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My own personal view on UK Education and bits n bobs

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Westminster Education Forum Keynote Seminar: My two pennies worth at the meeting

Westminster Education Forum Keynote Seminar: The future of the teaching workforce – tackling workload, raising standards and supporting professional development

Timing: Morning, Tuesday, 7th July 2015

Venue: Central London


posh init

What follows is my speech…I ignored advice and rushed it!

Been a HT for three years. Have become Vice-Chair of the Headteacher’s Roundtable.I have tried here to show some context with the issues with workload. When I started this speech it was a list and it was well over 1,000 words. So I doubt I will be able to list them all.

I have some hope at the end, if I get there!

But, I’ll start by saying all of the issues we are discussing in this section could be solved by the government listening to the profession and using evidence:

 Structures make no difference to how successful a school is or will be.

Schools direct has failed to attract new teachers in big enough numbers

Teaching schools are a mixed bag and sit heavy with the worry about ofsted downgrading them. Many have not been inspected since 2011, so their outstanding may no longer be.

Fear is the driving force in education. Fear of losing your job because of one year’s set of exam results or one inspectors view on education. I got called brave when I stopped grading lessons…this was in the light of over-whelming evidence that it was flawed…i can confirm that we work with staff on workload…we designed our assessment systems with staff…I was called brave because I did something that put me in opposition to ofsted…that shows how crazy the system is. For a school the personal views of an inspector can be great or catastrophic depending on that view
It takes time to turn a school into a great school. It takes even longer if your cohort arrives with below average attainment. 
Since I started in working education, education has changed every single year that I have worked. These started slowly as most were to do with vocational education, but each year there has been more and more that as a school we are expected.

I do want to point out that I came into teaching late. I came from the easy street of corporate sales in a multi-national and running my own business. I can tell you I have never worked as hard.

I felt the only thing I could bring today was to give you an understanding on all the things that have changed (that I could remember). I was very tempted to set the list to a faintly recognisable Gilbert and Sullivan tune.  
It is impossible for me to list everything, when I started.

Ofsted changes to the framework. 

There have been 4 major changes to how an inspection is conducted. Since 2010 there have been 76+ updates, revisions, clarification etc  
Impact on the behaviours of school has been enormous. 
New Exams. New Accoutabilty

This year new GCSEs in two subjects graded 1 to 9 with all others still A* to G (in some of those History for example there have been three revisions to the spec over the last 4 years with another to come) and 

new A levels in from now on 14 that are linear (all exams taken at the end) with the rest remaining modular (units taken at the end of Year 12 & 13). More becoming the modular the year after, but still a mix economy until 2017.
All these changes mean SoL need to be re-written. The delivery needs to be looked at and replanned. The assessments need to be rewritten
We have had changes to the accountability measures of 
5A* to C, 
5A* to C including English and Maths, 

Change from criteria referenced back to norm referenced

vocational equivalents being worth 6, 4, 2 and now 1 GCSEs. 

Students being able to resit and count in league tables and now not, 

1,000s of courses that were part of the accountability measures but now are not

contextual value added, 

value added, 

floor targets changing each year, 


and from next year progress 8, attainment 8.  

gaining ground or rebranded as coasting schools

The new Sixth Form accountability measures have a 41 page technical guide, you have to know this to ensure you don’t make a small mistake that could cost you your job.

All of these mean that there is a myth of autonomy when it comes to curriculum choices for schools

League table create huge pressures and can be blamed for dubious practice
We have dealt with or dealing with wider issues and refer to Sean Coughlan’s talk earlier today. This is with the wrap around care disappearing:
We have also seen the removal of funding from 

external careers advice service, 

mental health services, 

drugs awareness groups, 

targeted youth services, 

community police officers working in schools, 

social services ability to support schools in regards safeguarding.

all impact our ability to help and support children. Which means more time trying to find help and support for families.

Every Child Matters, 










sex ed, 

section 28, 

equality act, 

healthy eating, 

school specialism, 


British values, 


risk assessments for trips becoming larger and larger, 

character education, 

prevent duty, 

collective worship, 


financial well-being, 

In fact every single social issue being presented as a failure of education. 
In terms of safeguarding there have been three changes to government guidance in the past three years. Our safeguarding policy is 95 pages long, all staff read the summary, were trained in the summary, then government changed the summary 

As Tom Sherrington reminded me there are many reasons to feel positive; 
“There is EVIDENCE. There is a growing understanding that teaching is complicated; that there is no one correct way to teach…. But still, that some things work better than others

OfSTED has changed its position radically in the last 18 months – but still has a long way to go. Trust in the top of the organisation is high, albeit that Whilshaw has an inability to praise. But the engagement from Mike Claddinbowl initially and continuing with Sean Harford have been welcome
Recognition of the role of CPD is at an all time high.
There is also a slow awakening to the value of a high trust culture within in schools
There is a massive ground-swell of profession led activity;
Social media, teachmeets, conferences, bloggers with reach and influence, school-university partnerships, research projects, the Nat Bacc Trust, Research Ed, Northern Rocks, National Teacher Enquiry Network”….and where I am the Vice-Chair, the Headteacher’s Roundtable

view from the front



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@headteacher’s Rountable meeting with Sean Harford 

The entrance to the ofsted offices in London had a lovely message on the door!  
There were a number of areas that those attending wanted to discuss. The group included a range of Headteachers from a different phases and situations. 

The first area we discussed was from a special school point of view regarding how the new shorter inspection framework with split sites and at what point an inspector would be on site.

Basic set up of the inspection
Make edubase is up to date – to make sure they can inspect and how many inspectors would be needed. Short inspection 2 HMI for secondary, 1 for primary – 9 o’clock call to ascertain they can inspect and organise. HMI will only come on site if they think it is necessary. Sean was at pains to say that under the new section 8 inspection that they had confidence in the sector now so we don’t need longer than one day inspectors.

The short inspections did have to something to do with shrinking budgets in public sector. The budget was £100m under Chris Woodhead, it was now £41m.

So inspections needed to be frequent enough to ensure standards but had to be efficient

Special School Progress
It was felt that there were mixed messages on national bench marks – assessment commission report coming out. Special school data – P scales were looked at but couldn’t continue as levels had finished. Sean explained that ofsted were not expecting to see any type of data in any particular method. He explained that was a clear message to inspectors.  

How do you compare the progress? Sean said that levels could not have stayed they had become the reason, rather than a way of assessing your curriculum. If you are using some kind of product or a way of moderation then that is what we’ll use. Sean felt this was the opportunity for teachers to grab control of assessment and that schools should grab it. He accepted that with the amount of change that it wasn’t easy, but that we should grasp it. He thought that schools needed to show consistency in their school. But it was their’s. “Design a curriculum that is right for your pupils, AND THEN work out how to assess it!”

Consistency of inspectors
No style of teaching, planning, assessment marketing etc were expected. But they did expect the SLT to know what was happening and that they should be able to observe that. So If they were told that the department/school marked in a certain way and they didn’t observe that, there was clearly an issue with leadership and management.

It is what works in the classroom that counts

Explain to the inspectors what they should be seeing – it is the consistency they will look for in the school. Maths could be slow progress if you designed the curriculum in that way i.e. not moving topics quickly but that the students were deepening the learning. 

1. Use the handbook, resolve on site. Don’t allow an inspector to tell you something outside the framework 

2. Then use the Complaints procedure

3. Scrutiny committee were being created with non-inspecting HTs and HMI – for the first time it is independent – the committee can change judgements. It could involve HTs from any grade of school.  This was welcomed…but wait and see the make up of those committees 

Teaching and Learning
Sean was interested how John Tomsett and my school evaluated teaching and learning without grading lessons?

But, what was ofsted’s view of starting that conversation about evaluating T&L? Sean asked the following questions – What has the process told you on where to focus? How do you spread best practice? What have you done about the issues? What have you identified? What has been the impact of your changes?

In the short inspection people should be honest and open. If there is an issue with a subject, explain what you have found and how you have found it. Explain the strategic approach and what had been the impact. If it was too soon, show somewhere else that had an issue and how you overcame it and the impact. This shows that your leadership and management had capacity to improve subject areas or key stages.

Quality of AI
7/10 will be practicing HTs

Secondary led by HMI

80 dual inspections to give us a quality and to check the methodology 

Vast majority of practicing leaders will be in RI/inadequate inspections.

There was concern at the capacity of HMI to lead one day inspections, whilst supporting schools that were RI
How is new framework not data driven?
Section 5 is not short inspection. Section 8 is the short inspection.  

Short inspection is with the presumption being good – They will look at the data but looking at capacity to improve

Outstanding schools are exempt from routine inspections section 5 – how ofsted conduct risk assessments will be clarified

Challenging Schools
How do we get recognition of those leading schools in difficult schools – SEean said he would trade all the outstanding schools to ensure that all schools are good.

More serving practitioners will help HTs and staff on these challenging areas as they will be more aware of context

Small things are there to help – you can go outside current RI timespan form reinspection, 18 months – they can go up to 30 months – section 8 framework – the HMI can push the time to the next inspection, depending on what was going on in the school. So a new HT could request from their HMI an extension to give them more time. Realistically, we felt that it would only give a new HT approx 18 months still.  He felt that you could get Leadership and Management up to good in this time span.  25% of all RI schools have good leadership and management.

The question was asked about how it was possible to be more than RI because of data. Sean said that data cannot drive the judgement otherwise the % of schools judged good or better couldn’t be in the strict letter of good section on achievement in the framework.

British Values/prevent
Sean is making sure inspectors are sensible when looking at this. It does depend on the context.

Safeguarding and SMSC and curriculum is what we are looking at

Are we teaching those values

Look at the curriculum – it is not provision – it is the impact

Safeguarding is where the key is – are students being able debating. We must discuss difficult issues.

We found Sean open, honest and clearly a man who wanted to move the organisation forward. He had a clear commitment to engage with the profession. However, as we all know from our own schools, he will be judged on the weakest inspectors. Overcoming their inbuilt approaches, likes, dislikes and prejudices will be his greatest challenge. Can’t fault him for trying to get this right, nor the new framework that appears to be edging ofsted to a sensible position.

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Exam Season

‘Study leave’ – or get rid to of the kids early…when I studied for my O’levels we were released from school at Easter so that we could ‘study’.  It is worth noting that I had only seen one exam paper by then and that was my mock.  No explanation on how to revise, or exam technique…just good bye and good luck

‘Study leave’ – students now stay in school until the last possible moment at Uplands.  This gives them the opportunity to maintain the contact with teachers, gives them the structure of revising an hour at a time on different subjects.  We also run booster classes for those who need extra help and support.  Students practice papers so they are used to the ebb and flow to them.  Teachers will take the paper with the students as practice, talking them through how they would approach each question in the paper.  We understand psychologically effective ways of remembering information, importance of rest, spacing of testing and we have begun to use research into how the brain works.  But more importantly the students turn up listen and practice.

Exams – from memory I had 8 exams

Exams – this year due to government removing the ability of students to resist, all the exams have to be taken in the summer.  This means courses designed to be modular are sat at one time.  A student studying triple science will take 9 science exams this summer alone.  Most of our student are taking more than 20 examinations.  Take a moment and think about that…each one needs preparation and revision, building a timetable to prepare for 2 exams a day for 10 days for many of them.  For them I would guess that only moving house will be as stressful (if they can ever afford one).

Hard-work – I remember my final year at school more for the long summer, which started at Easter (see ‘study leave’).

Hard-work – students work harder for longer.  Even with being at school optional, most classes are still full with students desperate to do well.  They have to, the pressure is huge to hit that first requirement of at least 5A* to C to even be accepted on to a level 3 course.

So when people ask me if exams are easier I agree with Mary Beard (Professor of Classics

Newnham College, Cambridge), who noted in a recent blog:

“Students aren’t smarter, but they work harder. And we probably teach them better too. But dumbing down?? No.”

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A question for the ASCL conference guests

In light of coasting schools and more guntothehead policy…this question is still relevant

Kalinski1970's Blog

as it wasn’t asked of Hunt, Halford or Laws I thought I would post it here…

Question for ASCL

I would really appreciate this question for all the panellists, but might be more salient for Sir Michael or Nicky Morgan

In light of the recent data that:

1.The new progress 8 measurethat schools adding valuing around the G-F and F-Ewill receive significantly less recognition, whereas those adding value in the C-B, B-A and A-A* will receive significantly more.

2.Those schools with a below average intake are far more likely to be judged RI or inadequate by OFSTED (seehttp://www.kristianstill.co.uk/wordpress/2015/03/04/what-of-outstanding-schools-have-below-average-ability-intake/)

Can the panellist explain how they are going to attract the HTs, School Leaders and great teachers to schools in difficult circumstances?

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A few days after the general election the tone from Nicky Morgan suddenly changed.  For the Secretary of State that was seen as a safe pair of hands leading up to the General Election; a politician who genuinely seemed to want to listen and engage with the profession.  We had the return to ‘gun to the head’ education policy.

The Sunday Times reported that “squads of headteachers” were going to descend on coasting schools and the existing head would be sacked.  As an esteemed colleague noted “it is a squalid little idea, limp in its thinking and destined to fail”.

Firstly, what is the definition of a coasting school?  Is it a school that is locally recognised to give its students a great education, but in terms of attainment could do slightly better?  Could it be that those students need to make slightly more progress?  Or is it a school with a good intake in terms of ability and therefore although they are doing better than the national average, they should be doing much better?  Is that steady performance, rather than stratospheric the issue?

Is it a school in a ‘leafy’ area that receives a Requires Improvement judgement?  Nicky Morgan stated that it wouldn’t just be an OFSTED judgement. This is welcomed as we can no longer be sure of OFSTED’s judgements about which schools are better than others.  But then who?  Is it Mrs Morgan herself that will make the judgements or the new Regional Schools Commissioners (RSC)?  This has issues at the RSCs have been tasked with converting more schools to academy status, so hardly have a neutral view on a schools performance.

Secondly, where are all these headteachers lining up to take on schools from which, if they don’t get it right, will be sacked?  School leaders are already in short supply, there are 182 vacancies for headteachers, currently advertised in the Times Educational Supplement.  The fact they are unfilled now means those schools will not have a permanent Headteacher in September.  In 2012 just under a third of headteachers were over the age of 55, so we need to find another 8,000 in the next few years.  Pronouncements like this will only make the recruitment crisis worse.

Of course rather than this ‘gun to the head’ approach.  The Secretary of State could have said that she is proud of the work being undertaken in our schools.  That a million children more now attend a good or better school.  That she wanted to work with existing headteachers to create a scheme recruiting the brightest and best into leadership positions.  These leaders would be trained and supported to address underperformance and to lead schools in the most difficult circumstances.  That we would create a programme that would benefit the children of our country, to ensure that everyone had a truly great local school.

…well you can dream

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Bloody Kids

elbowlippykidsLatest column for Kent and Sussex Courier

Last week some of my students stepped out in front of a van turning into the car park next to the school.  The van slammed on the brakes and the driver gesticulated at the pupils.  One of the students decided to gesticulate back.  Clearly this is unacceptable behaviour.  However, what I end up receiving is an email expressing that all my students behave in this manner, and that I must get hundreds of emails complaining about the behaviour of the students.  Well…no.

Last week is a pretty good example.  I received congratulations on the efforts and performances of the students involved in the “In the Field” concert to mark the centenary of the Battle of Aubers Ridge where Wadhurst lost 25 men in one evening during the First World War.  I had emails from parents thrilled at the Sussex championship winning performance of our cheerleading team.  On Friday one Year 8 boy completed the herb garden he had been developing for our food technology department, in his lunchtimes.  Last week there was a number of fundraising events towards the Himalayan trip, where students have to raise the money for the trip themselves.  Our Duke of Edinburgh students completed their work on the use of mobile technology with the third group from the University of the Third Age.  One of those ladies took the time to tell me of her pride in watching our Sixth Formers, unrequested, go and buy cups of tea for those collecting for Remembrance Day on a particularly cold day.  One of our Sixth Formers will goes to the local nursing home to play music and sing to its residents.  The school has raised well over £15,000 this year for various charities culminating in the sponsored walk where the whole College, all the students and staff, walk the 13 miles around Bewl Water.

What I can tell you is this is no different from the work that young people do the breadth and length of this country.  What we do we feel is remarkable, but having worked in a variety of schools it is the norm.  Although, vilified by some, even those who occasionally react or mess about in the wrong ways, will still be those with the propensity for charity and good deeds.  One of our most troubled students comes alive when working with children from local primary schools.

So, yes some members of our community get it wrong at times.  Is there a section of society that doesn’t?  Should we really speak in terms of damning all over the actions of a few?  What I can promise you that day in and day out the young people we work with are truly remarkable.

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OFSTED the inadequate organisation



This week saw one of the most respected Headteachers in England, Geoff Barton, write a damning article about his experience of a recent inspection.  In his article he expressed what a number of us have felt about the inspectorate over the past few years.  That OFSTED are too data lead; have too many absolutes in their framework; focus in on narrower and narrower issues; do not have consistency in their inspectors, leading to too many inconsistent judgements; leading to too many Headteachers leaving or being told to leave their jobs and that they have lost their school improvement role.

We have also seen that schools with higher ability intakes, i.e. schools where the students arrive with better Key Stage 2 test results gain disproportionate amounts of outstanding grades.  Whereas schools that have lower ability intakes gain disproportionate amounts of inadequate and require improvement grades.  Partnered with the effect on a person’s career of a disappointing OFSTED means there is a shortage of teachers wishing to work or lead schools in challenging circumstances.

All of this has led to an overwhelming opinion from the profession that OFSTED is no longer fit for purpose.  Like all of my colleagues, I believe that there is an important need for accountability and for schools to be regularly visited.  However, there is no doubt that the current confrontational approach by inspectors has had its day and we now need a change.  Therefore my proposal:

  1. Outstanding and good schools

School Self Evaluation (SEF), peer review reports (where other Headteachers visit the school and observe its practice) and Improvement plan is requested by Inspector (HMI).  HMI reads these documents and looks at the exam results and decides whether a further visit is needed.  It will be needed, if a school feels that it has moved from good to outstanding.

Also, a certain number could have a follow up visit from an HMI to check consistency.  This would be simply for HMI to meet the Headteacher and Chair of Governors.   This will give OFSTED a clearer picture of best practice in certain areas or make small adjustments to the improvement plan, but grade is maintained.

If HMI disagrees with the SEF and/or the plan – differing levels of inspection:

Full visit – depending on the seriousness of the issues.

Or a shorter visit to inspect one area of the SEF and/or the Improvement plan

  1. Schools moved to, or are Requires Improvement or inadequate
  2. a) HMI that inspected and gave the grade becomes the school improvement partner and works with the school over the year. This gives consistency to the school and allows the inspector to judge improvements.
  3. b) Next inspection: HMI who has been working with the school provides a report on the distance travelled and makes a recommendation to the next team. Next team judge on a visit using SEF, Improvement plan and recommendation of supporting HMI.  This gives the next grade consistency as you have the opinions of the original HMI.  This also allows the school to work with one clear support partner.  It also allows OFSTED to quality assure.

What we agree on, is that the current framework and inspectorate has lost the confidence of educators and it is now time to change.