Force of Nature

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Jobbing Teacher visited a local Academy yesterday for a quick tour and met the Principal who you could only describe as a ‘force of nature’.

A large, brash man with it must be added, a cutting sense of humour, he strode around the school giving out commands like a four star general. Tough talk ensued to his audience such as;

  • I’ve told middle leaders that if results don’t improve this year, they can clear their desks
  • I sacked all the SLT when I arrived and the current lot are all on temporary contracts
  • The LA are crap
  • “I found a room full of luvvy-dovey, touchy-feely (sic) types (social services etc). I told them to sling their hooks and turned the room into a library”
  • I don’t give a shit what anyone thinks

 

All pretty impressive stuff if you were a CEO of a business in a cut-throat industry or manager of a Premiership football club, but a school?

Saying that, the transormation in the school generally is impressive and he has done some wonderful things for the children, including buying them all professional-looking PE kit, getting in top sport people to coach teams etc.

It definately reminded me of a previous headteacher claiming that running a school these days is like being a manager of a premier league football team without the huge salary.

Jobbing Teacher was left slightly in awe of this chap who when ‘googled’ can be seen to have turned around a number of failing schools. Maybe the answer is to forget that school is a gentle place of learning focussed on developing the whole person and go with the cut-throat, competitive bear-pit model of education (I am starting to sound like a Tory?)

Another story this week concerns my child’s Primary school and the new law making the school provide free school dinners to Foundation and Years 1 & 2 pupils. To achieve this laudable aim the school has had to get rid of the salad and sandwich bar. Now is it me or has the Healthy Schools agenda gone out of the window here?

One thing is certain, Jobbing Teacher’s child will not be taking advantage of this Government initiative – I’ve seen the proposed menus and it’s not chnaged much since my school days. I would not eat bloody pink custard then and I’m certainly not letting my child eat it in 2014!!

Posted in School Leadership, School Organisation

How to help your child do their best at school

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Jobbing Teacher has been reflecting on how parents can best help their children do their best, particularly at secondary school.

I am reminded of an ill-fated campaign by the Department for Education which produced a DVD starring the actor James Nesbitt.

Many saw this parent improvement film as highly patronising and it sank without a trace. However, beneath all the glitzy presentation, there were some good pieces of practical advice for parents worth revisiting;

Getting involved in your child’s learning

If you are a parent or carer of a child in secondary school, you can make a difference to your child’s success at school by doing small things at home. These things may seem small but make a big difference.

 

Top tips to help your child succeed at school

  • try to provide somewhere quiet, preferably with a desk or table, for your child to do their homework
  • keep pens, pencils and calculators handy, and make sure your child knows where they are kept
  • keep a dictionary handy for checking meanings and spellings. It will help your child fund things out for themselves
  • help them but do not do their homework for them. If you ask them for an explanation, it will encourage them to think things through more clearly
  • every so often look through their books with them and keep an eye on teacher’s comments
  • go out and about and enjoy learning together. Use everyday activities like going to the shops to brush up on basic skills (for example, at the till ask them to work out how much change you should get)
  • watch out for TV programmes that have something to do with school
  • breakfast gives pupils energy to learn
  • educational games, books and things to do on the internet make learning really enjoyable
  • try to attend parent’s evenings. The teachers are there to help you, not to test your knowledge

Now, you might be thinking that I’m trying to teach Grandma how to suck eggs but if a small number of these tips were put in place at home I can think of a number of my erstwhile students who would immediately benefit!

What do you think?

 

Posted in Parenting

21st Century Learning

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This is a theme that both interests and worries me as a teacher and as a parent. I have been a teacher for 25 years and throughout this time I have noticed that ‘industry’ and the world of work intermittently tells us what they are looking for in our young people when they leave education to start their careers. This list of skills and attributes usually contain some, if not all of the following;

  • Self confidence
  • Creativity
  • Ability to self manage
  • Ability to work in groups
  • Ability to solve complex problems
  • Resilience
  • Compassion for others
  • Open mindedness
  • Honesty

Then further down the list we usually see;

  • Literacy
  • Numeracy
  • ICT capability

I have reflected on this for many years and do believe that if we can develop these skills and abilities then our children will enter adulthood with a good chance of living a happy and successful life. I try to encourage these vital skills and attirbutes in my own children.

However, when I go to work I see a completely different focus;

  • rote learning of facts
  • the learning of a large number of skills that have little relevance to general 21st century life
  • a focus on academic progress
  • emphasis on the passing of exams in an increasingly limited range of subjects, often little different to a 19th century curriculum
  • virtually no contact with the world outside of the very insular school environment except for two weeks of ‘work experience’ when they are 15 years of age. 
  • a totally manic focus on measuring pupil progress and producing lots of fairly meaningless data that takes no account of the individual child

As a teacher, it dismays me to see what we are doing to our children. We hear Government telling us that we need to be more competitive and our children do not do as well as those in other countries. But no account is taken of social and cultural differences between countries and a sort of simplistic comparison is used to play politics with.

As a parent, I do worry about my children. They are getting increased pressure at school to achieve a narrow range of success criteria virtually as soon as they walk through the school gate. Sadly, most parents I know who do not have an education background have absolutely no idea that this has nothing to do with their child and everything to do with judging the school, its staff and enabling education secretaries to further their own careers.

Many parents I know have even started using the ludicrous jargon of levels of progress not knowing that it is really meaningless for large parts of a child’s learning and future prosperity.

What is the solution?

When Professor Ken Robinson wrote his highly influential report for Government in 1998 called ‘All Our Futures’ he pointed out that culture,creativity and education are fundamentally important in developing a thriving society and economy in the 21st century. He passionatly believes that the modern world is the product of the ideas,beliefs and values of human imagination and culture that have shaped it over centuries. Also, Professor Robinson believes that education has an important role in helping us to achieve our potential, but that the processes by which we currently assess ability were designed for other times and for other purposes. He has consistently called for more innovative approaches to teaching, training and development that will increase our opportunites for economic, cultural and human survival.

As usual, Government ignored this brilliant thinker so Professor Robinson left the UK and went to work in America where he is now a highly rated thinker and guru to the American Government and business. Typical!!!

What can we do as parents?

  • Try to see our children’s potential
  • Promote and encourage it at every opportunity
  • Give our children opprtunities to experiment
  • Give them opportunities to come into contact with the best of what humanity has created
  • Adopt the view that every child is an artist (regardless of what their school says!)

What do you think?

Posted in Education Policy, Parenting

What is happening to our beloved NHS?

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There is lots in the news at the moment about Government shanninigans around closing services in one NHS Trust to sub a neighbouring one. This all sounds a bit like Del Boy Trotter territory to Jobbing Teacher. The big issue is being fudged and that is QUALITY of service/care.

An example of this is a recent encounter with the NHS and Jobbing Teacher’s youngest son. To cut a long story short we turned up to meet a new Community Paediatrician who seemed on the surface to be very nice. However, the first warning bell struck when we immediately noticed that she did not have my son’s medical records with her. This led to another protracted ‘history’ being taken from scratch. This was done in good faith though.

A week or so later a letter arrived from the said consultant which detailed the meeting. This letter was shocking in the extreme as it was littered with inaccuracies and even sent to the wrong GP!! To make matters worse a copy of the letter was mistakenly sent to my son’s Nursery teacher, which is in itself a serious breach of confidentialty

This left the Jobbing Teacher family pondering whether to make a complaint to PALS or whether to accept that this is just the way the NHS is today; sloppy, incompetent and staffed with people who really should be doing a lot better.

After much pondering though it is clear that there are many truly outstanding people working in the NHS under very difficult circumstances. The main concern is the way that it is organised with too many ‘managers’ and not enough people at the chalkface (as us teachers like to say). My son’s medical notes should have been sent for and available for the meeting.

Anyone out there got their own scare stories?

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Posted in NHS, Parenting

What’s happened to school trips?

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Our poor children don’t even get to go on the school trips their parents used to regularly go on because of the paranoia in schools about missing lesson time. It is such a sad state of affairs that the kind of broad, enjoyable and indeed community-enhancing trips that we used to do as school children are been denied to our own children in the name of academic rigour and the avoidance of ‘slippage’. Trying to run a trip during the school day is almost impossible in schools today, particularly at secondary level.

So what has driven us to this state?

Well for starters, schools now are so obsessed with ‘progress’ and academic success that many have lost the plot in terms of the broader picture of what education is all about. Schools, that used to be outward-facing and closely linked to their local community have become closed bastions of academic progress, constantly fearing the next Ofsted visit or change in policy at the Department for Education.

What is the value of school trips?

Children get a lot of experiences that enrich their learning. But of cause, these are not easy to measure!! I have been lucky enough to take some really life-changing trips for children during my career. To see children look at famous monuments and visit historic places in real life has often brought my subject to life far more than any interactive whiteboard can ever hope to do. I’ve dug soil pits and helped children to see and understand the history of the land right in front of their eyes. I have stood on the coast and watched children throw oranges into the sea to demonstrate long shore drift and then shown them how their local coastline is eroding on a weekly basis. These days, I have to do all of this in the classroom in case my trips make them miss valuable school time, particularly in a core subject (Maths or English) Heaven forbid if a child misses one of these subjects, even for one lesson.

I have gone on trips abroad and experienced the fantastic learning experiences that this offers, not only in terms of the curriculum but also in terms of social development (oh, the government doesn’t really recognise this as it can’t be measured yet!!)

What can we do as parents?

I think because of the present education climate, we just have to do the best we can and money permitting, try to take out children to local places of interest. A visit to our local church to look at how the building is constructed, how old the gravestones are can generate lots of historical awareness. If you have countryside near you, a weekend walk looking at the natural environment can stimulate interest that can help learning at school. My young children love collecting bits of twig, stones and discarded bird feathers and we then spend time discussing them when they return home. Often this can stimulate fascinating questions and even art work. My 5 year old loves to stick what he has found on paper and use paint to create some imaginative collages.

We spent a wonderful few days over half term visiting the local coast. The children had to wrap up warm but we scavenged on the beach, built sandcastles and decorated them with what we found lying around. We talked about everything from castles to fossils and different types of sea fish – it was just what education should be about – spontaneous, exciting and child-led (and not a National Curriculum level in sight!)

These are all the kinds of things that schools used to encourage years ago, but sadly not anymore. I’m afraid its up to us as parents now.

So, the next time a letter comes home about a school trip, think how lucky you are that your child’s school still values trips!!

What do you think?

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Posted in Education Policy, Parenting

Levels out, Milestones in?

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National Curriculum Levels are history!

Recent musings and mutterings from the Department for Education seem to suggest that after countless hours of brain-mulching by schools in working out complex data systems to prove to Ofsted that their children are making progress, education mandarins are going to not just shift the goalposts, but actually demolish them and replace them with something completely different!!

Levels are going!!

Now Jobbing Teacher has never been a huge fan of National Curriculum levels, mainly due to the fact that in many subjects they are just not fit for purpose and were designed to be broad, end of key stage benchmarks and not to be used in the way that schools have been using them; namely to grade every tiny bit of work that a child manages to do in class. I hate to say this, but for once I think common sense has the the potential to prevail.

However, I am not counting my chickens yet as common sense does not often lead to common practice, particularly in our glorious education system.

We seems to be shifting back to benchmark or ‘milestones’ type of assessment systems where teachers will have to decide what an average Y8 child for example should be able to do by the end of the year. Like much of the current pre-school assessment systems that are actually very good in Jobbing Teacher’s  view, you then decide whether a particular skill is;

emerging

developed

achieved

This makes a lot of sense. However there is one huge fly in the ointment that pre-schools don’t have to deal with yet – league tables!!

Our obsession with league tables means that whatever system is put in place to monitor our children’s progress, schools will untimately usurp it by trying to find loopholes and shortcuts to get them further up the government’s latest league table.

What does this mean for parents?

In theory, if schools get it right, parents should be much more able to understand what their child can do and more importantly, whether this is what they should expect for a child of this age. This will be so much better than being told your child has moved from a level 4b to a 4a. (whatever that actually means!)

For teachers it means another massive change and ‘head in hands’ moments due to the realisation that the monumental amount of work that has been put in place in recent years to create data systems around NC levels has been trashed at the drop of a hat.

Let’s keep our fingers crossed that common sense might just start to become common practice for once!!

Posted in Education Policy, School Leadership

My Lovely Son’s Chromosome Deletion

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By Jobbing Teacher                        Follow me on Facebook

My 3 year old son has a 2.1 Mb microdeletion of chromosome 12 (region q12), and a number of medical issues including long-sightedness, squint, astigmatism, bilateral inguinal hernias, abnormalities of the renal system and short stature, soft dysmorphic features and eczema.

Deletions of this particular chromosomal region are very rare and there is limited information about the implications of this specific genetic mutation. However abnormalities noted in other children with deletions of the same chromosomal region include global developmental delay, impaired communication and delayed language, learning difficulty necessitating a statement of special educational needs and 1:1 support at a special needs school. Behavioural traits noted include good sociability, poor sense of danger and ‘generally well behaved but shouts or cries if you stop him doing what he wants, take him somewhere he doesn’t like or make him do an activity he doesn’t want to do’.

He has been found to have developmental delay in several areas, including gross motor and language. A formal developmental assessment was carried out by the community paediatrician using the Griffiths developmental scale at 31 months (He is now 38 months) and he was found to have an even developmental profile with an estimate of skills range of 24-30 months. A Griffiths scale has since not been repeated. My son’s preschool keyworker  has observed him and noted areas of concern with particular regard to communication, language & speaking and understanding. At age 36 months my son was assessed to be within the range of 16-26 month stage and borderline 16-26/22-36 month stage for literacy/reading.

All in all, we are worried about how he will cope in Primary school, particularly when we see how his elder brother (aged 5) is being pushed in a reception class of 30 children. In particular we are very concerned;

  • That he is currently unable to fully access the range of educational opportunities available to him.

My son has a limited range of interests which he seems highly fixated on (eg trying on shoes/bags, playing with keys, the family car, the CD player at preschool!). It is difficult to successfully divert his attention from these areas and engage him in other activities (eg looking at books, singing).

 

  • Delayed development of his language and communication.

My son has a wide range of words, but immature speech and sentences. He often gives incongruous answers to questions (eg Mum: ‘Did you play outside today?’ Son: ‘Go in our car’). He seems to preferentially use non verbal communication eg eye/finger pointing, nodding/shaking his head, grunts/cries, pulling/pushing. My son has developed an intermittent stutter over since Oct/Nov 2013.

 

  •  Difficulties with following instructions and conforming to behavioural expectations both at school and at home.

 My son is capable of understanding and following simple instructions (eg please go to the buggy and put your hat on). However he often chooses not to obey simple instructions and instead pursues an activity of his own choosing. When this behaviour is challenged he becomes upset and shouts/cries, throws himself on the floor and often cannot be persuaded to behave as desired! Recently my son’s class performed a Chinese dragon procession for the parents at preschool. He was unable/unwilling to join in the activity, didn’t take the cues from the other children to be part of the activity and instead wandered around the setting following his own interests.

My 5 year old child is mature, well behaved, supportive and loving towards his younger brother. My 3 year old learns a lot from being with him but we have noticed that he doesn’t pick up the behavioural cues from his brother (eg he often doesn’t come to the table to eat tea, even when we have asked him to and his elder brother has already followed the instruction).

 

  • That his level of understanding and comprehension is difficult to judge, but seems not to be convincingly age appropriate.

My son often answers questions with inappropriate answers unrelated to the question asked. He cannot count numbers and is only just beginning to consistently name colours.  We are very concerned that he will be unable to cope at Primary school without a high level of support and attention.

Does anyone else have a child with a similar chromosome deletion and/or similar experiences? Any advice would be greatly appreciated

JT

 

 

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Posted in Chromosome Deletion, Parenting

What does school senior leadership really mean?

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By Jobbing Teacher                                               Follow me on Facebook

This week’s post is going to focus on Jobbing Teacher’s guide for parents on what ‘senior leadership’ actually means, particularly at secondary level.

Many parents are both impressed and I am sure, slightly intimidated when they get to talk to a member of the school’s senior leadership team. (most people never get to talk to the Headteacher these days as they are far too busy or not in school – which usually means they are out networking for their next post!!)

However, as with most things in education, things are not always as they seem. When Jobbing Teacher first stepped up to the dizzy heights of senior leadership nearly a decade ago, the first thing that was immediately noticed was – you didn’t actually lead anything tangible. Having grown up in teaching leading departments and managing resources etc  one suddenly finds that you are leading things like ‘Teaching and Learning’, ‘Progress’, ‘Assessment’, ‘Coaching’, Behaviour for Learning  or ‘CPD’. All these kinds of things are quite slippery and can be poisoned chalices in the making. Also, teachers can be quite dismissive and in some cases downright rude if you ask them to do something towards your new area of responsibility.

Jobbing Teacher also found that there is a lot of time in senior leadership spent doing ‘duties’. This usually involves standing around watching children because Headteachers don’t trust dinner staff for example to be able to manage behaviour. There have been many occasions that Jobbing Teacher has been stood outside in the rain thinking ‘am I the most expensive dinner lady on the planet?’

I remember one Headteacher changing the end of the school day timings without realising that a local primary school ended at the same time. This resulted in 1000+ secondary school pupils piling over a bridge leading past the entrance of the said Primary school. Complaints in abundance followed, so the Head’s solution was that ‘senior leaders’ would be on duty at each end of the bridge every night at the end of school. I once calculated that on a busy night there was £250,000 worth of staff on that little bridge. What would the age of austerity make of that today?!

A big thing in senior leadership is made of ‘monitoring’ which basically means making sure that teachers are doing every little command that they are asked to do, however silly. Monitoring meetings can be sobering affairs with the senior leader’s job being to make sure that middle leaders lower down the pecking order are dishing the dirt on their subordinates and giving them a good talking too if they step out of line. Minutes must be taken of all meetings so that the ‘Ofsted Evidence Folder ‘(which incidentally Ofsted never ask to look at!!) is kept bulging and ready to impress.

Another senior role is dealing with naughty children who staff can’t handle. This can be a real black hole of time if you let it get out of control. Staff soon sniff out a soft touch and senior leaders who are a bit green behind the ears will find streams of naughty children at their office door until they put their foot down!

The next worse senior job to duties is dealing with stroppy parents. Most parents are wonderful, easy to work with and very supportive of the school. However, every school I have worked in has a very small minority of troublesome types who usually had a bad experience at school themselves and have some scores to settle. Again they can take up an inordinate amount of a senior leader’s time, particularly if the Headteacher has a penchant for ‘not being available at the moment.’ Very occasionally you get a parent who is a real nightmare – one who will just not give up if they get their teeth into you!! I have seen senior staff just whither under the constant bombardment of these characters. One parent I have seen did this by bombarding a poor SENCO with in excess of 70 emails over a period of a few weeks. The end product was the SENCO eventually resigned under this pressure. The parent continued to behave in this manner with the next SENCO, who it must be said was more resilient, but it continued until the parent’s child left the school.

So ‘leadership’ – you expect as a new senior leader that it will be all about strategic thinking, new innovations and change management. Think again!! Most of the time you are a social worker/police officer/fire-fighter/solver of other people’s problems. Most senior leaders either accept that this is the truth and just do their best or get out as quickly a possible to Headship. If you have ever seen Daniel Craig in ‘Layer Cake’ you will know what I mean. ‘When you climb up to the rarefied atmosphere of the top you forget what **** smells like, because it all runs down hill!’ (I paraphrase somewhat!)

So, dear parents, the next time you deal with a ‘senior leader’, don’t be afraid; be nice to these poor souls and they will invariably try to help you with your problem.

Teachers – senior leadership is not quite what you think it is!!! (you will one day realise this if you climb up the layer cake)

 

 

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Posted in School Leadership, School Organisation, Uncategorized

School Governors

 

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By Jobbing Teacher                                                   Join me on Facebook

This week Jobbing Teacher took his place on that great British institution; the School Governing Body. I have become a parent governor at one of my children’s Primary school. It is a Church of England school , as all of our local schools are but even the seasoned eye of the Jobbing Teacher was taken aback when the meeting began with a prayer led by our local clergyman who is also on the Governing body!

As a virgin to this body I sat back and observed and then began reflecting on what governing bodies are supposed to do and what they actually do. Let’s start with what they are supposed to do;

“In state schools they have responsibility for raising school standards through their three key roles of setting strategic direction, ensuring accountability and acting as a critical friend

So, looking round the table at the nice bunch of friendly people, I pondered, how on earth are they going to exercise this responsibility for raising standards? This momentous responsibility assumes that they understand how education standards are measured and improved. Many teachers struggle to follow the constantly changing goalposts of standards dictated by government so how on earth are a bunch of essentially lay people going to do this? Time will tell I suppose.

Setting strategic direction is another interesting concept for a governing body. Most senior leadership teams I have worked with spend only a fraction of their time truly thinking strategically. Strategic thinking in an educational context is a bit of a smoke and mirrors affair, mainly because these days all of the so-called strategic thinking comes from central government, so governors work within a framework akin to ” if I want your (strategic) opinion, I’ll give it to you’. Strategic thinking in schools doesn’t get much further than “how do we get through the next Ofsted” I’m afraid.

Critical friend is probably more achievable, but again relies on some of the Governors having enough of an educational background to be able to question the Headteacher confidently. Jobbing Heateacher raised a question at the first meeting and could feel the shockwaves around the table.

So this post is going to be part of an on-going learning experience and commentary. It is early days but Jobbing Teacher’s new role as a school governor has begun.

What do you think?

 

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Posted in Education Policy, School Communications, School Leadership, School Organisation

Parent’s Guide to Ofsted

 

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By Jobbing Teacher                                Join me on Facebook

There is a lot of smoke and mirrors around Ofsted  and Jobbing Teacher often worries that parents take too much for granted with regard to Ofsted ratings when choosing a school for their child. Today’s post takes a good hard look through the lens of a teacher who has experienced numerous Ofsted inspections over a 25 year career.

The first question any parent should ask is;

 ”does an Ofsted report give a true impression of a school?”

The answer to this question is yes and no. It gives a concentrated but narrow view of the quality of a school’s work based these days purely on examination results (including SATS) and progress measures. They do not report on broader aspects of education and only pay lip service to judging the quality of such things as the social and moral development of our children. Another problem worth mentioning is that each new ‘framework’ that Ofsted uses (this changes every few years) shifts the goalposts. The result of this is that at the start of a new framework, you tend to get more surprising (dodgy) judgements. This is mainly due to a combination of inspection teams getting used to the new judgement criteria and schools learning the rules of the latest version of the Ofsted game.

I’ll give you an example. A local secondary school to me had three ‘outstanding’ Ofsted judgements on the trot over a period of a decade or more and was put on a pedestal as a paragon of educational virtue. They had an inspection last year and fell foul of the GCSE English results debacle which meant their English results showed a dramatic dip for one year. They were re-categorised as ‘Needs to Improve’. (The old ‘satisfactory’ judgement).  Now I don’t want to get overly cynical here, but three ‘outstanding Ofsteds and then a ‘needs to improve’. I think this says more about the Ofsted system than the school quite frankly. But I digress!

The latest Ofsted visit is only two days long with very short notice – presumably to enable to see the school as it really is. Most lesson observations last about twenty minutes although when I was inspected last year, the lead inspector came into one of my lessons for the last 15 minutes!! You might be thinking, how do you make a judgement like that?

Exactly!! This kind of regime can create anomalies. If Ofsted see a lot of lessons in a subject area in a secondary school for example and deem them all to be ‘good’ then they will write a statement in their report saying “ teaching in that particularly subject is good”. However, and this is where the sheer stupidity of the system can show itself, if the results in the same subject are deemed not to be good enough, then in the same report a few paragraphs later it can say “teaching needs to improve in the said subject”. Utter nonsense, as I am sure you will agree!

Joking apart, Ofsted make the assumption that what they are seeing on the visit is not what happens on a day-to-day basis. They don’t put this in the report but tell the crestfallen Headteacher verbally.

Ofsted just don’t seem to be able to cope with these types of situations well. So how do parents interpret these mixed messages?

If a report from a local school says that ‘teaching is good’ this probably means that teachers have learned how to ditch their principles and learned how to play the ‘Ofsted game’. Examination results are likely to be above national averages and the staff know every trick in the book to get there regardless of whether it is right for our children’s long term educational development. (e.g. BTEC PE in a week-type strategies to make sure every child gets their 5 GCSE or equivalent results)

If the report says ‘teaching needs to improve’ it is likely that the school’s results are a true reflection of their pupil’s natural ability and staff know that it is no good for the kids futures to virtually do it for them. Staff will no doubt get a good kicking and quickly learn how to manipulate results or end up on capability procedures.

If a local school is deemed by Ofsted to be ‘Outstanding’ this means they have really bagged every  barely-legal examination sleight of hand know to the civilised world. Their Headteacher is a smooth operator who knows the game inside out. She/he will have worked in and subsequently ditched a number of tough schools on the way up the greasy pole. The pupils will be very compliant and parents will back the school over everything. This is like the Nirvana of Headship or like getting a Knighthood (which often seems to follow these days, particularly if you are an Academy Principal and like taking over other schools in a Genghis Khan-like fashion). This head is a lucky, lucky person, but will not be in school much. Outstanding status opens lots of doors for Headteachers with DFE accolades, Government focus groups and lucrative consultancy work – Nirvana indeed!

If a school is deemed to be inadequate or needs ‘special measures’ in Jobbing Teacher’s experience this probably means that the pupils are out of control (no doubt due to the pressure to learn inappropriate subjects in an inappropriate way) and the Headteacher is out of their depth to deal with it. (and will usually disappear very quickly). Avoid these types of schools until a new Head has sorted them out and taught everyone how to play the Ofsted game. (this normally takes about 18 months in every school miraculously!)

Another point that parents need to consider when trying to interpret Ofsted reports is that the smaller the school, the more unreliable that statistics become. Jobbing Teacher is not renowned for his Mathematical ability but I think you can work that one out for yourself (sample size etc)

The Ofsted Statistics Bible is called Raiseonline which like Premier league football pundits gives every statistic under the sun. School leadership teams spend torrid hours trying to work out why the Raiseonline statistics say the results last year (which everyone thought were really good)  appear to be really crap!!

All in all a difficult one to ponder when thinking about whether a local school is really the right one for your child. My advice is simply this;

  • Don’t believe everything you read in Ofsted reports or the local press. Take it with a pinch of salt
  • Listen to what your local community says about its schools
  • Talk to other parents and friends who have children there about their experiences of the school
  • If parents generally send their children to a school where they were pupils themselves or if you know that some staff have their children at the school, you are usually onto a winner!

 

What do you think?

 

 

 

 

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Posted in Education Policy, School Leadership, School Organisation