This is a little bit of a ramble… but I think I say something – even if its confused at least it is not jaded.

I would like to think that anyone who knows me, as a head, will support me when I say that I am committed and passionate about school to school support. I have done this for many years. I enjoy it (I get a lot out of it personally in terms of my development) and I believe it is an effective way in which to improve our education system. I wrote the following last year.

I believe in partnership. I have seen it as the way forward for true school to school development at a philosophical, system and pedagogical level. It is still new and it has been forced upon us. But, let me tell you why it is those who are not in partnerships that sneer, laugh and hold developing resentments as I once did.

Partnership is a truly action based approach – the causation of change by the exertion of power. Yes, this power may be to the detriment of those around you not in your partnership, but tough. Maybe, they should spend less time raising their draw bridge and shinning their armour? I have been around long enough to hear three directors of education in Bristol talk partnership with schools and yet Ofsted’s verdict late last year was:

‘Schools hold a widespread culture of mistrust and uncertainty’ of the local authority.’

Their approach to school improvement has been carrot and stick where the carrot turns out to be plastic and full of razor blades and the stick is in fact a shot gun. No wonder I want a nice cosy partnership full of high fives and pats on the back? Of course the reality is nothing like that. Only someone who is not in a developed or developing partnership could think that.

I have changed my views recently. I was very critical of my LA in the past. This was wrong (Though I had some good reasons). I am sorry for losing faith. In fact I am beginning to believe that the LA may just need to be the ‘Critical Partner’ in future school success. I know? This is very much against the current rhetoric. Let me tell you why I think this.

I am coming across, more and more, the many people who tell ‘me’ they can help ‘me’ make my school better. They horde my world (Twitter, LinkedIn, Email and Conferences) like flies around a dead carcass. I get offers for speakers, outstanding ‘this’ or outstanding ‘that’ and medicine men and women by the bucketful. I am not questioning their quality. Some I have utter faith in and would use them based on experience at the drop of a hat. But by creating this market place of miracle workers in education we have also created an unequal system. The LA has more in common with schools than I realised. They have a professional and moral duty to ensure ALL schools in their area are not failing children. I would argue that this is also the developing remit of the Regional Schools Commissioners (RSC). Maybe the stick is not the best way to improve leadership but someone has to make the tough decisions. An education world run by private operators does not have the same accountability. It may say it does… but it really does not. They might not get paid but they will be able to move on to another corner. I believe that LAs and the RSC cannot. Imagine if some bright young thinker in the coalition convinced the government that rather than outsource provision why not invest in the current one? Build it and give it capacity – rather than raise it to the ground and jump up and down on its smouldering remains. I suppose I keep thinking – Will the RSC eventually be the new LA but just called the Regional Authority?

I sat in a LLE and NLE briefing recently. The question about how we are held to account came up. It is an interesting question. I don’t get paid for my role. My school has always got the money for my time out working with other schools. I quite often even forget to claim expenses such as travel (I know I am such a martyr – nothing to do with being an air head). I do it because I have been asked (Based on what I have done before) and because I believe I have capacity (This is ALWAYS tight because do we really have the capacity if we want to be a great head in our school?). I want to be seen as someone in education who made a difference (I know! I am not dead yet!). I do not do it for money. So, suddenly having to be ‘held to account’ is a scary thought. I still have to run my school. Maybe I should just drift back to making my school the best it can be and being recognised for this. But the fact is I have always been ‘held to account’ you cannot go into another person’s school without accountability weighing heavy upon your school reputation. The LA always held me to account.

Imagine if:

ALL heads HAD to visit 5 schools a year using the LLE model?

The potential partnerships that could come from this I believe (If managed well) would be radical. We would all be teaching schools. In fact we would all be Learning Schools. Learning from each other in the reality of our schools rather than removed from it.

We are ALL Teaching Learning Schools. I also think the LA could have a role in organising this.

Better still: Imagine if all heads were held to account for the impact of these visits?

And this is where that bright young spark from the DFE could come in. In the next government create something wonderful. Create a school improvement system based, not on private drivers and party politics but on accountability and moral purpose. Create something that has empathy with the system it holds to account. I suggest you look towards LAs to do this. How can this model work better? If you can take the party politics out of this and trust us to do the best for education, then all the better.

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