Saturday, 14 December 2013

Regional school improvement boards

The head of OFSTED, Michael Wilshaw has said that education is a postcode lottery, and the quality of the education a student receives is based on luck. One of the solutions he suggests for this is that good teachers should move into areas where schools are not as good in order to raise standards.

Schools do need good teachers, but instead of addressing the government's shift to allowing people with no teaching qualifications to teach, Wilshaw choses to criticise good teachers for living in the wrong place. There are issues in some local authorities, and the two Michaels; Wilshaw and Gove, are very quick to point out failings, but pointing out failings is not enough, and saying that good teachers should move around more is definitely not enough.

The Education Secretary enjoys making an example of entire regions of the UK, he said he could "smell defeatism" in schools in East Durham, it later came to light that he had never visited a school in East Durham.

Real improvement in schools can not be imposed by a national body, it has to come from inside the school itself. It has been announced that Ofsted will spend longer in failing schools but this is not the answer either.

School improvement departments used to exist with the local education authority framework but local authority budgets have been slashed by this goverment. Staff who work in the council education department, but who do not work in front of young people on a daily basis, have been seen correctly, as non-front line staff, who can be made redundant, without affecting teacher-pupil ratios or numbers of support staff in schools. In addition to this, many schools are now out of local authority control. There is very little organisation to address school improvement on a regional basis.

A system of regional school improvement boards could be introduced, this would not replace Ofsted, but it the role of Ofsted to identify areas of improvement, this is distinct and separate from the role of working with teachers and school leaders to bring about positive change.

The board should not be made up of bureaucrats but staffed by current practitioners, Advanced Skills Teachers already exist, they are given a reduced timetable, would remain in post and could share good practice in their own region. Outstanding teachers could even take a sabbatical for a year to work for the School Improvement Board, they could liaise directly with teachers, for an extended period to make real improvements in Teaching and Learning.

Teachers would be able to share their expertise in their own region, they, better than anyone, understand the challenges faced by fellow teachers nearby, and how these can be addressed. Good teachers don't need to move house, but they might be able to move teaching in the right direction.

1 comment:

Zoe Badcock said...

I like your idea Liam. There is a lot of value in having advisory teachers and experts to help in school improvement. I do, though, have a fundamental problem with Ofsted and the latest comment from Wilshaw that encourages people to report "bad" teachers. It is this sort of society that corrodes people's ability to do their jobs and to improve.

As I teach outside the national system, I have experienced the non-threatening evaluation process of international bodies such as the International Baccalaureate and the Council for International Schools. In fact, in my school, we are currently undergoing a review. There is a major difference with these systems whereby the school evaluates itself. If it finds a weakness then the school sets its own targets and stages for improvement. The international bodies read the school's report, come and check the school out, decide if they agree with the report and accreditation is given with advice.

Teachers need to be appreciated, supported and nurtured to do their best.