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.