Tales from the Head's Office#10
There is a lot going on in school at the moment so I’m writing a lot from my Office. Hope you like my quips, quotes & ramblings many of which come from 13 years experience as a HT. All views expressed here are my own.
Should they go?
Children get one chance at primary education. Those formative years between 4-11 are the time when little ones become sponges. They just crave knowledge, many of them without realising it. It is during the primary years that the building blocks for future learning are laid. It is where a thirst for knowledge can be encouraged & moulded. It is at this age that the ‘Wow’ factor is so vital.
It is therefore unbelievable that some schools are not providing this grounding. The press has recently highlighted the fact that there are under performing teachers in our schools who should not be there. I agree that they should be removed but for me the focus is in the wrong area. My anger is focused on the leadership of these schools.
Many head teachers ‘leading’ our schools are doing an amazing job in very difficult circumstances. They have had to adapt to an ever changing job description which requires them to be a financial manager, a grounds maintenance expert, a community leader & many more, plus of course knowing something about the way children learn! They are able to build creative teams who embrace the new technologies & engage parents to become full partners in their children’s education.
However, there are many head teachers who are just not up to the job! They joined the profession with the best of intentions wanting to make a difference to young lives. Their classroom practice was often good; children in their care loved them & held onto their every word. I’m sure that many of you reading this would be able to name a teacher who really inspired you. Unfortunately, this persona does not necessarily translate into headship.
A head teacher is first & foremost a leader. They have to lead their staff to provide a first class education for all the children in the school. Their knowledge has to include utilising the masses of data that schools now have to produce so that it is more than a set of numbers. They have to look at the progress each child is making & find ways to make sure that full potential is tapped. They should be establishing the relevant operational systems that allow governing bodies to support & challenge the school.
Whether we agree with it or not, Ofsted is part of the culture in our schools. The head teacher should be guiding the team to make sure the school is judged in the best possible light. Putting SATs & targets aside, if a school is judged outstanding you will know that your child is in the best possible place. What about those schools though, that only just scrape a satisfactory judgement often falling down in the area of progress of teaching & learning? Surely the leadership should be moving the school forward, getting rid of some of those inadequate teachers.
So, how come these ineffective head teachers are in our schools? They are there because for too long Local Authorities have protected their positions & supported mediocre leadership. Their first thought when faced with an inadequate head teacher seems to be ‘How can we make sure if Ofsted come & it all goes pear shaped, we can’t be criticised for not supporting the school?’ They hide behind governing bodies who themselves are kept in the dark or are rendered impotent by barriers placed in front of them.
It is our children’s opportunities they are messing up & for some, possibly their futures. Parents really only know what they are told. They do not have the robust questions that are needed to be asked to get to the heart of what is happening. They make judgements on how happy & settled their child is & trust that they are learning well. More often than not, they are really shocked when they receive a report saying their school has been put into special measures & what that means for the experience their child has been receiving.
How confident are you about the education your child is receiving? Would you know what to do if you had concerns? Please make sure you don’t get any nasty surprises!