In our household we have, as the recent educational events unfolded, developed a new game to accompany the televised news: “Gove bingo!”
This fantastic game incorporates all the things that are required in the new Ofsted framework: literacy skills, teamwork and creativity.
When the secretary of state for the dark arts (and education), Michael Gove, makes his latest televised pronouncement, we divide into two teams.
Team one will look for the inevitable politician’s soundbite – for example words such as “rigour”, “challenge”, “aspiration”.
Team two may choose to await the unsurprising “world class, Baccalaureate” or “achievement”.
You may, if unlucky, get all three hackneyed words in one sentence, “rigorous aspirational challenge and achievement of a world class Baccalaureate” – in which case “bingo” is called and the winning team is allowed free abuse of the television, thereby drowning out the political rhetoric of a man who has presided over the biggest educational fiasco in the last decade.
For me, as a headteacher, it is hard to look to the future and to lead when GCSE results are simply flawed – data that will in a year become accepted, these are results that have changed young people’s life chances.
In our school, three children did not get on to the apprenticeships their courses demanded as a result of the grading boundaries being changed – they were left with D grades in their AQA English examinations.
So the “smoke and mirror” daily announcements of the latest proposed changes to examinations (often signalled via the Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail or other media outlet rather than in Parliament) have no credence and little hope of success when the staffroom has had their professional confidence eroded.
My daily routine as a headteacher has changed alarmingly; checking now as I do the welfare of my tearful fabulous head of English, frustrated head of German and my bewildered head of history – all of whom are experienced teachers and Ofsted-judged outstanding, yet whose 2012 GCSE grades were dramatically and significantly changed.
What is an “A” grade or a “C” grade is the repeated question. Colleagues and I do not now know how to judge students’ work and this is the major concern.
These are outstanding, talented and dedicated professionals who are utterly miserable and feel they have somehow let the children down.
Until the situation over GCSE regrading is clarified it is pointless to try and introduce any new educational proposals.
The profession, and myself, do not trust Mr Gove’s competence, integrity and moral compass. Why would I then as a headteacher embrace the new English Baccalaureate Certificates, the new Ofsted framework, or any educational whims or soundbites that seem designed more to appease Mr Gove’s backers than to improve educational outcomes.
I have my school, my fabulous staff, lovely students and supportive governors – and I have rigorous aspirational standards that will not bend under pressure from the latest governmental whim. My leadership vision cannot bend, because it has to protect and provide security for all who attend my school.
“Gove bingo” has provided some much needed solace in an otherwise ridiculous start to the new school year. Judge me and my school if you wish, but our credibility is secure, our conscience clear. To Mr Gove I would warn that this is not the way to treat the young people of England’s schools.
Diary of a headteacher is written anonymously and in rotation by three practising headteachers from schools across the country.