Opening Statement for HTRT Summit 2019

Welcome to the HTRT Summit 2019; we are living in interesting times.  Standing on the edge of the 2020s, looking a decade as yet untouched, we need to bring a deep sense of hope, optimism and belief to our work.  The 2020s must become the best of times for the increasing number of children and young people who will be in our schools. 

The last decade has seen: crass political intervention leaving a fractured and disjointed school system; those who are the greatest drivers of workload now holding school leaders accountable for the problems they have created; denial of any retention or recruitment crisis followed by a full departmental strategy and latterly claims of “more money than ever before” when some schools are no longer able to open for a full five days a week.  It didn’t have to be like that.

Going back to last year’s conference and the quote from Desmond Tutu,

“There comes a point where we need to stop just pulling people out of the river. We need to go upstream and find out why they’re falling in.”

As an education system we can flourish in the decade ahead; our children, young people, staff, parents and communities can thrive.  This will only happen if we stop dealing piecemeal with the symptoms and look holistically at the causes; stop the people falling or maybe jumping into the river, in the first place.

School leaders and governors are facing the unrealistic and undoable; delivering a broad, balanced curriculum with a cash flat budget and increasing financial demands. Funding needs to be based on sufficiency; it’s the prerequisite of fairness. There is money available within education budget but passing fancies are robbing core budgets of much needed funds.  The Treasury needs to step up and add the funding the increasing number of pupils in the system and their needs demand.

The challenge is to reimagine our accountability system, including the inspection of schools and performance tables, so that the inclusion of all children, responsibilities for their outcomes and retention of our school leaders and teachers become part of a congruent whole. This is about a different culture within education.  We need to be ready to take greater responsibility, individually and collectively as a profession

Ofsted’s current consultation is an opportunity to highlight the lack of reliability of judgments being made and the consequential invalidity of conclusions reached; the limitations of external accountability and the damage being done to retention of teachers in the most challenging areas.

Our focus on retention stems from the belief that we cannot recruit our way out of the looming crisis; insufficient numbers and quality of classroom teachers, school leaders and governors cannot be resolved by lowering expectations or looking for quick fixes. With better retention we can move, in stages, towards one higher quality, challenging route into teaching. Workload remains a huge barrier to this ambition.  The solutions are upstream; funding and accountability must fundamentally change.

Headteachers’ Roundtable looks to light candles in the darkness; bringing forward positive policies and ideas based on our collective experiences, rooted in evidence, of what will enable all our pupils, staff and communities to thrive and flourish.  In participating today, as an attendee or presenter, you are part of our collective voice; thank you. Your attendance and support is hugely appreciated.

I hope you enjoy the day. Our work continues; our work has never been more important; together we can thrive.

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