At a meeting recently, a head teacher produced a document listing all the new things her teachers, year groups and whole school had done this academic year. There must have been a couple of hundred of them. They were no order of importance, impact, scale or anything – just a big long list.
I loved this because it quite clearly showed how innovative, hard working and creative the staff and the school are. My daughter goes to that school and just by that big long list I know she is receiving an outstanding education.
This week I heard a Chair of Governors speak to a meeting of teachers about being an outstanding school. She said that the harsh reality was that schools needed to found by OFSTED to be outstanding. This is because that would lead to a better local reputation, which in turn would lead to more pupils in that school and that this would then mean that the jobs of people in that school would be safe.
The more I have thought about this, the more I have found myself in disagreement with it. The biggest problem with what he said was that it reduces my job as a teacher to just that – a job. It becomes something I do just for myself, to satisfy me and to put food on the table and a roof over my head. Of course I need to be paid for what I do and when the government wants to reduce the sustainable teacher pension that I am part of I get very angry. But the joy of teaching is seeing what your pupils gain and learn and to watch them develop as thinkers and as people.
If schools are run to win a notification from OFSTED that they are outstanding, then they have lost the purpose of education and have become no more than a statistic orientated bureau. Students become reduced to percentages (I heard a head teacher this year say his staff should put in more effort to this exam year group as they were a smaller cohort and each pupil’s results therefore counted for a higher percentage towards the schools target figure) and results have become king.
We are not here to prove to OFSTED that we are outstanding. They use up enough DfE cash each year (over £200 million) to be able to find that out themselves. As a school’s, teacher or senior manager we should be providing as many exciting, engaging and appropriate learning opportunities that we can for our children. We should trust our own judgement to do that and not look to see what part of the OFSTED criteria an activity might tick.
Finally, I think we overestimate what an OFSTED grading means to the parents in our area. Parents are not stupid. They don’t need to read a report written by someone who has visited a school for a day and a half. Parents talk to others who have children at our school about what they think of their child’s learning. And they will be told about all those things on that list that the pupils have experienced. It is the children and their parents and community we should be thinking of when we plan learning, not OFSTED.
At the end of this term I shall be standing down as a Governor at a local infant school. For 3 of those years I have been Chair. I have tried to work closely with the Headteacher as a critical friend. I have attended many, many meetings and met with the Head and/or Clerk to the Governors at least once a week and often more. I care wholeheartedly about the education the pupils are receiving. This is the exact reason every member of our governing body volunteered. We do all this in our own time for no financial reward. This is work to improve the education system on a not for profit basis. I like to think that we have played our part in helping to make the school such an outstanding place for the children to learn and all this at no cost at all to the taxpayer.
This week Michael Gove has called us “Local Worthies” after a “badge of honour” with which to pose around the High Street on Saturday and increase their social standing
This is an insult to all the work we all do. Michael Gove is out of order to make such an unfounded rude and nasty statement.
I ask him to completely retract the statement and apologise for his thoughtless and mean comments.
I am no great expert at Primary teaching. I have taught in secondary schools for nearly 20 years, but those smaller ones are a whole different kettle of behaviour management skills. However I have had the delight of being a chair of governors at a nearby infant school for the last 3 years. Because the head is superb, this is not an onerous task. However in the last couple of weeks there has been a really big black cloud on her horizon: the phonics test. The further I investigated this the more I begin to see what a poorly conceived strategy this is – so much so that I have felt obliged to write to our MP Mr. John Glen (Conservative). The only point I didn’t raise was that of Ms. Ruth Miskin and her triple role as 1)sole Primary literacy expert to the government, (2)developer of the approved government scheme and (3) publisher of books connected with the £3,000 match funding scheme. Because that is being discussed elsewhere by people with far more expertise in government business connections than I.
So here is a copy of the letter I wrote:
Dear Mr. Glen,
I am writing to you as Chair of Governors at Wyndham Park Infants’ school. Recently the school had to administer and carry out phonics tests for Year 1 pupils.
I would like you to know that both the headteacher and I can see no reason for making the pupils of our school take these tests; this is because:
1. They only serve to take up time that could be better spent teaching.
2. The results tell the teachers little that they already didn’t know about the pupils in their classes.
3. There is a cost to running these tests. This money would have more impact on pupils learning if it was spent in a different way.
4. Also the results of these tests can only distress parents of pupils who did not pass and make the child themselves feel negative about their chances of doing well in education.
5. When we have to report simply on whether a child has passed or failed a test this takes away from all the hard work we at Wyndham Park put into focussing on pupil’s making progress (and this is a key component to OFSTED’s definition of outstanding teaching).
6. Measuring children who are up to 12 months part in age is also not a level playing field on which to be judged
7. I also know from having talked to staff that some of the most able readers performed worse than less developed readers who rely solely on phonics.
Please could you be aware that this government policy is therefore only having a negative impact on pupils, parents, teachers and head teachers and should I believe be scrapped.
We would be delighted for you to visit Wyndham Park at any time to view the outstanding work that all staff and pupils do here.
Chair of Governors
Wyndham Park Infants’ school
Cc Mr Michael Gove
I am proud to be presenting one of the workshops on 3rd July.
IF YOU HAVE ANY COMMENTS ON MY PRESENTATION I WOULD GREATLY APPRECIATE IT. it is the first I’ve I have done nothing like that.
i am attaching here the information sheet and the powerpoint presentation from my workshop should you wish to refer back to either of them
The instructions given to pupils on the day itself are on my other blog and can be found by clicking here