SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESWe have had, as they say, a year. I only have to trawl back through issues of Life and Learning, our fortnightly newsletter, to see that what we have accomplished has been substantial and in nearly all aspects, good, work. When I wrote the series of posts on good work, it sparked in me a determination again to see our accomplishments defined not by the “narrow range of excellence” but by all that is rooted in the character of children and adults that make up this school. Good work remains good work and is self-defined. It is not measured necessarily by outcomes, ever. I know schools that have become outstanding by paying attention simply to the “narrow range of excellence”, and I know those that are “requires improvement” where I would be happy to send my children because of what they will experience there. And, looking at the criteria bandied about by the government, this mismatch between an “outstanding” school and one that may be worth sending your child to, will only increase. Sometimes there will be honourable overlap between what is truly great and what is only judged so by inspectors, and one hope in all our minds is that in the current cull of less-than-inspiring inspectors, there might be a honing and sharpening of those with the breadth of judgment to spot what it is that makes a school a place of beauty and excellence. But I was not encouraged yesterday to see a conference in London being advertised with a senior HMI on the speaker list whom I know was refused entry to two schools in Shropshire because of his abrasive and insensitive manner. That being said, and even with the stakes set even higher for those schools judged less than good, the inspection system’s ability to fix itself is in serious doubt, despite what passes for its best efforts.

At the start of the year, I put together the display board shown above as a metaphor for where we would be going during 2014-15. The idea was that we had to head into mountains where things for a while are less clear than they might otherwise be, but where, looking back, we would have a very clear understanding of how we had got where we were. Over the year we added quite a lot of text to the picture, more or less obscuring the mountains! The final version (below) shows the story of the year with actions we had taken across our 6 core priorities and the criteria we had set to tell us when we had been successful. Despite the density of the text, it is the story of good work done in a good spirit and to good effect for the vast majority of children and adults. The icing on the cake for me was the opportunity to develop a new coaching and mentoring program that will release another 9 staff into leadership or support of other teachers.

The trouble about walking through mountains is the extent to which it limits our vision – we might be eagles, but we behave like chickens. Only rarely do we get to a place where we can see large tracts of country. Part of the huge gift that John Hattie’s visible learning has been for the profession has been the way it enables us to see what is happening in the classroom with new eyes. The challenge for us at school in 2015-16 is to have that view – a common view – of our renewed vision for learning, depth of character and spiritual awareness, and the craftsmanship and deep understanding of our theory of learning that will enable us to get there, together.



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!

4 responses »

  1. John Bradley says:

    Thank you, Huw, for all that you have done and are doing at CtS. I’ve been thinking about the nonsense from DFES that every school should be outstanding. Outstanding from what? It reminds me of something written by the late great Ted Wragge in Times Ed after criticism that some schools were below average. ‘I will not rest,’ he wrote,’until every school is above average! Or at least until people understand the meaning of the word ‘average.”

    My suggestion is that on a given date and time every child in every class in every school in the land, with their teachers, should stand up, leave the classroom and go to the place designated for fire practice. Then they would all be outstanding in the playground.



  2. Great says:

    I have to say well done to you and the staff at CTS for all your work this year.
    We’ve seen changes and improvement in our children.
    We look forward to greater and higher heights in 2015/2016.

  3. Caroline says:

    Outstanding is so subjective but in my eyes CtS can only be described as “Outstanding.”
    I know of many schools were ‘good and decent children are wanted and respected, but those who have issues or come from more difficult families are made to recognise they are ‘second rate.’ At CtS everyone is valued and loved not for being ‘perfect’ but for being the person they are. Such an approach is truely outstanding.
    My daughter, who has just finished year 7 has excelled, simply because of the grounding she received at CtS. She spent her primary years understanding that she was a child and to have fun, kicking off her shoes and berry picking took far greater importance than ‘after school homework.’ A more rounded child, secure in the knowledge that ‘you get out what you put in.’ Knowing and living the Christian fundamentals. Having an ability to debate and the confidence to challenge what seems unfair or unreasonable to her. What more could I ask? Of course, we as parents have had our role to play, and our daughter herself, but without the abundant love, care and grace shown to her throughout her years at CtS she would not be the young lady she is today.
    Our second daughter with SEN has been making delightful progress, under the never ending watchful eyes of Huw, ensuring the staff are supported to support her. As with most SEN children, confidence is an issue, yet when asked, of the staff she replies ‘I know I am
    Ofsted arrived just a little bit early, and gave an wonderfully gracious report which truly described CtS at it was then, I am sure if they were to return now they would be blown away by the improvement.
    Huw, worry not, just look at the children’s faces and fully accept how wonderful a school CtS is, with you at the helm.
    Perfect? No, but if it were I might be too s ared to be part of it, brilliant,
    When God created the world it saw it was ‘good.’ It is only man who considers Good is not enough! When God created Man he stood back and realised he could improve so created woman, so if God needed time to review, reflect and change then you should welcome the chance for you to do the same.
    The only thing I wish were different was if my children were to be starting at CtS now, with everything in place, rather than already left and in their final year.
    I know what you and your team has done has had a signficant impact on so many lives. I trust that you will have many more years to come to do the same.

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