In the week we celebrate the two hundredth anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo it seems some, possibly many, schools have met theirs.
The warlike rhetoric that has consumed education with talk of sides and the front line is depressing. It’s not like war, people won’t lose their lives but lives will be changed for better or worse following the decisions we make.
The E-Bacc Battle Lines
Increasingly you sense that the new government intends to dictate the curriculum from Westminster in what, ironically for a Tory Government, has possibly been the greatest centralisation of powers ever in education. The desire for one nation politics is laudable but the proposed route may well take us in the opposite direction. The idea that a core academic curriculum will increase social equality fails to recognise all the other inequities and discrimination young people from disadvantaged backgrounds face. Equally the bar of “studying” it is set rather too low as there isn’t actually a requirement for anyone to secure a grade.
The E-Bacc itself may in turn increase the problem of social inequality due to the exclusive nature of the performance indicator. If you can’t get a grade C+ soon to be a grade 5+ in every one of English, Maths, Sciences, MFL and History or Geography you don’t count. Within each of these subjects the pass rate will limit the number of entries who can succeed. This just brings back the current dangers of the 5+A*-CEM focus on the few students at the C/D borderline. Whilst there are still tweaks needed the E-Bacc basket in the inclusive measure Progress8,where every child matters and every grade matters, brings a different pressure on schools and one I welcome.
So what would happen if schools just refused to do the E-Bacc and to hell with the Ofsted grade. Schools must run for the benefit the benefit of the children. It was great to read in Schools Week the report of the SSAT survey suggesting 85% of schools would not make the E-Bacc compulsory for all if that was a requirement for an outstanding judgement from Ofsted. Nearly half of outstanding schools who replied would be prepared to lose that status rather than put an Ofsted grade before their students. The whole thing has the potential to make the inspection process a farce (or as I would say more of a farce) than it already is.
There Are Two Choices Not One
Up to now I’ve tended to favour the idea that we are best to have as many possible serving head teachers on Ofsted Inspections as possible. There is the professional development argument as well as the “if you can’t beat them join them” one. I registered my “interest” in becoming an inspector over a year ago. I’m not sure they would have me but I haven’t been able to bring myself to cross to the dark side.
Ofsted have recently launched a recruitment drive for the 70% of inspectors who will be serving head teachers and senior leaders. The deadline for an expression of interest is Wednesday 8th July 2015 at 5:00 p.m. But what would happen if we thought about this differently and decided en masse not to apply? Going even further what would happen if all teachers and leaders serving in schools, who are currently registered inspectors, resigned with immediate effect.
It’s a bit like imagining a thousand teenagers just all calmly walking out of their class rooms and sitting down, quietly and without fuss, in the middle of the school fields and refusing to budge until something changed. What the hell would you do? Carry them all back in one by one? Exclude all one thousand of them? Or find out what had really upset them and realise that we lead with the consensus and permission of our students, parents and staff. When we lose that we lose everything.
Mavericks Are an Acquired Taste
It’s one thing telling more leaders to be maverick, like Sir Michael Wilshaw, did on Tuesday it’s a totally different thing when they all actually go and behave like one. Actions and events becoming increasingly difficult to predict. I wonder whether Sir Michael actually meant what he said … but then again he’s leaving this October or so I hear … maybe this is his final maverick act on the national stage, a call to arms.
With thanks to David Cameron (@realdcameron) and his great presentation at #NRocks