Guest post by Mistleflower
By my reckoning, the successful Copland 6th form students who achieved creditable and ‘significantly improved’ results at A level this year enjoyed their 7 years of secondary education presided over by managements made up of : first, a bunch of (alleged) crooks led by a man knighted for ‘service to education’; second, a local Head brought on for a few weeks when the alleged malfeasors had suddenly to be substituted; third, another local Head on temporary loan for a season; and, finally, a longer-lasting Leadership team ultimately deemed ‘Inadequate’ by Ofsted and put on a free transfer after failing to restore the school to its former glory after a difficult 3 seasons in the lower leagues. (The current management duo were drafted in too late to have had any influence on the A level results in question). Despite all this disruption and disturbance, these Copland 6th formers seem to have flourished in their time at the school.
Could it be that Michael Gove, ever on the lookout for a new wheeze and a cheap headline, will see Copland’s improved A level results after the school’s unusual management journey as a potentially winning formula which he will announce at the Tory party conference is soon to be rolled out in (state) schools across the country? Could it be that LA Directors of Education are at this very moment being urged by DfE clones to headhunt gangs of fraudsters to help begin the ‘turning round’ of ‘failing schools’? Have all Ofsted inspectors been ordered to produce the names of 10 ‘Inadequate’ Leaders by noon on September 1 or face being declared ‘Inadequate’ themselves to their eternal shame and that of their children, Yea Even Unto the Tenth Generation? Are teams of these newly-rehabilitated ‘Super-Inadequate ’ Leaders to be parachuted in to ‘failing’ schools across the nation, to begin the process of driving up their A level results in time for the next election but one? Could it be that South Brent will soon be held up as an example of educational ‘good practice’ in the same way that Gove has previously cited as relevant exemplars the educational systems of Singapore, Finland, Guam, Kyrgistan, Vanuatu, North Korea and the Gilbert and Ellice Islands in the days of Arthur Grimble (ask your grandad) ?
Or…………. might it just be, in fact, that these successful Copland A level students worked pretty damn well over a period of 7 years in a school that had been robbed blind by corruption, that was physically falling to bits, that was badmouthed by their friends and by some parts of the press (though nobly supported by others), that was betrayed by its local authority, that was woefully mishandled by incoming ‘Leaders’ who seemed to have been briefed that the same staff who, on their own, had lanced the boil, were not really themselves the victims of historic criminality but were, in fact, the problem?
And could it be that these staff carried on teaching these students pretty well over these same 7 years, trying not to be too distracted by having to spend time doing stuff the governors, the local authority or the fraud squad should have been doing (detection, financial auditing, evidence gathering , taking witness statements, accusation, publicising, and then union action endangering their own livelihoods and career futures) in order to bring to an end the haemorrhaging of millions of pounds of Brent taxpayers’ money?
Could it be that these teachers continued teaching these students by using the same guiding principles which had brought them into teaching in the first place: a respect for learning, an affection for their students and a belief in the potential that learning has to change their students’ lives? Could it be that they gave only weary lip-service to the ‘Strategies for Delivering a Good to Outstanding Lesson’ spouted at them on INSET days by various Leaders, most of whom were themselves demonstrably incapable of producing anything approaching the thing which they seemed to imagine their status in the management hierarchy gave them the authority to pontificate on?
Might we not ultimately conclude, therefore, that the most important thing in any school has nothing to do with ‘Leadership’ and everything to do with the organic relationship between teachers and students. That the mantra taught in Leadership School , ‘I Am Passionate About Making a Difference ‘, was never more than a tired formulation , convenient for contestants on The Apprentice and those who lack the imagination to invent their own platitudes, but one which barely conceals the barely-hidden fear of all Leaders that maybe ‘Leadership’, in the sense that it is encountered in many of our schools, ie separate from and ‘above’ the organic teaching relationship which is the essence of effective education , is no more than a self-serving dead end; that most ‘Leadership’ ultimately doesn’t make much difference at all to anything? And might we not hope that at least a few of the more talented individuals who have gone down the Leadership road might now see the error of their ways and find their way back into respectable employment: as teachers?
Well done to those Copland students. You did a great job in exceptionally difficult circumstances.
Well done also to those Copland teachers. And, if you’ve still got a job, keep up the good work.