'Outstanding' doesn't always mean best

10th December 2010 at 00:00

There is much to be said in favour of the education white paper. However, there is one facet which is concerning my headteacher colleagues - an over-reliance on "outstanding" schools to be the catalysts of change.

They have already been given opportunities to fast-track to academy status and will also now be given additional funding - for example, to become teaching schools and to support system leadership through NLE (Networked Learning Environment) and LLE (Local Leaders of Education) programmes.

Having read Christine Gilbert's recent HMCI (Her Majesty's Chief Inspector) report on Ofsted inspections, it is clearly harder to be an outstanding school under the new framework as there is more emphasis on pupil progress and school improvement.

In Hertfordshire, of the 18 secondary schools judged to be outstanding, 13 apply some form of selection and are, in some cases, very isolated from the network of schools in my authority. Given the opportunity to reform and lead other schools, such schools would have little credibility among my headteacher colleagues. In fact, I would argue that the best headteachers in Hertfordshire are those who are "changing gear" - moving their schools from special measures to satisfactory or satisfactory to good.

They are engaged in a process of sustainable school improvement, are open about their strategies and reflective in their approach. I am troubled about a "new world order" where the "best", as judged by school-effectiveness data, are leading others on the essential ingredient of school improvement.

Chris Ingate, Chair, Hertfordshire Association of Secondary Headteachers, and member of the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust national headteacher steering group.

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