Apparently saying something makes it so

Good news everyone.

  1. The behavior in our school is outstanding.
  2. The pupils in our school are compliant.
  3. Over 80% of the teaching in our school is good or better.
  4. Last year’s results were a “blip”
  5. The school is an outstanding school.

It has been so decreed by our glorious leaders and stalwart commanders and so it must be so.

Now for the reality:

  1. I have several pupils in detention almost every day for the usual tedious nonsense (Not doing any work, not listening, disrupting the learning of others). There is little consistency of practice with regards to expectations of work and behavior and no consistency at all with respect to sanctions. There is also no policy of escalation when it comes to pupils missing detentions other than the pupil being made to do the detention or what you are willing to do yourself. Getting pupils to behave as well as I want them to is hard work. I wouldn’t say the behavior in my lessons is outstanding. I’d say it is good and I have to work hard to make it so. The behavior in the school is pretty good. There are not very many serious incidents of poor behavior. Those that there are tend to be reasonably well dealt with. However the less serious incidents are constant, not very well dealt with and the systems in place for dealing with behavior are either antiquated or non-existent.
  2. This very much depends on what you ask them to do. Most of our pupils, when asked to be quiet for a sustained period or do a reasonable amount of work are not compliant at all. What they are is lethargic and rather apathetic. For the most part they will not be openly defiant to members of staff that will do something about it. Pupils will not talk immediately after you tell them not to. They will do some work while you stand over them but try demanding a mobile phone from some of them and see how compliant they are…
  3. Over 80% of observations are good or better. This is partly down to any teacher worth their salt being able to pull a “good” out of the bag if they try and partly down to some rather generous observations in the evidence gathering for OFSTED process. My normal lessons tend to cut out much of the hoop jumping our SLT think OFSTED want so probably would not be rated “good” by our SLT at all.
  4. The results were a “blip” in a sense. It is being suggested that the reasons why the results went down are some sort of incomprehensible vagary of chance. The Maths results went up. The English results went up. The number of pupils getting both went down. Guess who is taking the flack… SLT took their eyes off the ball. It’s their job to have the strategic oversight. It’s their job to target the interventions. It’s my job to teach Maths.  I took on a class of pupils with an average grade of F and turned almost all of them into A*-C so I’m not sure exactly what more I should have done. Arguably SLT taking their eye of the ball won’t happen again any time soon. Therefore “blip” is right but not for the reasons they are suggesting. There is also no compelling reason why the results should go up every year. Last year was a weaker year group than the year before and a far needier one in terms of special needs, difficult life circumstances and emotional turmoil. It also contained proportionally more “gangstas” than the previous year group.
  5. Technically the school is still outstanding. OFSTED haven’t been for years. They are well overdue. The problem is when the goalposts changed our school did not. When realization of what that might mean recently set in and suddenly the atmosphere became rather unpleasant. People started being accused of not doing their jobs properly. Practices that had previously been acceptable were without warning deemed unacceptable. Results that had previously been praised were suddenly condemned. Demands were made for results with little in the way of guidance as to how this was accomplished. Departments that cheat unashamedly on controlled assessments were held up as paragons of virtue because they get results. More people are leaving or stepping down from responsibility positions than have done so in 5 years. I’m not convinced anyone will be able to claim this for much longer.

The main barrier to the school improving is spoon feeding. Most pupils know that if they don’t work their teacher will do it for them. If they don’t revise the school will intervene. They cannot be allowed to fail so the school and their teachers make up the effort deficit (What I call the gap between what a pupil does and what they need to do to get the grades/levels). This happens from the day they arrive. We turn keen year 7 pupils into apathetic, risk averse, teacher dependent year 11 pupils. My year 7 class will have a go at anything. My year 11 class barely put pen to paper unless either they are forced to or they are completely certain they are going to be “right”.

The school is a good school. The results are good. The value added is consistently outstanding. I suspect OFSTED will rate the school “Good” and I doubt that pretending the flaws the school has don’t exist is going to alter that.

Saying the school is outstanding doesn’t make it so.


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