With the longest darkest night of the year just a month away; staff tired with loads to do in what is the usual mad busy Christmas Term, it is all too easy to become a bit negative. Here are three reasons to be cheerful: Justine, Greening, Alison Peacock and Amanda Spielman.
I realise these may not be top of everyone’s “this makes me happy” list. And whilst I have no insider knowledge of what they will do next; have only met two out of three of them – which ain’t bad – it strikes me that working together they may do a whole load of good.
This is one of the most powerful statements a Secretary of State has ever made. It is normally the announcement of another ill-conceived policy that gains media coverage; this statement is potentially much more profound. It could mark a sea change in policy direction. Let’s focus on what is most likely to work; let’s evaluate whether our policy changes have impact. Gone will be endless shuffling about of structures and in comes a focus on teaching, assessment and learning and reducing variability between pupils’ classroom experiences.
Big challenges ahead: sufficient school places, teachers and school leaders; sufficient funding alongside fairer distribution and gently manoeuvring some of the distractors – academy conversion, grammar schools and the E-Bacc – into the long grass.
Cue Dame Alison Peacock, currently Headteacher of Wroxham School, who has launched a series of #LearnFirst conferences across the country. She is the CEO Designate of the College of Teaching. She has abundant knowledge and experience of what works in the classroom. From her new CEO position she will be able, to support, challenge and nudge education policy, as appropriate, in the right direction. Again you sense the focus will be on the classroom and the best possible teaching being provided for our children & young people.
Big challenges ahead: getting the College of Teaching known within the wider teaching profession, as opposed to the twitter bubble, and gaining a critical mass of the profession as members.
The work of Amanda Spielman will be critical to redefining the professionalism of teachers and school leaders. Her challenge is to move from a primarily externally accountable profession to a professionally responsible profession. External accountability has to be rolled back and we must support her work, if that is indeed the direction shed decides to move in. Despite Ofsted’s protestations the issues of variability in judgement and much more critically the validity of the conclusions reached on the evidence available won’t go away. Amanda will bring a profound understanding and critical perspective to this aspect of Ofsted’s work. The £31 million black hole in Ofsted’s finances is a great opportunity for a fresh pair of eyes to fundamentally reform inspection.
Big challenges ahead: politicians’ love of using Ofsted/accountability framework for their latest whim, some amendments might need changes to primary legislation and some people’s disbelief that we can improve the system with less inspection.
For a full house you need two aces alongside the three queens. The two aces for me are:
- A realisation that the most critical structure in the education system is the classroom
- Building a culture which if focused, informed and ethical
May common sense and common purpose abound. Tis nearly the season of joy.
Full marks for accentuating the positive – I’ll try my best to remain hopeful that we’ll see grammar schools ‘kicked into the long grass’!