I have become fascinated with education ‘star status’ recently. I think Twitter is to blame. Where ever you look there’s something new and flashy to see or discuss regarding the world of education. There is now a plethora of Twitter people advising, consoling, ranting, pioneering, advertising, exploring, linking, tribe-forming, clashing and no end of other ‘ings…’ These arm chair advisers have gained real influence within the education world. I am as guilty as any.
What you say, it would seem, has overtaken what you do in many cases. The power of the word is the first stop to educational trend setting… I don’t think this is much different to how it was in the past. Image and status top-trumps actual IMPACT within the job we do. In fairness what you do does get you noticed… But there are many examples I can find where statues has NOTHING to do with practice and reality. Someone told me yesterday about a nationally recognised school being, “ All fur-coat and no knickers”. In reference to this there are some people giving educational advice like seasoned pros but if you dig a little deeper their track record looks very flimsy. As exciting as going to a witch doctor to cure my indigestion may seem I think that a bog standard doctor may be the better bet.
Having moved schools recently I feel that I am in a unique position. I left a school that was judged outstanding. Many have said to me that they would hate to become the head teacher of a school that is outstanding. I agree, on paper it looks like a tough gig. Especially when I know the school well and understand how hard it will be to maintain that status. The only way is down when you are outstanding. If I was the new head I would hate me! Hence a conversation I’d like to follow up with @mcladingbowl about there being two Ofsted grades: Good enough or needing to improve… the ‘Keep calm and carry on’ or ‘bugger!’ grades.
The school I now run was outstanding but was downgraded last year to good. What is scary is as far as the vast majority of people I speak to is concerned the school is ‘Amazing, Brilliant or the Best…’ They very clearly still see it as an outstanding school. It’s as though the afterglow of its many past successes are the only thing that observers see. I agree there are many wonderful things about the school and I have no doubts that it will be outstanding again… But it got good rather than outstanding for clear reasons. I keep wondering how long its reputation will run before people start saying – it’s not the school it once was! I have seen this view expressed in fellow heads experiences (@theprimaryhead being the perfect example) where they take on a school that externally is viewed through rose-tinted glasses. The head then fights a battle to change things and hits opposition over the least important elements and nobody understands it’s about the bigger picture – the learning. That can be very draining.
So… What am I ranting on about? I think that I am starting to filter my education white noise. I need to go old school on you all and start meeting people, shaking hands and visiting schools again rather than sitting on my couch desperately trying to sound clever. I must admit that this is where Twitter has real strengths. We know who we like and why. I want to meet up with those people with an agenda and conference approach more (I see this is happening more and more). Not for kudos, followers or likes… But to further my ability to do this job better. At times Twitter is about as effective as meetings for the sake of meeting. Lots of talk but little change to practice. For me, having recently taken on Specialist Provision I want to talk to those who will teach me the ropes and advise me based on real-life practice, sweat and passion – doing the job. Time to put on our coal faces I suppose. If Twitter is going to be the revolution some think it is it needs to become more human, more shop-floor and face to face.
When you meet me you’ll know… I’ll be wearing the fur coat.