People that follow me on Twitter & elsewhere can tell the past two days have been interesting.
I had an interesting discussion with @ on Twitter a few days ago. I posted a matrix that someone had shared of what they’ve been told Outstanding teaching looks like. I genuinely wondered how many people were still using these.
Whilst I understand the sentiment (I’m sick of it too) I don’t agree with not highlighting the realities of what is being told is good practice in schools. It’s wrong and if we know it is wrong then those of us that know it should share it. Whilst we may be fed up of hearing and seeing the bad practice & myths, I know that Twitter has enabled me to find out all sorts of truths about education that I would have been at the mercy of my SLT colleagues if not.
However I also hear anecdotes of what is going on in schools across the country (interestingly not on Twitter – are people on Twitter some how different? In the know?) running themselves for Ofsted. Implementing unfair, illogical and in some cases damaging systems. Examples include, telling the staff lessons won’t be graded and then secretly keeping a spreadsheet of grades that have been deduced from paperwork, telling good/outstanding labelled teachers when they’ll be observed but teachers labelled RI won’t be told, using a check-list to decide if your lesson was outstanding; the list goes on.
Why do some leaders perpetuate these myths?
Sadly, I’m being told by people that it is consultants and ‘mocksted’ teams telling SLTs that this is what Ofsted want and they believe it 100%. These middle leaders and teachers are told it and they trust their SLTS. Why wouldn’t you?
It really concerns me that some people in senior leadership roles have to rely on external advisers to tell them how to run their school. Surely, you’ve been promoted because you can see what ‘works’ without someone telling you?
There is also an element of ‘here is the panacea to make a good school’; use this grid, do learning walks, do mocksteds and unannounced lesson observations. Leaders are scared. Some will take anything they can. Irrespective on the effect it has on teachers themselves. What they fail to see is there is one thing that IS the panacea to a school’s success, excellent teaching ( I mean teaching in a wide sense). However these seem to only ‘weigh the pig’ ( I HATE this phrase as it was used by someone who only ever did it). If these schools spend a disproportionate timing monitoring & observing compared to supporting and developing their teachers then it just won’t work.
Sadly some schools that are outstanding are using these methods and use causation rather than correlation to justify them; “we use them and we are outstanding so they must be good systems. Change might mean a change of grading and therefore we must use these systems.”
Some genuinely don’t know how to make things work. Their strategic leadership & managerial skills aren’t developed enough. They’ve been over promoted. Instead of realising this and working on it, they flounder and take any sort of advice and use it to grab on to, to look like they’re doing the right things.
Concerns for the future
My big concern throughout this is that if teachers and middle leaders believe that these ways are the best way to raise achievement and school performance that they then go on to be like this themselves. Relying on external advisers, believing what they’re told and in some cases implementing crazy systems that have little logic and questionable evidence of success.
Teachers that have only ever worked on one school, then as a middle and then senior leader have no idea what really works. They’ve only ever seen one context. They don’t’ know that what they’ve been fed over the years isn’t actually reality. They perpetuate the myths.
I am so lucky to be in a school that doesn’t do these things but I have been in schools that do. My lifeline has been Twitter & great leaders in the RE world like Mary Myatt, and people in the world of education, for example Mike Cladingbowl & now Sean Harford, who have kept me going & and have told me the reality. So, whilst it may be painful for those in the ‘know’ to watch, I will continue to post about these myths and dated systems that Ofsted do not demand. As said above Twitter seems to be full of those who know better and get frustrated when it’s pointed out that not all leaders are like them. I’m not leadership bashing; I desperately want decent leadership in all schools for all teachers and all students. I know and have worked for/work for some amazing leaders.
So if one person following me is helped by my tweets/posts dispelling myths then it is worth it.