So the KS2 Data Outcomes were published today and many Heads and Teachers (including myself) across the country spent a bleary-eyed Tuesday analysing results after a late night spent clicking refresh on the NCA Tools website until the data finally arrived just after midnight.
Today there will have been a vast contrast of emotion and behaviour from staff across the country: cheers and tears, celebrations and (sadly perhaps) resignations. Whilst the national average gradually and predictably inched forward, this headline fails to capture the extreme highs and lows in data across our schools and in different contexts.
Yesterday I sent this tweet out, encouraging heads and teachers to keep perspective which I meant sincerely. I have said the same to at least 20 or so other colleagues in the last 24 hours, either in conversation or on email, text or twitter messages.
Att. Heads and Y6 Teachers: Please remember your career will be defined by who you are as a teacher, not just the results published tonight.
— Tom Rees (@TomRees_77) July 3, 2017
It’s important to keep some perspective about what the results mean. Whilst the overwhelming interpretation for Teachers and School Leaders is that the headline data is a personal reflection of their worth, the truth is that published data across the country remains more a reflection of the context in which we work than the overall quality of teaching within our school. I have written previously about the nonsense of the league tables and the often flawed-accountability that accompanies this data; we must remember this and also the fallacy that seems to exist that everyone’s data must somehow be above the national average.
But of course we shouldn’t devalue the prize of academic success. The ability to achieve a national expectation in English and Maths remains the key marker for children having all doors open in their futures once they leave Primary School. No-one should pretend that it simply doesn’t matter; we should all want for higher academic standards. For improvements to be made in a school and across the system though, staff must keep their self-belief and motivation that they can make things better.
I urge everyone to do put some space between any disappointing outcomes so as to avoid knee-jerk decisions that might follow. It’s important that we consider carefully and analytically what data means within individual contexts rather than making sweeping generalised statements around what this now means in terms of potential OFSTED judgements, floor targets or decisions about academisation.
There are many great teachers and leaders who have chosen to work in challenging areas in order to make a difference to those who need it the most. I hope that they will see any shortcomings in outcomes today as inspiration that they still have room to make a difference in that community – rather than an indictment of their failure as a leader or teacher.
And don’t just take it from me. Take it from Amanda Spielman, our new HMCIwho said the following just 10 days ago:
“I have no doubt that it requires stronger leadership and management skills to achieve the same outcomes in schools with much more disadvantaged intakes.”
“I want to ask for your help to do the same: to make clear that no head, manager or teacher will be penalised by Ofsted for working in a challenging school.”
Let’s take OFSTED at their word and switch off from the data for the evening. And on that note…