Principal’s Round-up – 5th April 2019

Everything seems to be in turmoil. The changes being made with immodest pace to the education system in England (do more with less) and other well-documented changes are making my head spin. So much is in flux, and some of the ideas are contradictory and ill-thought out. The most recent announcements are around the impact of school exclusions on knife crime. Where is the evidence that this causal relationship exists beyond a convenient headline in a newspaper or an over stretched police service? If only pesky little headteachers would stop excluding children, we could solve all of society’s complex and multi-faceted problems in one fell swoop. We should have the right to be funded sufficiently and equitably to help solve some of these problems, but I do not see that happening any time soon.

Richard Sheriff (president of the Association of School and College Leaders) reminds us that whilst there may be a few positive actions in the new accountability framework, we must not get carried away with ourselves. England’s high-stakes accountability system (Ofsted, reliance on league tables and so on) is not reflected anywhere else in the UK and is pretty much unique globally. It is not so much that we should not have any accountability, but that many question the unreliability of data, the methodologies used, and the efficacy of our systems. However, I fear that our high stakes accountability system is a disease from which we may never recover. Data and progress measures are subject to change yet again, making any kind of year on year comparison nonsensical and just down-right wrong. Yet everything rests on the school’s outcomes like never before. No wonder teachers are leaving the profession in their droves and the search for school leaders has become problematic to say the least.

In reality though, it is not all doom and gloom. You only have to raise your head up from the desk and look again at the young people we work with and their supportive parents to see that. We have a great collegiate staff all pulling in the same direction. There is plenty to be happy about, and there is certainly plenty to be celebrating at Tavistock College. It’s all about your mind set and whether or not the reasons you chose a career in education are still burning in your heart. Mine are. I was reminded of most of these from the reading I did over the weekend and in the work I have undertaken recently for the co-operative movement through Co-operatives UK. Helping in one activity I came across a statement written by Robin Sharma that I have seen before, but thought I would share with you in case you haven’t. It reminds me of what people who work in schools do every day.

The rules for being amazing
Risk more than is required. Learn more than is normal. Be strong. Show courage. Excel. Love. Lead. Speak your truth. Live your values. Laugh. Cry. Innovate. Simplify. Adore mastery. Release mediocrity. Aim for genius. Stay humble. Be kinder than expected. Deliver more than is needed. Exude passion. Shatter your limits. Transcend your fears. Inspire others by your bigness. Dream big but start small. Act now. Don’t stop. Change the world.

We simply cannot afford to lose more teachers and education staff from the profession. We are all too important. That is why I take seriously the Trade Union advice on my responsibility to help manage workload. Thank you to all staff who responded to the Workload Charter consultation. This is now being displayed in the college. The Workload Charter is a way of capturing our pledge to making work life balance more achievable, and by putting it into writing we are committing to the future. The main principles are:

The culture of our Trust is framed by the values of the International Co-operative Alliance. We aim to ensure we maintain a rewarding working environment in which all colleagues are valued and we take seriously the demands of their job. We start from an assumption of professional trust and the belief that everyone seeks to do their best. We ask all leaders to set a good example in how they behave and that they actively strive to reduce the level of potential stress and anxiety in the organisation whilst maintaining high standards and expectations.

Lesson planning:
Staff are not expected to submit daily lesson plans. IT systems will be designed to establish practices and processes that minimise the replication of resources. Sharing of suitable resources will be encouraged across the Trust.

Marking and Feedback
There will be no imposed Trust-wide expectation of marking without due regard to policies in individual schools. Each school may have a different approach that is developed by subject specialists. There will be no acknowledgement marking, and live marking will be encouraged. Marking will be specific to reduce time spent out of school hours and to increase impact.

Data collection
Schools collect student performance data three times a year to ensure they can monitor progress without over-burdening staff. Professional judgement will be integrated into data input and we will continuously seek to use the best systems that reduce workload.

There is no expectation that staff will respond to emails outside of normal working hours. We want all staff to be able to achieve a healthy work-home balance and we trust our staff to make professional decisions about when they work outside school hours.

The Trust does not conduct ‘mocksteds’ Teachers will not be required to provide lesson plans or undertake tasks outside the normal cycle of monitoring and evaluation or appraisal arrangements for each school that has been agreed by JCC.

Working practices
Where new initiatives and policies are introduced, we will carry out a workload impact assessment. Serious consideration will be given to what we might stop doing to make space for new expectations. These initiatives will be based on evidence that they will have a positive impact on students’ learning, outcomes or well-being.

I hope that you will not only support the charter, but encourage all of us to adhere to what is written. Managing self is as important as managing others, and it is okay sometimes to ask for help. This is something we all have to learn.

I hope you all have a happy and restful Easter break