Here we go again. I haven’t yet commented on the result of the election, partly because I found the whole experience and outcome a huge disappointment, but also because since the Conservative victory, we have had some interesting signs that they are going to make a genuine attempt to rule the UK as though everyone mattered. We didn’t get that last time, and there may be more than a hint that they may have learnt something from the past 5 years, and that, left to himself, Cameron may be more statesmanlike than was imaginable from the coalition. It would be hard on the Liberal Democrats if they found that the Conservative party without them was actually more compassionate and unifying than when they were in coalition. Weirder things have happened (well I think they have, but possibly only in North Korea or after the watershed on Channel 5).

But not, it seems, in education, where the message of “toughness” and “challenging failing schools” is actually independent of the party in power, so beholden are all the English parties to GERM – the Global Education Reform Movement. So no surprises to read of Nicky Morgan being “tough on headteachers of coasting schools” in a report in yesterday’s Observer. I have never actually seen a coasting school. I can’t imagine, despite all the talk about schools in seaside towns being under pressure, that a coasting school is actually one on the coast. So I suspect it is one where the leadership team are in some sort of denial about how weak they are (possibly because the emascluated LAs have not had the resources to help them), or one where the leadership or governance does not care. I think these are extremely rare. On the other hand, I do know of schools which have gone from “requires improvement” to “requires improvement” on successive inspections where the headteacher works unbelievably hard and with little encouragement, to pull the thing around.

Maybe we are just lucky here in Milton Keynes, but to find a school where there is not a passion for learning and developing children is quite hard. At present, we have no schools here in an OFSTED category, and part of this is testimony to the way the LA has supported us, but more, the way we have looked after each other. There is little in the way of schadenfreude and people genuinely congratulate each other when schools move up a category after an inspection.

Morgan’s article in the Telegraph is here. The Sunday Telegraph, here, describes it as “taking on the unions”. My union, the NAHT, already has more (and better) plans than the DfE for improving schools and supporting one another.

Far more schools are good than are given credit for, I feel. And it cannot all be about data, because, as I have often said, data and OFSTED judgments do not tell the story of a whole school.

Tomorrow, I will be interviewing for new teachers. We have a recruitment crisis in Milton Keynes at the moment – it is a great place to work, but several colleagues are struggling to attract enough candidates to comprise a good field. We are a good school, not because OFSTED say so, but because we have a growing understanding of what constitutes goodness in adults and children. As much as we are able, we are a school that welcomes and delights in ther child-ness of children, and we are unwilling to conform them to a mould so that they all look, shall we say, uniform. A good school has the potential to allow new teachers to thrive and grow, to flourish because that goodness is encapsulated in the affection and care that enables adults to give of their best to the children they serve.

Young corn crop at springSo just as being good is partly about completeness, it is also about promise.A good school promises much for those who are part of it.

On Saturday I planted out my corn seedlings, just 14 of them in a block. They look good to me, but their goodness is constituted in the promise of taste and joy to come. We might call this, if we were really boring, capacity to improve. A slug or a rat may have something to say about my promised goodness, and so that goodness also requires protection and care. But it is good nonetheless. Planting them and caring for the seedlings was good work and contributed to the promise of the food they will provide. It required me to prepare good soil and to prepare a growing bed for them that enabled each seedling to get the best from light, earth and water. Goodness thus embodies provision and freedom, the first of these ongoing so that the second can flourish.

 

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About Huw Humphreys

I am a headteacher in the city of Milton Keynes, where I have been since April 2011, looking to make education effective for the whole child and keeping a distant relationship with the powers that be and their narrowing approach to education... but most of all I am looking to find out what it means to be both a follower of Jesus Christ and a passionate educator in the midst of an unsettled community. I am also a part time musician, part time linguist and lover of history and literature...committed both to freedom to learn and depth of learning for all our children. The views on this blog are all my own, and not in any way those of the school I lead!

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