I spent a great deal of time in the summer holiday contemplating how we fit into the new political vision for schools in England whilst maintaining what I believe is fundamental about educating children. It goes without saying that all with an interest in education want the same thing – confident, well educated young people with a good mix of skills and knowledge.
Sadly, we can allow the pressure of Ofsted inspections and, quite often (but not always) myths surrounding what ofsted May or may not say about our school, get in the way of our main purpose.
The political agenda is quite a frightening one at the moment. I know a number of head teachers who have gone from leading a school with passion and patience, demonstrating a great care for the pupils, finding themselves completely destroyed mentally by the rigidity of the data game and Ofsted judgements personalising an attack on the person at the top.
These days it seems very easy to decide that a school is failing and all the blame is put solely on the person in the most senior leadership role. I don’t see this paralleled in other aspects of life. It seems that in headteachers and social workers can be blamed for the ills in society. If something is going wrong in our country it is either the social worker’s fault for not preventing some evil people’s actions, or it’s a headteacher’s fault for not shaping the education of our young people correctly and failing our society.
I just don’t understand the need to crush and destroy fellow human beings in such a way. If a school is failing support it and help it improve, don’t beat the people who have worked hard to do the right thing for the young people in their care. In this move to forced academy I have witnessed a number of my colleagues end up with depression, broken. A failing teacher would receive support before losing their job – not headteachers.
Anyway I digress. My dilemma is how to balance the fear of this type of treatment with doing what I feel is right for the pupils I serve.
I truly believe that the data that we seem to be beaten over needs to become the end result not the starting point. If ofsted started by looking at the school first and the data last we may see a different outcome. In my school we aim to give the children a wide range of experience, rich in the arts, full of risk taking and excitement but I feel this is getting squeezed as I am constantly being told we are failing these children if our data does not show better than what is expected of these pupils. These children achieving what is expected is no good anymore.
So do I give in and concentrate on a narrow, boring, single minded curriculum just to get the grades to stop me risking the fate of the heads I have already mentioned or do I take the risk, continue to focus on the individuals I serve and widen their horizons?
I know what I truly believe and I will not compromise this for a government ministers political whim.
I will not turn my school into a franchised chain with no individuality or autonomy. We will not become the McDonald’s, or pizza express of the education world. We will remain unique, personal and focused on our young people.