Ross Morrison McGill’s article on the unintended consequences of labelling ‘stuck’ schools resonated with me.
As always, Ross Morrison McGill is on the money in his analysis of why schools are ‘stuck’ in this article. OFSTED, as presently constituted cannot ‘unstick’ these schools because its remit and structures are not optimised to do this. OFSTED is fundamentally a deficit model, and one based on quality control. What is needed is a quality assurance model, where the collective expertise and experience of all the Ofsted inspectors is dedicated to development work and not measuring degrees of failure.
My interest is in getting schools ‘unstuck’ and developing successful independent and autonomous learners, in both their students and staff…
When I was leading a ‘stuck school’ I found that the talented staff were working very hard doing the wrong things. For example, chasing minor disciplinary incidents and escalating them into letters and phone calls home.
There had been poor and increasingly autocratic leadership and an ill-considered and reactive response to each new crisis that the school faced. Learning improvement was not addressed as so much energy was expended on fire-fighting.
Many good teachers had retreated into defensive teaching, whereby they fed the students a diet of pap and the students did not mess about in their lessons. It was a coping strategy.
I’ve seen this pattern repeated in other failing schools and an awful lot of energy and support applied without any clear sense of direction and momentum, let alone a change management strategy and process.
The turnaround strategy has to involve better and more precise change management in schools, a single focus on learning engagement and improvement and a better relationship with the community, including parents and employers to give education a greater sense of purpose for learners.
The primary improvement needed in learners is to give them the opportunity to develop as independent and autonomous learners, capable of deploying attitudes, behaviours and competences to research, communicate, work as a team to problem solve and communicate solutions.
The key improvement required of teachers is to be reflective practitioners working systematically and collaboratively to improve the engagement and effectiveness of the learning opportunities they give to students.
Both my books deal with how this transformation can be achieved. Future Proof Your School and Re-Examining Success are available in the Practical Teaching series from Critical Publishing