Secret Teacher: My outstanding school felt like a results factory

Feb 5, 2017 by

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Moving from a school that Ofsted consistently rated highly to one judged as requiring improvement raised eyebrows, but I would never go back

Why would anyone want to leave an outstanding school? This is a question I heard time and again after I decided to move to one rated requires improvement after three years of teaching in a top-level institution.

The running commentary from colleagues following my resignation was “You’ll finally have some time to get things done”. There seemed to be a belief that the number of hours worked or the level of pressure felt would diminish in line with the Ofsted grading. I’ve discovered that couldn’t be further from the truth and yet, after just one term at my new school, my sanity and passion for my job are slowly being restored.

Like many others, I assumed that an outstanding school would mean outstanding leadership and behaviour, meaning I could focus solely on the reasons why I entered the profession. I wanted to teach, inspire, and help students surpass their own expectations, and my role started off this way. But halfway through my second year, the pressure increased beyond what I had experienced in teaching before.

We all felt it stemmed, in some part, from the insecurities the school leadership team had about maintaining an outstanding status. But the problem wasn’t Ofsted, the problem was leadership’s lack of ability to provide a strategic direction for the school that was inclusive of both student and staff progress. They focused purely on passing the tests and generating data that was deemed outstanding.

It started to feel like I was working in a results factory, a production line churning out the highest grades in the hope of retaining its outstanding status. Expectations were so far removed from the reality of what staff and students could really achieve with the time they had. I watched students crumble under the pressure of missing target grades, put into compulsory intervention groups for getting an A instead of an A*, and teachers become so demotivated that they left.

By this time last year, I was on the verge of leaving the profession, frantically searching industry job adverts in search of something fulfilling that wouldn’t result in a drastic cut of an already poor salary.

Source: Secret Teacher: My outstanding school felt like a results factory | Teacher Network | The Guardian

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