I’ve been watching ‘The Young Pope’ on the telly because I share a sofa so I don’t always get to choose what’s on. I’ve observed the scheming top Cardinal hassling the Pope to address the people. We’re still looking forward to hearing from you so may I beg you to do the same? In case you’ve forgotten, my helpful suggestions included school funding, teachers’ pay, school improvement and renationalising the National Curriculum.
Of course, you may be doing nothing at all and waiting for the shuffle, but as you promised to work hard, that can’t be true. I expect you’re locked in a dark room with the good accountants of the Treasury working out a long-term sustainable stable funding package to transform children’s lives. All power to your manly elbow!
However, the schools of the nation continue to assemble every day and do our bit for the common good so you’ll probably appreciate being kept abreast of same. Items on the agenda at Tallis since we last corresponded include:
- Getting external support to sort out the behaviour of troubled young folks
- Dealing with troubled young folks without any support.
- Telling some year 11s that closing their eyes and hoping they land somewhere in September does not constitute a careers strategy
- Telling other year 11s that they might want to take a break from revision from time to time.
- Talking to a DfE official about curriculum breadth and creativity
- Preparing for a Saturday governor meeting to decide the shape of key stage three and four.
- Drawing a line under sixth formers who haven’t done any work yet.
- Thinking about next year’s staffing.
- Hosting a visitor to look at behaviour and inclusion systems as we all struggle with the effects austerity has had on the stability of home life for the poorest families.
- Going to the funeral of a much-loved colleague who died at New Year
- Trying to foresee all eventualities in our transgender policy
- Dealing with criminality out of school seeping into school
On the agenda of young people at Tallis this week may have been some of the above plus
- Wearing hoods indoors in contravention of local byelaws.
- Learning the difference between the mournful, boisterous, friendly and annoying hug
- Assessing the distinction between a large woolly hairband and a hat
- Anticipating conversation at home after parents’ evening (year 8)
Youth ought to be generally carefree and I’m glad they don’t worry about everything we worry about. Mind, sometimes they are causes of worry. I encountered a youth helpfully carrying books from hither to yon, but inexpertly, as if he’d had them tipped into his arms from a laundry basket. We have a lot of stairs at Tallis but he assured me he’d get there safely. As for the books?
I write this with a local copper sitting in my office. He’s not arresting me for offences against the language but clearing up some issues in the locality. Simultaneously I note a campaign to Pause Ofsted in a ‘quiet revolution’ in order to bring about ‘fundamental reform’ in what it does. Have you seen this, Mr Williamson?
These campaigning colleagues believe that Ofsted increases problems for the most vulnerable schools. They make several unarguable points, specifically that the current inspection system
- Destroys the reputation of schools in deprived areas, which are doing the best work in the most difficult circumstances. These are not ‘stuck’, they have been let down by inadequate funding and support. Ofsted has consistently failed to call this out.
- Imposes inspection frameworks which are untried and untested on schools, leading to poor inspection judgements.
- Makes schools the scapegoat for rising child poverty which is the real enemy of learning and progress.
This has been brewing since Ofsted’s unfortunate description of schools whose inspection grades haven’t reached good for many years, or ever, as ‘stuck’. A crude and needlessly disparaging epithet, ‘stuck’ sounds as though no one’s really trying. When I led one of them, they were described as ‘schools facing challenging circumstances’ which is both accurate and respectful of the professionals and children therein. Did I mention offences against the language?
Instructed by one of my sofa-sharers I’ve been reading Machiavelli this week. He observed:
……wise Romans did not wish to add difficulties and dangers to a thing in itself difficult and dangerous, since they thought that if they added them, no one would ever work virtuously.
So, before I sign off, let me encourage your doubtless tireless work behind the scenes to repair ten years of austerity and child poverty. Accountability is legitimate, but openness, wisdom, justice, service and courage are what children and their communities need. And much, much more money.
Remaining your servant and trusting in your good intentions,