There are, according to Sir Michael Wilshaw, no excuses for schools to fail. Furthermore, the previous “satisfactory” judgment from Ofsted is not explicit enough in its desire for change and therefore Ofsted will amend this category with the statement “requires improvement”.
Sir Michael Wilshaw was a highly successful headteacher. . Pupils at Mossbourne Academy achieve outstanding A-Level results, with students moving on to a range of prestigious universities.
Yet, there is far more to education than academic success.
The new Ofsted framework for inspection clearly states that the “spiritual, moral, social and cultural” development of the child should be implicit in all areas of school life.
Sir Michael acknowledges that schools have an important nurturing role to play in the lives of the pupils who attend.
“The school often acts as a surrogate parent, providing wraparound care, enrichment and support for pupils who don’t get enough of this at home”
He says that a good education is not only important for the pupils but also for the communities in which they live..
“If we don’t give more of our young people a good education, then more will end up in jail, and more communities will fracture. If we don’t give our young people the skills they need for employment, their communities can’t thrive.”
Which skills are we talking about here? Surely they go further than the core curriculum of knowledge?
Employers nationally often say they want new recruits to be thoughtful, innovative, capable of collaborative working, able to relate to colleagues and clients and have a range of social and personal skills that enhance the knowledge base requirements of the job.
It cannot therefore be all about literacy and numeracy and academic achievement.
A good school nurtures the whole child, reinforcing on a daily basis, through its philosophy of education, the need for a sound set of values and skills to help a young person to flourish in life.
In life, that is – not just to prepare them for the workforce.
“So what about some solutions? We need to do something different, which is brave and radical,” Says the new Chief Inspector.
He’s right. We do need to do something that is brave and radical. It’s not acceptable that children leave school with no hope or prospects and very little in the way of qualifications, and yes, if Mossbourne Academy can do it, there is a hope there can be replication of their success in other institutions.
But at what cost is the “relentless pursuit of improvement” that Sir Michael mentions?
Do all academically successful schools also prepare young people for independent thought and collaborative working and living?
Sir Michael also states that the success of Mossbourne was “not because of a bright new building, but because of good systems and structures, good teaching, and staff who work hard and make no excuses for failure.”
Did the the ambiance and newness of the building not have a significant effect on the success of the school? Environments for learning are as crucial as the teachers within. There is obviously going to be a more conducive learning environment if pupils feel comfortable and have a sense of belonging, especially if this happens to also be in a beautiful new building.
Sir Michael Wilshaw is right. We do need something brave and radical to happen in education, but we cannot possibly have a brave and radical education system that appears to ignore the essential facets of intelligence that go well beyond knowledge and academic success.
Intelligence is multi-faceted. The contributory factors to success are also multi-faceted. Mossbourne works. But it’s worked for a variety of reasons: good teaching, a new building, a shared philosophy, a sense of belonging, an instilled belief in the self, and good leadership.
Whilst some may not agree with the processes that Sir Michael Wilshaw introduced, one cannot deny his rate of success. However, one can certainly ask whether the development of certain intelligences such as social and personal intelligence, have been the significant difference that has made the school a success.
We do need to look at education radically. It is not acceptable that many of our young people are going through a system that does not nurture them in all aspects.
We need to look at education intelligently and have an intelligent revolution in our schools, but we must not be led into believing that there is one perfect system of education.