"We need to move away from this persecutory experience, where much of our activity is driven by worries about what Ofsted will think, and introduce a system that focuses on what the best and most effective schools are doing,” says Andy Lole, headteacher of the Mulberry Bush residential special school in Oxfordshire.
That’s great, you might say – many teachers share that view. But how exactly should it be done?
Well, Lole has not only come up with an alternative but has also rolled it out. He explains all in the 20 February issue of TES.
“Over the past four years, Mulberry Bush has led a peer-review system with a group of special schools,” he writes. “The approach aims to improve the quality of provision and outcomes for students through school-to-school support, the sharing of best practice, and evaluation of effectiveness in agreed areas.”
In the current academic year, 17 schools from seven local authorities are participating in the scheme. It is a low-cost initiative (£65 per school) that those involved claim is leading to great results. They have evidence, too: all schools involved for more than a year that were previously rated satisfactory were found to be good at their next inspection.
“The peer review reaches areas for improvement that other processes fail to reach. This is because trusted, professional, expert colleagues come, at your invitation, to help you critically evaluate, reflect and problem-solve in the areas you know are your weakest,” says one participating headteacher.
“Because this is the express purpose of the exercise and carried out in partnership with others facing the same sort of challenges in their own contexts, you actively and specifically share the things that you are least proud of and cannot fail to make them better with the benefit of such a helpful process.”
In the article, Lole explains in detail how this framework would function on a national level and how pitfalls such as schools clubbing together to fix judgements could be avoided.
He believes that shifting the onus from external judgement to cooperatives helping each other is a crucial difference that would help all schools to improve.
“We would move from a system often led by anxiety to one led by schools,” he concludes.
Read the full article in 20 February edition of TES on your tablet or phone or by downloading the TES Reader app for Android or iOS. Or pick it up at all good newsagents