How many schools do you know that following an OFSTED visit, their staff have felt an upsurge in energy and have been inspired and motivated to carry out their roles with increased levels of passion and commitment?
If you know of any, I’d like to be introduced to them and to be told of their secret formula for overcoming the huge amounts of stress that OFSTED inspections induce.
Head of OFSTED, Amanda Spielman recently said that,
“There are quite a few heads in the system who write blogs that spin up levels of anxiety. It’s not just the various parts of government… there’s also a responsibility in the whole education system not to manufacture tension which shouldn’t be there”
In my opinion, these Heads that she refers to are not writing blogs to ‘spin up levels of anxiety or to ‘manufacture tension which shouldn’t be there’ they are simply writing to tell it how it is.
They are simply saying “We are human beings operating in a system that has yet to take full account of and understand the emotional impact that OSTED has upon us and our schools.
They are saying, “We need a relational model of school leadership/accountability that builds trusts and allows us to be autonomous in our decisions as school leaders.”
It’s a hard message for OFSTED to hear, but ask any Head and they will tell you that a culture of fear does exist and it not based on hearsay or myth. It is based upon their own experiences and that of many of their colleagues.
Instead of actively supporting schools to thrive, OFSTED has become a system in which adults are forced to compete to survive.
When we are in survival mode we don’t perform at our best. The world is a scary place to be. Our nerves and our emotions take a constant daily battering as we remain on high alert:
– Always on the look out
– Always scanning the horizon for threat
– Always fearing or expecting the worst
Dr David Rock, President of the NeuroLeadership Institute, says that when individuals work in environments that foster these behaviours they, “experience it as neural impulse, as powerful and painful as a blow to the head”.
And this is the reality for most school leaders who have gone through an OFSTED inspection, whether the outcome has been favourable or otherwise.
This is the reason why Heads and others like myself blog about the need for changes to the way in which school leaders are held to account. There has to be a more humane approach. An approach which actively supports an individual’s sense of vocation, builds trust and enables individuals to thrive.
The American educator, author and activist Parker J Palmer argues;
“To those who say that we need weights and measures in order to enforce accountability in education, my response is, yes, of course we do, but only under three conditions that are not being met today. We need to make sure;
1) That we measure things worth measuring in the context of authentic education, where rote learning counts for little
2) That we know how to measure what we set out to measure
3) That we attach no more importance to measurable things than we attach to things equally or more important that elude our instruments”
When we have an inspection system that can meet these three conditions, then there will be no need for Heads and others like myself to write blogs about the often-negative emotional impact of OFSTED.
Until that time (and I remain hopeful that a change will come) those at the chalk-face will continue to write. Their words, serving as an expression of their shared humanity with other colleagues; colleagues who so often feel alone and isolated, as a result of the systems current punitive methods for measuring performance.
Transforming the Reality of School Leadership
Over the past decade, I have witnessed first-hand how high levels of public scrutiny and personal accountability have eroded the profession’s ability to care for and meet the human needs of those who are on the frontline.
I have seen many teachers and school leaders sacrificing their personal well-being to simply survive in the profession. I’ve coached Heads on the brink of a nervous breakdown. I have received desperate pleas from their partners and witnessed the inhumane treatment of those who have disappeared from the system.
This can’t continue. Active steps must be taken. Our profession needs to change and ensure that our School Leaders are properly supported; strategically, operationally and emotionally to ensure they not only survive, but also thrive in their attempts to deliver the best outcomes for our children.
Meanwhile, for their part, our leaders must be supported to take care of themselves! One of the key elements of this is learning to ask for help, and realising that this is an act of courage, as much as it is an essential act of kindness and compassion towards oneself.
As whatever our goals, whatever our ambitions, we need help to fulfil them. So that when the going gets tough, as it always does, we don’t fall down and remain on the ground, but are supported, so that we can get back up again and, with renewed focus and energy, carry on towards our dream.
So if you want to take charge of your well-being and be supported to best meet the needs of those in your care, I am now offering free “Coaching for The Soul” calls for school leaders to enable you to do just this.
This call will provide you with a confidential, safe, non–judgemental space to spend 30 minutes discussing how you can:
– Achieve a greater sense of clarity about your direction as a school leader
– Gain a clearer perspective on any challenges that you may be facing
– Identify positive steps for moving forward
If you feel like you’d benefit from a call like this or perhaps know someone who would, please follow the link above!