What’s the easiest way to a secondary Ofsted Outstanding?

Eating Elephants

Secondary school leaders would like to think that they are judged on the difference they make and not on the pure outcomes of their school irrespective of context.  The whole language of the most recent framework is about progress made, taking into account pupils and schools various starting points.  While there has to be regard to national average attainments, there is a general sense that Ofsted inspectors try to take into account starting points when judging a school.

But are they succeeding?  For example, do those schools which have low prior-attainment intakes have that taken into account properly?  Do those with very able intakes get the appropriate challenge from Ofsted?  

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An Inspector Calls. Or not, as the case may soon be…..

An Inspector Calls. Or not, as the case may soon be…….

This is going to be a short post about the situation relating to OFSTED and the issue of inspections and whether schools are going to be given notice of an inspection or not following the recent ‘Trojan Horse’ saga. It also will allow me to get off my chest my current disdain for the way schools have, once again, been treated by HMCI, the Secretary of State for Education and the media.

It has been very unedifying to watch the behaviour of OFSTED, HMCI and Mr Gove in the last few days, all trying to flex their muscles to prove that they can be the toughest on schools. @mikercameron tweeted on the jostling for ‘one upmanship’ between Mr Gove and Mr Wilshaw in a tweet recently: ‘ It’s like a watching a rather messy divorce being played out in public. Unedifying and damaging for the children.’ The media promised ‘dawn raids on schools’ earlier in the week, suggesting that there was something criminal or illegal happening in schools up and down the country. The right wing press went into apoplectic overdrive. And it wasn’t just them. Many other elements of the media took this as an opportunity to once again put the boot into schools and the teaching profession. The unspoken message-we need this combative approach because all our schools aren’t good enough and, in cases, dangerous places for children-is one that I resent.

And it is all so unnecessary.

No approach from Mr Gove or Mr Wilshaw about how (whether proven or not) the Trojan Horse situation is being played out in a tiny, tiny minority of our schools. No mention that OFSTED can already institute a ‘no notice inspection’ on any school where serious concerns have been raised about safeguarding or safety. No mention of any of that. That wouldn’t be newsworthy. No-two of the most influential and senior figures in education in Britain today have taken the Phil and Grant Mitchell approach of dealing with things to this situation (apologies for the analogy-it’s late and all I could think of)!

For the record:

I do not care if inspections are unannounced. We don’t get much notice anyway. My ‘phone call’ last year came just before 1pm with the Lead Inspector. By the time we had finished and I had checked my notes for all the things he wanted in place by the next day, it was close to 2pm. We finish just after 3pm. How anyone thinks that schools can some how change or hide what we do in the space of 60 minutes before the students leave is beyond me. By the time I had called my SLT together and arranged a staff briefing, the school day had finished.

For those of you who have never ‘taken the call’ there is a huge amount of information requested by the LI. Meetings have to be arranged, personnel for the meetings agreed, a huge amount of documentation is requested and a general discussion takes place. All of this so that, when the inspection team arrive the next morning, they can get straight into the prime focus-inspecting the school. You take that notice time away and all that will happen in a no notice inspection is the first 3 hours will be based around inspectors shuffling around for information. What you then would do if a HT is out or the senior staff at the school are interviewing, for example, is something we will wait with baited breath for.

As I have said, I do not care whether or not an inspector calls or not. To me that is not the issue. The real issue is that the whole inspection process is deeply flawed and unreliable. The system is failing and has little credibility. The framework is all wrong. There are too many incompetent inspectors. Don’t get me wrong, there are many excellent inspectors but there are too many inspectors who do not understand data or recognise high quality teaching and effective leadership. Many of them never understood it as teachers and that is why they are now ‘consultants’ working freelance for private companies carrying out inspections. If you get a good inspection team you are ‘lucky’. It is unacceptable that the fate of schools, teachers and students can fall to whether you are ‘lucky’ or not to get a team that knows what they are doing.

If Mr Gove and. Mr Wilshaw are going to take the ‘Mitchell Brothers’ approach to things then let them start with the inspection framework and the quality of inspectors. Let them sort that out rather than putting the boot into the overwhelming majority of schools who get it right for their kids day in day out.

If anything, these last few days have shown me that whatever credibility OFSTED may have had in the eyes of the teaching profession has just disintegrated completely. This was perfectly summed up by a tweet from @oldandrewuk who said: ‘Well one thing to come out of Trojan Horse is that any danger of OFSTED regaining any credibility has now passed’.

I also think that there should be an apology issued to the thousands of school leaders and teachers up and down the country for the insinuation that has been bouncing around in the last few days that in the face of an OFSTED inspection, we behave in an unprofessional and fraudulent manner. That is completely unacceptable.

The rhetoric of ‘dawn raids’ and ‘snap inspections’ doesn’t bother me. It saddens me that it has come to this. It saddens me that those in power should view us with such contempt that they feel that they should always try and catch us out.

I know what we are doing in my school is making a difference and no amount of macho posturing from OFSTED or the government is going to make me change the way we do things at my school. And if OFSTED don’t like that then I guess I’ll see them at 7.30am sometime soon.

For those among you considering senior leadership

For those among you considering senior leadership:

As many of you may know, I will be embarking on my 2nd Headship in September this year following 5 really great years as HT in my current school. Whilst things are insanely busy at the moment, I have taken a little bit of time to reflect on my first headship and what I’ve learned about leadership in schools. This blog is not intended to be a ‘I think this is what you should do’ blog but a personal reflection on the things I have learned in the last few years as Headteacher and the things I think are really important for new school leaders in the current educational climate.

1: Lead your schools for your students and not OFSTED. Education is about the young people we teach day in, day out. They are with us 190 timetabled days a year (for either 5 or 7 years in the secondary sector) and many, many days and hours beyond this in extra curricular activities. You know them, know their parents and know what your school needs to do to ensure that they have the best possible opportunities when they leave your school. The job we do in schools is one of the most fundamentally important jobs in the whole of society. As school leaders, we have a duty to the children in our schools to ensure that our curriculum, our approach to teaching and learning and our whole culture and ethos ensures that they get the very best education possible. In the 5 years I have been a HT, OFSTED have been in my school for a total of 5 days. Just do the maths on the time our children are with us compared to OFSTED and you should quickly see who you should be focusing on.

2: Ensure your staff don’t worry about OFSTED. It is not the job of the teaching and support staff to worry about OFSTED. Make sure that you do everything to support your teachers to do the very best they can and, in my opinion, a big factor in this is to stop referring to OFSTED. If anyone needs to worry about OFSTED it is SLT. Oh, and never, ever do a ‘mocksted’-your self review processes should be robust enough to tell you everything you need to know about your school.

Point of note: This is not to say that I am dismissive of OFSTED-far from it. OFSTED are there to regulate and ensure that there are consistent standards of assessing the quality of schools in England. This is a very important role and a necessary one-somebody needs to ensure a consistency of standards. My point is that the current OFSTED set up is not fit for purpose so therefore we must set about creating an educational climate that supports our staff and students and look to ensure the highest standards of attainment without prescription from a centralised, regulatory body. OFSTED should inspect on standards, not instruct on how to attain these standards.

3: The behaviour of students is fundamental to the success of your school-and it is down to SLT to take the lead. Behaviour, behaviour, behaviour. 3 words that will lead to success (or failure if you ignore them). Have robust, consistent systems for ensuring good behaviour and make sure everyone follows them. Reward the hard working, polite, determined students. Reward those who try their very best regardless of ability. Reward those who make a contribution to your school. Even more importantly though, do not tolerate those who disrupt lessons. Do not tolerate those who abuse staff and students. Do not tolerate violence and do not tolerate bullying. Lead this from the front as a school leader. Make sure that your students know who is in charge in the school. Yes, staff need to support this by being consistent in following school systems and ensuring they are planning and delivering great lessons, but do not blame staff if a student chooses to disrupt a lesson. Support your staff and ensure that every child knows that every member of staff, and in particular the SLT, will not tolerate those students who disrupt lessons or behave poorly. Don’t worry about exclusion figures either-you do what you need to do to get a calm, productive environment within a school. I argued with OFSTED that the reason our behaviour in school was good was the fact that we challenged all aspects of poor, disruptive behaviour with sanctions that included exclusion. If you want good behaviour you have to have a system that punishes persistent disruption or poor behaviour severely (we were graded outstanding for behaviour by OFSTED last year).

4: Be visible: you have to be out there. Start of the day, break, lunch and the end of the day. And during the school day as well! This goes hand in hand with point 3 (above) and really helps other staff on duty. Also develop a system that allows SLT and middle leaders to be visible during the timetabled day around the school. Go to the lessons where there is supply cover, go to the really challenging groups, pop your head in, stay for a while maybe, but just be visible. I spend 6 hours a week on ‘visibility’. These are in my diary and take priority. My SLT and I cover all 25 lessons a week on the timetable to ensure someone is ‘visible’. If we are out we cover it because we think it is so important to create a positive, calm, productive environment across the school site.

5: Do the right thing: sometimes the right thing to do is the most difficult and it would be easy to compromise and fudge a solution. Don’t! Always do the right thing, no matter how difficult this is. I have had to make some incredibly difficult decisions that I know will have a profound effect on those who are affected but I took them because they were the right thing to do for the school community. Stick to your principles. Ultimately there are a lot of pressures out there and they can present as easy fixes or solutions but remember that, as a leader, you have to look yourself in the eye and know that you have done the right thing for your students. I have a number of ‘red lines’ that I will not budge on as a leader because I know that, if I allow them to be crossed, I will not be able to reconcile them with myself and I would lose all credibility. This may sound really old fashioned but I think you have to stand up for what you believe in.

6: Collaborate and share with fellow leaders: It is easy to become isolated and think that everyone and everything is against you-the stakes are high and the levels of accountability and pressure immense. Talk with fellow leaders. Visit their schools and have them visit you. Talk to them about what they do and what works and share your experiences with them. I have found the majority of HT to be open, honest and very willing to share resources, time and experience if you are able to reciprocate.

7: Read, read, read: theory isn’t better than practice but, importantly, it does inform practice. Twitter has been fundamental in helping me expand reading around my job. There are a huge number of bloggers, blogs, books and articles that I have read that have made me a much more reflective, informed and, therefore, better leader. Sign up for Twitter now!

8: I want my school to be the best school ever: Not for me but for the students. If we are the best school ever then all our students will have the opportunity to experience life changing opportunities that will allow them to access education/jobs/careers beyond their life at school. I have always started with the line: ‘why can’t we be the greatest school ever?’ We may not be there or ever get there but why should we settle for 2nd best? Start with this in mind and then you will focus your thoughts.

9: Don’t worry about what ‘might’ happen: I should start by saying that I do not make this point lightly. I personally know 3 HT colleagues who have lost their jobs in the last 18 months as a result of OFSTED inspections or as a result of a process of ‘academisation’. I also know of others, through social media, who have suffered the same fate and all of these are good people who were doing a great job in challenging circumstances. They are victims of a perverse kind of system that unilaterally sees the removal of the HT as the solution to a problem in a school. To qualify, there are some poor HT and it is right that they are held to account but I am staggered at the sheer quantity of good HT who are losing their jobs recently-particularly when the data and information about their school suggests their performance is far from inadequate. Ultimately, I have come to accept that the job of a HT is a very vulnerable one and that I could lose my job at any point following a poor OFSTED/poor GCSE results etc. I cannot, however, afford to worry about that. It does terrify me, particularly as we have a young family, but I will not let it take over my thoughts. I will not change or compromise what I believe to be the best for my school community because I may lose my job somewhere down the line. If someone thinks that what I’m doing is not good enough then there is very little I can do about it, hence why I can’t worry about it. As HT I have a mandate to do what is best for the students in my school and I’ll keep going and doing the best for them and the school community as long as I am privileged to hold the position of Headteacher.

10: Don’t forget what really, really matters: Being a leader in a school is an amazing job with many great opportunities and many highlights as well as many demands. If you are like me, then you probably throw your heart and soul into your job to make it work. Don’t, however, forget what is the most important-your family and friends. They will be there to pick you up when you are down, to counsel you, to support you and to share in your successes. They are also the most important things in life and, whilst my job is so important to me, it is fundamentally a job and comes nowhere near the importance of my family and friends. School leaders and teachers should never lose sight of the importance of those we love the most and the need to spend as much quality time as possible with them.

On why we have stopped grading lesson observations (part 2)

On why we’ve stopped grading lesson observations (part 2)…

Following my blog earlier in the month and the conversations on this topic that have been taking place on Twitter, I thought it would be helpful to set out why we have taken the decision to stop grading lesson observations. I will say again that our decision was taken because we feel that this is right for our school at this point in time. It is part of a wider plan to make our school a truly ‘great’ school.

We considered the purpose of lesson observation. This is, in my opinion, the most important question for any school leader: Why are we observing lessons? If you believe the purpose of lesson observations is to take a ‘snapshot’ of a teacher’s performance in 30 minutes, compare this against OFSTED criteria and feedback the grade to the teacher then you should carry on grading lessons. We came to the conclusion that observations in this form were not productive. We believe that observation should be about developing practice, developing the expertise of teachers and working together to improve the quality of teaching and learning in our school. The point of observations should be to make the quality of teaching and learning better not to judge a member of staff against a set of questionable criteria.

I would urge all school leaders to ask themselves the question: ‘why are we observing lessons?’ When I asked myself this question I came up with the answer that, in the form we previously had, it was to demonstrate to OFSTED we were robust in our school self review. I now know that this is completely wrong. We were wasting a huge amount of time, energy and effort on observing staff against a criteria that, at its best is interpreted completely subjectively and, more importantly, didn’t really give an opportunity to help staff improve their practice. We had to move away from this.

Before this post progresses I should make it clear that I believe in accountability. I believe that schools should be held to account about their performance. In this light, I believe that the new proposals for accountability will be much better than the 5A*-C measure, as schools such as mine will be able to demonstrate the impact of the progress that students make from when they joined us. In holding performance to account you need an external body and we have OFSTED. There are many issues surrounding the reliability of OFSTED and this is probably another blog in itself. I need to make clear my position on OFSTED. For those of you that know me, you will know that I am not that fussed about OFSTED. That isn’t to say I don’t think that their judgements are important-they are-I just don’t run my school for OFSTED. Our school is run for our students, parents, local community and staff. That is what is important.I have always been confident that OFSTED would be happy with what we did but my school is not set up for OFSTED. When we were inspected in March this year (2013) we were very pleased that our judgements about the quality of our teaching matched theirs.

From next term all lesson observations will follow the same approach:

-All observations will be carried out by those staff who have previously undergone lesson observation training
The key to the whole process is feedback. We have worked hard to ensure that all feedback is formative and helpful to staff
-There will be no reference to OFSTED criteria ever in the feedback given to staff
Our feedback will be based on what went well and what we can improve
-We want staff to choose lessons where they may be having some issues for observations. We hope that the removal of judgements will allow staff to engage with observers to address issues that would never have previously been considered under lesson observations used for performance management.

I would like to clearly state that this approach is what we believe to be right for our school now. We are not trying to start a ‘movement’. We have moved from an underachieving school to a good school in the last 4 years and we really want to be a truly ‘great’ school. The decision to remove gradings from lesson observations is part of a wider programme of school improvement and this programme has been very successful. I have to give credit to my SLT and middle leaders who have worked tirelessly to get us to this position and would encourage all SLT to consider the move we have taken. In my last blog I stated:

“It became apparent to me that if we were to become a ‘great’ school then this would have very little to do with the structural aspects of the school. Improvements in the ‘structural’ aspects of the school helped us get to good. To become ‘great’ we actually had to encourage our staff to move away from the structures that had got us to be ‘good’ and give them the opportunity to develop and exercise their teaching skills in a supportive and collaborative environment. One in where all staff shared good practice, built on what was really good about their teaching and, if appropriate, be encouraged to take risks and try new things:

To be better we need to reflect on our practice in a non judgemental way. To improve our excellent teachers by getting them to reflect on issues that, in the past, would be hidden. Let’s work together to develop practice in areas we hid because if we looked at it during a lesson observation previously we would be graded inadequate. We need to move on from that.

We took the decision to remove grading from our lesson observations to make us better teachers. To remove the fear of being judged inadequate. To encourage our teachers to take risks. To encourage our teachers to be the best they can be and deliver lessons that they may not normally do. To encourage our staff to be truly great. To be great we cannot be worried about failing, indeed to be great we actually have to experience failure to get to this level. Great teaching exists where our best teachers exert their professionalism to ensure that our students succeed. We believe that this approach will improve the outcomes for our students. We believe that this will make us better teachers.”

At the end of the day we need to take a decision. We can decide to lead our schools in the way in which we believe to be right for our students or we can run our schools and try and match OFSTED criteria. In my opinion we owe it to our students and parents to run our schools in a way that will give our students the greatest opportunities and if this sits outside OFSTED model then so be it. Effective leadership in a school is not about shaping the establishment to fit OFSTED criteria.

In our school our results have improved considerably. I am convinced that our grades will continue to increase as a direct result of our focus on improving the quality of teaching and learning. In terms of OFSTED, this can only be a good thing. I have discussed this with some colleagues who have said that our decision is ‘brave’. I disagree, I believe it is right. I spoke about this with an OFSTED inspector who was concerned about ‘accountability’. I actually think that this model increases accountability. By sharing our practices, by working together to improve those lessons that we struggle with and by looking at those groups we find challenging actually increases accountability. It is brave to try and improve the outcomes for our students and accountability lies on what we get for our students. I think our approach will definitely improve the outcomes for our students.

I will finish with what I stated in my last blog:

“I am not saying that this approach will work for all schools. It may not. We are on a particular part of our journey and we feel it is right for us. We look forward to making our school a truly ‘great’ school and feel that this approach will help us.”

That is why we have stopped grading our lesson observations.

On why we’ve stopped grading lesson observations..

On why we’ve stopped grading lesson observations….

This term, after a round of lesson observations, I found myself reflecting on where we were as a school. I am coming to the end of my 4th year as HT in the school and was thinking how we could become a ‘great’ school. Our school has had its challenges in the past. We got a ‘Satisfactory’ in early 2010 shortly after I had taken charge and we have worked incredibly hard to improve what we were doing. In March this year we got a ‘Good’ from OFSTED and we were delighted that we had an external validation of what we had known for a while.

For those of you that know me, you will know that I am not that fussed about OFSTED. That isn’t to say I don’t think that their judgements are important-they are-I just don’t run my school for OFSTED. Our school is run for our students, parents, local community and staff. That is what is important.I have always been confident that OFSTED would be happy with what we did but my school is not set up for OFSTED.

Back to my reflections!

It became apparent to me that if we were to become a ‘great’ school then this would have very little to do with the structural aspects of the school. Improvements in the ‘structural’ aspects of the school helped us get to good. To become ‘great’ we actually had to encourage our staff to move away from the structures that had got us to be ‘good’ and give them the opportunity to develop and exercise their teaching skills in a supportive and collaborative environment. One in where all staff shared good practice, built on what was really good about their teaching and, if appropriate, be encouraged to take risks and try new things.

It became apparent to me that the main reason for grading lesson observations was down to providing OFSTED with information. We spoke about it at SLT and decided that our current structure was not going to make us a great school. To be great we need staff to engage about what they are finding difficult and ask for support. This would never happen if we graded observations. Staff (quite rightly) would choose groups/sets that would give them a good/outstanding judgements in previous lesson observations. They would never pick groups that they found challenging because of the levels of accountability based on the lesson judgement.

To be better we need to reflect on our practice in a non judgemental way. To improve our excellent teachers by getting them to reflect on issues that, in the past, would be hidden. Let’s work together to develop practice in areas we hid because if we looked at it during a lesson obs previously we would be graded inadequate. We need to move on from that.

We took the decision to remove grading from our lesson observations to make us better teachers. To remove the fear of being judged inadequate. To encourage our teachers to take risks. To encourage our teachers to be the best they can be and deliver lessons that they may not normally do. To encourage our staff to be truly great. To be great we cannot be worried about failing, indeed to be great we actually have to experience failure to get to this level. Great teaching exists where our best teachers exert their professionalism to ensure that our students succeed. We believe that this approach will improve the outcomes for our students. We believe that this will make us better teachers.

I have discussed this with some colleagues who have said that our decision is ‘brave’. I disagree, I believe it is right. I spoke about this with an OFSTED inspector who was concerned about ‘accountability’. I actually think that this model increases accountability. By sharing our practices, by working together to improve those lessons that we struggle with and by looking at those groups we find challenging actually increases accountability. It is brave to try and improve the outcomes for our students and accountability lies on what we get for our students. I think our approach will definitely improve the outcomes for our students.

We are professionals. We know what works. We know what we need to do to make our practice better. We must make these improvements away from the fear of being labelled to be failing. One of my sporting heroes is the basketball player Michael Jordan. As a mad basketball fan I admired his technical ability, his unbelievable court presence and his seemingly amazing ability to make the winning shot. It was only after listening to him about what made him a truly great player that I tripped over this:

‘I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.’

To be better we have to learn from our mistakes. But we can only learn from our mistakes when we are free from the risk of failure. Failure makes us better. But we can only be better if ‘failure’ is acceptable. If we have a system where ‘failure’ is discouraged then we will always have professionals who suffer from fear of failure. If we remove the gradings from observations then we encourage staff to take risks, we encourage staff to ‘fail’ whilst taking those risks and, ultimately, we create better teachers.

I am not saying that this approach will work for all schools. It may not. We are on a particular part of our journey and we feel it is right for us. We look forward to making our school a truly ‘great’ school and feel that this approach will help us.

That is why we have stopped grading our lesson observations.

What to aim for as a SLT

What a good SLT should try to aim for…..

After many months of deliberation, I have finally decided to have a go at blogging. To start with, I’m going to have a go at trying to add to the debate that has been going around Twitter recently about SLTs in school. I should start by saying that I am a Headteacher in a large secondary school. I do not for one minute claim to have all the answers, nor am I claiming that everything is perfect with my leadership in my school-far from it. The next few paragraphs are about what I think an effective SLT should represent in a school and one in which my SLT try to aim for every day.

If you haven’t already read it, you really should read the excellent blog from @oldandrew entitled ‘ How to be bad SMT’ (http://teachingbattleground.wordpress.com/2013/10/19/how-to-be-bad-smt/).
I think there are many elements to this that we have, at time to time, experienced in our careers as teachers. I sent the link to my SLT and asked them to read it, if only to use as a checklist as to some key things we need to avoid in our day to day practice. This blog looks at, in my opinion, the things that those of us who are in senior positions in school should be striving for every day:

1: Be visible: in my opinion the Number 1 priority of any SLT. Yes there are many things that we could be getting on with and many demands on our time but we have to be out and about. This also includes the start of the day, break, lunch and the end of the day. We have a system in our school (taken from a presentation I heard last year from Ani Magill, HT at St John the Baptist School in Woking) where a member of SLT is on a ‘visibility’ tour every lesson of the day. It is not about patrolling corridors or making judgements on teachers but about supporting colleagues. Wandering round the school dropping into lessons, speaking with staff and speaking with students, is a fantastic way to be visible without being intrusive. You can also assist any member of staff who may be experiencing a challenge with a particular class. We also ask Heads of Faculty to identify particular ‘hot spots’ in the timetable-times where they feel additional support could be helpful-and we make sure we visit these lessons first. Same with the start of the day and the end of the day. We are on every gate welcoming kids into school, checking uniform and talking with parents. At the end of the day we also walk around the streets/shops near the school to make sure that the kids leave quickly and safely. The same goes for break and lunch-SLT are always on duty along with other staff. Being visible and being out and about is a fundamental part of an effective member of SLT.

2: It’s all about people, Part 1: The greatest asset I have at my school are the staff. They work so hard and give up so much time (both in and out of school) to ensure the students get the very best deal that SLT are duty bound to support and develop their professional status. For example, we have kept contact periods for teaching staff without additional responsibilities to 21 out of 25 periods per week. We trimmed our meetings to an absolute minimum. We ensure that the directed time calendar falls well below the 1265 hours required because we must recognise that most staff work well beyond this in an academic year. We try to be empathetic with staff. If someone asks for the afternoon to go and watch their child’s play or Sports Day we will always try and let them go. When we look to change practice or bring in a new policy, our first question should always be ‘what will the effect of this be on those teachers who teach 21 out of 25 lessons a week’? If the answer is that it will increase their workload then it doesn’t go ahead. We also try and recognise achievements and the immense work most staff put in. It is the job of SLT to try and cut away the stuff that impedes teachers in their jobs and, to help do that, we must support our staff at all times.

3:It’s all about people, Part 2: The other great asset we have at the school are our students. They are, in the main, hard working, polite and well behaved. To get to this point, however, takes a lot of work. I was reading some tweets today from the superb Tom Bennett (@tombennett71) regarding the issue of behaviour in school and how it was one of the 2 main issues affecting teachers today (the other being workload) and I couldn’t agree more. Behaviour is everyone’s responsibility but the biggest responsibility for having good behaviour in a school sits with SLT. For the first 2 years of my Headship fixed term exclusions shot up. We set a bar very high regarding expectations about behaviour and we expect all students to ‘come up to the bar’. I have 3 main rules for every student (Try your very best at all times, be polite and courteous to everyone, be proud of yourself and your achievements) and I expect everyone to follow them. If you don’t there are consequences. For example, if you use foul language towards, or in response to, a member of staff you will be excluded. If you are removed from a lesson following a ‘SLT Call out’ (part of a structured, consistent whole school approach to behaviour) you will be isolated for the rest of the day and will have a Friday detention (90 minutes at the end of school on Friday). The main reason we do this is because it isn’t actually about those students who are misbehaving (in the first instance). It’s actually about the 99% of students who aren’t misbehaving and the staff trying to teach them. This may sound a bit trite but we refer to disruptive students as ‘time thieves’-stealing time from other students and teachers because they cannot behave properly. The job of SLT is to support, at all times, staff in making sure students behave appropriately. Interestingly, our FTE fell last year and have fallen dramatically this year. We have not lowered the bar to allow this to happen, I just think the message has got through.

4: Trust and develop teachers: we are all professionals and should be allowed to exercise our professional expertise in the classroom. SLTs should always start with this in mind. Yes, there are sometimes staff who cannot be trusted because they are not up to the job but, in my experience this is very rare. Support and encourage teachers at all times because the overwhelming majority are dedicated professionals who want to make a difference to the lives of the kids they teach. We have just taken the decision to stop graded lesson observations from now on. I just can’t see the point anymore. If the point of observation is to improve professional practice then using a graded judgement system will not do that. Our next observation round will see observations without any criteria sheets, any grades, any judgement statements. There will be one side of A4 that says two things: ‘What went well’ and ‘Areas for consideration’. We are asking staff to choose lessons that they traditionally would not have chosen for observations so that we can improve professional practice. I should say all staff, including me, are observed for 1 x 30 minute slot a term currently and this will continue next term, just without any judgements. It’s not about OFSTED, it’s about having great teachers.

5: Accept that mistakes will happen: one of the things I say to parents is that as a school we always try to get it right for your child but, from time to time, we will get it wrong. We won’t get it wrong deliberately or out of spite, but we will get it wrong. There are 1200 students and 150 staff on site so, from time to time, things will go wrong and mistakes will happen. As a member of SLT you can do 2 things when you come across a situation where a member of staff has got it wrong. You can either help them get it right next time or you can blame them and berate them. Sir Alex Ferguson always stated that he learned more about his team from a defeat than from victory. When something goes wrong or not as well as we would like, review the situation, support and take action and make sure that we improve our school as a result of what we do. Blaming helps no-one.

I would like to point out that this is what I think we should be aiming for. My school isn’t perfect nor is my leadership. Like everyone, I make mistakes and sometimes get things wrong. There have been times in the past when I have been guilty of some of the things listed in the ‘how to be bad SMT’ blog. I do, however, reflect on my practice and, as a result, now try to ensure that I and my SLT, follow the 5 principles above. I am just finishing my 4th year of being a HT (I started in January 2010). We don’t get it right every time but if we hold these points above as reference points for how we act as an SLT, then I think we will be on the right path.