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Becoming the Educator of Last Resort #ThursdayThunk

My preferred behaviour system is one which is effective (gets pupils to behave very well), inclusive (doesn’t allow schools to move the most vulnerable and disadvantaged pupils elsewhere) and is designed and implemented “out of love” for what is best, in the short and longer term, for me and others in the community.  This provides the essential tension required in the system.

Photo Credit: Gian Luigi Perrella via Flickr cc

Photo Credit: Gian Luigi Perrella via Flickr cc

Without this essential tension some schools begin to move towards unethical behaviours; the strong fail in their duty to look after those who are most needy in our society.  You only have to look at the massively disproportionate number of pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds in Alternative Provision.  One of the latest unethical behaviours we are seeing is the movement of increasing numbers of pupils into Elective Home Education; a safeguarding disaster waiting to happen.  Not for the children whose parents have made a lifestyle and educational choice they have the capacity to deliver effectively; rather the marginalised that some schools feel they need to push out to protect their headline performance table measures.  There’s little reward for schools who are willing or end up acting as the educators of last resort; the schools that take the pupils other schools are desperate to move on.

HeadsRoundtable allows me to rub shoulders with leaders from different types of school and the perspective Dave Whitaker and Jarlath O’Brien (both special school head teachers) bring to this debate is revealing.  In some cases it is also shocking.  Discussing the White Paper it’s good to see some ideas developing about accountability arrangements with respect to Alternative Provision; “a pupil’s mainstream school will retain accountability for their educational outcomes and will take a lead role in commissioning their provision, including when they have permanently excluded the pupil but the pupil has not subsequently enrolled at a different mainstream school.”  This is a start but needs to be pushed further.  Mainstream schools need to be proportionately accountable for the time a pupil attended the school as well as for the time in Alternative Provision.  Make sure you close the Elective Home Education loophole or children and young people will quite literally go missing.

Designing drivers to make sure everyone goes the extra mile to keep young people in a mainstream school will be of a long term benefit to society.  If some pupils are permanently excluded or move into Alternative Provision it will have very little impact on a school’s headline outcomes but will soon expose the few schools, who sadly, see pupils as expendable on their journey towards an ill deserved Ofsted grade.

If you fancy go a step further, how could you get schools willing to give pupils currently in Alternative Provision a second chance?  At the minute the system has totally dis-incentivised this and pupils are becoming trapped.  One simple suggestion would be to use the accountability system as a driver.  If you accept a pupil who has spent six/twelve months in Alternative Provision or Elective Home Education any points they achieve/examinations they pass are added to the school’s performance indicator (increases the numerator) but the pupil isn’t added onto the denominator.  It could be argued this shouldn’t be necessary but in a high stakes accountability we need to put in place the right drivers.  Imagine a queue of head teachers outside an Alternative Providers door asking to take in pupils to help boost their ratings; now that would be a turn up for the books.

“Let all bear in mind that a society is judged not so much by the standards attained by its more affluent and privileged members as by the quality of life which it is able to assure for its weakest members.”

H.E. Javier Perez de Cuellar

#ThursdayThunk is based on something I’ve been thinking about, discussing, working on or has been topical that week.  The thunk is designed to be bite sized and will deliberately be kept short.  It will take one small issue or an aspect of something much bigger.  The intention is for it to be read in two/three minutes as you’re busy running around at the end of the week or relaxing on your day off.


Leadership: Being, Knowing, Doing (New Book)

Liminal Leadership


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