I have put an electronic signing system in to my school. This was NOT done in the spirit of some crazed omnipresent surveillance system. It was initially based on my observations after joining my school and doing the first fire drill. The children were accounted for… but the adults? No idea! I have over 130 staff so keeping check of who is in or out needed a system. I did not want to go through an experience I had three weeks into my first headship when I was in Tower Hamlets.

I could smell it before the alarms went. We were in the middle of a massive new build and this time it was not a drill. The teachers and children clicked into fire mode and like a well-oiled machine everyone was out within the time. I heard the fire engines before I saw them. I walked confidently over to the Truck and the first question I was asked was,

“Is everyone accounted for?”

“Registers are in and yes all the children are on the playground. “

“And all the adults?”

“Ummm? I think so?” I looked around…

“You think so? I have to send my team in there and you think so?”. He shouted that and everyone heard… I stared at the floor in shame.

So you see I NEVER want that to happen again… But that’s not why I am blogging. This system has got my really thinking about work life balance. It tracks the number of hours people are in the building over the week. It was the number of hours that teachers were doing that really caught my eye.

On Thursday I had 10 teachers on between 48 and 54 hrs? That meant that on Friday they were likely to hit over 60 hours… and it was just a normal week. I had noticed from my first week that this was a hard-working school. I was used to being the last person in the building and suddenly I was leaving before most of the teachers. The question is why?

The Governments Workforce Challenge document came out this week: (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/workload-challenge-for-schools-government-response)

The biggest factors to extreme pressures on time were:

Recording and inputting data (56% of responses)

Marking (53% – Thought that would be the top one?)

Lesson Planning (38%)

Admin (37%)

Staff meetings (26%)

I am not sure what the first one is? Is this a secondary thing? My experiences are that marking 60 books (30 literacy and 30 numeracy) every night, planning the follow up and setting the day up are the biggest single factors. Data inputting happens 3 or 4 times a year. I imagine that every school up and down the country will have different factors to their excessive hours. I am sure that in my school it is marking. In many ways I am happy that it’s this because this is what counts. Marking, planning and teaching have to be at the centre of the role of the teacher… Therefore what GIVES?

The Key Pledges in the Work Force Challenge document are:

Minimum lead times for government reforms: no big changes will be made during the academic year or mid course – In other words it’ll all happen over our summer holidays and we’re all be tweeting like flies to the electric fire whilst pretending we’re on sunny islands somewhere

No changes will be made to the Ofsted inspection framework or handbook mid year– This presumes that Ofsted follows a handbook. The biggest stress of Ofsted is the lack of continuity. The tales I am hearing about rouge inspectors is the BIGGEST stress. Some of those tales are utterly shocking and will out soon. So, who cares about the handbook if the experiences are based on the PERSONs doing the inspection?

There will be greater engagement with head teachers and teachers over the practical implications of reform – More meetings! Hurrah! I know a low blow but as head there are so many things I can be caught out on that a meeting regarding practical implications will be missed for CP meetings, annoyed (annoying?) parent meetings, staffing issues (Like I said I have over 130…) and that little thing called quality of teaching and learning… But OldPrimaryHead you have the time to blog? True, but this is me using MY time to reflect and cope… Maybe I should use it better?

Ofsted will continually review its ‘clarification for schools’ document – That’s it Ofsted review the paperwork rather than the biggest issue you face. The accountability of inspectors for the well-being of the schools. Currently a Category is the only answer? I can tell my staff that they are NOT doing what they need to do and I can tell them what they need to do next… and I can look after them as well. The two are NOT at different ends they should be interlocked. Ofsted seems to be about patting on the head or cutting off the head.The government are even worse… The shameful LEADERS WILL BE REPLACED tough speech’s last week firing up everyone who has never worked in education were another nail in the coffin as fired as I am concerned (see what I did there? Fired rather than far…).

There will be shorter inspections for schools – Great! Less time to tell a bunch of strangers why my school has blue all over its raise. Let’s cut the middle man out Ofsted, just phone me up and tell me what the data is telling you.

An evidence base of good classroom practice will be published – and here we go, something experience as a head in four schools has taught me is what is working in one school is likely not to work in another IF it is sold as best practice and head’s pick it up and sell it to their staff because they are so bereft of guts, ideas or an understanding of their context… (And breath!). There was one head in my old area who was forever showing inspiring videos to newer heads and then the poor souls had to sit through them staff meeting after staff meeting… I may have done this *coughs uncomfortably.

So WHAT GIVE’s? That’s up to you.

It’s brave leadership time again people. We don’t need a government to tell us what to do in school. We don’t need anyone to tell us what NOT to do. (YEAH #RiotGrrrrrrr #EducationalRevolution). We are the leaders (ALL of us)… we should be testing the climate of our schools, listening to our teachers, our head teachers – to each other and responding with confidence.

I want my school to be an outstanding school (Why would I not?). But it has to be in our own skin. We have to understand what it is we are trying to achieve and we have to make it happen in OUR school… Staff working 60 hours a week cannot be the cost for doing the best we can. Staff focusing on priorities to make this happen means we need to REALLY understand our priorities. Mine are quality feedback and an understanding that PROGRESS is not intertwined with achievement. PROGRESS is the right of everyone. If that’s what I want… then updating a website the parents LOVE on a Friday night will have to go toe to toe with this. FIGHT-CLUB style! Brave, because I don’t believe most parents fully understand the difference between the two when they talk about a schools standards. It’s fur coat and no knickers… We need to make sure we have our knickers (Or Pants if we prefer) on before we put the fur coat on.