I often think of the several meetings I had with the (then) Secretary of State for Education (David Blunkett) and the (then) Chief Inspector of Schools (Chris Woodhead). We were engaged in trying to establish a new route into Teacher Training, by establishing a cohort of Nationally Outstanding Schools that would train potential teachers in schools rather than in Training Colleges or Universities. OSCITT (Outstanding Schools School Centred Initial Teacher Training) was the project, and since its introduction, it has been hugely successful. It was successful because it championed best practice: Trainees learned from outstanding practitioners whose prime focus was always the pupils in their care. The theory of Education took second place.
But at the time of its inception, the content and focus of the training came under heavy pedagogical debate. Chris always championed subject knowledge as the key criterion for the training of teachers, and had little respect for anyone championing the understanding of different “Learning Styles”. I challenged Chris on this, insisting that a teacher’s focus and key consideration must always be the child’s prior attainment and her/his ability to connect with the lesson/learning activity presented by the teacher: Progress would be limited if prior attainment and understanding of the pupil’s strengths and weaknesses was not central to the planning and delivery of the lesson. Chris was eventually persuaded, not only by the argument but also by the outcomes, and to his credit he and David went on to champion the establishment of several SCITT and GTP Programmes over time.
For me, to teach well, it’s always been “Who” we teach as our key consideration, before we decide “What” or “How”. I could bore you all to death with this, but it’s simple. The best teachers adapt their teaching (and even the syllabus if appropriate) to meet the specific needs of their pupils. A huge challenge for sure, because the more we begin to learn about our pupils, the more we realise we need to do to differentiate our teaching. But what a massive difference a teacher makes when he/she achieves this. Just brilliant and inspiring!
So, if this is the holy grail for me, what are we doing to help our teachers deliver to these high expectations?
Firstly, we need to establish highly effective Assessment processes that track pupil progress and highlight specific teaching priorities. We need to ensure that we are fully aware of all our pupils’ individual strengths and weaknesses, most especially by working together in creating and developing individual pupil achievement profiles (pupil passports). And, of course, we must engage as fully as possible with our pupils and parents to ensure that we all share the common objective……our pupils must be encouraged and challenged to make the best possible progress they can, under our care.
Very impressive work has already begun with this through our Learning Enrichment and Assessment Coordinator Groups, but to help us all facilitate the implementation of Pupil Passports and Achievement Profiling, we will be using most INSET Days over the next twelve months to allow time for staff to achieve this, especially with regard to creating time for staff to be able to liaise effectively with specialist staff, as well as report writing and year to year transition.
David (Blunkett) was very keen to let everyone know that under his watch as Secretary of State “Every Child Matters”. Who would disagree?
The key test for any school is whether EVERY child does actually matter. In our schools, there must be no doubt. Every one of our pupil’s wellbeing and success matters most of all. Why else are we here?
Thank you for all your efforts, and I hope to see you in school soon
Jim Hudson OBE
Director of Education