We have, at last, come to the end of one of the most exhausting years any of us can remember. The sense of relief at the end of it has been palpable. It has also led to some children finding the pressures all too tricky – I have had to exclude two in the last three days, for others’ safety and contentment. I have written here about the wonderful children and fantastic staff who have left today.
It has also been exhausting for a couple of other reasons – one was the work we put into getting a successful outcome for the SIAMS inspection. We are an outstanding church school and that really counts for something today. I was glad to put that effort in, and appreciated the work done by teachers and leaders to enable us to be the kind of school that could be judged in this way. It doesn’t mean that I believe in the SIAMS process – I don’t, at all – but it is managed well and is fair to schools.
OFSTED, on the other hand, though there have been some marginal improvements, is still fundamentally onerous and adversarial for far too many schools. For an inspection system, it fills far too much time and space in people’s heads, and, despite repeated calls for it not to do this, it still is a pressure organ for the state’s view of education. It determines school policy, rather than simply inspecting it. It seeks to lead school improvement instead of trailing behind and looking at what has been achieved. If it does not intend to do these things then it should stop being in hock to every new initiative that the DfE launches and take a more independent view.
In my view, it should be closed down completely and replaced with a peer-review system (for instance the excellent Challenge Partners or the NAHT’s Instead). As an inspection system, OFSTED has transformed education principally by scaring people, not through the medium of encouragement, and as we have found today, it is love, rather than the whip, that pushes forward the most long lasting improvements.
But overall, it has been a good year for us, and the changes we face in senior staffing, in employing newly qualified teachers for September, in refocusing our efforts towards teaching and learning and teacher development – all of these will make a difference in the year to come. We don’t really have enough money to do all these things, but we have been blessed by the generosity of our Local Authority’s top-up SEN funding to support some of our neediest children, and this local encouragement is really to be given thanks for.
I hope to write more over the coming week, but for now, I really want to express my gratitude for those teachers and teaching assistants, parents and families who have poured themselves out sacrificially for their children this year and who have loved their children, their friends, their colleagues and the school enough for this to count for something. I finish with a quote from a mum who has seen two children go right through the school and whose youngest has just finished today in Year 6:
We have seen staff come and go and changes to the school. There is however one thread that weaves its way through the school and that is love. Whether it is a love of learning, a love of adventure, a love of exploration, of each other, of the arts, of culture – it definitely is love. So we thank you from the bottom of our hearts because without love, nothing will grow.
Amen to that.