Catch 22 for training schools

25th April 2008 at 01:00
I am writing to express my growing anger and frustration at the way in which criteria previously intended to judge "high-performing specialist schools" are increasingly being used as a "standard" judgement for all schools

I am writing to express my growing anger and frustration at the way in which criteria previously intended to judge "high-performing specialist schools" are increasingly being used as a "standard" judgement for all schools.

Like Kenny Frederick ("We'll keep on training, no matter what", Comment, April 4), I am head of a training school (one of the first in the country) that has made a significant contribution to local initial teacher education and the continuing professional development of staff in our own and other boroughs.

We were chosen to be a training school because of our excellent record in this field and our total commitment to it. We are held up as an example to others by the Training and Development Agency for Schools and the Department for Children, Schools and Families. Ofsted describes our work as "outstanding".

However, like Kenny's school, we will not meet the criteria of 60 per cent of pupils gaining five good GCSE grades including English and maths. We simply do not have an intake with that ability: the MidYIS testing system indicates that half our Year 7s are in the lowest 25 per cent of attainers.

Like Kenny's school, we are likely to face de-selection as a training school through a test that has nothing to do with how well we operate as a training school. This test is not fit for purpose. It will generate an elite corps of training schools, selected for the ability of their intake or their ability to manage contextualised value-added data, rather than for their performance as training providers. Is this the best use of public money?

We already face de-selection from the leading-edge partnership this year under the same "high-performing specialist school" criteria, despite being chosen to represent the North West at a national conference last year because of our outstanding leading-edge work.

As a training establishment and a leading-edge school, we are judged to be outstanding. We are a "good school" in which "students make good progress and achieve well". According to Ofsted, our pupils get "outstanding care and guidance". Yet we are in danger of being judged not to have the right stuff to be a training school.

I think this is what Joseph Heller called Catch-22, or madness masquerading as reason.

Andy Raymer, Headteacher, Matthew Moss High School, Rochdale.

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