SIP it and see (CONTINUED FROM PAGE 8)
The rules started to change when SIPs were introduced into primary schools. There was no requirement to have any minimum percentage of head teachers, so most local authorities opted to save money by using their own staff. Then the language changed – ‘schools in challenging circumstances’ became ‘failing schools’. When children transfer to the secondary sector with core skills below Level 4, they are ‘unable to read, write, or are innumerate’. Young people who leave school without the five A* to Cs are ‘unfit for the world of work’.
A teacher who is observed teaching one ‘inadequate’ lesson is ‘incompetent’. We are all on a conveyor belt that judges us by the market forces driving us, using Ofsted criteria but without Ofsted training. Head teachers who care about their teachers, who help bridge any knowledge or ability gap in their staff, are ‘weak’ and need to be removed. The constant drive for improvement has taken away any good in the SIP partnership.
There is no trust, just judgement.
I have seen the SIP role change into a data-driven, context-free mishmash. The first sign was the so-called ‘floor targets’. Who invented these? Having created them, which piece of empirical research proves it is possible to raise every cohort of children above a certain percentage? SIPs are told during training to focus on raising the narrowest measures of standards. For National Challege schools, your SIP is now a National Challenge adviser. S/he will be a head teacher from an outstanding school with high standards – usually a school that looks very different to yours across a variety of measures: of the pupils’ attainment; background; and, importantly, ‘need’!
The focus has narrowed from whole school and whole child, to getting quick results to get the statistics above those ‘floor targets’. The insult is the implication that somehow, before this micro-management, these schools didn’t do everything within their power to ensure that each child achieved their best!
In primary schools the focus is entirely on literacy and numeracy.
Forget the broad and balanced curriculum – it’s drill and kill! In secondary schools it’s on the magic A* to C or G!
If governments insist on considering success only on these narrow measures, they abandon future citizens – our children – to a system which, because it is so high-stakes and makes or destroys reputations, will continue to manipulate the figures to meet the requirements.
Education Secretary Michael Gove, in a speech to the Association of School and College Leaders in March 2010, expressed sentiments that do not convince me the new government will do any better, despite the apparent trust. “The most important people in driving educational improvement are not ministers, inspectors or chief inspectors, 14-19 advisers, SIPs or National Challenge advisers. They are teachers and school leaders,” he said.
“The best way to help schools that are faltering, or not performing as they should, is to have great teachers, great school leaders, collaborating on driving up standards.”
It is to be hoped that the new Education Secretary’s mantra of trusting teachers and trusting schools does not apply only to certain categories of school, or
teachers working in ‘successful’ schools. The new government opposed the increase in SIP powers when the relevant section was ‘washed out’ of the Education Bill, rushed through Parliament in the last days of the Labour government.
I gave up being a SIP from July – I am not falling for government rhetoric again!
Gill Goodswen began teaching in 1976. Her last post was as Head Teacher at Stile Common Junior School in Kirklees. She is NUT President for 2010/11, and is particularly keen to work to improve equality.