… and no, this is not a review of Sports Day!
So how was your year? Tough? I’m pretty confident that our year was tougher. It’s the eve of the end of 2016-17 for us and I pray I never have a year like this again.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t teach in the only Special Measures school in the world, I know there are hundreds of colleagues across the country who experienced that same exquisite scrutiny this year. I know we’re not the only ones who went through a long and drawn out re-brokerage to a new sponsor. I know we’re not the only one who got through not one, not two but three Ofsted visits. Not the only ones who’ve gotten through three Principals and six Senior Leaders. I’m fairly confident there aren’t many schools who’ve gone through all of that and so, so much more. We’ve had incredible support from some unexpected places. We’ve been spectacularly let down by others. Colleagues have united in shows of strength and support, they’ve also struggled and broken under the strain at times. At the end of a 13 month academic year (don’t ask, it doesn’t even come close to the daftest thing going on here) we had staff today singing and dancing with the kids at Sports Day. Personally, I’ve never worked harder – and I thought I was pretty hard working before!
I’ve spent some time this evening following a thread about the measure by which a leader can be judged as “good”, note the lower case “g” we aren’t talking Ofsted here. In my opinion it misses the mark. I know that when it all comes down to it we are each judged on outcomes. What I also know is that education is filled with incredibly inspiring leaders who are doing great and brave things in their schools and still not getting results which would deem them “good”. There isn’t a convenient statistic to measure the impact of a Headteacher who acts with passion and (importantly) compassion as they drive forward change. There is no metric for trust in leaders. There is no objective, quanitifiable scale for how united and committed to the common cause a team can become under a great leader. I don’t care what results you can publish under your name, leadership is so much more than the score on the door.
Leave the leaders out of this for a second – what about teachers? What about non-teaching colleagues? This year I have worked with some phenomenal staff, or am I not allowed to say that until I have seen their exam outcomes? Can I not acknowledge the work of colleagues outside the classroom if their work doesn’t get ratified by a terminal exam? So the staff who worked tirelessly to win over families, to support and counsel students back into the classroom won’t be “good” unless those students score above the P8 threshold? Nonsense.
I’ve spent the last year trying to upick the damage done by a regime which prized academic results above all else. I’m thankful that before this year I was mentored by a great leader who believed that results come second to the needs of the whole child. I’m proud of the incredible team I’ve served with this year – I’ve got colleagues who would wipe the floor with their counterparts in an Outstanding school. I don’t need results day to tell me what our problems are, we know them well. I won’t ever need a results day to tell me what our strengths are either.
Don’t get me wrong, we are far from perfect. So much has to change it would be easier to write a list of what should stay the same. Right now my standard for greatness is knowing we couldn’t possibly have done more. Next year we’ll do better but for this year I’m proud of my school and proud of the job we did. Was it good enough? Not even close but we left everything out on the field.