When the government publishes an education white paper, we who comment on the consultations live in the hope that our comments and considered responses might in some way influence government policy. The recent publication of the responses to consultation on, and the final announcement of the proposals for, the future of primary assessment give us hope that we have a government who is willing to listen to the concerns of teachers and school leaders about the details of assessment. The outcome is not perfect, but it is at least considered, and a great improvement, within the government’s own desperate view of education, to the current arrangements.

I really wish the same will happen to the latest SIAMS framework. Snappily entitled Statutory Inspection of Anglican and Methodist Schools (SIAMS): Deeply Christian, Serving the Common Good: Vision, Provision and Impact, the second draft was out for consultation until July 31st this year. Because our diocese didn’t think carefully enough to e-mail this to all headteachers of church schools (nor did MAST) and point out the timeline, I imagine many heads will have missed it, so we are in the hands of those who didn’t.

It is an awful document. Created by the very worst sort of committee (as one of my foundation governors said when she saw it) its scope and scale can be summed up by the fact that there are 113 statements listed of what an “outstanding church school” could look like. I list them here (I could put the “good” and “requires improvement” ones alongside it, but you’ll get the point):

  • The school’s vision is based upon a clearly articulated theological rationale.
  • Leaders show how the vision helps them encourage and develop wisdom, hope, community and dignity in the school.
  • Pupils can talk about how the vision helps them to develop and live out wisdom, hope, community and dignity.
  • Consulting the diocese and local church on the school’s vision is a priority for the school. The school has applied the wisdom of the diocese and local church to the development of their vision.
  • The school’s vision wholly underpins the school’s approach to learning.
  • Leaders can explain how the school’s vision clearly raises pupils’ aspirations and attainment and helps pupils to develop the resilience to overcome barriers to their learning.
  • Leaders can provide continuously improving/consistently high progress data that demonstrates this link between vision and outcomes.
  • Sufficient dedicated curriculum time is given for RE.
  • The high status of RE in the school and its contribution to the school’s vision is clear through the measures the school takes to resource and value RE and RE teachers. (Such measures may include: all teachers delivering RE having specialist qualifications; access to high quality professional development; involvement in local RE hubs.)
  • Leaders continually make sure that the school’s admission, behaviour and exclusion policies are inclusive and reflect the school’s vision.
  • Leaders make sure that the staff wellbeing policy reflects the school’s vision. Staff members understand this link and all staff are treated with dignity and respect.
  • The whole school community are regularly consulted and included in the ongoing development of the school’s vision.
  • Leaders make sure that all members of the whole school community have the opportunity to understand the school’s vision.
  • Leaders ensure that there is a rigorous ongoing process in place to evaluate their vision and their effectiveness as a Church school.
  • Leaders collect evidence in an efficient way and carry out detailed analysis to understand the impact of the vision.
  • Leaders, including school governors/academy directors, can clearly explain this process and how it informs the school’s development plan and leads to positive outcomes for the whole school.
  • The whole school community have opportunities to contribute to the ongoing monitoring and evaluation of the school’s vision and effectiveness
  • Leaders use the school’s vision to continually guide and evaluate their partnerships with the other schools / the MAT.
  • The school maintains mutually beneficial local, national and global partnerships that are seamlessly connected with their vision.
  • The school and local church community have a clear relationship guided by the school’s vision. Pupils and staff talk about the value of this link and how it enhances the education and lives of the pupils.
  • Both the school and church leaders can show how this partnership is sustainable and supportive through times of transition.
  • Parents/carers are engaged with the education of their children and contribute to the life of the school. Leaders can clearly explain how this engagement is informed by the school’s vision.
  • Parents/carers talk about how the school has supported them and they recognise how this connects to the vision and Christian character of the school.
  • Parents/carers support the school’s behaviour and attendance policies and they recognise how they are informed by the school’s vision.
  • Leaders make sure there are a range of effective opportunities across the curriculum for pupils to look out at the world and explore a range of ‘big questions’ about life.
  • Pupils can clearly explain their understanding of disadvantage, deprivation and the exploitation of the natural world and the school provides a range of opportunities for pupils to engage in discussion around these issues.
  • Leaders use the school’s vision to direct their spending decisions (where possible), fundraising, charity partnerships and engagement in social action.
  • The school provides regular curricula and extracurricular opportunities for pupils to engage in social action that addresses issues of disadvantage, deprivation and the exploitation of the natural world.
  • Leaders, staff and pupils link the school’s vision to their engagement in social action.
  • Pupils are articulate advocates and confidently talk about the ways they can challenge injustice and inequality.
  • Since the previous inspection leaders have upheld and developed the school’s Church of England foundation through engagement with diocesan and national developments and practice. This often leads to innovation locally.
  • The school governors/academy directors have upheld the original foundation, successfully combining continuity with innovation and ensuring the continuous development of the school as a Church school.
  • The recommendations of the previous inspection report have been addressed positively and with sustained development. Leaders can clearly show how this has led to positive outcomes for the pupils.
  • Collective worship has a pivotal place in the life of the school.
  • The school’s vision is unpacked and explored in a way that challenges the day to day lives of the pupils and staff through a consistent engagement with the teachings of Jesus and the Bible.
  • There is a strong focus on developing an understanding of the Trinitarian nature of God and Christian belief in the context of the larger biblical narrative.
  • Pupils understand and can explain that God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
  • The trinity is explicitly reflected upon in worship through prayer, songs and blessings.
  • Leaders have ensured that the whole school community are engaged in the planning, monitoring and evaluation of collective worship. This ensures that worship is creative, inspiring for all, inclusive and accessible.
  • Pupils are at the centre of this process and take on increasingly independent roles in planning and leading.
  • Leaders have ensured, through effective planning and regular CPD opportunities for all those who lead worship (including clergy), that there is a clear and widely understood approach to preparing worship that encourages creative opportunities to gather, engage and respond.
  • Worship is always invitational, offering an opportunity to take part whilst allowing the freedom for those of other faiths and none to be present with integrity.
  • Worship is vibrant and varied, involving music, silence, story, and reflection.
  • Most members of the school community, including most pupils, can articulate how worship has made a transformational difference to their lives through a change in their behaviour, practice, or attitudes.
  • Pupils understand the purpose of prayer and reflection in formal and informal contexts and many speak of their personal use of prayer and reflection.
  • All those who wish to, have regular opportunities to pray in school life, including opportunities to contribute relevant and appropriate written and freely spoken prayers in school worship.
  • Leaders ensure that there are inclusive opportunities in worship for the spiritual development of all pupils.
  • Pupils can clearly explain how these opportunities are meaningful to them and how it has helped them to develop valuable ways of being still and reflective in their own lives.
  • Leaders ensure that pupils have regular, balanced opportunities to experience diverse liturgical traditions that reflect the world-wide church and the diversity within the UK.
  • The school celebrates many of the festivals of the Church’s year.
  • There are a range of age appropriate opportunities to engage with the Eucharist.
  • The local church is actively involved in collective worship and provides innovative and practical support and encouragement.
  • Arrangements for collective worship meet statutory and denominational requirements fully.
  • Collective worship offers pupils opportunities to understand the relevance of faith in today’s world (for example through engagement with Christians from a range of local churches).
  • Materials and themes for worship are carefully selected to make sure pupils understand the work of Christians and the church locally, nationally and globally and how this reflects the teachings of the Bible and the example of Jesus.
  • The school offers RE in line with the Statement of Entitlement, providing a well-constructed and coherent curriculum that explores the core beliefs of Christianity and a range of other world faiths using a range of approaches.
  • Pupils are enabled to engage meaningfully with religious text and theological ideas. They have developed age appropriate skills of enquiry and critical evaluation of religious concepts and they can ask profound questions.
  • Pupils are theologically and religiously literate and are able to engage meaningfully in informed, age appropriate and balanced dialogue about religion and belief. They can express their own views confidently and listen to and respectfully critique the opinions of others.
  • RE provides a vibrant and safe space in which pupils can explore and develop their own religious, spiritual and philosophical convictions.
  • RE provides well-structured opportunities for pupils to deepen their own ideas and pupils can explain how their thinking is enriched and challenged.
  • Well-constructed RE provision allows pupils to gain an insightful understanding of the significance of Christianity as a global faith and the religion that has most shaped British culture and heritage.
  • Pupils can confidently express their understanding of the role of religion in society and they can explore philosophical questions with perception and understanding.
  • The RE curriculum and time allocated to the subject enables pupils to engage in a systematic study of at least two major world religions (other than Christianity) along with aspects of other religions and world views.
  • Pupils demonstrate a deep understanding of the impact of religion and belief on society and culture. They can express their own ideas with balance and respect.
  • RE is exceptionally well led and managed by the school leaders and the RE subject leader and it is valued across the whole school community
  • Good practice is shared both within the school and with other schools (for example through involvement in local, regional or national groups).
  • The monitoring of teaching is used as a mentoring opportunity which leads to improvement and further sharing of good practice.
  • There are robust systems in place for the assessment of learning and these are effectively used to inform pupil progress.
  • RE lessons are consistently at least good and appropriate resources are used with knowledge to support teaching and learning.
  • The school supports all staff who teach RE through access to recognised and funded CPD. This means teachers are confident and teach RE to a high standard.
  • All staff who teach RE are given opportunities to hear about and engage with developments in RE.
  • Attainment in RE for almost all pupils is above national expectations and above other subjects across the school.
  • All pupils follow a recognised, externally accredited, and appropriate qualification in KS4 which contributes to whole school outcomes at the end of KS4.
  • The school’s vision is at the heart of the school’s improvement plan.
  • On the basis of data available at the time of the inspection, comparisons with progress of recent cohorts and from comparisons with pupils’ starting points, almost all pupils (including those from disadvantaged backgrounds) make substantial and sustained progress.
  • Leaders ensure that there is a broad and balanced curriculum that enables pupils to develop creativity and curiosity across a full range of subjects.
  • Teachers can explain how the school’s vision informs decisions about curriculum content and pedagogical approach.
  • Pupils can explain how the school’s vision enables them to be curious, listen deeply, ask questions, and explore and challenge ideas. This shows how the curriculum enables them to develop wisdom.
  • Leaders can show how the curriculum is tailored to meet the needs of all pupils and they can explain how they do this in innovative ways inspired by the school’s vision.
  • The school has a clearly articulated understanding of spiritual development and how it is distinctive from social, moral and cultural development.
  • Well planned opportunities across the whole curriculum offer progressively deeper occasions for pupils to develop spiritually.
  • Pupils are enabled to develop a questioning and spiritual vocabulary that helps them to pursue wisdom and cultivate resilience with increasing sophistication as they ask big spiritual, moral, social and cultural questions.
  • The school’s vision is at the heart of the school’s approach to learning and personal development. Pupils can explain how the school’s vision gives them confidence to overcome difficulties in their learning.
  • Pupils make clear links between the school vision and making healthy choices about how they live and how they behave.
  • Leaders creatively employ the school’s vision to raise pupils’ aspiration, both in their academic achievement and personal development, helping them to be the best they can be.
  • The school’s vision is at the heart of a deeply embedded whole school approach to mental health and wellbeing.
  • Leaders have implemented creative and innovative approaches to ensure the school is a safe consistent place for all pupils and staff. Robust systems are in place for the early identification of issues connected to mental health and wellbeing.
  • Pupils are self-confident and say how the school enables them to learn in all contexts.
  • Pupils can clearly explain how the school’s vision makes it an inclusive and hopeful place where difference is never a negative thing.
  • The school’s exclusion rate is low and attendance is high.
  • Pupils recognise how the school’s vision encourages them to express their views and concerns and that their opinions are valued.
  • Pupils feel that they are listened to and that their ideas actively contribute to school decisions.
  • Pupils feel that they are encouraged and empowered to take meaningful action to improve their lives and their local, national and international communities.
  • Leaders ensure that the curricular and extracurricular provision enables pupils to actively engage with the local community, including local church and faith communities.
  • The local community feel welcomed to contribute and feel connected to the life of the school helping all to live well together and to celebrate the diversity of the community.
  • The school is seen by the community as a place of sanctuary and inclusion and the community is actively supportive of the school.
  • Leaders ensure that all areas of the curriculum encourage respect for difference and diversity in belief and ways of living.
  • The school offers planned opportunities to explore different points of view, and pupils are given the skills to support their own point of view and to disagree well with respect.
  • Almost all pupils have an age appropriate understanding of a range of world religions and worldviews and their impact on society and culture both nationally and internationally.
  • There is a high standard of pupil behaviour and relationships between all members of the school community are resilient and supportive. All members of the school community say that this is sustained by the school’s vision.
  • Pupils have the skills, opportunities and support to seek reconciliation when conflict does arise. This is reflected in the school’s vision and behaviour policy.
  • The school holds its vision at the heart of a culture where all members of the school community, regardless of ethnicity, religion, disability, nationality, gender or sexual orientation, are treated with dignity and respect. Pupils respect difference and consistently challenge any behaviour that contradicts this (e.g. racist, homophobic or sexist language).
  • The school’s vision enables the whole school community to recognise the inherent value of each person created in the image of God and all pupils are supported to be the person they were created to be.
  • There are effective procedures in place to ensure pupils are protected from all types of bullying.
  • The school has used its vision to create a place of sanctuary and protection for all.
  • Policies that protect children are sound and all staff receive relevant and regular training.
  • All curriculum areas make sure pupils have opportunities to express their views without being made fun of.
  • The school offers age appropriate, coherent and well-resourced relationships and sex education that reflects the school’s vision and supports pupils to form healthy relationships. Pupils know and understand how to protect themselves and others from cyberbullying and pornography.
  • All staff members and school governors/academy directors have opportunities to develop their understanding of the Christian character of the school.
  • Effective induction and CPD is prioritised for all staff and school governors/academy directors. Regular use has been made of diocesan and national CPD and this often involves the local church community.
  • Leaders can explain how this has led to the development of innovative practice and working with churches and other schools locally, regionally and nationally. Leaders make sure they are aware of current debates and developments in church school education.
  • The school ensures that there are established routes to facilitate the development of staff at all levels.
  • Leaders and future leaders are supported to develop their knowledge, skills and understanding of church school leadership and the Christian character of Church schools.

Having completely lost faith with the OFSTED process, finding it to be built upon a poor understanding of human flourishing and school improvement, it is totally disheartening to find the extent to which the Anglican church (its Tory roots showing through too clearly here?) have swallowed the same model completely. There is SO much wrong with this that I don’t think that even if I had had the time to comment on it, I would not have known where to start. Like everything else that SIAMS does, it is hard to pick holes with any one particular statement (I really like the central role given to the school’s vision, for instance), but cumulatively, simply by virtue (wrong word!) of its size, this will grind down the leadership of church school leaders until they actually start being grateful for OFSTED.

It bears all the hallmarks of those in the Anglican church who are conforming, compliance-desirers, given little scope to school leaders and dioceses. It is rooted in the undebated and (by schools at least) un-consulted on Church of England Vision for Education, and in its presentation and manner, is neither deeply Christian nor, as far as I can see, for the common good. It has more in common with a Catholic view of what schools are for (nothing at all wrong with that, but like them, it often exalts the church and its doctrine over the God the church seeks to serve).

It is devoid of love and of joy. Neither word even gets a mention in this allegedly Christian document. I also looked for “knowledge of God” and “faithfulness” in the document, and these do not appear either. Oh, nor does “kindness.”

At a personal level, it has confirmed for me that, unless this changes soon, I will not want to be part of the leadership of a Church of England school and would discourage those I know from doing so either. The saving grace is money. The CofE simply does not have enough cash to move SIAMS inspections from one day to two days, and it is completely beyond the capabilities of an inspector, and of the word limit on the eventual reports, to pay attention to all 113 descriptors.

There is no joy in this house.

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About Huw Humphreys

I am a headteacher by profession, now working as an educational researcher, in the city of Milton Keynes, where I have been since April 2011. My work looks to make education effective for the whole child and keeps 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, amateur printmaker, part time linguist and lover of history and literature...committed both to freedom to learn and depth of learning for children. The views on this blog are all my own.

2 responses »

  1. Caroline Jackson says:

    What an awful document! I completely lost heart by point 10! Couldn’t agree more that I wouldn’t want my child to attend a school based on those “values.”
    Huw, invite the author to CtS, the author is clearly in need of love and inspiration. For yourself, go to school, pause, watch the children, have joy in your heart that not one of them will have seen such a dreadful document, but regardless of the document you have a school filled with young people, created in God’s image and on the whole, living lives like Christ showed us was good. By the time you get your next SIAMS hopefully the inspectors themselves will understand how appalling the document is and on attending CtS they will also be blessed by God’s grace which is so powerful with in the school. Worry not about this document, God is more powerful.

  2. […] seems only fair, after I scathingly dismissed the second consultation document on the new SIAMS proposals back in the autumn, that I celebrate the new evaluation schedule, which […]

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