Remarks to the Education Reform Summit, London
Back in 2010 the coalition government stated in the White Paper The Importance of Teaching that, ‘The primary responsibility for improvement rests with our schools….our aim should be to create a school system which is self-improving.’ But we also know, and government recognises, that while it can create the conditions for a self-improving school-led system, only the profession can deliver it. The implications of that in terms of culture change cannot be underestimated. That challenge is equally demanding on the profession, who will need to step up to that opportunity, as it is on government, which will have to let go of the temptation to impose its preferred solutions.
I suggest that we focus on three aspects of these challenges.
Development of the highest quality of school leadership.
The leadership, planning, coordination and evaluation of professional development activities and processes – from coaching and mentoring to school based research, face to face or virtual training and succession planning – are at the heart of school leadership. They must be embedded in the culture of our education system and at the heart of the job description of everyone with leadership responsibility.
An outward facing mindset that combines institutional and system leadership.
This is easy to propose, but the challenge is one of capacity. In a period of austerity and rapid reform, school leaders have enough to do to get their own house in order and have to make nuanced decisions about what they can manage to do beyond the school gates. Nevertheless we are also seeing a rapid growth of exciting and collaborative work sometimes through formal structures such as teaching school alliances and MATs and sometimes though more informal networks that share best practice.
The establishment by government conditions that address the potential risks that accompany an even more devolved system.
When a school fails or closes, it is a disaster for the young people who are educated there and their families. There must be appropriate safeguards to minimise the chances of this happening. As well as oversight of the system at local, regional or national level, there are questions here around accountability, compliance and governance. Some kind of regulatory framework is needed to safeguard the interests of the users of the system. Accountability is essential but so is a reformed model of inspection in which schools are agents of accountability.
ASCL has initiated an inquiry into what a school-led system might look like and I would invite you to contribute your thoughts on the ten consultation questions online here.
Question: What do we all need to do in order to achieve that magic combination of autonomy and trust in the school-led system?
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