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

@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.

What I think OFSTED should look like…

New Inspection Framework:

  1. Outstanding and good schools

SEF and Improvement plan is requested by HMI.  HMI reads these documents and RoL and decides whether a further visit is needed.  It will be needed, if a school feels that it has moved from good to outstanding.  Schools could request this visit as well.

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 HT and CoG and possibly others, depending on the trail that they wanted to follow.  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.

Or simply no visit, because HMI agrees with the plan and current grade maintained.

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

  • Full visit (depending on the seriousness)
    • As the data in RoL is not explained correctly in the SEF
    • That the improvement plan won’t make the improvements needed
  • Or a shorter visit to inspect one area of the SEF and/or the Improvement plan
  1. Schools moved to RI

a) HMI that inspected 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.

b) Next inspection: HMI 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 QA.

  1. Schools currently RI

Same as above but will be whoever their current support HMI is

I would argue that the grading system should be changed, but, this is for the discussions at the next @headsroundtable conference (details can be found here https://headteachersroundtable.wordpress.com/2014/12/09/htrt-conference-january-26th-2015-pre-election-special/ )

OFSTED Consultation – my two pennies worth

So I took the time to complete the consultation.  I may have got a little more heated as the consultation went on.  But, I am more than happy, like the vast majority of colleagues, to talk about this.  But, it is time that OFSTED listened.

If you are a senior leader and want to be part of a positive group looking to change how policy is delivered to schools, rather than with schools, please get in touch with @headsroundtable


Q1. Do you agree or disagree with the introduction of a new common inspection framework for maintained schools, academies, further education and skills providers, non-association independent schools and registered early years settings from September 2015?

The issue IS consistency, because too many inspectors don’t know or understand the setting that they are inspecting.  Actually thinking about what needs to be inspected and having specialist inspectors for each phase makes sense to me.  How do you judge progress in a yoga class in an FE in comparison to observing 3 years olds talk about a painting.

Q2. Do you agree or disagree with the proposed ‘effectiveness of leadership and management’ judgement (paragraphs 19-20)?

Considering how aligned all the other grades are to overall effectiveness. I cannot see the point of separate grades.  This is actually where the inspectorate being more school improvement partner could have an effect.  If a school’s overall judgement is RI or lower, the separate headings could have the starting points of an action plan to enable the school to work towards improvement.  These should be specific and meaningful to the school and not a set of generic statements.

Q3. Do you agree or disagree with the proposed ‘quality of teaching, learning and assessment’ judgement (paragraph 21)?

This is impossible to judge in a one day or two-day inspection.  You can only scratch the surface and make superficial judgements in a short time span.  Go to one class, speak to a few students, look at a few books and the outcome for the school can be completely different than had you gone to a different class, spoken to different students etc.  Too many inspections I have been involved in, become a battle over what the SLT see day in and day out and what an inspection team see in a few hours.

Q4. Do you agree or disagree with the proposed ‘personal development, behaviour and welfare’ judgement (paragraphs 22-23)?

see my comments to the question above.

Q5. Do you agree or disagree with the proposed ‘outcomes for children and learners’ judgement (paragraph 24)?

I strongly disagree if this judgement is skewed by disadvantaged pupils closing the gap.  Especially while we have that judgement based on 5A*toC inc.  It is also skewed by the majority of schools having relatively small cohorts (see John Dunford presentation – Using the Pupil Premium to narrow the gap: policy and practice which shows 6 of the deciles have below 13.2%).

Q6. Do you agree or disagree with the specific additional judgements proposed for the common inspection framework (paragraphs 28-31)?

this is a little going round in circles…they should be judged separately, yes, as they were.  I am confused as to the impact if one area is found to be significantly different in judgement to the others

Q7. Do you agree or disagree that Ofsted should continue to report on the curriculum as part of the judgement on leadership and management?

again going round in circles, because it was…this will create an “ofsted” specified curriculum

Q8. Do you agree or disagree with the proposals for short inspections of good maintained schools and academies (paragraphs 32-34 and 37-40)?

This begs the question of why bother at all if you are looking at the data and find that there has been no significant drop in performance.  Also, like this year’s attainment, in the future,  if similar changes happen to the examination series so that you cannot judge one year’s against another, how will you know that performance has dipped?

Q9. Do you agree or disagree with the proposals for short inspections of good further education and skills providers (paragraphs 35-36 and 41-45)?

see q8

Q10. Do you agree or disagree with the proposals for the inspection of non-association independent schools?

Seems a tidying up exercise.  Not sure why you need to inspect a private concern at all.  Why are you using taxpayers money to ensure the education of students outside of the maintained sector?  If parents want the choice of a school that can be judged by Her Government’s Inspectorate they should attend a state school.

Q11. Are there specific changes to the way that inspectors gather evidence that you think could make our judgements more reliable and robust?

  • Look at other external inspections, like peer reviews, when conducting an inspection.
  • Have your inspectors properly trained and with robust employment history.
  • Have a current HT as part of the inspection process. These should not be anyone with a vested interest in schools failing inspections (CEOs of Chains).  This HT doesn’t need to be a trained inspector, but could be an independent voice based on the experience of currently running a school.
  • Where possible have the lead inspector be part of the team that supports a school from RI or a category. They will clearly know what needs to be done and can be the advisor given to support that school.
  • Use the same team to return to a school judged RI or a category, with one additional HMI, to judge the improvements. This will avoid the inspection bias that we see (ie one inspection is led by someone who has a strong interest in SEN and the next one  is led by someone with an interest in curriculum).
  • Be very specific about the data you want and the way that you want to see it. Communicate this to all schools, as part of these changes to ofsted.  This stops the stress of trying to communicate something with an inspector who doesn’t like the way you are communicating it.
  • Be polite and courteous in a school and stop your inspectors throwing their ego around.
  • Spend time talking about the SEF and how the school came to its own judgements, rather than constantly trying to catch a school out.
  • Don’t throw bombshells into the end of day one meetings that you clearly aren’t going to find the evidence for. It doesn’t test the school;  it makes people worried about their jobs and their families.
  • Make sure judgements are based on statistically valid data. One or two students should not skew an inspection judgement.  Especially if a school can prove a clear strategy that didn’t have the impact they wanted and can explain why.
  • Throwing a school into RI because of one social group not making the same progress as another is not reliable, especially if point 10 is relevant and if the cohort’s ability does not match.
  • Q12. Do you have any other comments about this consultation?

    Please use this moment to reassess the role of ofsted in improving education of our children and not a moment to move the deckchairs.

    Ban any current inspector from being paid consultancy fees to ‘help’ schools through an inspection.

    Know your school by not grading lessons

    When I arrived at my school I observed the worse side of lesson observations. DHTs used to swoop in a pair on lessons and feedback to rest of the team of the approximate grading. Staff were fearful of observations.  Because of my  work in a previous school had planted the seed of looking at a different way and I was determined to try to do it here.   I saw jazz hands and collapses.  The central question was how do you know your school without grading lessons?

    I had always tried to analyse lesson observations with other information. So in the days of ofsted style observations I would always ask HOF to comment on the grades for their staff. Was the outstanding typical from what they saw on a day-to-day basis? I then started to triangulate with exam results and student progress and I noticed something weird. At least I thought it was weird at the time. There appeared to be very little correlation between performance in lesson observations and the outcomes for pupils. I realised that typicality was what I had to have a hold of and not a 20 minute snap shot held in a spreadsheet.

    So graded lesson observations were stopped…boy did this leave a vacuum in my understanding of how to lead T&L. But, I asked my team one key question. Who are the great staff in this school? Who are the staff that need support? How do you know? In the term that I had been in the school I realised that I hadn’t conducted one observation and yet I knew the answers.

    Having read “Drive” by Daniel Pink and “Professional Capital” by Fullan and Hargreaves I knew that we had to find a different way.

    The approach

    1. We have an expectation that staff are responsible for working on their practice, sharing their practice and working collaboratively. We expect the main drive for improvements to be from teachers
    2. Lesson observations – are only for staff development and are conducted by peers that have either been on or on the Outstanding Teacher Programme. Or staff that have clear evidence over a number of years of great performance. They feed into the appraisal system and are used as evidence. This is well over 75% of our teachers so there is a big pool. The staff pick who they want to be observed by.
    3. We have a no blame culture. We have an expectation that lessons will go brilliantly and will go wrong. We want staff to feel that they can discuss either freely and openly.
    4. We have joined NTEN (http://www.teacherdevelopmenttrust.org/teacher-enquiry-network/) and are using lesson study to underpin the ideas above. So staff work in triads on a particular focus of student learning. This again is used as evidence for appraisal.
    5. We bought a system to film lessons and again staff can use the videos as part of their appraisal evidence.

    How do we monitor and Quality Assure. (We have a six term model)

    1. The appraisal system is robust, realistic but challenging. The interim appraisals will play a crucial part when they arrive in Feb.
    2. We conduct learning walks that are student focused. Attitudes to learning in the main. The outcomes are fed back through the middle leader forum where the next focus is set.
    3. Once the focus for the next stage is set we have a teaching and learning meeting where we share approaches as a teaching staff.
    4. Then learning walks and drop-ins look at the impact on student learning a this is fed back to a Head of Faculty meeting which shares the best practice and decide whether further work is required in the next term.
    5. Senior teachers and SLT run an every classroom on-call system. So there is someone out on the corridors every hour of every day. This supports staff with any behaviour issues but also allow us to gain a feel for the typicality of each day.
    6. We look at the progress and attainment of the students
    7. Finally we grade staff using all this information on a stretched scale (always outstanding, good can be outstanding, always good, good can be RI, RI can be good, always RI, RI can be inadequate, inadequate. We run focused developmental programmes depending on where we feel a member of the teaching staff is.

    When ofsted arrived the challenge came with staff had been graded, in their eyes, below where we had graded them. What was clear was we had far more evidence to prove whether that observation was typical or a one-off. Very quickly ofsted agreed in our judgements and accepted who had a clearer picture of our school’s T&L.

    The future

    Continue to build trust in the system. Staff still feel very worried about admitting where lessons have gone wrong. Hopefully a video of one my lessons going wrong will continue the work already started.

    Staff have to commit to this. They can’t hide away just doing what they have always done. Because even if their typicality is great, they are expected to share that. Also clearly repeating that we expect all staff to deliver lessons of all grades at times. That is just the nature of teaching. We have a mantra that consistently good is outstanding practice. . But, that we expect teachers to reflect, share and develop their teaching with the school’s support.

    SLT have to work harder to know the school. There are no shortcuts in this method. But, clearly middle leaders have to raise their game to feed into the process overall. Initially it is their responsibility to help support staff who are struggling, but this can easily be done by brokering support from another colleague. But, that does require all to recognise where it is going


    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.