The Unintended Consequences of Teaching Schools

November 2, 2014

The creation of specialist teaching schools was intended to move power from those ideologically motivated individuals in local authorities and universities, who followed every fad and fashion, to those in schools with a proven track record of success. Unfortunately the policy depended on the ability of OFSTED to recognise excellence in schools and the willingness of schools to be confident that they can retain outstanding status without second guessing OFSTED. The following blog, written by a teacher in a teaching school that’s overdue for inspection, suggests that this may not be working out as planned.

Principle vs Principal (or when scrutiny becomes lunacy).

Somewhere in the leafy depths of suburbia there is the a monster.

It’s called an Outstanding Teaching School. This creature is large and cumbersome, years of tradition and rigidity have made it old before its time. It’s sleeps through behaviour for learning dramas, A*- C % nightmares, Ebacc uptake worries and smiles sagely as fellow critters scurry to increase amounts of written work in books, create whole school inclusion policies, or you know, even improve results. The monster has been left alone, existing on the fat stored over a hundred years, for what can be done to create a more glorious and wonderful being? In fact, like a Biblical idol, all should look upon it in awe, grateful for its very prescence. It needs no one. Loves no one. It’s allegience is to itself alone.

What’s that? A new predator on the horizon? What could possibly take on this Outstanding Teaching School?

‘Keeping Teaching School Status’ stalks across the savannah, a jackal waiting to take down the least agile, the weakest. It’s teeth can slash a budget by hundreds of thousands, decimating the hopes and dreams of SLTs across the country. The jackal wears a coat of Osted, slobbers edu-tainment teaching practices and demands its followers fish clouds from the ocean’s depths.

Don’t worry. OTS has a plan.

OTS will trick KTSS, like a chameleon, it will change its colours to match those black and white tick boxes. OTS will outsmart that KTSS putting on a pretty dress and batting its false eyelashes. No one could possibly notice the muddy feet and broken toenails with such an angelic face to behold.

OTS’s swag new outfit is perfect for the occasion, it’s wearing KTSS’s colours – a show of support. A round of applause, ladies and gentleman, for the new designer on our catwalks:

  • Graded observations of tutor time
  • Monitoring of tutor’s oversight of students’ use of their planners
  • Numerous graded formal and drop-in lesson observations
  • Graded book monitoring with weekly follow ups
  • Monitoring of teachers’ planning
  • Reminder of the rules – the ones for teachers

Some parts of OTS couldn’t squeeze themselves into the tight sleeves of this outfit. The collar fairly strangled others. The scratches and bruises left seemed like they would never recede. But OTS must outrun KTSS. It has to, to survive.

The only question left to answer is – what will OTS do when principle wins out over principal?

That day is getting closer.



  1. Yes, this did always seem like a slight blip in the Teaching Schools policy. It’s manifested itself in a further raising of the stakes when it comes to inspection but the deeper question is not just whether a school ought to be able to maintain an Outstanding grade, nor even – regardless of Ofsted’s verdict – whether they can maintain an above-average level of quality and avoid reverting to the mean. The most fundamental question is whether anyone can reliably identify the schools that are worthy of that above-average “Teaching School” status in the first place.

    The first inspections to downgrade Teaching Schools have already happened although in the case I know about the Teaching School status has been kept for the moment, but the more time that passes, inevitably the greater the number of downgraded Teaching Schools we will have. Maybe it’ll be like the Premiership with relegated schools selling their best teachers as the funding dries up.

    The ironic thing is that with a small but important number of exceptions, the shift of ITT to schools has, if anything, perpetuated the following of fads and fashions, as teachers in schools have to try to cover the gap left by the reduction in university input. I at least have thinking about pedagogy as the absolute heart of my job, direct free access to journals, and colleagues working at something like the same level as Rob Coe and Dylan Wiliam in offices along the corridor. Whatever the actual quality of my training, I know it would not be as good if I were back in a proper teaching job and trying to do both, even if my workload was sensible. Tearing up a system and replacing it with a new system trying to do the same job, is not often the way to improve things, even if the problems run pretty deep. Hearts and minds!

  2. Beautifully said.

  3. Reblogged this on The Echo Chamber.

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