I’m a School in Special Measures.


I’m a school in special measures. Stubborn, me. Went ‘special’ almost ten years ago, and we’re still special, see:-

  • We lost 30% of our staff after Ofsted and have never really replaced them. We’re not allowed an NQT. Our funds are drained by supply. The ones who stayed are heroes. They wear the tarnish and carry on doing their best.
  • Our intake fell after Ofsted came. Those who could afford to bus kids elsewhere did. Those who couldn’t/wouldn’t stayed. The buses aren’t free. We’ve become a school for those with no choices or for those who don’t care about choices or for those who can’t afford choices.
  • Our roll fell while other local schools’ numbers went up. Their funding went up with their new bus paying pupils whose parents joined the PTA. Ours went down. So when they wanted to ‘turn their schools around’ by off rolling/excluding, guess who had spaces for those kids? You don’t get funding for taking kids in Yr11. Just sayin’
  • They said we should join a MAT but MATs don’t seem interested in me.
  • Our children’s learning is improving in spite of everything but they’re in a rank ordering game. Comparative outcomes puts them at the bottom of the tree. They are moving forward on an platform of superglue.
  • They bring heads in. They move them on. They bring consultants in. They move them on. Pay offs bring our funding down. But at least it looks like SOMETHING IS BEING DONE.

I’m a school in special measures. Stubborn, me. We went special almost ten years ago and we’re still special. Do you see?


3 thoughts on “I’m a School in Special Measures.

  1. The chances are that a school remaining in special measures since 2006 would have been forced to become an academy by now (unless, of course, it’s too toxic for any MAT to risk taking it over).
    The schools referred to by Amanda Spielman in her comment about schools which haven’t improved for ten years referred to those stuck in requires improvement (or its predecessor category: Satisfactory) and maybe the odd ‘Inadequate’ thrown in.
    Schools judged Satisfactory before 2012 actually satisfied the criteria set at the time. It was only in 2012 that Satisfactory was redefined as requires improvement (ie ‘failing’ but not so bad as inadequate). What Spielman has done is apply the requires improvement retrospectively on to Satisfactory schools to imply they were failing and have remained failing for ten years.
    Nevertheless, your description of a school stuck in a cycle of decline is spot on.

  2. The root of the problem is the almost universal misunderstanding that the quality of a school can be judged from its aggregated exam results. Yes, this error is a logical and statistical fact, yet for decades now that is what happens, with small inspection teams going into schools pre-armed with data showing that floor targets have not been met.

    It matters not a jot how much high quality teaching and learning can be observed in the tiny sample of lessons inspected, because having been forced to make the judgement on the hopelessly invalid school performance data, all the inspectors do in the lessons they look at is to think up comments to make to justify the inadequate/requires improvement judgement already made before they set foot in the building.

    It is a myth that aggregated KS2 SATs result are a reliable measure of prior attainment. No such excessively threatening high stakes tests could be. All they achieve is to guarantee that the feeder primary schools in the same poor, low mean cognitive ability catchment areas, are forced to abandon sound, developmental teaching methods in favour of the quick fix, cramming, behaviourism, gaming and yes, cheating, that the Chief Inspector has rightly recently condemned.

    It is cognitive ability, not ‘prior attainment’ based on cramming, that is needed for base line evaluations of student progress and these cannot be validly aggregated to judge a school without aggregated Y6/Y7 CATs test data.

    The reason why Academy MATs do not want to take on these schools, that compete with other schools serving more affluent postcodes that produce higher mean CATs score intakes, is because in most cases they know they can do no better than the existing heads and teachers. To solve this problem needs an LA wide approach such as that which has been so successful in the London Borough of Hackney, where all pupils take CATs in Y6 and (nearly) all the secondary schools, Academies and otherwise, operate common, fair banding based admission policies administered by the LA.

    You can read in detail, with real data, how this works in Part 4 of my book, ‘Learning Matters’, together with the reason for the factual link between postcode affluence and mean cognitive abiliy (that heads have always understood).

    For a case history of how floor targets and mindless Academisation can wreck local education systems and blight young lives see this article.


  3. The first school I worked in, some 25 years ago, was one of the first primary schools in Special Measures. The school was in an area of social deprivation, serving a volatile social mix. The school was vibrant, warm and very much alive. I ran three after school clubs weekly, which attracted up to 40 children each. The headteacher, coincidentally, was the inspirational class teacher from my childhood whose example led to my becoming a teacher. The inspection was savage. Afterwards, local TV stations tried to film in through classroom windows, I found reporters from the local radio station surreptitiously recording a lesson from outside the classroom door. The headteacher went into shock, and lost his voice altogether. The deputy was interviewed by an extremely hostile radio reporter, who demanded to know why she did not sack all the teachers, then thrust his microphone within 1/2 an inch from her face. A ‘superhead’ was moved in for a year or so, who worked the statistics and was feted, without actually changing the running of the school in any way. The original head was dead within a year. I am still a teacher now, but the dream I carried into teaching was laid to rest at his funeral. The school bounced in and out of special measures in the following years, but I will always be proud of my first school. I have since been judged an outstanding teacher and a good teacher, but I am exactly the same as I was then. So be stubborn, be proud, and don’t ever give in, and don’t take the crap thrown at you in any personal way!

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