Headteachers’ Roundtable…sanity fix – #HTRT2016

Home from a 4 hours plus drive from the Think Tank event at Sheffield Hallam.  The last few weeks had been busy as people that knew what they were doing when organising an event started send 17 page documents of questions…But this is HTRT, we’ve done small gatherings and punched well above our weight in regards to meeting key people in education.  Suddenly we had over 200 HTs coming to an event in Sheffield, an event that suddenly felt bigger when I saw the delegate name tags in a box…frankly I started to panic!

Apart from the a few groans about the venue not being correct on the tickets; the fact that we started at 1030 to allow people to get to Sheffield and not bang on the advertised 9.30am; that I didn’t get the memo about the dress code; the day went well.  I think we achieved what we set out to which was to crowd source policy.  Anyway, the look up #HTRT2016 on Twitter if you want to follow what happened on the day.

Anyway, this blog isn’t about the day or the outcomes, but to talk about the importance of the Headteachers’ Roundtable to my sanity.  Being a HT is an incredibly lonely experience.  You support a large organisation and frankly deal with an enormous amount of decisions.  It is not the importance of each one that is difficult, but that the outcome for each is not clear.  When it is black and white, others find it easy to make the decisions.  This means that to staff I will tend to float between a good HT and a bloody awful one, depending on the decision.

So meeting up with other like minded HT is like a slow intake of breath in a busy life.  We face the same issues, the same pressures, the same types of odd decisions from LEAs or now RSCs.  We get told to go to pointless meetings set up by people who don’t understand the pressures of the job, normally to tell us things we already know or about data that just doesn’t hold up to any statistical analysis. When we meet, as HTRT,  we laugh, we hug, we don’t have to have our public face on, we relax.

The environment that HTRT creates is creative and business like.  We argue, we discuss, we talk, we don’t always agree but we respect each other’s opinions and we get things done.  Our influence has always been beyond our size because I think people in education trust that we are dealing with their policies and actually want to find out the impact.  We do go to meetings where we are the only people there that work in a school.  Rooms full of civil servants, policy makers and politicians.  We get to lend our voice to the debate.  Being positive, offering advice, working on our own policies, allows us to be inside the tent.  Yes it is tempting to rant from the outside, but that changes nothing.

So the point of the blog? If you are a HT get involved.  Ask to help and come to the meetings.  The only thing we ask  is that you join in, take a job on and contribute. We know it is not easy to leave the day job or take something on extra.  But, what we offer is sanity, a deep breath, a pause, a conversation and a moment when you realise that you are not going slowly mad!  If you are really keen you can get to organise a whole conference.  Which was exciting, terrifying and satisfying in equal measures…

in the land of the blind, the one eyed man is king

@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.