Some time ago now, I wrote my regular diary entry for SecEd entitled Requires Improvement Mr Gove (SecEd 326, September 20, 2012). Well, he has now got his own back and said the same to me via the auspices of Ofsted.
I have been directed to a very useful resource entitled Getting to Good produced by that very same Ofsted. This is the same Ofsted that said we were “good” in June 2011, who rang me in June 2012 to tell me that we had been identified as one of six secondary schools nationally for our work on school improvement and that they would like us to allow a visit from HMI who would then write up their findings as a case study in a report called ... Getting to Good, which would be published to help other schools on their journey. Work that one out!
Perhaps they should have called it “Getting to Good and managing to stay there before you are subject within a relatively short timespan to a changing framework and schedule of inspection”.
So it was that on the fifth day of the new term and academic year, with 23 new members of teaching staff and before the timetable had had a full run-through, I was told that my students’ behaviour was almost outstanding except that they had failed to demonstrate that essential “thirst for knowledge and a love of learning, including in independent, group and whole class work, which have a strong impact on their progress in lessons”.
Believe me, I know outstanding behaviour when I see it and my students, and indeed my staff were and are outstanding for the way they dealt with this unexpected visitation and the days in and out since.
This is not another sob story – I enjoyed working with the team and in particular with the lead inspector, there were no concerns raised by staff regarding their conduct of the inspection, and they spent a fair amount of time discussing the decision to move either side of the 2/3 divide.
We know exactly where our school is and what we have to do to ensure that next step towards beatification. Our maths results and progress were far better than those for English; is this any surprise? How much confidence do any of us have in the examination system?
It doesn’t change the fact that we knew we still had a job to do in moving ever forward. We have just been judged at a stage on the journey under very, very different rules and across the country we know we are not the only casualties.
You might think that “casualties” is a very strong word to use; I don’t and I am extremely worried that someone – or a very many professionals in fact – are going to be seriously hurt by what is going on at the moment.
I have never experienced anything like the events of this week following the announcement regarding early entry changes.
How in God’s name does anybody think that announcing this four weeks before students are due to take the very examinations it has an impact upon will not do any harm?
How many more decent, honourable, hard-working and (more to the point) effective school leaders will be brought to a point of no return?
One of my fellow heads used the phrase “be afraid, be very afraid” in relation to what is happening. Let’s turn it on its head and direct it where it should be – government.
We have access to a huge number of voters and perhaps we should give them our best professional judgements of the education system in this country – the exam remarks required, the sound-bite policies, the political rhetoric that is damaging our children.
Enough is enough, Mr Gove.
Diary of a headteacher is written anonymously and in rotation by three practising headteachers from schools across the country.