Monday, 19 March 2012

Sorry Michael...

This post is not sensible for two good reasons. I am apologising for a previous BLOG, rather than just deleting it and I am exposing a personal weakness - my IGS  (Irritable Growl Syndrome). But it's right for a better reason -  I am practising what I preach  "Looking at what I do with a view to doing it better next time" and I wish others would do that, including you know who...

The apology.  
I am sorry for having a pop at you Michael Gove in my previous post, undeleted below.  It was a cheap shot - you are an easy target and there is always loud applause for anyone who has a go and so I aimed at you, not the issue and took the bow - sorry.  Excuse? My IGS bubbled up at what is happening in and across education and rational thought and argument faded.  

Doing that makes we pundits easy targets too - filed as "maverick" as the unions often are when they seem to argue against everything because "that is what we do".  Am I forgiven Michael? 

Well, if so you may ready on....

What was I really trying to say? 
Simple... I sense a critical point of balance in the debate about how to improve schooling and we must act.  Our profession must be stronger in the defence of effective practice, it's no good just moaning.  I see more in the profession standing up and arguing  the case for what works in our contexts.  We know we know best - we are there all the time and more of us appear to be saying so.  Furthermore, now may be our very best time to have fierce conversations with those from outside who come in over short periods and offer quick judgements based on a partial view.  Why do I say this?

Quality assurance
I have always believed the best model for school improvement is quality assurancebased on self-evaluation by professionals in the system.  It builds a sustainable, capacity building model of professionalism. Conversely, I see the effects of quality control, by those from outside, leading to a dependent workforce awaiting the judgements of more powerful others.  So, I have been arguing long that we should speak up more - to awaken the giant. (see The Giant Awakes - Third Age of Evaluation )

There are good signs that others sense this too.  HMCI Sir Terry Wilshaw's comments last week are intriguing!  He said, "We are in the process of reviewing the way we operate, whether demands we are making are inhibiting teachers from teaching.” Now that's a massive admission and it has to be good news.  For more on this see Graeme Paton's piece in the Telegraph  

Sir Terrry was almost certainly referring to the English report Ofsted itself has published stating that there are dangerous myths about what inspectors want and too many teachers are trying to second guess.  Second guessing and looking for approval are the classic responses of those who are hectored.  See for "Learning Spy's" excellent piece on this.  

A debate about evidence and not opinion. 

We think we know we know best.   We must be sure we know best.  Then we'll know, they know, we know best!   In inspections, reviews and performance management we must argue calmly based on our own evaluation of impact over time.  We must use qualitative as well as quantitative data.  We must spend time, working together to build our evidence base.  Then when others come from outside to judge us we will have more, better, triangulated evidence than they can ever collect, let alone analyse, in two days.  This way in situ professionals will be more powerful and ironically that is what Michael Gove and Sir Terry Wilshaw say they want too.... A debate about evidence and not opinion.

But John they get it wrong!
Yes, Ofsted, Senior Leaders, teachers, parents, everyone indeed, sometimes get it wrong. What happens when  Ofsted's do?  Well, there has been a history of just having to accept the judgement even when we disagree.  But we must continue to speak up and, if we are sure of our evidence, challenge the judgements.  And there is a developing trend here too...  A recent challenge, from a brave head about an Ofsted report resulted in "Mr Justice Collins declaring that the key ‘Inspection judgements’ from the inspection were “untrue and unfair”.  and there asre others prepared to take Ofsted and others on.
See what I mean?  The professional giant awakes - now is a ripe time for proper debate, proper challenge, less name calling and jibes. 

So, yes I'm sorry for the cheap shot Michael...but colleagues - let the fierce conversations begin!  

Send ideas, examples of others doing it and thoughts about how  we do this to  or twitter @johnpearce_JP