I have been reading and listening to comments for the last two weeks about the definition and rationale about coasting schools. To be honest I have mixed feelings and remain frustrated that we seem to be focussing on being told what to do again. I have written previously about taking responsibility and seeing the positive, this is another example where we as a profession can take the lead.
I would be staggered if any schools set out to be ‘coasting’ or were even happy with that description. The teaching profession never stops striving to raise outcomes for children or adapting to the ever changing demands of education that are driven from government or those that society present to us. However we do need to raise outcomes, that is a fact and I am a strong believer that we, as a profession, know how to do this best. So why is it that we don’t do this or exploit the freedoms that are given to us to do this?
I know that supporting schools to join a Multi- Academy Trust (MAT) is not the ‘done thing’ but when like-minded individuals come together, to truly work together then the outcomes are amazing. I am sure that people reading this might say ‘but you don’t have to become a (MAT)’ but the freedoms within this and tight partnerships allow partnerships to go beyond school self-interest and personalities. Although relationships are always the key drivers in any partnerships and need to be central to their development.
We choose to become a MAT. We choose to decide the structures, the values, the philosophy, the focus for our partnership. Schools have this chance to do this for themselves without waiting for a MAT to swoop down and “take them over” which often is not the case, it’s more likely to be ‘join our partnership and this is how we work’. Autonomy is essential for all roles and institutions, the use of the phrase “earned autonomy” is now common place and if we are honest has always been the case; it’s just that if things aren’t going well people intervene quicker now. But then isn’t that what children deserve?
I think Trusts like ours and others who have set up, have a responsibility to share what we have done, why and how we achieved it to allow other like-minded schools to come together and learn from our mistakes. It shouldn’t just be schools joining existing MATs but new MATS forming with MATS in partnership with each other. We have been incredibly fortunate with our partnership with the Flying High Trust in Cotgrave (http://flyinghightrust.co.uk/)and over the last three years knowledge sharing has been central to our development. Without it we would have walked into so many more bear traps without knowing it.
As Headteachers, we need to redefine ourselves and our understanding of what partnership means, shared accountability has to be part of that. Headteachers need to evolve a new skill and mind sets about their jobs. This will be incredibly difficult because we have been looking over our shoulders for too long, but now could be the time, if we are brave enough take that leap of faith.