WEEP: CLAP, LAUGH or CRY. A policy proposal.

As part of the second birthday celebrations for the wonderful Datalab,  I had the honour of representing the Headteacher’s Roundtable (who still let me sit around the table) presenting a policy proposal to be considered by the great and the good at the gathering captured here:

Alongside Daisy Christodoulou, Jonathan Simons and Laura McInerney, my brief from Dr Becky Allen was to present an idea for something that would improve the education system without requiring the DFE to give permission.  With HMCI in the audience, this required a fair degree of ‘front’.

Daisy kicked off promoting the brilliant idea of comparative judgement to replace marking.  Laura followed with the excellent idea of instructional rounds as a standard method of lesson observation. Jonathan then went radical suggesting schools simply ignore Ofsted because ‘what are they going to do?’.  Bold stuff.

This was my pitch:

It’s hard to be funny when the government is doing such a good job already: The joke of selective schools that work for everyone – hilarious.  The joke of claiming there’s ‘more funding for schools than ever’ . The side splitting slapstick of ‘standard’ and ‘strong passes’ introduced to cover up the big 4/5 cock-up and the comedy rhetoric of ‘all schools must be average or better’ -(‘They think it’s a bell curve; it is now’.)

So, in all seriousness, the initiative I am proposing is as follows:

All school and academy teachers and leaders should unite to sign up to a solemn pact of non compliance with any policy that is not driven by evidence.

An evidence scrutiny committee populated by the great and the good from across the sector should be formed. (This might include Geoff Barton, Alison Peacock, Amanda Spielman..)

This committee will be known as Where is the Educational Evidence for this Policy – or WEEP. The job of WEEP will be to determine whether any given policy passes a reasonable evidence threshold.

A good starting point for this threshold will be simply:  Is there any evidence?

If a policy does meet the threshold, school and academy leaders will be required to Comply Loyally to the Accepted Policy – or CLAP.

If a policy does not meet the threshold, school and academy leaders will abide by their solemn commitment of non-compliance.

  • They may decide to issue an soft decree: Lets All Up and Go Home – to be known as LAUGH
  • Or a harder decree:  Categorical Refusal to Yield – or CRY.

Current practices that might fall foul of the WEEP evidence threshold might include:

  • Creating selective schools that work for everyone.
  • Inspecting schools by walking around a bit, flicking through a few books and saying,  hmmm this feels like a good school.
  • Ascribing single digit numerical values with error bars bigger than the numbers themselves to represent the progress of every child in a school, pretending not to rank schools but doing it anyway.
  • Mandating that schools adhere to a Prevent strategy that, to-date has alienated 84000% more people than the number of students saved from radicalisation.

So, to recap – following a decision by WEEP, schools can CLAP or, more likely, they may either LAUGH or CRY.


  1. Only having policies backed up by evidence is laudable. What I would follow up with is what standard of evidence?

    Take medicine for example. Getting a new drug on the market takes over a decade of testing. This seems unworkable for education. Or look at growth mindset. There was some good evidence for that but it’s now looking very week.

    I’m also intrigued by your example of prevent. Is there any study which backs your claim of alienation? Or are you going by feelings and anecdotal accounts.


    • Thanks for the comment. The general point is that we should at least seek evidence and heed the evidence that already exists. ie with grammar schools – simply no case for expansion if evidence matters. With Prevent, I don’t think there has been a study but, more importantly, there is no evidence that the approach adopted actually prevents radicalisation. It’s tantamount to racial/ethnic profiling and there have been lots of cases of students and their families being humiliated by overzealous referrals on tenuous pretexts. That’s real ableit anecdotal.


  2. I love this. I think that Headteachers have not begun to realise their powers. Here is an example of the Windsor headteachers joining together to reject selection


    The full letter is great and can be downloaded from the RBWM


    It seems likely that the government will stick to its line of new grammars “where parents want them” So the obvious answer is for schools, parents and communities to come together and say politely “Thank you, but we don’t want them”. So the schools in Surrey (where all but one of the schools signed open letter opposing selection) come together and produce similar letters to the Windsor ones. Obviously each school need to have a meeting with their governors and parent reps first but this should be no problem. Local bodies such as the C of E, Chambers of Commerce could also be encouraged to support their schools. Primary schools might also write to their parents explaining how much it would disrupt their work to be preparing pupils for an 11+ and how ridiculous it is to draw a clear line between the “academic” and “not academic”.

    Obviously if the government is determined to get new grammars come what may it will try and find a way to do so. BUT we can strip them of their fig-leaf that it is the wish of parents. Let every new grammar become a prolonged and painful battle for the government. And for everyone who says the battle is hopeless find out how Conservative plans to bring back selection failed in the 80s http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/time-to-bring-back-grammar-schools-1338364.html.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Not sure any of this is particularly radical (in a political sense) but can’t see many disagreeing with much either.

    How about adding the huge drain on funding that is the examination industry? Imagine, even better, if we said to kids ” if you achieve standard x you will attain result y” rather than the pre-defined CJ standardised percentage for each grade?



  4. […] Audience voted for their preferred proposal. Daisy Christodoulou pleaded for teachers to immediately ditch marking in favour of comparative judgement. Laura McInerney proposed instructional rounds (as practiced by the medical profession) take the place of lesson observations. Tom Sherrington boldly pitched for all teachers and leaders to sign up to a solemn pact of non-compliance to any policy not backed up with evidence in his WEEP, CLAP, LAUGH or CRY Policy. […]


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