Good is just not good enough

16th July 2004 at 01:00
Why are there no excellent teachers in Wales? Under the new inspection arrangements to be implemented in September, the best our top teachers in Wales will be able to get from Estyn will be "good with some outstanding features".

In England, under the Office for Standards in Education, teachers can be described as "excellent". Does this mean that teachers in England are better than teachers in Wales? I suppose good is better than satisfactory.

But Wimbledon finalists Federer and Roddick were not described by the media as "good with some outstanding features".

A recent finance audit report described my school as "adequate". In fine print at the bottom it states that "adequate" is the best description that can be given under local government regulations for financial audit. What a farce, when our financial systems and records have been judged as top grade. What an incentive, and what high praise for our professional, thorough and conscientious school administration team.

Teachers all over the country will have just finished their end-of - year reports on pupils. Can you imagine the furore if parents had to read that their little Johnny or Sarah is "adequate" or even "good with some outstanding features"? Would they be appeased if we explained that these are the best grades we can offer? I think not.

I always urge my staff to write positive comments that praise good effort, motivate the pupils to even better achievements in the future and to set targets for improvement.

Shouldn't the same philosophy apply to teachers and other staff in our schools? Everyone responds to a little praise and reassurance. But how does a good teacher in Wales compare with an excellent teacher in England? If we deserve praise, why not give it? If a classroom practitioner is excellent at his or her job, why not tell them?

The gains from raised self-esteem, improved confidence, better staff morale and the subsequent desire to set and maintain high standards in our schools will be beyond value. Or perhaps all our good teachers should cross the border and get better instantly?

The Estyn system is more in touch with education generally than the oft-maligned Ofsted, but its reporting scheme could be more generous. As the end of term approaches, does anyone else out there feel more than "adequate" or better than "good"?

Terry Williams is head of Litchard junior school, Bridgend

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