children, staff, communities and future of the teaching profession is important, as is a healthy dose of realism to tackle the challenges that we face.
The education sector needs more than positive attitudes from school leaders to address its current issues: it needs a proper and decent investment of finance and professional trust.
Fundamentally, schools’ basic, unmet needs to be addressed, as per Maslow’s hierarchy. We need sufficient resources and an accountability system that allows staff to feel safe and valued. As with students, we need colleagues to thrive, not merely operate in survival mode. Only when simple human requirements are met can we expect the profession to flourish and reasonably enable our children to do the same.
Allowing systematic deprivation while blaming schools for failing to close rapidly expanding societal gaps has understandably led to a feeling of vulnerability and desperation and has fuelled some unscrupulous practices.
School leaders have become the scapegoats for poor education policy and insufficient funding. Unless we address the symptoms, we’ll continue to witness and accept a loss of talent and expertise.
In addition to those leaders lost as a result of crude, cliff-edge accountability, disappearing after or in anticipation of poor inspection outcomes or results, or through redundancy processes in response to declining budgets, there will be those that opt out of impossible leadership conditions. In place of the ordeal of leading a state school there will be those that: choose early retirement; choose to work overseas; choose the independent sector; choose higher education; choose a charity role; choose corporate employment; choose consultancy; choose a career break; choose health and wellbeing; choose life. Jill Berry’s blog ‘Lost Leaders’, which served as a catalyst for the inception of WomenEd in 2015 highlights the waste of leadership talent and potential as a result of systematic, institutional barriers:
“I have…known women I think of as the ‘lost leaders’, those who could have been exceptional leaders and role models but who, for a variety of reasons, didn’t fulfil their leadership potential. And this has made me thoughtful. Are there acceptable, and also unacceptable, reasons why this happens?”
In the present climate it is not solely capable female in their 30s that we are losing as leaders from the profession, it is experienced leaders of both sexes and all ages.
Whoever is responsible for leading our country and education policy needs to show their commitment through hard cash, not soundbites and empty promises, demonstrate an acceptance of a broken system and a means to repair and nurture it.
Collective movements such as HTRT, WorthLess? and WomenEd are examples of our ability to agitate relentlessly and reasonably as a community of professionals.
School leaders have the collective capacity and capability to influence and enact change.
A WomenEd catchphrase coined at the first unconference ‘What would Obama do?’ reflects a need to look beyond the minutiae and overwhelming dread of a problem and to be ambitious about the solution. Perhaps a somewhat outdated political reference now, unfortunately, but I think that we can still learn from the ex USA president’s audacious optimism and can-do leadership approach.
School leaders need to flock together, not tweet into divisive echo chambers, in order to demand more for our students, our staff, ourselves and state education as a whole.
* CambsEdFest is sold out but flamingos of hope can still connect by watching the YouTube live-stream and joining the conversation on twitter #flamingle19.
Helena Marsh is Executive Principal of Linton Village College and Chilford Hundred Education Trust (CHET) in Cambridgeshire and is a member of the core group of Heads’ Roundtable.
6th June 2019
Dear Ms Spielman,
You may recall that on behalf of the Headteachers Roundtable and ‘Worth Less?’ campaign groups, we wrote to you with concerns and proposed amendments to the new Ofsted Framework. We were disappointed that the points raised by so many headteachers only elicited an automated response.
We recognise that there are some strengths within the new Framework and welcome a new emphasis on curricular provision and delivery rather than the previous over reliance on the blunt instrument of data/outcomes. The new Framework, however, does not address many significant and ongoing concerns.
With this in mind, we thought posing a series of questions will help to generate wider understanding amongst headteachers about the work and purpose of Ofsted. They are as follows:
1. Does the inspectorate believe that there is any connection between a school’s funding levels and its capacity to offer high quality educational provision? With each report will Ofsted publish the per pupil funding received by an individual school and set it against other relevant contextual information.
2. Does Ofsted’s recent review of school funding identify the severe and hugely variable financial constraints schools are operating under? If it does, what will be the advice issued to inspectors and the mechanisms used to ensure schools facing financial constraints are fairly and accurately judged?
3. If headteachers were unable to offer the curriculum breadth that may arise due to a lack of funding or a lack of specialist teachers in areas such as Computer Science, Science, Maths and English, would they be penalised during an inspection?
4. The continued retention of grades is deeply problematic. If Ofsted wishes to enter into a dialogue with the profession; is it prepared to release all evidence on which judgements will be made, un-redacted and in real-time, during the inspection process?
5. Given the Russell Group’s call for the EBacc to be reconsidered and its new Informed Choices website will Ofsted now remove all references to the EBacc qualifications and targets from its framework?
6. As an independent body, why is Ofsted drawing on the Department for Education’s definition of ‘cultural capital’?
7. Why is there no requirement, for the curriculum at Key Stage 3 to be balanced? When requiring the Key Stage 3 curriculum to be “broad and rich” what does “rich” mean in curriculum terms; where is there a published objective definition of the term that can be assessed on a scale of 1 (outstanding) to 4 (inadequate)?
8. What evidence and assurances can school leaders be given that the behaviour judgement will not be flawed due to a lack of reliability in evidence collected, involving a limited number of conversations; over a very limited time period (30 hours); at one point in a school year?
9. As schools are going to be judged on the destinations that their students gain at the end of their school journey, will the absence of external careers support be taken into account?
10. How will Ofsted judge the ability and capacity of schools to deliver safeguarding matters if their school is located in a Local Authority where children’s services are judged to be ‘inadequate’ or ‘requiring improvement’? How will Ofsted contextualise these circumstances for those schools?
11. Against a background of severe Local Authority funding cuts and variable funding for SEND issues, how will Ofsted judge provision for children with High Needs and Special Education Needs in a consistent way across 154 Local Authorities and Boroughs?
12. How will the inspectorate ensure that schools who have disproportionately high numbers of pupils with SEND or from disadvantaged backgrounds will be fairly and accurately judged?
Whilst others may have additional questions, we believe clear answers to the above would be a useful starting point for further dialogue, especially as Ofsted has decided to retain a grading system in the belief this will ensure parents are well-informed.
Thank you in anticipation of your response.
Stephen Tierney Jules White
Headteachers’ Roundtable ‘Worth Less?’
Headteachers’ Roundtable and ‘Worth Less?’ are grassroots organisations. They provide an important mechanism to represent the opinions of those professionals who have to deliver on the aspirations and strategic intent of the Department for Education and Ofsted. Our collective views are designed to complement the work of our professional associations and other influential contributors.