Searching for Great Practice, Mr Gove?

Having just listened to Mr Gove speaking at the NAHT Conference, I was interested by his phrase “Ofsted needs to find great practice and share great practice”. I couldn’t agree more. Mr Gove, look no further. This letter is intended to assist you in your endeavours, not to criticize them.

In my capacity as NLE/LLE, I visit many other schools. That is how I KNOW that my own school, is “great.” It is schools such as mine that you are looking for – to hold up as an example to others. It is the kind of school that, given its’ successes against all odds, would leave all others with no excuses other than to set the bar high; would leave no room for complacency. We are the kind of school that should be a teaching school, should be leading CPD, should be giving the lessons.

In a nutshell, Tower Hill* serves a disadvantaged community, 31% FSM, 34% SEN, high proportion of GRT children, unemployed and vulnerable families. Attendance is a big issue. Our children come to us WELL BELOW national age-related expectations and leave school WELL ABOVE them. Children are happy and teaching is great. I know this because I am also a parent at the school. In just 1.5 years my own son arrived at the school on the SEN register and is now predicted Level 5’s for the SATs that he took last week.

Yet the system failed other schools in Oxfordshire last November, when they deemed us to be Requiring Improvement. That judgement meant that we could NOT be part of the new Oxfordshire Teaching School Alliance. That judgement meant that new parents did NOT want to send their children to our school. That judgement meant that my MOST talented practitioners are thinking of applying for jobs elsewhere. We cannot wait for Ofsted to come back and re-inspect us. By then though, it might be too late.

There is a small village school in a neighbouring county, which is upheld as THE example for everyone to follow, because about 7 years ago it was given a label of Outstanding. It probably is. Countless schools in difficult circumstances since then have been told to send their teachers to that school, “to see how it should be done”. Yet those I have spoken to have left dismayed, wondering how that school equates in any part to their own. It is easy to have good results in a school such as that. I know this because I was Head of one. We did too, it was easy.

And this year, my school, Tower Hill, is expecting 100% at Key Stage 2 SATs. Across the board. I know this because I teach those children. We cannot wait for Ofsted to return. I have spoken to our regional HMI who assures me a quick return is likely, if a conversion to “Good” is imminent. I am wondering whether we may even be Outstanding – if not us, then who? And these results are now set to be sustained, repeated, year on year. With my talented staff, we SHOULD be a teaching school – we already work in this manner with the schools I am supporting. We should be a reference-point for all other schools in the country – if WE can do it, everyone could.

We may well get our recognition in the autumn term. My worry is, if my talented staff, still disillusioned from the previous Ofsted have left by then, it will be too late.

*It may be worthy of note that we are the most disadvantaged school in the Prime Minister’s constituency. He visited us last July and could see for himself what a fantastic job we were doing. Mr Gove, you are also most welcome to visit the school.

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