Ask the question. Questions schools need to be asking themselves. Part I

Schools need to take charge of their own destiny. It is noticeable that schools that gain an Ofsted grade of outstanding are schools that manage the external pressures on themselves to such an extent that they can choose to implement or not implement changes that some other schools feel compelled to adopt. I know my own school was like that. We adopted the changes that we felt would move us on in the direction(s) we had chosen ourselves. We effectively ignored some of the “legislation” because it would have distorted our planned progress.

I want to suggest some questions that schools need to consider. I want some “sacred cows” to be questioned, as deeply as possible, rather than just nodded at. Honest responses rather than justifications such as “We have always done it like that”; “It’s not broke, so don’t fix it” and many other ways that micro politically control schools.
I do think that we should pay good attention to tradition. If it has worked for schools in the past then we ought to factor that into our review of our systems and processes but not to such an extent that we change nothing.
First, let’s ask,
“Can we make better use of the lesson observation processes that go on in schools?”

Most lesson observation is carried out using the Ofsted model. Why? Why do we do these observations? Are we trying to replicate Ofsted three times per year so that we are ready for when they arrive and do the process properly?
No. That can’t be the reason we expend all the effort and resource. Surely the reason is for improvement in student learning? Odd though. The Japanese car industry realised in the 1970s that inspection alone did not improve quality. In fact it did the reverse if there was too much inspection. Targets, checking, measuring did not make the pig weigh more – to paraphrase the old saying. Who now makes most of the world’s cars?
So the question to ask becomes

“What is the best use of our time and resource to support improvement in student learning?”.
I strongly believe that involvement in the actual lessons that are going on, that are the main business of a school is critical in a school’s improvement.
How do we do this so that teachers teach better and students learn better?
Have that discussion and then worry about Ofsted later. If you get the improvement right Ofsted will love you. That would be nice!

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