Secret Teacher: sensationalist headlines can do real damage to schools

“Miss, did you know this is one of the worst schools in the country?” a boy from yet another class asked me. “Yeah, what hope have we got?” another chimed in. The Secret Teacher writes in The Guardian.

One Monday morning, after a long weekend, the headteacher began our staff briefing with some troubling news. Our school had been labelled one of the worst in England by a national newspaper, and social media was awash with chatter from our students and their parents. That one headline has had a disastrous impact on the morale of the staff and students in our school.

My school was rated good by Ofsted in 2016 and we’ve been working towards achieving outstanding at the next inspection. It has no gangs, graffiti, knives or guns. My students have never threatened me. In fact, most of them say good morning and open doors for me. Some of them have even given me handmade Christmas cards.

Apparently none of these things matter. All that matters is a school’s league table position – one-dimensional data that fails to tell the full story of the education young people are receiving.

An assistant headteacher, in charge of raising aspirations, was gutted. It had taken her three years to raise the profile of the school and felt that one newspaper article meant all of that work was undone. Suddenly she was spending her days firefighting on social media. Meanwhile, I spent a lot of time in lessons explaining the two new measures schools are judged on – Progress 8 and Attainment 8 (pdf) – and where target grades come from.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), has said that the new measurements for league tables can’t be compared to previous years because the government has “moved the goalposts”, and that the mixed grading system has complicated and changed how results are worked out.

We’ve all been left trying to defend where we work. These sensationalist headlines cause huge damage – particularly to staff who try to make a difference and are paid by results. There is so much more to a school than what these narrow measures represent. Perhaps we’d all do better if the bigger picture was considered, and if parents visited their local schools – even if they are on the lower end of a league table – and made up their own minds.

Read the full article Secret Teacher: sensationalist headlines can do real damage to schools

Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin

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