So enough. I don’t listen to Any Questions or Answers and I don’t watch Question Time. Anything that requires viewer voting – off it goes. I’ll leave a room to avoid listening to any media discussion of schooling (that doesn’t involve me). I don’t even watch or listen to myself when I’m on.
However, I was sitting in a cab yesterday and couldn’t avoid LBC. James O’Brien, who I’m happy to read in print, was interviewing Jim Knight about the NEU’s Beyond Ofsted report. I like this Knight, Schools Minister a lifetime ago. I even took out my airpods (Barack Obama reading A Promised Land, if you must know) to follow the chat. Headlines:
Because Ofsted is no longer trusted and significant, change is needed. In a better future, every school will conduct its own nationally-set self-evaluation to report to stakeholders, working with an external school improvement partner (SIP) on an action plan. The SIP would also validate the school’s exam performance reviews. (This isn’t new, but we could do it better).
Inspectors would focus on this process, intervening where it goes wrong. They would not routinely inspect teaching or pupil outcomes but they would be sufficiently skilled to build capacity in school leadership teams. They’d be fully independent and hold government, policies and the effects of policies to account through system-wide thematic inspections. This would include teacher supply. (Bonza scheme).
Safeguarding audits would be conducted annually under the oversight of a different national body. (Ditto)
So, routine inspections should be immediately paused to reset and regain the trust of the profession. A national duty of care is due to teachers so they may develop collaborative learning cultures which generate excellent professional skills and competencies. This should be at the heart of any reform. (Nicely put, Sir)
At the same time, another v interesting report landed from IPPR: Improvement through Empowerment. They start with:
Policymakers in recent decades have pursued a top-down approach to improving public services. inspired by new public management (NPM), which argued that the absence of market forces in public services meant they suffered from weak or misaligned incentives.
This makes it harder for them to do their job properly and undermines retention – damaging pupils in the process and resulting in unsustainable costs to taxpayer.
Both of the above reports offer simple solutions that cost a bit of money, but if they stem the tide of people leaving teaching or refusing to be Heads, it would be well spent.
I’m musing on ‘weak and misaligned incentives’. I can see that strong and aligned incentives are crucial to production lines but strong alignment to outcomes or Ofsted has skewed education over thirty-odd years. Besides, what are the incentives? Better pay’s only part of the story. Teachers leave because they don’t have time to think and they’re treated like fools. The incentive to being a teacher is deep in the heart. They want to serve children and change the world that way. They want to model a good life and give their charges the chance of reflection, self-motivation and – with luck – prosperity. It’s hard to systematise incentives around that.
I’d hope that Ofsted review and teacher CPD might be on the parties’ agenda as the election trots toward us. They could certainly do it in the time they’d save by decommissioning the banned lists of people who criticise government policy.
I looked out of the window as a visiting football team crosses the yard, looking slightly bemused. All schools are the same but so different. I hope these little chaps had a good experience while being kindly trounced. Later, I’m stopped on the corridor for a minor interrogation as to why I’m retiring. Age mystifies the young. I told them I was 62 but they’d have believed me if I’d said I was 50 or 104. They wanted the name of the new head, and were frankly shocked when I said the job hadn’t been advertised yet. How could such things be left in the air?
Bigger things are left in the air, my dears. Education policy is only one of them.