I had the privilege and benefit of attending the Inspiring Leadership In Challenging Times organised by the brilliant Chris Holmwood (@LTCSBE). One of the exceptional speakers Carl Jarvis (@carljarvis_eos ) had asked four hundred school leaders the simple question, What is your biggest priority? You may have thought this would elicit a wide range of answers but, after a minute’s reflection time, 347 school leaders answered Ofsted and 0 answered their staff. We’ve got problems.
#Imagine All the Teachers, Working Successfully
Staff well-being is a pre-cursor to enhanced staff performance in a sustainable education system.
The F Factors – Fear, Frustration and Fulfilment
There are many factors that will help all teachers to work more successfully. In this post I just want to pick up a strand associated with self-determination. By this I mean the ability to influence aspects of our job, in the way that we ought not simply in the way we want. The ought, in this particular situation, is to provide the best possible education we can for the young people in front of us.
What is stopping you doing this? What would help you to do this better?
I’m going to take the 3Fs – Fear, Frustration and Fulfilment – as examples of both the negative and positive influences on teachers and their ability to do their job successfully.
How Do I Remove Fear from the School When I Feel Fearful?
Ofsted seems to be the overriding pre-occupation and priority of school leaders. I can relate to this. The impact of Ofsted on a school can be huge and out of all proportion to the actually validity and reliability of their judgements.
The interesting thing about the conversation above is the people involved and the quite open and public criticism of the inspection process. Professors Dylan Wiliam & Robert Coe know a thing or two about data, interpreting statistics and the validity of a particular methodology.
Part of the fear around Ofsted may well disappear when Ofsted and schools begin to realise that the issue of inspections, inspection teams and inspection reports goes way beyond variability to actually the validity and reliability of the whole process – the Emperor’s got no clothes on! If we can’t determine an objective standard then maybe we need to rethink our whole approach. The transparency appearing in the system, partly due to social media, is creating problems for Ofsted and I sense they are beginning to realise it.
Is it actually possible for Ofsted to assess behaviour over time to a common standard based on a two day visit?
Can you assess the quality of teaching and learning over time separately from achievement?
It’s very easy to blame Ofsted. Some inspectors can be a bit of a nightmare whilst others are genuinely concerned about students, teachers and schools, highly professional and dare I say even quite charming. Overall, they want the same as school leaders and teachers – a great education for young people.
How can Ofsted reform itself so it is respected by the profession rather than being feared?
How can school leaders filter out the negative impact Ofsted is currently having on schools?
What’s Frustrating People?
School leaders aren’t just prioritising Ofsted In schools, we’re aping them. This has gone on for so long I don’t know whether we actually realise we are doing it anymore. There seem to be a raft of changes which are being implemented against our better judgement. About this time last year we were running around putting in place Pay Policies containing Performance Related Pay.
Performance Pay – Good idea or just another wind up and frustration for teachers?
Have mini-Ofsted Inspections and the continual re-drafting of SEFs improved the Education System or distracted it?
Sat alongside the above frustrations for staff will be a lack of self-determination – the ability to do a good job (and it must be a good job) as they decide best.
In short, the end points are non-negotiable (a high quality education for every child) but the means of doing it (as long as they are legal and moral) should be left to the team and individual.
I accept there is a balance here as some approaches being consistent across a school I think are helpful. I would put behaviour management into this category and the few things that are known to have a significant impact on achievement, for example, feedback with learners responding to it. The problem for many teachers is the list can go on for too long, to the point no-one can actually remember it. Letting go is difficult but vital for the success of the organisation.
What Can We Do to Improve Staff Fulfilment in Their Roles?
In a complex system it is important to understand your limitations. Top down imposed improvements rarely stand the test of time – trust me I’ve tried and failed more often than not. Leaders need to establish the values systems in which the organisation will flourish, not try to micromanage it.
Our job as leaders needs to become more supportive of teachers. The system can help us here by balancing the demands of accountability with the need to support and develop staff. Teachers should expect to work within commonly agreed frameworks but also have the ability to make decisions to deliver a high quality education. Integral to this will be building the professional capital within schools, within families of schools and across wider school alliances. The opportunity for greater professional development afforded through twitter and blogs as well as
We need to create more opportunities to allow people to grow.
But we also need to create more opportunities to allow people to be.
That is to be: husbands and wives; mums and dads; brothers and sisters; sons and daughters and friends. A teacher’s life is just too manic. A number of years ago we supported a member of staff to train as a counsellor. I was convinced of the potential benefit for the students. I didn’t realise how many staff would also benefit, over the years, from an in-house counselling service.
I Wonder How Your Reservoir of Hope and Joy is Looking Today?
How Will You Refill Your Reservoir?
Helping students fulfil their potential is about looking after the whole child. If we want the whole child to be looked after then we need to care for the carers much better than we are currently doing. Successful teachers, successful staff need leaders to identify them as the priority. This is not always easy for leaders … I’m off to sort out my two panic buttons as a starting point.
You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one
The Other Posts in this series:
#Imagine There’s No Chaos, Coherence is the Key (To Be Published)
Other posts you might find of interest include: