Rambling Rant from a Head Teacher

Board Member 5Carla asked a question, ‘Can you write a few words for the SCHOOLS NorthEast website?

Yes, probably.

Will it be the ‘coherent summary of my view of the current educational landscape’ they hoped for?

Well, probably not.

This week lets call it a ‘Rambling Rant from a Head Teacher.’

I am now quite old. When I learned to drive it coincided with the Government spending a great deal of time, and money, telling me that I had to wear a seatbelt. I didn’t really like being told what to do, so unsurprisingly I made a conscious effort not to wear the belt. Although I obviously waited till I was out of sight of my Mum before I removed it.

This is clearly a ridiculous manner in which to behave. I cannot really rationalise my stupidity other than to think I had spent my formative years often travelling unbelted in the back of an Austin Maxi or sliding around in boot of various estate cars as a ‘treat’. The Government knew that getting us to ‘clunk click every trip’ was going to save them a good deal of money and us a lot of pain or disfigurement.  It was probably less well advised having Jimmy Saville promote the policy…

Over time we all complied and now it’s the norm. When I have the pleasure of teaching my son to drive it isn’t even a passing consideration that either of us will not, belt up’. Regrettably we have all probably seen evidence of the damage caused by cars interfacing with each other; this evidence is clear and we have all adapted our behaviour.

This year I have had the pleasure of working with Evidence for the Frontline. An Education Endowment Foundation funded project, we aim to connect teachers with current academic research and those developing our knowledge of what actually has a positive impact on young people in our Universities. My staff ask a question, and, more often than not, get a response; this informs their work in classrooms and across school.

I certainly think the teachers and support staff, and perhaps most significantly the ‘School Business Managers’ I meet in different schools have never worked harder. The Government say jump, we say ‘how high?’. We see colleagues panic about first one thing, then the next. How many head teachers last year discussed with their staff the perceived requirement to evidence more progress in books for inspectors, marking policies were reviewed, teachers responded to the pupils responses to their responses to their original work… and so we cycle on.

We are not short of educational initiatives in the UK. How many have been driven with the needs of our children guiding the decision-making? I wonder if school leaders are too busy to lead a fight back against the constant lurching from one bright idea to the next. I genuinely think Ofsted’s relationship with schools in the North East has become more open and stronger this year, but wish I felt the same nationally.

I was persuaded to wear a seatbelt by the evidence presented to me. I need to be persuaded to engage in the next round of educational reform and innovation because it is born out of dialogue between policy makers, researchers, school leaders, communities and inspectors. Sadly I don’t think we have that respectful dialogue yet, and I can’t see who is the voice for my pupils, and the children of the North East, with all the challenges many of them face, at a national level.

Rant mode switched off.

Well done for persevering till the end.

Carl Faulkner, Head Teacher, Normanby Primary School

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