Refuse to implement ministers' 'crazy schemes', headteachers urged

Kaye Wiggins

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Schools should refuse to implement “crazy schemes” put forward by government ministers, the head of the NAHT is to say.   

Speaking at the headteacher union’s annual conference in Liverpool this weekend, its general secretary Russell Hobby will say that schools have in the past “rescued the government from its own mistakes” by making “bad ideas succeed”.

And he will tell headteachers: “Perhaps you should stop doing that. It only encourages the crazy schemes when you find a way to make them work.”

Speaking ahead of his conference speech, Mr Hobby said heads should be “stronger” in telling the government to go “back to the drawing board” over policies that are not well thought through.

He said examples of such policies were the decision to introduce universal free school meals for infants from September 2014, and the introduction of “major exam reforms” in the middle of an academic year. Mr Hobby said neither policy was wrong in principle, but that they were pushed through too quickly.  

“In the past we’ve suggested [setting up an] Office of Education Responsibility which should cost up and evaluate different education schemes. If the government isn’t willing to do that I think school leaders should step up and say: actually, we’ve done the sums on this, it can’t be implemented in time,” he said.

Mr Hobby will also use his conference speech to say that Ofsted’s “outstanding” grade should be abolished. He will argue that the effect of the grade is “pernicious” and holds back “maverick” headteachers.  

“We have handed the definition of excellence to our regulator rather than owning it as a profession,” he will say.

“Excellence, to which all schools should aspire, is individual and subjective. It is not captured by a checklist or framework. Worse than this, the pursuit of someone else’s definition of outstanding creates a compliant profession. It exerts a hold over those leaders who should be most self-confident and critical.

“The outstanding grade tames the mavericks.”

Mr Hobby has also urged schools to place less emphasis on league table measures, and to avoid changing staffing and curriculum arrangements in response to changes in league table measures.

Ahead of his conference speech, he said: “It’s really difficult for [schools] to do it, but if we didn’t respond to the league tables they wouldn’t have league tables. The only value league tables have is the pressure they put on people because they change what they’re doing.

“You hear schools complain about the league tables all the time. It’s actually in our power to put them back in the box…If school leaders want some level of autonomy, to a degree they’ve got to practise it rather than just ask for it.”


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Kaye Wiggins

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