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Why interview feedback is a waste of time

2020-02-27T20:58:27+00:00February 27th, 2020|leadership|

A few years ago I wrote a series of posts on the subject of improving the interview process in schools: Part 1: A brief review of the evidence Part 2: Intuition vs. statistical prediction (in which I made suggestions for improving structured interviews) Part 3: The interview lesson I thought I'd said all I needed to say of the subject of school interviews. Then a few days ago I responded to a tweet about providing unsuccessful candidates with post-interview feedback suggesting it was a waste of time: Feedback on unsuccessful interviews is valueless. It’s all polite variants rationalising why your face [...]

Can observation pro formas be used well?

2020-02-09T18:37:56+00:00February 9th, 2020|leadership|

Should observers waltz into lessons armed with a clipboard full of hoops they hope to see teachers jump through? No, probably not. Some years ago I wrote about my preference for how lessons should be observed: The point of a lesson observation should not be to see whether a teacher is slavishly following a checklist, rather it should be to tease out how effectively they are teaching the students in front of them to master specific curriculum goals. Who cares if there’s ‘evidence of differentiation’ but the quality of students’ work is rubbish? Why would it matter if a ‘plenary takes place’ if students [...]

Does the new inspection framework trade off reliability against validity?

2020-01-15T13:52:40+00:00January 15th, 2020|leadership|

Yesterday I saw a thread on Twitter from headteacher Stuart Lock on the pros and cons of the new inspection framework: https://twitter.com/StuartLock/status/1216475275514523648?s=20 In it he discusses the idea that because the previous inspection framework relied heavily on schools'  results in national exams in making judgements it managed to be fairly reliable. That is to say, an inspection team inspecting two schools with similar results or that two different inspection teams inspecting the same school would arrive at a broadly similar judgement. In 2015 Ofsted conducted some research on the reliability of it's judgments (the report can be found here). Two independent [...]

What do Ofsted reports reveal about the way schools are being inspected under the new framework?

2020-01-14T19:20:13+00:00October 17th, 2019|leadership|

Ofsted's new inspection framework went live at the beginning of September and the first reports have now been published. Anecdotally, I've heard whispers from two different inspections about the sorts of questions that are being asked and the sorts of challenges being made, but it's interesting and, I hope, useful, to interrogate the published reports to get a sense of the common themes and patterns emerging from inspections. The following observations are gleaned from a sample of reports from 11 primary schools and 14 secondaries.* 14 of these reports were for 'good' schools whilst 11 were for schools that 'require improvement'. [...]

The school leadership bubble

2018-09-24T21:43:59+01:00September 24th, 2018|leadership|

Some years ago the English faculty I led was subject to a week-long leadership review. Knowing that every member of the department was to be observed and that we would be expected to showcase loads of 'student centred learning' I made sure everyone had planned plenty of group work and taken steps to minimise whole class instruction. At the end of the week the headteacher congratulated me on the quality of all of the lessons he'd seen and how student centred they had been. Despite this, I could see he looked a bit troubled and asked whether anything was wrong. He cleared [...]

Put down your crystal balls

2017-07-04T09:32:36+01:00July 3rd, 2017|assessment, leadership|

Many of the schools I visit and work with feel under enormous pressure to predict what their students are likely to achieve in their next set of GCSEs. In the past, this approach sort of made sense. Of course there was always a margin for error, but most experienced teachers just knew what a C grade looked like in their subject. Also, when at least half of students' results were based on 'banked' modular results, the pressure to predict became ever more enticing. Sadly, the certainties we may have relied on have gone. Not only have Ofqual have worked hard to [...]

The secret of successful schools: the Anna Karenina Principle

2017-06-14T07:12:21+01:00June 14th, 2017|leadership|

For men are good in but one way, but bad in many. Aristotle Tolstoy's great novel, Anna Karenina, opens with the famous line, "All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." Tolstoy's point is that a happy marriage depends on a long lists of variables: mutual attraction, agreement about finances, parenting, religion, in-laws and many other crucial respects. You might have everything else in your favour, but if any one of these vital ingredients is missing, or out of kilter, happiness is doomed. This is the Anna Karenina Principle: A deficiency in any one of a [...]

Should teachers do what children want?

2018-01-05T23:32:17+00:00May 19th, 2017|behaviour, leadership|

Every weekday morning, my daughters both moan about having to get up for school. They moan about their teachers and they moan about homework. Given free rein, they would spend all day every day watching BuzzFeed video channels, making Spotify playlists, watching Netflix and taking online quizzes. It's not that they're lazy, it's just that they'd really rather not have to learn maths, science and geography. They're both moderately conscientious, reasonably hardworking girls who never put a foot wrong in school. On parents' evenings, we're regaled with tales of how good their attitude to school is and how much progress they're [...]

Can we improve school interviews? Part 1: A brief review of the research

2020-02-27T09:05:58+00:00May 9th, 2017|leadership|

Recruitment for most employers is straightforward: you advertise, read through applications, invite the people you like in for an interview, think about it for a bit and then enter into negotiations with whoever you most want to employ. In education it's different. Schools are weird. When I was first told how school recruitment works on my PGCE I couldn't believe it, "They do what?" For any non teachers, school recruitment works like this: All candidates for the job are invited in to the school on the same day. Candidates have to plan a lesson for a class they know almost nothing about [...]

Should we give teachers the ‘benefit of the doubt’?

2017-03-03T13:41:16+00:00March 3rd, 2017|leadership|

Earlier in the week, Schools Minister, Lord Nash announced that schools should be more like businesses and jettison underperforming staff. According to this TES report he's reported to have said, "“I think one of the things that it’s easy to say ... is that sometimes in education there is a tendency to give people the benefit of the doubt too often.” The consequence of this well meaning woolliness is that we consign children to a sub-standard education. Much better for school leaders to be like business leaders. The “best leaders in education” are “tough”, “have a real sense of pace”, and “realise the clock is [...]

How can school inspection get what it wants?

2017-02-11T07:33:17+00:00February 10th, 2017|leadership|

I read a great piece by Dr Becky Allen in Schools Week this morning on inherent unreliability of school inspections. In it she makes the point that human beings are incapable of making reliable, high stakes judgements due to our adaptive reliance on heuristics and our inability to adequately introspect about our biases  and preferences. But despite the dangers, she says, "This is not to say that school inspection should not have a role in our system. It is possible that the threat of inspection, day-in-day-out, leads to better practice in schools that outweighs the obvious dysfunctional behaviours it creates." I [...]

Less marking, more feedback: A challenge and a proposal

2016-12-01T16:18:59+00:00December 1st, 2016|leadership|

I've been arguing for some time that if teachers spent less time marking (by which I mean writing comments on students' work) then they might have a lot more time for giving meaningful feedback which actually helps develop more flexible, durable learning. This is a message that tends to play well with harried, over burdened teachers but often fills school leaders with horror. The fear is that because some teachers are lazy, good-for-nothing loafers they'll simply take this as an opportunity to shuttle off to the pub every evening and their students will be even more neglected. I can certainly understand [...]