It takes something special to make me travel to Harlow!
More specifically, travelling by road from Bath to Harlow… in the rush hour… on a Friday. There’s nothing actually wrong with Harlow, it’s the M4 and 25 on the way that really puts you off!
But I did it, arriving on time at the splendid Passmores Academy, home of a vibrant school community under the caring, passionate and expert care of Vic Goddard, ready for the second major meeting of the Heads’ Roundtable.
For those of you who are unaware, the Heads’ Roundtable began as a group of “twitterati”.
Twitter is an interesting social medium: it tends to be populated by individuals who have the knack (or not) of spreading thoughts, words, encouragement, complaint or vitriol in 140 characters or less. Quite often, you read these effusives in dispair: but it does take a special talent to sit on your a**e and talk (type) out of it at the same time.
But others are determined to go beyond rhetoric… actually do something: thus the Headteachers’ Round Table (HTRT) was born.
HTRT actually do want to change the world (of education). They are not interested in politics or polemic. They are only interested in securing the best possible outcomes for their schools, and for their learners. They are giving of their time, their energy, their experience and their expertise…. actually, I should be using the term “we”. HTRT made it abundantly clear that everyone who was there on Friday, who attended the previous conference, who contributed to their alternative consultations with concerns, thoughts and comments for system improvement, should all consider themselves members of the Roundtable. I like that.
Well, it was worth the six hour round trip for a number of reasons:
- getting a feel for Vic’s school. You know, you don’t need Ofsted to tell you how good or bad a school is. All you need to do is visit and walk around unannounced during a breaktime or a lunchtime. I was struck by the unpretentious loveliness of Vic’s hordes; comfortable in their school, happy to “be”… and I was happy to be there
- making real progress in terms of articulating a curriculum framework that supports a “whole education” experience, not just a set of filtered qualifications that have been deemed to “count”. It’s great to see Whole Education there, as well as my old employers ASDAN, looking for synergy with emerging thinking. With my “Modern Baccalaureate” hat on, I was delighted to see so much convergent thinking
- and, not afraid to grasp a difficult nettle, a lengthy discussion on school accountability. No one there shirked the responsibilities that come with the post of “school leader”: in fact, the track record of many of the Heads there in terms of engineering school improvement in the most challenging of circumstances was immutable. However, all present lamented the unduly punitive and negative process that is called an “Ofsted Inspection”. I for one will look forward to the HTRT Consultation on this topic.
A final point: I have been amazed that some have criticised the HTRT, for being a “closed shop”, a small “inner circle” with a few acolytes in attendance, who listen in revered silence to their 140 character intonations. Well, despite my Catholic upbringing, I hold a candle for no one! By working with, and within, the Heads Roundtable, I feel I am actively contributing to the advancement of education. I feel my views are being listened to, and that we are helping to shape future educational thinking and direction of travel. This is in stark contrast to the body politic.
Apparently, if you count the twitter followers, there are now 8,000 sitting around a very large table indeed. Excellent!!!