Local Authority Consultants RIP

In every shit challenging school I’ve worked in, we’ve been awash with consultants.

Consultants employed by the Local Authority would come in for English, Maths, Science, Design and Technology, ICT, Behaviour and several for Leadership and Management. Each one would expect time with Senior Leaders, in particular to fill out their paperwork to show they were having impact.

The consultants were often out of mainstream teaching for over a decade.

Good advice I can remember any of the consultants giving would be

* to visit a local school who were doing a good job.

Terrible advice or practice consisted of:

* Giving out resources that were sometimes 15 years old, photocopied

* Telling senior teachers how poor the teachers are and that they cannot be rescued

* Telling senior teachers how poor the middle leaders are

* “Joint observing” lessons, usually so that the school can tell OFSTED they’ve “quality assured” their observations, or helping SMT to tell a teacher they’re inadequate. Usually this meant where there were disagreements the consultant would back down on the grade.

* sitting in on SMT/ SLT meetings and saying nothing or saying stupid stuff and being ignored

* “coaching” but with no satisfaction at all from any coachee

* using up teachers’ time in meetings presenting on the latest national strategies initiative/ talking edubollocks on things like APP

* interviewing students on camera to see the extent to which they like school, and aspects of school, then playing this back to SMT

* “joint planning” for lessons where they don’t know the students at all

* “joint planning” of whole school CPD (they would take no lead in the CPD but would participate)

* arranging for 4 G&T kids to go to some Local Authority event

This list could grow significantly. Now that most of these LA consultants have been made redundant, some have turned up on the SMT of local schools, but most have ended up in those roles where you wonder how they recruit anyone to them. For example, the Deputy Head of the PRU. Why a place with less than 7 students needs a Deputy Head is beyond me. None, to my knowledge, have gone back to full time teaching. There may be some exceptions, but most of those people will have gone back into teaching when the role of Local Authorities was clearly declining, rather than wait for the end.

I think schools should be local authority controlled. However removing the ridiculous layer of largely incompetent consultants who almost always used up time and made things worse is no bad thing.

I know that there are some people, including some selling snake oil, who are now acting as private companies and charging a fortune. I have heard of consultants charging £5000+ per day. This is ridiculous, but at least they aren’t in the situation that LA consultants were – basically being paid to make schools worse.

So why is this on a blog. Well because I’ve noticed that good schools used to just not let LA Consultants in.

Shit schools and their Headteachers bowed at the Local Authority, they looked up to them as experts, even when they didn’t really respect them, and they welcomed the “extra” “support” because the good schools had turned down their allocation. A part of the reason they did this is because a part of Local Authorities’ role was and is to report shit schools to OFSTED, which results in an inspection and the Head usually being sacked afterwards.

And so in shit schools the cycle continued of LA consultants supporting, pretending to show impact, and schools in a pit of failure.

I wonder if Academy Chains, who are developing their own networks of consultants to “support”, will go down the same routes and replicate these mistakes. I suspect that many will. The best will sack people who are crap rather than stomach the bullshit edubollocks culture these people have long propagated.

We’re better off without LA Consultants. Rest in Peace.

We’re better off with Heads with courage to close their doors to these people.

I’m sure they’ll turn up as OFSTED inspectors.

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8 thoughts on “Local Authority Consultants RIP

  1. My goodness you have had a bad run of it. It is almost as though the LA only sent the poor consultants to your school!
    I have to be honest and say that I have been a consultant in two different LAs (and would point out that I went back into school as a teaching DHT in a large Primary in between the roles) and worked with a range of different consultants. i do recognise some of the images you paint although my experience was working with Literacy, Maths and ICT consultants. In the case of my two jobs, the vast majority of my ex-colleagues are back in school in a range of posts from teachers to Head teachers. In fact, when i took on a school (which OFSTED came only 5 months later to put into a category) I found myself at a Getting to Good seminar alongside two other ex-LA consultants who had chosen to take on difficult schools and get them to consistently good practice.

    So i don’t know if there is a difference in the shire authority to a city authority or whether there was a significant difference between the recruitment within Primary and Secondary teams. My personal view is that in my experience there was a major difference between the two phases and there was certainly a much greater turnover of staff with people going back into school in Primary teams. Unfortunately I do recognise some of the poor practice but am sad that you didn’t experience support from some of the brilliant consultants I have been lucky enough to work alongside.

  2. “I’m sure they’ll turn up as OFSTED inspectors.” – unfortunately, they already are there – in numbers. Many of them have been playing both sides of the street for a very long time now.

    A few years ago, I got involved in an ugly dispute with Ofsted – basically, they used an under-qualified inspector to assess one of my kids’ placements – the changes made to this placement resulted in some pretty severe consequences for my kid. One of the outcomes of this dispute (and others) was Ofsted agreeing to publish ‘pen portraits’ of the additional inspectors that conduct most Section 5 inspections in mainstream schools.

    Only three of the private sector subcontractors coughed up the pen portraits, you can find them here:

    http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/resources/ofsted-hmi-pen-portraits

    The number of these additional inspectors who also act as consultants is depressing – and as for the inspectors who are providing a consulting service that is designed to guide a school through an Ofsted inspection….

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