A more suitable way to judge a school’s long term success?

Let’s start with the obvious question: how is a state school judged? There are two major methods:

1. An Ofsted inspection every few months or every few years dependent on the outcome of the school’s previous level of inspection, or

2. The school’s annual examination results which are organised into league tables and openly published to help parents, in advance, choose (if they have a choice) or move to a different area so their child can receive the best education available to them.

I am, of course, discounting private education from this discussion because parents with enough disposable income can choose to send their children to a wide range of private schools in the region, country or, indeed, the world.  What I am offering here is a potential solution that will not act to replace Ofsted or league tables, but act to supplement them and add another layer to the perceived success of a school.

Do you think it would be possible for an agency, or the school itself, to conduct a comprehensive investigation into what their past alumni, from individual schools, are currently achieving 3, 5, 10 and 20 years on from leaving compulsory education and, furthermore, how well the school prepared them for the real world?  These students could be asked about their career path and trajectory since leaving school or even the happiness of the family they have subsequently created and nurtured since leaving.  Even more importantly, they could be asked what would they change about their educational experience now they are (hopefully) contributing citizens; would they work harder? Were some parts of school unnecessary and not needed? Would they have preferred more flexibilty and autonomy in the subject choices and did they receive ample support in order to move onto the next phase of their life?

This is of course is an incomplete and partial argument.  Please forgive me as these thoughts have only just made themselves known to me and I thought I would scribble them down before they were flushed away to the gutter (perhaps where this idea belongs?).

Any thoughts, as ever, are welcome.


The state of school sports: Guardian blog

Here’s my article for The Guardian’s Teacher Network on the government’s current stance on sport in our state schools:

If you feel strongly about this or would like to share your school sport experience please leave a comment on the following link.  Spaces for comments are below the article, just scroll down…

Oh dear David and co, what a can of worms you have opened. The simple message from Mr Cameron seems to be “teachers, get off your backsides and make state school sport brilliant”. But David, will we receive the relevant amount of funding and support to accommodate this dream?

One question springs to my mind given the government’s stance on state school sport – do any Olympians leave their sporting success to chance? Of course not. Athletes invest in years of sustainable, long-term planning and dedication in order secure the best possible future outcome.  Unfortunately, it seems the government’s (lack of a coherent) plan for state school sport seems to be heavily reliant on chance, luck and individual circumstance.

On the surface, the scrapping of the compulsory ‘box ticking’ two hours of PE per week could be considered as a positive move: giving school leaders and and PE teachers local autonomy over their sporting curriculum. However, as we dig deeper, a complex web of factors come into play:

  • The level of importance given to PE by the school’s leadership team – is it held in the same regard as mathematics, English and science or is it considered to be a burden that eats up valuable time from the exhausting task of climbing up the league table ladder?
  • What is the size of the PE department and how much funding is available for it?  There is now less opportunity to ring fence funding for sport in state schools now the sport college movement is slowly grinding to a halt.  Therefore, some school leaders may decide to redirect funding to enhance other curriculum areas in their school.

However, what is evident is that PE is a fertile melting pot where teamwork, personal discipline, resilience and grit are all skills that can be developed in abundance and transferred into other areas of a students’ academic career.  The effect of these transferable skills should not be underestimated. We must also consider more human factors. Thousands of teachers around the country willingly give up their free time on a daily basis to provide high quality sporting opportunities for their students.  What is the commitment of teachers in your school like?  I remember my old boss telling me how he got his school’s Saturday morning rugby programme off the ground.  Every Saturday morning he had to sweep the local town to pick up the students and some cases knock on front doors to get them out of bed just to get them to home fixtures. Now, this was clearly going above and beyond his mandatory commitments but, 15 years down the line, the school now successfully competes nationally with the big private schools in the country.

Sport should be at the very heart of every school’s curriculum, it should be in the same league as mathematics, English and science and schools need both funding and the dedication of its teachers to ensure the long term, country wide success of state school sport. Of course the Olympics will have an immediate impact on participation rates in school sport, however, I fear, in the current educational climate, the impact will be short term and rely more on chance, luck and the schools’ individual priorities and circumstance rather than an intelligent, well thought out national model that could have positive reverberations for generations to come.