Where are we heading?

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After a raft of education announcements and developments, our headteacher diarist pauses to reflect on where the education system is heading.

What an interesting week it has been in terms of seeing the contortions of the great and the good trying to distance themselves from former policies as we move ever closer to an election. 

Free schools, the importance of employing qualified teachers (as opposed to anyone who fancies having a go or is in a redundancy position from our Armed Forces), teacher MOTs, the condition and costs of surveying school buildings... 

Now it seems like some kind of educational “hokey cokey” is taking place, as when reading the headlines we see that “we put phonics in, we take phonics out” is the latest advice to primary school leaders. 

“In out, in out and shake it all about” could well be the “Education, Education, Education” of our times. 

The new national curriculum, Ofsted inspections to include judgements around the school’s processes for assessing students’ progress (when we don’t know what this progress is supposed to look like, nor how it may be tracked. When is a trend not a trend?).

We also have £10,000 Innovation Grants to come up with localised systems.

Vocational qualifications with very little in the way of practical elements, such as “hair and beauty” in the classroom not the salon! How have we got into this mess, and more to the point who will get us out of it when all our political leaders want to do is point score for political gain?

I read that chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw is “spitting blood” over what has been described as an attack on Ofsted and that he believes that the Department for Education may be behind leaks to the press about his inspectorate. 

Well, welcome to our world. I know of many colleagues who aren’t just spitting blood, they are losing it having had their work trashed by rigid, ever-changing regimes who are measuring us against ever-moving targets.

Even the very inspectors who judge our work have had to have extensive additional training to keep up with all of the changes as revisions to the framework are made on a regular basis. 

One colleague I know has been in training for nearly 18 months and is still awaiting his final sign-off inspection; he has written the essay, completed twice as many days and more than he was expecting and is still waiting as the ground continues to move beneath him.

Where are we heading? More and more of my time as a headteacher is being spent in trying to keep up with all the changes and then trying to translate them into some kind of coherent plan for students, parents, staff and governors. 

Like Sir Michael, I am not intimidated by the DfE, or by his own inspectorate or anyone else for that  matter. We do not jump to the DfE or Ofsted’s every tune. But I still have to ensure that I am leading my school within the rules – or do I? 

Of course, this also depends on whether these are the rules set for academies or those set for the rest of us!

In the last week I have read of the vanishing students; the schools who appear to have “lost” up to 20 per cent of their year 8 roll between year 8 and 11 as the students have moved to more “suitable arrangements to meet their needs”.

I must be out of touch as I thought that when a student came on roll they stayed on roll barring any unavoidable change. 

Then we had the tale of the vanishing heads, some before the ink is dry on the Ofsted report. Is it any wonder that the latest press soundbite is that “heads can’t spell or use correct grammar”. Anyone else too knackered to think, never mind spell?

  • Diary of a headteacher is written anonymously and in rotation by three practising headteachers from schools across the country.


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