It is with great sadness when I hear leaders use this phrase.
In many contexts it relates to how they are telling teachers to teach and how they are judging them.
Examples are, “Every teacher must submit lesson plans for all lessons” or “We will grade lesson observations based on whether we see progress in 20mins” and “We will all use ‘this’ proforma to do X”.
In most cases the people who use the phrase aren’t focused on the quality of the process or the quality of the result, it’s just the process itself.
Staff will be given ‘tick sheets’ to check if something is done. It is irrelevant if what is behind the ticks is of any use or quality. For the leader involved they can then confidently say “In this school we monitor X and every teacher is doing it”.
What should they be doing?
Staff should agree together what it is that we’re all working towards. A shared value or outcome. One that has a sound base, that has potential to make a difference.
Shared outcome: students will understand what went well and what they could improve in a piece of work so that they understand how to move forward. They will show this understanding.
Done badly: Every teacher has to complete a proforma once a half term, stuck into student books. At the bottom is a box saying ‘student comment’. Each half term the head of subject has a tick sheet and goes through all books and ticks when they’ve seen the stuck in sheet in each class set. They pass the ticked sheet to their line manager.
This process is a ‘top down’ one.
Done well: staff share a number of strategies for marking that can fulfil the outcome. If needed subjects can agree particular strategies that meet their subject needs. Subjects decide how/when they will fulfil the outcome. They trial it and ask students for feedback on how they found it. In a department meeting staff share what they’ve tried and discuss how well it went and how they might tweak it. The head of subject shares the headlines from this in their line management meeting including any issues that the T&L team could support with.
This process is a ‘shared’ one.
Why do people use the phrase?
Do they lack confidence?
Do they feel ‘out of control’ with shared leadership?
Do they believe that the power of a school only comes from senior leadership?
Do they think that consistent means everyone doing the same?
Do they think they ‘know best’?
Have they heard of the multiplier effect?
The sad thing about this kind of attitude is that they may ‘scrape’ to a Good but I believe it would be impossible to move to Outstanding. However that scraped Good would have behind it possibly unhappy, under utilised, unmotivated teachers who lack independence, and if you start in a school like this as an NQT, believe it’s the way that Good schools should run.
It doesn’t matter though, they’ll be Good.