Should schools give something back?
There have been some very high profile chefs with Michelin stars to their name that have famously stuck two fingers up at the system and given their stars back.
Gualtiero Marchesi, the most influential and revered chef in Italy, did just that. In 2008 he broke with Michelin denouncing its scoring system. He said that he wanted to be free to cook without being judged and “chose to return my stars because I was keen to start a new agenda.”
Marco Pierre White is another chef who threw his stars back saying, “I was tired of being judged by people who had less knowledge than me.”
Did it hurt them? No.
Schools don’t need to advertise their status and rely on a snapshot adjective in order to be successful. Fine dining has its place and so does fine teaching but we don’t need to wear a badge or star.
The art of being a teacher has been lost because of high-stakes accountability and like Marchesi we need to start a new agenda. How many inspectors have cut a grade in a schools themselves? Surely the best people to assess us are the people we work with, our peers.
Burn or Burnout
Schools cannot break away from Ofsted and refuse to be inspected and they can’t give an inspection back but what they can do is remove banners proclaiming their inspection status.
In fact, they can refuse to enter into the silly idea of having banners made in the first place and spend the money on something else…like the children.
But if you are a school with a banner that celebrates your awesomeness then consider removing it as an act of liberation and an opportunity for change.
Some argue more vigorously and urge schools to “tear them down” and have a ceremonial burning of the banner on the school field with an effigy of Amanda Spielman thrown on top for good measure….but that might be going too far.
If you do work in a school that is outstanding, so what? Does this mean you are under constant pressure all the time? There is far more to a school than an inspection grade.
‘Outstanding’ isn’t something that has any credibility anyway. If a school is describing itself as outstanding can it honestly say that it maintains this level all day, every day? I seriously doubt it.
The ‘outstanding’ badge is a curse and simply piles more pressure on a school to sustain something that is completely unrealistic.
The Association of School and College Leaders have produced a new document called Ofsted: 101 ideas to help you manage inspection and at number 91 they ask us to think about displaying something on the school railings that isn’t an accountability measure.
Reconsider your banner: while you may be proud of your inspection result, remember Ofsted is not the only mark of success. Perhaps the views of your pupils and parents would be a refreshing and welcome alternative!
It’s a good call and something that schools are starting to do. Who knows, we might start to see a resurgence of the school motto.
Ross McGill @TeacherToolkit has been campaigning for years to get schools to bin the inspection banners and use something along the lines of:
The art of brilliance have put a positive spin on the use of school banners by awarding schools ones that say they are ‘outstandingly happy’.
Image: The Art of Brilliance
I like the thinking here. I’d rather be in an outstandingly happy school then one being crushed under the weight of expectation to be perfect and the need to keep saying ‘Top for progress and results’.
Schools can chase other awards that aren’t related to an inspection grade and they actually mean and count for a whole lot more. Many schools are very proud of a range of awards and achievements that they have gained as a team and these have been hard won
Quality assurance (QA) is the term used for a specific type of recognised quality scheme in which settings may choose or be requested to participate.
It provides recognition that an individual setting has made progress against a set of agreed standards and has achieved an accredited level or stage. Re-accreditation is achieved through a continuous cycle of self-reflection. For example,
- The Rights Respecting Schools Award
- Arts Mark Award
- SAPERE Philosophy for Children School Awards
- Primary Science Quality Mark
- Primary Geography Quality Mark
- Eco Schools Green Flag Award
- International Schools Award
- Global Schools Award
- Primary Languages Classroom Awards
- Basic Skills Quality Mark
- National Healthy Schools Award
- Inclusion Charter Mark
- Fairtrade Schools Award
- Dyslexia Friendly Quality Mark
- Investors in People
- Sustrans School Mark
- Better Energy School Awards
- Sun Safe Schools Award
- The Association for Citizenship Teaching Quality Mark
So, what do you do?
Continue to display your banner like a “I’ve worked hard today” sticker you’d give a 5 year old child or bin it and operate with a free spirit and without stress?
‘Winning’ outstanding is one thing, keeping it is whole different game. Who honestly wants that pressure?
Michelin stars are not the be all and end all and neither are inspection grades.