Lying leaders

I visited a school last month.

I have also read the school’s Self Evaluation Form. These forms are often not shared with staff because they’re between SMT and OFSTED. OFSTED don’t require them, but they want Headteachers and SMTs to show they know their school. Inevitably, the easiest way to do this is on a piece of paper, so the SEF is a feature of all, or almost all, inspections.

Sometimes there are good reasons for not sharing the SEF with the staff. It’s not fair to share a SEF that identifies a member of staff as failing, or focuses on teachers who have been moved on.

But usually, it’s because the SEF is a bunch of lies.

The SEF I read was a classic.

Achievement was given a 4 – inadequate. This is not arguable as the results are terrible.

Teaching was given a 4 – inadequate. This is not arguable. How can results be terrible and teaching be anything but terrible?

Behaviour was given a 3 – Requires Improvement. This is believable, though the school went on to say that the only reason it wasn’t good was because attendance was below national average. Below is an understatement, attendance is the lowest I’ve seen in a school for some time. Given that, I think giving behaviour a 3 is a stretch. I also saw a lot of litter, kids late to lessons, and while they weren’t rowdy, behaviour wasn’t good by any stretch of the imagination.

And then Leadership and Management. This is the extended Leadership Team of a school with terrible results, terrible attendance, a falling roll, very significant staff churn (over 50% of teaching staff in the last year) and inadequate teaching. So leadership and management should be a 4, correct.

They gave themselves a 2. A TWO. That’s a good. They then basically went on to say everything was terrible at the school but this is despite the Head and SMT. So much for impact of leadership.

The SEF is often not shared with staff because it’s a lie. I partly understand why they lie – it’s self-preservation as the Head is going to be sacked if Leadership and Management gets a 4 during OFSTED. However, it is a lie. If your school is terrible, leadership and management is terrible. It may be possible that it’s being turned around, but in that case, share the SEF.

OFSTED are complicit in this as well. That’s why so many inspections have a different grade (often one grade higher) for Leadership and Management than the other grades. It’s because when the Head sees the lead inspector, the negotiation will often revolve around the impact on the Head. If the Head has to fight for one of those four grades, it will be leadership and management.

I know of a case where the teaching is OK despite the poor leadership. There is no way any Head is going to put a 4 for leadership and a 3 for teaching. And Heads often protect their Leadership and Management grade by telling staff “that’s a judgement on Leadership and Management at all levels, including classroom teacher level” so that staff don’t whistle blow during an inspection.

In the school I visited, the SEF is delusional. The Head and SMT are lying. OFSTED might see through it, but like in other cases, I suspect they’ll be complicit.

It’s a shame, because honest self-evaluation is the first step to sorting a school out.

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3 thoughts on “Lying leaders

  1. FWIW, my experience of “Mocksteds” is pretty similar – the consultants who came in and delivered it (for a five-figure sum) rated Leadership & Management two grades above Quality of Teaching. It’s hard to imagine what could have motivated these consultants to provide such glowing praise to the school’s budget holders…

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