Heads held high? – hopes for 2016

Over a year in post now and nearly every day has been an adventure. I waited for quite some time before becoming a head, with five years as a deputy in an inner city school and ten as a vice principal in a large secondary.

The last year has given me the chance to take risks and I have not had to feel like I have to succumb to the fear of OFSTED. Two inspections with strong outcomes in just over a year for different aspects of our provision mean that we can continue to get on with it.

Developing excellent practice must mean enabling all within the school. I am still seeing a small number of heads who insist on purple pen, who insist on leading through a culture of fear and most depressingly, heads who take satisfaction in accepting inflated rates of pay after academisation and yet create only a bubble of self importance.

As heads we need to ensure that teachers have the freedom to develop learning that is thorough and inspirational. This just can not be done within cultures of “consistency” or “accountability” as most of the time this means a grey and safe and dull diet for all.

The last year has been spent developing a curriculum and learning that leads students to be successful learners. This is through a combination of clear skills and knowledge. The sterility of prose descriptors can only be tackled through exemplification and we have been busy developing portfolios of work that shows what students should be expected to produce when starting new projects or tasks. For this, Daisy Christodoulou has been a helpful voice, though I don’t buy into a complete facts, facts, facts curriculum.

I do not get the assessment models in some schools that have stood still and pretended that the curriculum has remained the same. Nor where they start year seven students on GCSE assessment grades. It is reductive and based solely upon the fear of “demonstrating” to others where students are. Weaker teachers may welcome it as it provides a ladder of assessment, but we have had our fill of learning ladders.

I hope that in my school we allow students to learn in depth, to explore ideas and to become thoroughly confident with knowledge and concepts. They don’t need practice in GCSE grades.

We make mistakes all the time, but that is what I want. Teachers and students who are willing to test out ideas, get them wrong and then revisit and get it right.

There is so much to be excited about and so much to lead upon that I have become more impatient with heads who take the route of least resistance to OFSTED, by focusing upon “accountability” rather than real learning.

I hope that heads look to the lead of many who blog, who tweet and who share their approaches for learning. I have learnt so much from them. I hope that the proportion of heads who have looked for quick personal wins hang their heads, but then more importantly, change their ways and do something really good for students and teachers.

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