Tag Archives: Ofsted

Getting to work on teacher’s workload – Ministers’ Measures

One of the many factors that has been the caused of incessant and frequent striking by members of the teaching profession as well as other educators leaving the profession for other careers has been the high level of workload. For a long time under Michael Gove, this was seen as ‘excuses’ more than anything else, so the news that this current Education Secretary Nicky Morgan and Deputy Leader Nick Clegg are looking at ways to improve it has got to be music to the ears of those who are still left in the profession.

So what are these ‘decisive measures’ that the two politicians announced? Well they include;

  1. Commitments by Ofsted to not change their handbook or framework during the academic year, unless absolutely necessary
  2. Giving schools more notice of significant curriculum changes, and not making any changes to qualifications during the academic year, unless urgently required
  3. Carrying out a large robust survey in 2016 and then every two years in order to track teachers’ workload.

These announcements come after results from a Workload Challenge survey released by the Department of Education, of which around 44,000 (the vast majority of teachers) responded to. They cited excessive amounts of time spent recording data and dealing with bureaucracy as factors which contributed to “unnecessary” or “unproductive” workloads. Other reasons included unrealistic deadlines and excessive marking – with some saying they marked up to 120 books a day.

Ms Morgan said the changes would tackle the root causes of excessive workloads. “It is no secret that we have made some very important changes in schools – changes that we know have increased the pressure on many teachers,” she said. “We know there is no quick fix but we hope the commitments we have outlined today will support and empower the profession, and free up teachers to focus on what matters most in their jobs.”

If only that were true. It is believed by many that this isn’t enough. The National Union of Teachers said teachers would be “bitterly disappointed” by the measures.

“At a time when the number of teachers leaving this proud profession is at a 10-year high, this announcement on workload is simply insufficient,” said general secretary Christine Blower. She said the government should immediately tackle its “out-of-control accountability system”, which had “Ofsted at its centre”.

The dreaded Ofsted again. It is no secret that the very name brings a shudder to many members of our profession, and with that shudder comes the feeling of needing to do extra work to prevent yourself from showing a bad light. I’ve worked in schools where inspections are going on and have seen even experienced teachers in a panic.

HM Chief Inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw said Ofsted was working to “dispel some of the myths that may have led to unnecessary workloads”. “It is very important that schools maintain a sense of proportion when preparing for an Ofsted inspection,” he said. “If they are devoting their energies to getting things right for pupils, then an Ofsted inspection will take care of itself.”

I personally welcome the announcement, it’s at least a step in the right direction, but if progress is judged on speed of movement, this is more like a pigeon-toe step than a sprint. Hopefully there are many more to come soon and maybe, just maybe, the profession might be given a bit of a morale boost.

Charge of the Teach Brigade

With elections not too far away now, and important issues and pledges being made thick and fast in a mad rush to persuade voters, it is little surprise to see an education pledge appearing from the Tories, who in many respects are looking to move beyond just talking about Europe and immigration.

Prime Minister David Cameron has pledged that he will create an elite squad of high quality teachers in what he calls a National Teaching Service to go into what are described as ‘failing schools’, of which there are estimated to be around 500. These people will also be given the power to remove the schools’ leadership if it is deemed necessary. In order to do this, Mr Cameron says that he will be consulting a team of of ‘experts’ to help develop such a package.

It is the first initiative Cameron has undertaken with the new education secretary, Nicky Morgan, drafted into the cabinet to replace the unpopular Michael Gove. Morgan said that it had become necessary to “go further” and target schools where she said “failure has become ingrained”. She added: “We will not tolerate failure, and where we find it we will use tried and trusted interventions to turn things around in the interests of young people everywhere.”

The regional commissioners were largely developed by Gove as he realised the rapid extension of city academies meant the department for education was directly responsible for the oversight of thousands of academy and free schools in what was rapidly becoming an act of unwieldy centralisation.

Under the new model, the commissioners will be able to order immediate personnel changes to governing bodies, introduce standard punishment tariffs for bad behaviour, and bring in behaviour experts to implement new policies on classroom discipline, school uniform standards and homework. They would also have powers to make “immediate personnel changes to the governing body to improve the calibre of leadership and ensure they have the skills they need to improve”. Ofsted has largely been left to rate schools, but there was no systematic means of improving schools’ performance. It is not yet clear how the new commissioners would work with the under-fire Ofsted under the Conservative plans.

Last week it emerged that Gove had discussed how to remove Sir Michael Wilshaw as chief inspector of schools, but he responded on Friday, vowing to carry on in his position and claiming that he was a victim of “smear campaigns”.

The former education secretary David Blunkett, in a report in May to the current shadow education secretary, Tristram Hunt, had proposed a new, more democratic, middle-tier body to oversee improvement of local schools led by a new local Directors of School Standards. The proposal was largely modelled on the successful London Challenge responsible for improving school standards in the capital. Hunt, just back from studying the widely praised Singapore education system, added:“Ministers are now trying to play catch-up but the public will see that it is this government’s damaging schools policy that has failed pupils.”

So basically, Cameron’s idea is a Salvation Army of Teaching. Who are these so-called high quality teachers and what makes them stand out? If our education system is supposed to be of high quality, shouldn’t all of our teachers be qualified to be in this particular group? How is it going to feel if you have been consistently praised as an outstanding teacher for years on end, only to not even be considered for such a position? Am I the only one who thinks this has the potential for damaging the already battered and bruised morale of most of the teaching profession? If that happens, then there will be more and more people trying to leave the profession instead of joining it. We have a shortage enough, why make the situation worse? Ofsted are already under fire, so do we really want another mini Ofsted as well? I remain to be convinced of 1) how this is going to work and 2) where it fits into an already awkward system.

Ofsted – Down with traditional teaching!

We all know that teaching styles alter in time due to the different requirements and needs that our children change with developments of technology amongst other situations. But there are some methods that have transcended the boundaries of time.

Well not according to Ofsted. In fact, according to a report from thinktank Civitas, Ofsted is actually penalising teachers who use the traditional ‘chalk and talk’ style of teaching. This conclusion came from their analysis of 260 Ofsted reports, which found what they describe as ‘trendy’ child led learning and ‘jazzy lessons’ taking precedence over the traditional methods.

Sir Michael Wilshaw himself has said before that it is clear for the teachers for them to decide how they teach, which means that his inspectors have no right to take preference to a certain style of teaching over another.

But the report found teachers were “accustomed to putting on ‘jazzy’ lessons, replete with group work, role play and active learning in order to fulfil what has become widely acknowledged as the ‘Ofsted style'”.

The study for the think tank, by Robert Peal, a history teacher and education research fellow, is based on an analysis of two sets of reports. The first 130 reports, on secondary schools inspected between September 10 and October 13 last year, showed clear evidence of bias, Civitas claims.

While more than half (52%) showed a preference for lessons in which pupils learned independently from teacher instruction, 42% showed a preference for group work, the study says. And 18% criticised teachers for talking too much.

The second set of 130 reports was produced from inspections carried out after new guidance on how to assess teaching quality was issued earlier this year.

Sir Michael wrote to inspectors in January saying: “Please, please, please think carefully before criticising a lesson because it doesn’t conform to a particular view of how children should be taught.”

Although in the second batch of reports the percentage showing a preference for child-centred learning fell to 38%, the report says the change in the language of the reports was “superficial”.

And it claims lead inspectors were given a list of “banned phrases” bemoaning the lack of “trendy teaching methods”. It adds that some reports were edited after publication “to expunge examples of child-centred language”.

“Such a shallow approach to combating the preferred Ofsted style of teaching relies on changing the language of the reports, but allowing the fundamental judgement to remain the same,” the report says. It goes on to call for the removal of Ofsted’s power to grade the quality of teaching so that schools have the “professional autonomy to focus on what teaching methods work best”.

An Ofsted spokesman said: “The arguments put forward in this report are largely reheated ones. What matters to Ofsted is what matters to parents – ensuring that schools are delivering the best possible education for their children. As HM chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw has repeatedly made clear, Ofsted does not have a preferred teaching style. It is up to the classroom teacher to determine how they should teach.”

I’m sorry Ofsted, but you are talking complete and utter trash. I’ve been on the front line in classrooms during an Ofsted inspection, and I was told to alter the usual approach I use just to please the Ofsted inspector coming in. I should say at this point that I was a TA for the class teacher. I also noticed the class teacher wasn’t teaching in the same way that they usually taught. This culture of teaching ‘the Ofsted style’ definitely exists, and if you don’t recognise this then I’m afraid you have about as clear a vision as I do in the dark (I used to sleepwalk into walls as a kid). I certainly would never use some of my methods during Ofsted because I would have to include technology in. Not all of my lessons use technology, not just because I’m not it’s biggest fan, but because I don’t want to use technology for using it’s sake. If my lesson could not be done without the technology, fine I’ll use it. But if it’s not necessary I don’t want to replace something that is perfectly fine.

I’ve never been a huge fan of Ofsted, I don’t really think it’s fit for purpose, and if I’m brutally honest, I would like to see it scrapped, and I’m sure I’m not just speaking for myself when I say that. To find a report that is using a hint of bias towards certain teaching styles only adds another nail into the Ofsted coffin for me.

Postcode determines education?

We all want the best possible education for our children, that’s what we aim for as both teachers and parents. But how do we ensure we get that?

Well inspectors have once again warned that pupils’ chances of getting a good education in our country still depends on where they live.

An Ofsted report indicates “considerable variation” across local authorities in how many pupils achieve the expected level at ages 11 and 16. The schools watchdog vowed to “focus its attention” on those areas failing to raise pupil attainment.

The study examined the use of the pupil premium – extra money given to schools to help disadvantaged pupils. The funds are available for pupils who are, or have been over the previous six years, eligible for free school meals or in care. In the academic year 2014-15, the government is allocating £2.5bn to the scheme. Primary schools will get an extra £1,300 per eligible pupil and secondary schools will get £935.

The Ofsted report said this meant an average-sized secondary school in England with an average number of eligible pupils would receive about £200,000 in extra funding – the equivalent of five full-time teachers.

The report, based on official data and inspection reports, concludes there is evidence the pupil premium is boosting the education prospects of many children. It says that while it is still too early to tell if there has been a significant narrowing of the gap between rich and poor youngsters nationally, inspectors believe that school leaders are spending the extra money more effectively than ever.

The cash is most frequently being used to pay for extra teachers and teaching assistants who give individual help or small group tuition, usually in English and maths.

Ofsted boss Sir Michael Wilshaw said the improving situation could be down to the watchdog looking at how the premium was being spent as part of inspections. “Head teachers were also aware that they could not get a desirable Ofsted judgment if they did not show how they were improving the results of disadvantaged pupils,” Sir Michael said.

But the report also warned that while some areas had seen major improvements in disadvantaged pupils’ performance, others were improving too slowly. “Although inspectors have seen large improvements in the attitude of school leaders and governors, there is considerable variation across local authorities in the proportion of pupils achieving expected levels at Key Stages 2 (end of primary) and 4 (GCSE level) and the rate of improvement from year to year,” the report said.

Pupils who are eligible for free school meals in Barnsley, Portsmouth, South Gloucestershire, North Lincolnshire and Northumberland were least likely to get five good GCSEs, including English and maths, inspectors said. Last year, about one in four premium-eligible pupils in these areas reached this benchmark, Ofsted said. The report goes on to note that Barnsley had had the third lowest proportion of eligible children getting five or more C grades in 2012, and attainment had declined further to make it the lowest attaining authority in 2013.

At the other end of the scale, Kensington and Chelsea, Westminster, Southwark, Tower Hamlets and Lambeth had the highest proportions of premium-eligible youngsters – about three-fifths – reaching this standard. What is very noticeable is these are all provinces of London, the capital city where pretty much all of our money goes.

The report concluded: “It cannot be right that the likelihood of a child receiving a good education should depend on their postcode or economic circumstance. Government should focus its attention on those areas of the country that are letting poor children down. Ofsted will also focus its attention on these areas in subsequent reports to see if improvements have been made.”

Sir Michael Wilshaw, said: “One of the greatest challenges this country faces is closing the unacceptable gap that remains between poorer children and their better-off classmates when it comes to educational outcomes. As chief inspector, I am passionate about improving the prospects of our least advantaged children, so I am encouraged by the clear signs in today’s report that more effective spending and monitoring of the pupil premium is starting to make a positive difference in many schools. Ofsted, for its part, will continue to focus relentlessly on how schools are using this money to ensure these pupils don’t get left behind.”

Schools Minister David Laws said the pupil premium was transforming the life chances of pupils across the country. “The report shows head teachers, teachers and governors are rallying behind the policy to close the achievement gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers. And where performance is an issue we are taking swift action to ensure all pupils are given the education they deserve.”

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg adds: “The pupil premium has been one of the most significant changes in our education system for a long time and is already closing the attainment gap by helping up to two million disadvantaged children get the support, education and skills they need to get on in life – whether it’s through literacy classes, catch-up lessons or one-to-one tuition.”

I’ve been a fan of the pupil premium, and could only have wished it came in when I was at school so not just me but some of my peers could have had the additional support we needed. Back when I was at school, a TA didn’t really exist in many classrooms, and when they did, my experience of their role was merely to photocopy worksheets or do the paperwork that the teacher didn’t do. Over the last decade, their role has evolved continuously, as well as their availability as it’s become more common for a class to have at least 1 TA, although there are still classes where they do not exist.

What disappoints me is that money talks, all the places that have more money pumped into them have a much greater chance of stronger education, whilst small towns like the area I’m from have very little chance. For once I agree with Sir Michael that there needs to be a greater focus on these areas, rather than everywhere talking about how brilliant London is.

Islamic invasion investigation

One thing that caught my eye in the papers was an alleged plan that some headteachers in Birmingham are being ousted in order to make those schools adhere to Islamic principles, given the name ‘Operation Trojan Horse’.

Quite unsurprisingly, this issue has now emerged as being investigated, and quite rightfully so!

A letter detailing the plan claims responsibility for leadership changes at four schools. These schools are Adderley Primary, Saltley School, Park View School and Regents Park Community Primary School.

Saltley’s head teacher resigned last year after a critical Ofsted report. Inspectors said there was a “dysfunctional” relationship between head teacher Balwant Bains and governors which was hindering the school.

The letter, which purports to outline “Operation Trojan Horse”, has subsequently been sent to at least another 12 schools in the city – all believed to be vulnerable to takeover. It states that parents could be encouraged to turn against the leadership team if they are told the school is “corrupting their children with sex education, teaching about homosexuals, making their children pray Christian prayers and carrying out mixed swimming and sport”.

Among various claims in the letter is one that the group has “caused a great amount of organised disruption in Birmingham and as a result we have our own academies and are on the way to getting rid of more head teachers and taking over their schools”.

The head teachers of the schools met Birmingham City Council on Thursday to discuss their concerns. The letter was apparently written by someone in Birmingham to a contact in Bradford, and goes on to outline ways and means by which schools can be taken over. It says: “We have an obligation to our children to fulfil our roles and ensure these schools are run on Islamic principles.”

It is understood that would mean a greater emphasis on religious studies, as well as girls and boys being taught separately in some classes.

The letter implies these methods have already been put into action and urges the recipient to use Ofsted reports to identify schools in predominantly Muslim areas which are struggling. It adds: ”Operation ‘Trojan Horse’ has been very carefully thought through and is tried and tested within Birmingham, implementing it in Bradford will not be difficult for you.”

It says that Salafi parents should be enlisted to help, because they are regarded as a more orthodox branch of Islam and would be more likely to be willing to help.

It was sent to the city council in 2013 and has led to a number of investigations. Part of the inquiry will focus on whether the plot is genuine or fake. A Birmingham City Council spokesperson confirmed the letters had been received and that an investigation was ongoing.

The Department for Education’s (DfE) Extremist Unit is also involved and the West Midlands Police Counter-Terrorism Unit has also looked into the case after being handed the letter in December 2013. Supt Sue Southern, head of the unit, said it was decided the allegations in the letter were “not a matter for the police”.

The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) said it had “received some anonymous letters in February which claimed that an extremist religious group was trying to engineer the sacking of head teachers who did not promote the group’s ideals”. It said it was working with the police, the Department for Education and Birmingham City Council to investigate the claim. Russell Hobby, NAHT general secretary, said the union took the allegations “extremely seriously”.

Liam Byrne, Labour MP for Hodge Hill, said he had held urgent talks with Ofsted, City Council officials, the office of Michael Gove and DfE officials. “These are deeply disturbing allegations, which is why Ofsted has been called in,” he said. “I have demanded that the second we have results from those inspections, both the city council and the Secretary of State take immediate action.”

I have nothing against schools being founded on religious principles, after all history does show that a lot of schools particularly in the 1500s were set up on those very principles, and schools today are based on those principles, but to deliberately engineer and oust schools that do not run on those principles with the sole intent of converting them to those principles is quite frankly disgraceful in my eyes. Schools are not battery farms for your religion. It has been my belief that children should choose based on their own experiences to follow a particular religion. Mind you I come from a non-religious background so that must have a bearing on whether I am religious or not, but at the same time I’ve been through the education system and have been taught religious education by members of differing faiths so I do have some awareness and experience of what being a member of certain religions involves, and chose not to be a part of it. I don’t think any less of anyone who is part of any religious group in comparison to those who are not.

The row over the Head of Ofsted role

One story that has gripped the national headlines of late has been the dispute over the non-renewal of Labour Baroness Morgan’s role as Head of Ofsted by Michael Gove.

It is not yet known who will take over the role, but nonetheless a row has still broken out.

Baroness Morgan claims that she was a victim of a ‘determined effort from Number 10’ to appoint more Tories into the top political jobs. From the outside, this may not seem so surprising, given that we have a Liberal-conservative coalition government at this present time.

Another argument that has arisen from this comes from David Laws. He argues that actually, the inspectorate shouldn’t in fact be political at all, as it is supposed to be an independent organisation. He too argues that Baroness Morgan’s removal was politically minded. A source close to him said: “The decision to get rid of Sally Morgan had absolutely nothing to do with her abilities, or even education policy, and everything to do with Michael Gove’s desire to get his own people on board. David Laws is absolutely determined not to let Michael Gove undermine the independence of this vital part of the education system.”

Of course, Michael Gove is desperate now to try and defend his decision. He argues that the decision to remove Baroness Morgan was entirely his and had absolutely nothing to do with Number 10. He told the Andrew Marr Show: “I think she’s done a really good job. I think that she and the chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw are a fantastic team. But one of the things I feel – and across government – is that from time to time you need to refresh the person who is in charge of an organisation.”

On top of that, he adds that Baroness Morgan had come to the end of her three-year term as Ofsted chairwoman and it was good corporate practice not to automatically reappoint people – a different person could come in with a “new perspective” and make sure there were “tough questions asked”.

Mr Gove pointed out that he had appointed Baroness Morgan in the first place, knowing she was Labour, adding: “It’s also the case that we’ve recently appointed a former Labour special advisor Simon Stevens to head the NHS. Now when we come to appoint the new head of Ofsted I will appoint, and we will appoint, on merit.”

Here is something that I reckon he’s hoping that we will not notice. One thing he did not do was rule out the possibility of Tory donor Theodore Agnew as the next in line for the job. Of course it would be wrong to rule out a suitable candidate based on their political allegiances, but it does look suspect when a Tory is the only real reported candidate to replace Baroness Morgan. I bet Gove’s hoping that another candidate who isn’t a Tory announces themselves as a candidate to take over.

So what Mr Gove that a former labour special advisor is now the head of the NHS? What about the non-tories who were removed from bodies such as the Arts Council and Charity Commission and replaced with … you guessed it … tories? There is no way of avoiding the fact that it does look very suspect from the outside.

Harriet Harman takes the argument even further. Ms Harman claims that there was a trend that women in senior authoritative posts were losing their positions and being replaced by men. Gove hit back by saying the Tories have had a female prime minister, and had appointed these women to senior positions in the first place, including Baroness Morgan.

I’m all for the idea of Ofsted not being political at all, in fact I think education as a whole should not be political at all. Stories like this for me really provide clear arguments why. Why should a politician decide what the needs for our children are?

Teachers stop moaning!

Well Sir Michael Wilshaw really does like to cause controversy, that much we know. But this is so controversial in a weird way I find it amusing.

Teachers should stop “moaning”, as they risk putting off potential recruits to the profession, Ofsted’s chief inspector said today.

Sir Michael Wilshaw claimed that too often the main classroom unions “endlessly list” the problems involved in teaching and “ignore its triumphs”.

By portraying teachers as “perpetual victims”, Sir Michael added, teachers’ leaders risk “infantilising” the profession, while also “depressing recruitment”.

“Far too many of those who claim to represent the profession endlessly list its problems and ignore its triumphs,” Sir Michael said. “Of course, teachers have their complaints. Of course, there are grievances. But there is a difference between a professional with a legitimate criticism and a serial complainer with another moan. One tends to be listened to; the other does not.”

He also adds that teaching can be ‘pure magic’ and called for the workforce to celebrate it’s profession. I don’t know about anyone else but for me, this current government and Ofsted aren’t necessarily giving us a lot to celebrate about at the moment, with a new curriculum coming in and a host of new schools that don’t adhere to the National Curriculum in the first place, almost breaking down our national education system into a series of local education systems, in a similar way to the US have varying laws for differing states.

His remarks drew stinging criticism from the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), which said that the chief inspector needed to concentrate more on turning Ofsted into a more effective inspection agency.

“[Sir] Michael Wilshaw needs to stop picking fights with the teaching profession and focus on making Ofsted an inspection agency that is remotely fit for purpose,” Mary Bousted, general secretary of the ATL, said.

“What’s putting off people from entering the workforce is the fact teachers have excessive workloads, and mounting bureaucracy created by Ofsted. If anybody is undermining the profession, it is Her Majesty’s chief inspector who is too busy picking fights.”

Sir Michael was speaking at the North of England Education Conference in Nottingham, where he also questioned the quality of teacher training on offer in many universities and criticised the support given by schools to newly qualified teachers (NQTs). Too often, he said, training providers were sending NQTs into the classroom unprepared.

“It is a national scandal that we invest so much in teacher training and yet an estimated 40 per cent of new entrants leave within five years,” Sir Michael added.

The figures mean that Ofsted will be “much tougher” on training providers, as well as schools, who do not support NQTs starting out in the classroom. From September, every Section 5 inspection will seek the views of NQTs to hear how well-supported they are by their school and their training provider, which will then be reflected in the provider’s overall inspection grade.

One response to this I found particularly striking was a tweet I saw from GuardianTeach writer Mike Britland, who wrote: ‘Not a staff room moaner but why doesn’t Wilshaw look at current pay, conditions & talking down of teachers as a reason for the dropouts?’ It is no secret that teaching is a heavily underpaid profession, given how important it is to the economy and jobs market. It doesn’t help that we are relentlessly being attacked by Wilshaw, which will reduce our morale. But Wilshaw in a way does have a point. Training providers must be able to support NQTs etc, but what he said isn’t true for all providers. I would love to see him go through a current teacher training course and see how ‘unprepared’ he is after he leaves. Might be quite a shock. I would love to see him and Gove in a classroom and observe them teaching a lesson, given that they determine how our profession works.

Parents told head quit … by text

Well I’ve heard of disappearing headteachers, but the Southend Standard reports a bizarre way for parents to find out about a quitting headteacher which has caused outrage.

Parents claim they have been left in the dark after a long-standing headteacher of a school in Wickford suddenly left halfway through term.

Just weeks after Ofsted inspectors deemed management at the Bromfords School as not doing enough to turn the school around, headteacher Marian Spinks announced her departure yesterday. The Echo understands an email was sent to staff in the morning, while confused parents got a text message detailing a change at the helm later in the afternoon.

Ofsted officials who visited in the summer urged the school to make immediate improvements, and deputy head Martin Coulson has moved into the top job temporarily, to be supported by a team of “education experts”. But a parent, who did not want to be named, said: “We were kept in the dark and I’m not happy finding out via our local newspaper when the parents should have been informed first.” Another parent, who also wanted to remain anonymous, added: “The first I heard about it was on the Echo’s Facebook page. It would have been nice to know.”

Mrs Spinks is the second headteacher in the borough to leave in a week, with Woodlands School in Basildon also having a reshuffle, as revealed in the Echo.

A statement from Essex County Council praised Mrs Spinks’ efforts in her four years at the school, but revealed that while the school will begin the search for a new head in 2014, it may be as long as September before someone permanent is in place. The statement said: “Mr Coulson has taught at Bromfords for 20 years and is held in very high regard by staff, students and governors. Mr Coulson will not be acting simply as a caretaker, but will be working proactively to move the school forward. We are keen to ensure the school moves rapidly to an improved Ofsted assessment and are confident the changes we are making will ensure this will be achieved as quickly as possible. The team drafted in to help Mr Coulson are Richard Westergreen-Thorne, a retired headteacher with a track record in school improvement, and Christian Cavanagh, headteacher at Debden Park School, in Loughton.”

Finally … its here …

We’ve heard enough about it over the past month or so, and now hopefully this is the end of it. The troubled Al-Madinah Free School that has never evaded our attentions has been taken over, as confirmed by Lord Nash.

It follows a highly critical Ofsted report and a letter from the minister outlining 17 areas of improvement to be addressed by the school. The school was described as “dysfunctional” and rated inadequate.

The trustees have agreed to resign along with the chair of governors, Shazia Parveen.

The Greenwood Dale Foundation Trust, which runs several academy schools across the East Midlands, has been asked to work with the school.

In a letter to the outgoing chair of governors Lord Nash said: “Overall, I am not satisfied that you have demonstrated a strong basis for the transformation required at the school. I cannot tolerate any child experiencing a poor quality of education in any state funded school and am therefore determined to ensure there is a swift resolution. I have decided that the needs of the pupils at Al-Madinah school would be best served by bringing in a more experienced trust with the skills and capability required to deliver the improvements needed. The Greenwood Dale Foundation Trust has a track record of providing high quality education to children from a Muslim background and I have no doubt they will apply this expertise at Al-Madinah.”

Earlier, a statement on the school’s website said the governors would not be resigning and would be working with the Department for Education (DfE) over the future of the school. The message read: “Just to re-assure parents regarding the rumours circulating… about governors resigning. This is not the case and we would urge parents to talk to the PTA and the governors if they are concerned. We are working with the DfE to ensure that our pupils future and the future of our school is secure.”

Lord Nash had written to the Al-Madinah Education Trust on 8 October “placing 17 requirements, which they must satisfy or risk their funding agreement being terminated”.

The school’s trustees were told to provide a plan by 1 November to show how fit they were to run the school and how it would improve. Derby’s Muslim community leaders had already called for all the governors at the school to go after chairwoman of governors, Ms Parveen, announced she was stepping down.

An Ofsted inspection was brought forward after fears were raised over teaching standards. The report found teachers are inexperienced and have not been provided with proper training. It concluded the school required special measures.

The school said it accepted the report, meaning that should this new trust deliver what the DfE seems to think it will deliver, then this is the last we will hear about this school.

Target: sound less Cumbrian … ONLY JOKING!

On Tuesday a rather bizarre article appeared in the papers, where a teacher in Cumbria apparently was told that she had an official target to sound less Cumbrian and more southern. A link to the article can be found here: http://www.newsandstar.co.uk/news/cumbrian-teacher-in-berkshire-told-to-lose-accent-and-sound-more-southern-1.1099026

Now not to put a finer point on it, but how ridiculous is that? I would love to try and see a man from Newcastle trying to speak in a southern accent. Would be rather amusing ….

Well guess what? This was all a joke according to the teacher in question. The teacher apparently said it as a joke but apparently the union rep didn’t get the sense of humour in it and took it as fact and sparked this whole thing off. Standard unions then, getting things wrong as usual …

The chair of governors of a Berkshire school has dismissed a claim that a teacher was given an official target to sound “less Cumbrian”.

Teaching union NASUWT had claimed she had been told to tone down her accent during a recent Ofsted inspection at Whitelands Park Primary in Thatcham. Paul Dick said it was “simply not true” and the teacher was “mortified”. He said it had all stemmed from a joke made in front of union representatives in the staff room.

A spokesman for NASUWT said it would not comment further and the teacher has declined to be interviewed.

One of its union representatives, Paul Watkins, claimed to have learned last week that the target was set for the teacher by the school in response to a comment by an Ofsted inspector. He said the teacher had not made an official complaint to NASUWT and had taken the request in “good humour”.

But Mr Dick said: “The teacher concerned is mortified, the head’s very upset and the school’s sick of the whole thing because it’s simply not true.”

He said a meeting was held last week to discuss the proposal for the school becoming an academy, during which union representatives asked staff about a number of things, including targets. “This particular teacher made a joke – a staff room joke. [She said] ‘Oh, yeah, mine’s easy, there’s no problem with mine, I’ve just got to sort my accent out.’ She laughed, the others laughed, she got up and left, picked up her child and went home for the weekend and thought nothing more of it.”

A union representative had then emailed her and asked her to take it further, but she did not see the email until the Monday, Mr Dick explained. At that point she responded to say it was not true and that she did not want to be involved. Mr Dick said he had joined the head and the teacher to examine all the feedback documents from the inspectors, and the teacher’s performance targets. “There is no mention anywhere of accent,” he added.

A classic example of a joke taken out of context me thinks. While it’s quite amusing from the outside it’s not going to help the school much. Hopefully this will disappear quickly.