One comment is playing on my mind this Easter break. “Not earlier than summer 2013”, is the comment. In normal life that set of words would hold no fear. A film being released perhaps, a band talking about their new album or a new piece of desirable technology…sadly that comment was made by the last ofsted inspection team during their no notice observation in 2009. My school was judged as good and so “not earlier than summer 2013” was their expression of when we could expect our next inspection.
Not earlier than summer 2013, seemed a long way away when I accepted the post of Headteacher in March 2012.
Not earlier than summer 2013, seemed an age away when I embarked on my approach to teaching and learning in September 2012.
But, summer 2013 is now upon me and now I decide to feel nervous about the strategies and approach I have taken.
The central approach is trust. I truly believe that the vast majority of the teaching staff operate around the ofsted good grade, on a daily basis. From the exam results, to the progress of the children, the feedback from parents and how the students view the school. I know we are at least a good school…I want staff to feel free to teach. I expect no standard approach. I operate with a no blame culture. Try things, fall flat on your face, get up and try again.
Lessons should be different in delivery because it should be based on a teachers personality…some lessons might be ‘long’ (dull to the adults), but I don’t care as long as every child is known and every child is making progress. I expect staff to work together; to be open to develop their practice; to desire improvement; to seek criticism from colleagues that they trust. Professional autonomy rules. Staff have been free to choose their observer for their own development. Together we have decided on what we want to work on and we have structured Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) to enable teachers to work on these areas. We have used learning walks, data collections and modular exam results to test the temperature…in the main this is all looking good.
Why? Because I trust the staff. Because letting staff fly, I believe, is the way that my school truly becomes outstanding.
There have been individual issues that I have been a concern. But, all have been dealt with on an individual level, with a quiet conversation with the member of staff concerned. I have avoided the. policy of a staff room “en mass telling all off” or a system change that is aimed at one person. That I used to hate and so I refuse to do it.
So why the worry? Not all have grasped the opportunity yet. Some are so worn out by the regimes of the past and they don’t trust the new systems. Seemingly waiting for the bite to come, for the trick to be revealed. They have selected close friends to work with or to be observed by. People that may not tell them a hard truth about their teaching, but play safe to maintain the friendship. This is a very small minority.
So why am I nervous? I lack the comfort of the ‘folder’, the one I used to build on staff performance from crunching lesson observations. The folder that proves to ofsted and their narrow view of school life, that I know my school. But, I am certain that I know my school. Ask me a question about any teacher and I can tell you their relative strengths because we share them and I can also tell you what they are working on to help themselves improve.
The journey we are one will take more than two terms to embed and all the signs are there that it will…but “not earlier summer 2013” is making me very nervous.