The question of the week this week came from Russell Hobby, the general secretary of the NAHT, at a briefing in London that I attended on Wednesday – the rather exalted, wood-pannelled surroundings of the Law Society’s Common Room on Chancery Lane was the setting. His question, referring to various studies on trustworthiness was this:
“Why do the second-least trusted profession in the country think they have a right to tell the secondmost-trusted profession in the country how to run their schools?”
I am sure that this question has been asked many times. I just liked the elegance with which Russell put it. His overview of the current state of play with regard to government initiatives was enlightening and managed to breathe some real encouragement into the 200 or so headteachers who met to hear him. Even though a lot of what we heard was either very demanding or highly disheartening, I felt much closer in spirit and philosophy to this group of leaders who are trying their darnedest to mount an effective challenge to the bizarre philosophy and practice that is oozing from the gutters around Sanctuary Buildings, than to many other groupings to which I am peripherally attached.
The trust issue continues to dominate everyone’s thinking and is at the root of the question of why we cannot make real progress in education in England. People really suspect, deeply, the worst motives of many of our political masters and their lackeys in the inspection service, no matter how honourable are the men and women who decide to go to “the dark side” – as a friend who is embracing inspection puts it. We are long past – years past – the time when an inspection team would visit a school and say – oh, that’s interesting; what does it mean? Now the data-laden cart is so far ahead of the struggling horse that inspectors will come with interpretations of data generated from a national perspective, and then ask the school to fit its local priorities and methodologies, right for its own school, to match a set of desired outcomes. Sorry to bang on about this, but in the (possibly correct) desire for some accountability, the model that OFSTED are slavishly imitating has very many serious philosophical flaws.
Today, I listened to a gorgeous rehearsal by our Y6 children of their production of Oliver! – I had not heard it since the auditions just over 3 weeks ago and the power and excellence of the solo and choral singing and acting was literally astonishing. At least three children near took my breath away.
On top of that, this week I have had the privilege of watching the wonderful Ula Weber from the CBSO and Sandwell Music and Arts Service stand in our hall and teach our Year 5 children (and over 100 other Y5 children from MK) to engage in genuine skill and beauty with the handful of songs that they are learning for the Milton Keynes Primary Music Festival a week on Tuesday. Putting this together with the tremendous effort of Years 3 and 4 last term in their show (“Aesop’s Funtastic Fables”) and the consistent wonder of seeing children growing and improving in their singing during collective worship, made me realise what a singing school we are, and how much this reflects our humanity and our createdness. Any OFSTED inspection of Christ the Sower that ignores the quality of our singing is an exercise in missing the point. It has put national needs above the needs of the children and families that live in our catchment. And we are not, repeat not, here to serve the national purpose.