Diary of a headteacher: School improvement – 1980s-style

Written by: Diary of a headteacher | Published:

I am sat with my leadership team on a bright summer morning. We are planning for next academic year. We have got an awful lot to do. Not least because we hope to call in HMI.

Everything needs to be in place. Next September will be very different from the last one. I now have a fully embedded leadership team with one academic year under their belts. I am fully staffed and the students and parents understand the direction the school is heading.

Our only problem – the lingering Ofsted judgement of 2018. Last week I discovered that, if you search online, the “inadequate” tag is showing once again. We had managed to cut the link, but now it is back in all its glory.

We have contacted Ofsted and the DfE. We have even been in touch with Google and Bing to try to correct this mistake. It is a case of déjà vu; we have definitely been here before. This is something that we need to change and fast. We are going to call Ofsted in and perhaps even pay for the privilege.

We do not need to be inspected until 2021. In reality, the sooner we achieve a “good”, the better. So we are considering requesting an inspection early on under the Education Inspection Framework (EIF).

In announcing the new EIF, chief inspector Amanda Spielman said that Ofsted should “be a force for improvement” (implying, perhaps, that it isn’t at the moment). It is a “good” judgement that will really ensure that our improvement drive is recognised and which will have an impact outside of these walls.

One of my assistant heads muses over our plans and how they feed into the EIF. These are probably the same conversations that are going on in schools across the country.

As I sit in the midst of my colleagues, the John Hughes classic The Breakfast Club springs to mind. Like the teenagers in that film, my leadership team all have their idiosyncrasies and, after a year together, it still entertains me to see their interactions.

Today we have looked at the macro-curriculum. One of my assistant heads has, for the first time ever, written a timetable and the first draft is complete.

As she reports on how the timetable enacts our curriculum vision, I picture the characters from The Breakfast Club. This assistant head is definitely Brian Johnson, the film’s high school nerd stereotype. Thank goodness for our nerd. She has made our curriculum vision a reality; we look in awe at the beauty of her timetable. It is done so well that all our hopes and dreams for the curriculum emerge before our very eyes.

In a leadership team of seven, we represent all of the quirks of our Breakfast Club contemporaries. We have got our own Claire Standish, the typical “popular girl”. And we have our own Andrew Clarke, the “jock”. We also have our own Allison Reynolds.

Allison is an interesting character. She is often stereotyped as a “basket case”. Truthfully, there is probably a bit of Allison in all seven of us. Why? Because we constantly dream big and try to achieve more than the sum total of our parts.

At the end of The Breakfast Club, Brian gets stuck in to writing a collective essay for everyone. He gets to express the deeper truth they have all realised: “What we found out is that each one of us is a brain, and an athlete, and a basket case, a princess, and a criminal.”

For me, this is the senior leadership team of my dreams. A team that can spend time together, be honest, fair, critical, challenging and supportive. A team that can understand each other.

Like John Hughes’ characters, we too have shared our experiences and successfully identified with each other. There is just one more thing for us to plan now – the day when we can fist-pump triumphantly to the backing of Don’t You Forget About Me (like John Bender in the film’s final scene) .

That day will come – bring it on, Ofsted!

  • The author is a headteacher in her second year of headship at a secondary school in east London.


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