Thursday, 28 May 2020

Something rotten in the state of DurhamGate


This Prime Minister and his Special Adviser (SPAD) are proving to be both unaccountable and irresponsible. It’s time for the nearly powerful to exercise what power they still have, if we are to avoid becoming a “rotten state”

The current saga of Dominic Cumming’s Lockdown behaviour #DurhamGate is a SYMPTOM of a deeper CAUSE.  That is we now have  2 men, one unelected, de facto, running the country.  Indeed, there are occasions when the unelected man admits making key decisions, without reference to others.

Another symptom spawned from the same cause, which caused a similar public outcry, was the prorogation of Parliament and it that case it required a  Supreme Court Judgement to correct it. 

In both cases, the news of what was happening was kept close to very few and the Cabinet was not initially informed.  In the second case, they were unaware. In the first case, there was public unrest and demonstrations - it’s unlikely there would be with #DurhamGate, the irony is Lockdown rules, if obeyed, forbid them. 

The cause in for both and the most significant issue here is that normal British governmental checks and balances were not used, or ignored.  Significantly, in the #DurhamGate” scandal, for that is what it is, not only did the PM’s SPAD, take action but he did so without informing the PM,

“I did not ask the prime minister about this decision. He was ill himself and he had huge problems to deal with.” (Statement by DC in No 10 Press Conference”)

Dominic Cummings added a comment that should concern us more because it highlights the more significant cause...

“Critically every day, I have to exercise my judgment about things like this and decide what to discuss with him...."

This is the nub of the systemic rot.  An unelected, and because he is not a Civil Servant, unaccountable, Prime Ministerial Special Adviser, at the heart of Government, is making decisions, without informing the Prime Minister unless he deems it necessary.  Note too this the closest Dominic Cummings approaches to an admitting a mistake.

"Arguably, this was a mistake, and I understand that some will say that I should've spoken to the prime minister before deciding what to do.”

What other decisions and actions has he taken? What actions might he, further emboldened, take in future?

In this latest symptom, the Prime Minister and his Adviser refused to answer legitimate Press enquiries, pre-publication. This would have allowed them to correct fake-news they retrospectively abhor.  Then when, what was known, was published, the PM made his own enquiry and, despite obvious disquiet, refuses to involve the Cabinet Secretary.  In the absence of any independent investigation, we see the problem, the cause, the rot, laid bare.  There are allegations of impropriety and no objective scrutiny, so far.  There is more than a whiff of irresponsibility and no accountability.

So, what happens next?  Who is looking at these symptoms and diagnosing the cause? An apposite metaphor is Covid19 - Where is the testing, tracking, tracing and remedial action? Who is responsible for that? Yes, we are all in this together but who will, “Take Back Control?”

The Cabinet?  So, far all supportive of the PM’s stance, if not his SPAD’s actions.

Government Ministers and MPs? 40+ Conservatives now openly asking for DC to resign, or be sacked, many MPs in other parties want him to go.

The Press and Public Opinion?  It rumbles on in its usual murmurations - seeking direction - lacking agreed direction - rolling about an amorphous mass.

We shall see whether these groups take any further action.

My simple argument here is that we must not see #DurhamGate in isolation, that would be dealing with a symptom.  We must check our collective eyesight and see the CAUSE and deal with it.  An unelected SPAD acting unaccountably and many feel irresponsibly at the heart of our Government is driving his passenger on...

We must not focus on just this instance - we need long sight.  DC resigning, or being sacked will not deal with the cause because another SPAD could be appointed and act with identical impunity.

Finally, before I am accused as being party political... imagine a new different Government (and as this festers on that becomes more likely) imagine a Labour Government with a PM refusing to allow his chosen SPAD to be investigated for alleged impropriety... How would that be greeted in the court of Public Opinion?

We must take back control...

Monday, 11 May 2020

Can Coronavirus/Covid19 be spread via human waste?


This is my 11th May Paper/Report requested by Mark Fletcher, Member of Parliament for Bolsover, who also wants an answer to my simple question: Can Coronavirus/Covid19 be spread via human waste?

Dear Mark,

As requested I am detailing my research and commentary.  I have edited the original material I sent and updated my initial question because, as I learned more, the issue became clearer and potentially more serious than I had first imagined.  

I hope that the paper is helpful and above all I hope my fears are unfounded. I suppose I was being alert before it became fashionable!

Thank you for your genuine interest and willingness to take this up.

John


Can Coronavirus/Covid19 be spread via human waste?
·      In public toilets, especially via urinals
·      In our watercourses, rivers, lakes and seas, when sewage is discharged




BACKGROUND:
I first raised this issue, with local Councillors, Severn Trent, and Environmental Health at the end of March 2020.  My initial concern began a couple of years ago, whilst walking my dogs, by the side of Normanton Brook between Hilcote and Huthwaite and Westhouses, in Derbyshire. 

As a walker and sometimes wild swimmer, I already knew that there were issues about disease spread through sewage discharge into watercourses, lakes, and seas. See links to Surfers Against Sewage and Channel 4 below.  So, I asked a technician, testing the water, about sewage discharge and regular testing by Severn Trent Water. He told me that there were high levels of raw sewage discharged into the brook, from two sewage treatment plants, after heavy rain and advised me not to let dogs, or children, play in the brook, at such times.

The Covid19 outbreak raised further concerns when I noticed far more families than usual walking along the brook footpath in Lockdown.  So, at the end of March I tried to find an answer to the question, “Could sewage discharge into watercourses spread Covid19?”  

(Jumping ahead, you'll see that my concern peaked on reading that research was starting on testing for Covid19 spread through sewage.  If it can be detected in sewage - can it contaminate, as other pathogens clearly can?)

I emailed and telephoned Severn Trent, Environmental Health and Public Health England and, as Mark Fletcher MP did later, received unhelpfully standard, or no replies, from all.  Two District Councillors passed on my email and one advised me not to let my dogs in the water.  So, I did some more rudimentary research and it became obvious, as a layman, that this could be a potential national and international issue around the spread of Covid19, on top of the, well established, serious concern about Water Companies, legally, discharging sewage into watercourses.  I wrote to friends, I knew had knowledge, or interest, in the issue and floated the issue on twitter (all puns intended)  The best of the information I have found, so far, is in the Research section and the main tweets are in The Appendix.




RESEARCH:   (NB my underlining for key phrases)

1.     A good initial source of information about the dangers of sewage discharge generally and Covid19 specifically, was from Surfers Against Sewage. They state here https://www.sas.org.uk/news/campaigns/what-is-the-risks-of-covid-19-transmission-from-sewage-discharge/

“Given the new status of COVID-19, the transmission risk from an infected person’s faeces and through sewage systems is not yet known, but a better understanding can be achieved looking at other coronaviruses such as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS)[2].

Can I catch COVID-19 if I enter the sea?
COVID-19 has been detected in the faeces of infected patients. However, the amount that is shed, how long it is shed, and whether it is infectious in the stool itself is not yet known. However, given COVID-19 is likely to behave like other coronaviruses such as SARS and MERS, our understanding of these viruses suggests that the risk is low. So far, there have been no reports of faecal-oral transmission of COVID-19[3].

Sources

[1] Heymann, D. L & Shindo, N 2020, COVID-19: What is next for public health?, The Lancet, viewed 19 March 2020, .
[2] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2020, Water Transmission and COVID-19, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, viewed 19 March 2020, < https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/php/water.html>.[3] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2020, Water Transmission and COVID-19, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, viewed 19 March 2020, < https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/php/water.html>.
[4] World Health Organization & UNICEF 2020, Water, sanitation, hygiene, and waste management for the COVID-19 virus, viewed 19 March 2020, <
https://apps.who.int/iris/rest/bitstreams/1272446/retrieve>.
[5] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2020, Water Transmission and COVID-19, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, viewed 19 March 2020, < 
https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/php/water.html>.
[6] World Health Organization & UNICEF 2020, Water, sanitation, hygiene, and waste management for the COVID-19 virus, viewed 19 March 2020, <
https://apps.who.int/iris/rest/bitstreams/1272446/retrieve>.

2.     I saw that Channel 4 News had covered sewage discharge earlier. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x1AmHDByodI&feature=youtu.be  Whilst there was an agreement that sewage is a health risk, it seemed that politically and systemically, despite warnings, as a nation, we are far too accepting of this dangerous and filthy practice.  There are many proven high risks from sewage in our rivers lakes and seas.  It was clear to me that the Coronavirus Pandemic raised, potentially, another, possibly more serious risk. As Channel 4 stated this is,  “The Water Boards ‘ dirty little secret”

3.     In early April I began to read that several countries were beginning to test sewage in order to trace the spread of Covid19.  That led me to hypothesise, “if it can be traced can it not be spread too?”  (See the Dutch example and note there are emerging examples in UK at Newcastle and Bangor Universities)  https://amp.dw.com/en/coronavirus-in-sewage-foreshadowed-outbreak-in-dutch-city/a-52972980

For example a BBC News report on 5th May focussed on Bangor University: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/amp/uk-wales-52544247

4.     I made contact with David Graham, Professor of Ecosytems Engineering at Newcastle University, who is also investigating testing foir Covid19 spread in sewage. He replied,

“Coronavirus are highly unstable in water, including sewage. There has never been detection of infective virus in wastewater, although virus debris can be detected on occasion. That debris is what one can detect, although it is not intact virus. Therefore, your concern is not warranted. We are doing background monitoring, but this is for completeness…….   Exposure is NOT the same as risk. Virus in sewage is fragmented and dead. Droplets can contain virus fragments, but the combination of events that could cause transmission is so rare that it (is) not a practical concern.”

5.     The World Health Organisation seems, similarly, unworried:

Safely managing wastewater and faecal waste
There is no evidence that the COVID-19 virus has been transmitted via sewerage systems with or without wastewater treatment. Further, there is no evidence that sewage or wastewater treatment workers contracted the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), which is caused by another type of coronavirus that caused a large outbreak of acute respiratory illness in 2003”

https://www.who.int/publications-detail/water-sanitation-hygiene-and-waste-management-for-covid-19

The same paper does outline detailed procedures for dealing with the high risk of "fresh human waste" in hospitals etc.

6.     I was somewhat reassured, about the sewage discharge concern but kept remembering two lessons from history:

·      Beware of the negative hypothesis: “there is no evidence, therefore, there can be no problem”.
·      Don’t underestimate ignorance, plus a determination to minimise reputational damage… it often leads to suppression of critical information and censorship.  The chilling, apposite, example was when our intelligent antecedents dug wells next to sewers unaware that it caused cholera. When Florence Nightingale uncovered this and wrote a damning, self-critical, report it was embargoed by the Government of the day.




7.     Then, on 6th May, Richard Quilliam Professor of Environment and Health, at Sterling University, alongside Professor Manfred Weidmann, Dr Vanessa Moresco, Heather Purshouse, Dr Zoe O'Hara, and Dr David Oliver, was reported in the Scotsman and Independent Paper as publishing serious concerns about the lack research into Covid19 being transmitted via sewage, stating:

"there is a significant risk of “widespread” distribution of the coronavirus through sewers because most patients are either asymptomatic or experience only mild symptoms and remain at home.”


Richard Quilliam’s paper, makes very interesting reading.  It has a strong and powerful bibliography. here:  https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160412020312873

8.     At the time of writing, reports are beginning to appear, about the need to find out more and questions are being raised in the press and more publicly, by myself and others.  I am indebted to (you) Mark Fletcher MP, for progressing this issue with Ministers. In your reply to my email, you wrote,

“The Covid19 virus being spread through sewage was not a risk that I had personally considered, and I thank you for bringing this to my attention.  I would be grateful if you could send me a document of your research and tweets… for me to pass over to the relevant minister for their response.”

CONCLUSIONS & RECOMMENDATIONS:

To be blunt: If Covid19 can be spread by droplets from a cough, and we know it is, it is reasonable to explore whether it can also be spread in droplets from urine and faeces.  

I wrote to those I expected to know and was disturbed to receive no answers, or worse, be fobbed off.  It became clear and obvious to me, as layman, there is growing concern that Covid19 spread via sewage must be investigated.

There are good examples of best practice in mitigating the risk of Covid19 spread from “fresh human waste” including the use of PPE by those dealing with it in hospitals and, sadly less so, in Care Homes.  There is however no agreement on any practice regarding the discharge of sewage waste, with respect to its potential risk to spread the disease. Indeed, it remains legal, and seemingly acceptable, to discharge waste into UK watercourses and seas, as a matter of course.  Like many others, I believe this is unacceptable at any time but particularly so during the Covid19 pandemic, when the implications are demonstrably unknown.

Whilst some scientists state the risk is low, they also state, presumably in support of that conclusion, that there is little evidence.  I am wary, even suspicious, when not having evidence is cited as a reason for there not being a problem.  History shows us this is not a sensible conclusion. I am no conspiracy theorist, but I do sense a stubborn reluctance to face up scrutiny by almost all I have contacted.

We are in the midst of a deadly World Health Pandemic and the UK’s statistics are not good.  We have been told to be alert. I am alert and being so, encourages me to recommend the following URGENT actions: 

1.     That URGENT research be scheduled, along the lines suggested by Professor Richard Quilliam, to ascertain any level of risk of Covid19 spread through human waste, together with any recommendations for mitigating action by all, but particularly those living and working where human waste is prevalent. This to include:
-       a study of “fresh waste” risk in hospitals, care homes and especially urinals in Public Toilets where there is an obvious and considerable splash back of urine. 
-       a study of ‘sewage waste” risk at treatment plants, discharge points and beyond in our watercourses and sea
-       Consideration and recommendations are proposed for any necessary mitigating measures for workers in settings where fresh human waste, or sewage is dealt with and for members of the public exercising in, or nearby, watercourses, lakes and seas.




2.     If the risk levels merit it (I accept this will be a balanced decision) that actions are taken to both warn those likely to be exposed to it and to advise them of actions they must take to stay safe and save lives.

3.     In the meantime, whilst urgent further work is underway it seems sensible to alert and advise the Public to a potential risk from human waste by:

a.     Providing more detailed “wash hands regularly” advice to include cleaning in and around toilets
b.     Providing sewage workers with both advice and PPE
c.     Holding Water Authorities legally responsible for alerting the public if and when a sewage discharge is being made into a watercourse (NB there are already established risks form several pathogens in our rivers, streams, lakes and seas

4.     Monitoring, more effectively, than hitherto, how the Water Companies, Environmental Health, Public Health England (etc?) work together in an open and transparent way to identify, clarify and respond to risks inherent in their practices.

John Pearce 




APPENDIX.   See initial Twitter thread on @JohnPearce_JP

Text only:

(1st tweet) 11:58 am · 25 Apr 2020·Twitter for iPhone

Serious #Covid19 question:

Can #Coronavirus be transmitted via #Sewage outflow?


This thread charts my failure - so far - to get an answer from #EnvironmentalHealth, #SevernTrent and others. NB If there is a risk it should be publicised (see thread)

(2nd tweet) 12:09 pm · 25 Apr 2020·Twitter for iPhone
My first tweet suggests there is a risk of #Covid19 being spread through  #Sewage discharge.  We know there are rivers and watercourses where animals and humans swim which have known discharges.


Should this risk be publicised wider?

900,000 hours of human sewage and rainwater flow into UK rivers in...
Untreated sewage is being released into rivers across England and Wales - perfectly legally - and campaigners are calling it a 'dirty little secret'. (Subscr...
youtube.com

(3rd tweet) 12:18 pm · 25 Apr 2020·Twitter for iPhone

Further evidence that #sewage outflow might be a spread risk for #Covid19 is that several countries, including #Australia, #Netherlands and #UK, are tracing #Coronavirus spread by analysing sewage discharges.  One example from many:


(4th tweet) 12:29 pm · 25 Apr 2020·Twitter for iPhone

#WHO states “While there is no evidence to date about survival of the #COVID-19 virus in water or #sewage, the virus is likely to become inactivated significantly faster than non-enveloped human enteric viruses with known waterborne transmission” but WHO fails to say there is no risk.


(5th tweet) 12:37 pm · 25 Apr 2020·Twitter for iPhone

I await more detailed responses about the risk of #COVID19 spreading in #sewage discharge in watercourses from: #SevernTrent #EnvironmentAgency and have alerted #Guardian Investigations and

I hope my concern proves to be misplaced.  Meanwhile stay dry!


(6 tweet) 12:52 pm · 25 Apr 2020·Twitter for iPhone

6th tweet exploring risk of #COVID19 being spread through those known watercourses subject to #sewage discharge.  There is some evidence
Walkers, dog owners, parents and wild swimmers need to be informed of any risk, as we exercise outdoors in #lockdown


Tuesday, 18 February 2020

Teacher Growth - Director's Cut

Preface to The Director's Cut
I am angry and I'm thinking anger is OK isn't it?"  

It's possible to be angry and, at the same time, thoughtful, even reflective isn't it?  
Well, I've been angry for years about this issue and controlling that anger, at least in public. 

Why? Well, I believed that when I was calm, reflective and measured, the words I used would hold more impact.  They didn't.  They don't. 

And sod it.... I've just done it again this week!  I controlled my anger and, chivvied by an excellent editor, wrote a cool analysis of why and how a #Teacher Growth approach works better than any other.   It's fine, as far as it goes.... It works..... but I was left thinking, "Something is missing - would a heartfelt, anger fuelled, Director's Cut get more Box-Office?" 

So, I looked through the blood rushes and respliced, or should that be spiced the original.
Either way I let let rip...

TEACHER GROWTH

THE DIRECTOR'S CUT

The XXX rated version 

 

For the sensitive a UU rated Short is on at iAbacus here

I wrote an angry despairing email to a friend this morning,

"I have an image in my head of all those creative teachers and heads I've worked with, over all those years, standing in a weary, downtrodden line, drenched to the skin in a rain of patronising abuse of their professionalism... Down hearted, cold, drained and turning away from work they once loved and were so good at.... There is one such head I am thinking of today...and I’m still angry about it….So many we failed and it's still happening..."  

It became this: Linked-in post on this subject..

              
I have to say a little more, whilst maintaining confidence....

This is a true story... That head is now at home, for the second month in a row, crying through hours each day.  I’m updated by a close relative and spouse, good gate-keepers both, who tell me some of the things they hear between sobs. There's another valued colleague I spoke to, directly, this week too.  She stunned me, mid conversation, suddenly opening up with similar words and phrases.  They echo conversations that have haunted me down 50 years in the profession but I'm hearing them more and more these days. 

"I'm broken, drained, exhausted, unable to sleep, tearful, emotional, unable to think of work, can't seem to get out of bed... on medication.  It's a deep despair. It's the inability to deal with negative colleagues, as I used to do.... I'm ground down, had enough now....can't face any of it it anymore...."  

The latter from the headteacher who has decided not to return to school.  Do I hear these cries because I have uttered the same phrases?  Do all colleagues know this is happening around them?  If so what are they DOING?   If they don't know, or are doing nothing why not?  




So, our first challenge! 
Do not be a #SilentWitness. When we see such behaviour, or the symptoms it generates, we first support the victim and then we cry, "Unacceptable" and whistleblow our lungs out.

Our second challenge! 
Do not be ignorant of the theory, research and evidence of a professional growth approach. We know about #TeacherGrowth and can apply it beyond Education across all other areas of human endeavour.

Well, we know there are those who can't hear the cries of struggling colleagues, or don't want to.  They are either ignorant or evaders. My worst experience of this? When speaking of professional pressure at a Local Authority conference and alluding to a colleague who was "Off sick" and detailing some of the distress, there was an audible smirk, "Ah dear.... poor little man.."  followed by a chuckle and a deep silence that brought the session to an early end.  After an enforced break, the organiser made a retraction and sincere apology, on behalf of the unsympathetic headteacher.  But the stark reality of that emotionally unintelligent perspective had been exposed. No one was convinced the individual had wanted to apologise.


  
Yes, we all know, there are some who simply do not accept a teacher growth model - despite the wealth of research proving its value.  That view has a pedigree.  There are reasons it persists.  We have to understand those reasons.

What is this Teacher Growth?
Search #teachergrowth and you’ll find animated debate out there on twitter, facebook and Linked-in. The phrase and the associated: #GrowthMindset #studentgrowth, has re-captured something about professional learning, by the individual, for the school, supported by peers. It’s there in a proliferation of #Blogs and on #Headteacher, #SLT and #TeacherChat forums. 

Teacher Growth is about self-discovery, self-evaluation and home grown CPD - pun intended. Thousands of teachers and leaders are finding solace, support, well-being and fulfilment in Teacher Growth activity at #teachmeets, #learningfests #EdConferences..  Supportive professional sharing on-line in #Edutwitter #WomenEd is palpable. In these virtual Teachers’ Centres Ofsted, student testing and lesson observations are not popular concepts.

We must celebrate this re-emergence of professional self-discovery and self-reliance. In one sense we have no alternative.  We become stronger as a profession when we nurture each other’s openness and willingness to debate - don’t we?  Yes, of course, but whilst supporting each other, we must remember that not all professionals inhabit the echoing chambers of these forums.  Indeed, a worrying trend is the emergence of educational “trolls” who criticise "Snowflakey" content on-line and pull down hopeful and enquiring thoughts, often of younger and, yes, female colleagues. On-line discussion is becoming increasingly abusive. Are these people harking back to a golden age of more control?  

Remember, “give a man a fish”?  Well, Quality Controllers (QC), stand at the end of processes, judging outputs.  They inspect arguing, “Give a teacher a judgement and a list key issues and they’ll know what the nation wants them to do”. While Quality Assurers (QA) argue,  "Teach them self-evaluation and planning for improvement and they’ll know how to do it for the rest of their lives"  I've always argued the most sensible approach is, "Give them a fish to eat and then teach them how to fish for themselves - we learn best on a full stomach" but I'm jumping too far too soon… let’s look into the reasons why some remain unconvinced….

Taking Back Control
Never forget that the "professional development/QA" or teacher growth approach took a bashing in the decades either side of the millennium.  In these years Ofsted and SATs imposed a regulatory/QC model aided by the rise of data crunching computers and those oh so sexy scatter graphs.  The seeds of Action Research, Heron’s Facilitation Styles and GROW coaching stages were still there but had to follow the leaders and the leaders were Ofsted. In short, Teacher Growth went underground.  (For more history see *Appendix)

Many will never forget HMCI Chris Woodhead’s, “15,000 incompetent teachers!” jibe, based, erroneously, on Ofsted Lesson Observation statistics.  Early Ofsted’s were riven with fear - they were nowhere near a growth model.  I know - I was one of the first Ofsted inspectors trained but refused to inspect after my first experience.  



It felt just wrong walking away at the very point we were needed - when issues had been identified and the school wanted support.  So, many of us continued to work with and alongside our colleagues in schools and some of us majored in Post Ofsted support, especially in what were termed "failing schools".




It’s more than interesting to reflect that the current generation of school leaders, and their younger colleagues, many now embracing teacher growth, lived their school days through the early Ofsteds and testing years when a common cry from their teachers was, “You don’t help plants grow by pulling them up and looking at their roots!”  The metaphor exemplified a frustrated and often angry profession who felt objectified as operatives and diminished within a system that was being dissected, measured and refocused by teams of inspectors who came, judged, left Key Issues ToDo and went. 

Can we presume some students, now our School Leaders, welcomed their teachers being scrutinised, whilst others felt sympathy for them?  Did this mould their attitude to their own leadership?  Is there, alongside a burgeoning Teacher Growth, a rise in the less sensitive, controlling, approaches that hark back to the tougher days, of the Black Papers and a presumed golden age of, "Back to Basics"?  

Is the "Take Back Control" strapline, that many British voters swallowed, beginning to influence some of our modern managers and leaders? Is the belligerence of emerging political leaders like Trump and the combative style of Dominic Cummings giving some inspiration to be tougher, macho and utilitarian? Mixing more metaphors... Is the heat being, deliberately, increased in some kitchens, in an expectation that those who can't stand it will, "Get Out"?  Constructive Dismissal by stealth?  Speak to my two struggling colleagues.  What then for the "Teacher Growth Snowflakes"?  "Ah...poor little men and women.." 

Two tribes - one profession?
The profession, at large, certainly became tribal in the 1990's - for Ofsted, or against. One major Teacher Union began advising colleagues against getting involved in preparation for Ofsted, appraisal and self-evaluation, others were silent.  Lesson Observations were resisted, as they often still are.  A view pervades in some schools and chains of schools that observations can only be done in inspector mode - experts judging operatives and awarding grades.  There have always been other ways - there still are - but the folk memory of, “Ofsted Lesson Obs” remain so strong... too strong?

Tribes parted either side of a false dichotomy Ofsted v Teacher Growth.  Just as they had before on: Traditional v Progressive; Active v Rote Learning; TA v SATs;  When answering the old question,  “What makes a good lesson?” answers were often judged tribally - some quoting experience, others looking up Ofsted descriptors.  

One question is, “Did Ofsted and other inspection regimes, in their first incarnation, inflict too much professional damage?”  A better question is, “What can we now do to repair it?” 

The answer is by deploying a unified professional approach
We do so by recognising two important, evidence based, conclusions:

1. The most effective school improvement work begins with a Teacher Growth model. 
We now know that Teacher Growth achieves Quality Assurance by creating the permitting circumstances for school improvement and success.  It does this by respecting and building individual professionalism through team self-evaluation and planning.  Implemented with rigour, this ensures there is an increasing professional experience, together with associated evidence of impact.  Teacher Growth provides each professional with a solid set of arguments ready for any scrutiny. How do we know?

The shift towards a unified approach was heavily influenced by the work of School Improvement Facilitators in and out of schools.  We knew that emerging global research best exemplified by John Hattie’s “Visible Learning”, demonstrated that student achievement is best influenced by an emotionally intelligent mix of methodologies BUT the best foundation is when School Leaders,

“Create school, staff-room and classroom environments where error is welcomed as a learning opportunity, where discarding incorrect knowledge and understanding is welcomed, and where participants can feel safe to learn, re-learn and explore…”




Now even Ofsted Inspection Frameworks have move further towards a validated self-evaluation model, where colleagues in school were becoming an inextricable part of the process.  There are still some evangelist Ofstedders v Teacher Growers but the ground is more fertile for a more unified professional burgeoning.

The work of successful School Improvers has always been based on a philosophy that recognised the best of both QA and QC approaches. Work in Post Ofsted schools and lead tutoring NCTL programmes (LftM, Leadership Pathways and NPQH) demonstrated, for many of us (not all) that leaders, teachers and schools must first work out and describe their own vision. Doing so they were equally foolish to either slavishly follow Ofsted and NCSL descriptors or pretend they didn’t exist. 


Professional respect, grown this way, demonstrates, time and time again that colleagues, leaders and those who scrutinise schools are best when adopting a “teacher talks first” approach, rather than assuming they hold a supremacy of judgement over each colleague’s day to day experience.  I have very rarely had to challenge a teacher’s, or leader’s judgement of their own performance because, invariably, they know already. 

They don’t need telling, indeed they often resent patronage.  BUT I have been prepared to do so when emerging evidence indicates it is necessary.  I’ve learnt that the vast majority of teachers and leaders have an unerring nous for accurate judgements.  How dare outsiders proffer judgement without at least listening to the professionals first?  What does ignoring, or dismissing, their views do to the self-esteem of colleagues?  Well, ask my two colleagues at the start of this Director's Cut for their views on that.

School Improvers, working “alongside and with”, rather than “on” colleagues encouraged them to see that the wisest leaders (and teachers are leaders too) factor in the full context in which they work and, at least, know what the system requires of them - whether that be Governing Body, Trust Board, Academy Chain, Governmental Statute/Guidance, inspection criteria or whatever. They know it’s equally foolish to either slavishly follow given guidance or pretend it doesn’t exist. The best of them chant,

         "Rules are for the adherence of fools and the guidance of the wise"

So, yes, a Teacher Growth model works and it works well.


2. Educational Systems that cost 5% of GDP require both regulation and scrutiny.
However, Nevertheless, Of course, national, politically driven scrutiny, regulation and measuring will not go away - ever.  Who could possibly believe it could? But we now know the Teacher Growth movement has influenced the way such scrutiny works. It is clear the English Ofsted Inspection Frameworks have already moved closer towards a validated self-evaluation model, and other UK approaches have gone further.  Colleagues in school are now, inextricably and increasingly part of the inspection process.  Teacher Growth is burgeoning but if we want to be even more effective it’s clear we have to inject more rigour in our search for quality and success and also a quest for better professional well-being. We have to challenge those who still reject, or ignore the very idea of scrutiny and the need for accountability.

So, how do leaders deploy a realistic, unified, Teacher Growth model?
An obvious point is this is as much more about a school’s culture than its systems and procedures.  Teacher Growth gestates in the mind of leaders.  They accept there are always going to be judgements about performance, achievement and success.  The question is, “Who is making these judgement and on what basis are they coming to their conclusions?”  School leaders, who wish to harness a growth model must first believe their colleagues have the professional capacity to improve and achieve their own success, as an integral part of the school’s.  Beware of the leader who speaks of Teacher Growth and practices a different model. "It ain't what you say - it's the way that you do it - that's what gets results".

Only when leaders become fully convinced of these possibilities will they prepare the ground by explaining what change, or development, to plant a growth mindset means.  They’ll start well by sowing seeds in the most fertile areas and spreading out from there. A few keen early adopters are worth far more than a dozen, press-ganged, heavies.

It’s then about signalling professional respect, whenever appropriate, by asking enabling questions of colleagues and looking for opportunities to do so.  Investing in these opportunities means seeking answers by working with and alongside receptive colleagues.  This is time well spent.  This doesn’t remove a right to be clear, decisive and provide given ways forward, but it does mean leaders challenging themselves to consider that factoring in the methods, thoughts and approaches of colleagues might strengthen their initial ideas. This does take time, it might well take longer initially, but these efforts will bear fruit.

And, thinking of the bruised and damaged colleagues I started with... Convinced school leaders will know and learn it is possible to care for the individual who struggles - whilst leading an organisation to success. They’ll know we all struggle from time to time. They'll learn to argue, from experience, that’s it’s possible to be tough on standards of student achievement and performance of staff whilst taking time and care to attend to the emotional, physical and motivational needs of each. 

They know and will show that students and teachers are not robots who just require power and programming.  They will celebrate that they/we are all sentient human beings with hopes, fears, anxieties and strengths and we all respond well to praise for success and training for more.  Of course, the best leaders know there is room for tough love, for redirection, even redeployment and they'll demonstrate this can be done with care and compassion.

They will never leave an individual alone, vulnerable and abused, in plain sight.

How can it work in a school – in any workplace? 

How does Teacher or Professional Growth work?  
4 Questions to fuel Teacher Growth

Over the years, in schools and business settings I developed four hierarchical questions for colleagues to ask themselves in order to, “Look at what I do with a view to doing it better”.  These proven self-coaching questions build a capacity for strategic thinking.  I regularly use them myself.

1.  How well am I performing now?  (in relation to my vision/success criteria)
2.  What evidence justifies this judgement?
3.  What will help and hinder success?
4.  (So) What am I planning to do next? 

They typify Action Research, they are reflective prompts, designed to facilitate learning but don’t ever underestimate the complexity they unearth and the message they communicate. These questions can be asked of colleagues: generally, at the start or during, any number of processes: work scrutiny, lesson review, moderation, appraisal and pre-inspection.  When we ask questions, we want answers – obvious?  Yes, but sometimes we can be too eager to answer for others. Asking these questions signals we expect colleagues to take responsibility for their own work.  They are tough questions - especially when an individual must answer themselves, unprompted.  We are requiring them to be self-evaluators, capable of collecting their own evidence, doing their own analysis and making their own plans. If we help them do this well – to fish -  they should never be surprised by another's judgement.  Over time their own judgement will become more secure.  In my experience colleagues welcome this – even find a release in it.  They do require support and time to do it properly.  Over time and through cycles f the 4 Questions, Their noted answers become: Professional Profiles, Performance Management Documents, Diaries, Portfolios and Blogs. They become Subject/Area/School Improvement Plans,

It’s a statement of the obvious that encouraging professionals to share this kind of thinking sustains their development and growth. They will bring their reflections and evidence of impact to meetings with colleagues, leaders and others, including inspectors.  This turns those meetings into dialogues, enriched by the views of professionals in situ. It is in these respectful professional dialogues that sustained school improvement blossoms.



Where there is hope
Even more important... back to the colleagues I began with and am still very angry about.  If they have been using a Teacher Growth approach, they’ll have a detailed record of evidence to answer those 4 Questions.  In their current deep despair they will not be capable of referencing it, but when, eventually, they become strong enough to begin their climb back to any sense of professional pride - the evidence will be there for them to put into any discussion about their future.

Just think for a minute…. How could anyone - any system - deny them that right?


Finally, The iAbacus
I wrote earlier of the systems in schools and want to say a little more…. There was and there remains a need to ameliorate the proliferation of “School Admin Systems” designed in a Quality Control mindset.  They spread in the late 1990’s and early 2000s and heavily affected thinking about School Improvement.   Almost all began by gathering and mining data.  We’ve all seen eyes glaze over when some SLT Nerd opens an electronic filing cabinet, and fuels up over complicated screens.  We know it demotivates teachers!   I’ve been in meetings of teachers, governors and inspectors when hardly anyone understands what they are seeing.



I’ve never said never do it – I do say, first create the permitting circumstances for such complicated data to be understood, needed and real and ALWAYS allow for questions of scrutiny and solicit the classroom view.



Dan O'Brien and I launched the iAbacus into this mix in 2012.  It’s a unique Teacher Growth model that starts with the professional in situ’s view.  We wanted iAbacus to be set within the real context of school scrutiny.  I wrote, “the iAbacus Model combines the emotional intelligence of coaching with the rigours of criterion referenced inspection”  https://www.iabacus.co.uk/model/  you’ll hear echoes of this Director’s Cut in that paper.



The iAbacus is proving to be unique because it exemplifies the unified approach described above.   It deploys the 4 Questions and guides the user through the questions and captures, in sequential reports, their judgements, evidence, analysis and planning for success. To find out more visit  https://www.iabacus.co.uk/

To help users come to their own judgements we prepopulated the software with a range of criteria for judgements, as supplied by National Bodies like Ofsted, Estyn, and Teachers’ Standards.  We included these “templates” for reference not adherence. Most colleagues saw the possibilities, built into the software, to augment, edit and modify criterion to suit their schools and classrooms. Many now write their own criteria using blank templates and we work alongside colleagues creating bespoke templates.

A minority of teachers and leaders who veer towards an evangelist Teacher Growth Model cannot see how they benefit from setting their own judgements against expectations in National Inspection Frameworks, or criteria sets. Some heads and CEOs still use the iAbacus as a tool for the most senior.

It’s great to work with colleagues in schools and now wider contexts who see our deceptively simple iAbacus as a powerful way to self-evaluate and plan for success.
Contact me to find out more.  Or:




* Appendix - a little history
Before the "Take Back Controllers" or "Teacher Growers" rewrite history let me remind them that older professionals, like me, remember discussing with colleagues in the 1970's and 1980's , “What makes a good lesson?”  “What teaching methods work best?” We’d get into the detail, based on our experience and come up with practical ways forward and ideas which meant something real to us, in our own classrooms.  We shared materials and methods and, of course, we disagreed, often vehemently.  There was a freshness, a sense of exploration and discovery.  We didn’t have reams of criteria to plough through. There were books but fewer. There weren’t the statutory papers, and later, digital guidance, checklists and data avalanches to bury individuality.  It was all so much freer. I was just after the 1960’s. The latest Education Act was way back in 1944.  Inspectors were few and far between, they were well selected and paid far more than head teachers.  We were, largely autonomous professionals. So far so good....

But it was not all wonderful!  The cane was not banned until 1976 and other abuses were hidden, or misunderstood.  Many left school unequipped for work, and there wasn’t much work, but we teachers were working on it. We shared stuff, we met at actual Teachers’ Centres, we formed Subject, Phase and Specialist “National Associations” and ran conferences. The point I am making is that we had to rely on each other to strengthen our professionalism. We grasped at the wisdom in Kolb and Boyatzis Learning Cycles and Senge’s Five Disciplines.  Sadly, we were unable to convince a sceptical public and so Ofsted, testing, regulation and quality control took centre ground, for a while.

I was, at that time a Local Authority Adviser and required to train as an inspector.  many of us were initially sceptical about the inspection regime becoming supreme.  The hardest question we had to answer was, "Can you honestly say that schools would have improved so much without Ofsted?"   The true answer was we needed Ofsted but maybe the pendulum swung too far to the control and regulation side, to the detriment of professional teachers and leaders.  Maybe it had to do so to be brought back.

For me this indicates that an either or model, one for or against scrutiny, can never work.  In short, we need to nurture professionalism within an emotionally intelligent system of checks and balances. There is rarely one simple answer to a complex issue.