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Russell Hobby

Russell Hobby

Russell Hobby, general secretary of NAHT blogs about his thoughts and passions and the work of the National Association of Head Teachers.


Under new ownership

Gove has gone and more aspects of education are back with the profession

How different will things be without Michael Gove? My suspicion is that we will see a change in style rather than substance; Nick Gibb has returned as minister for schools and we've already had a long conversation about phonics, for example.

I am pleased to report though, that after a large part of summer was spent engaged in the most direct form of protection for members caught up in the ‘Trojan horse' allegations, Bhupinder Kondal, one of the heads originally forced out of her post, has been reinstated. However, the relationship between professional and lay leadership is becoming increasingly complicated across the country.

We've also been thinking about how we can better protect members in the spirit of prevention rather than cure. This is part of our strategy to take back ownership of standards in order to reduce political interference. As one example, we recently announced our intention to create alternative league tables. For too long, league tables have been like a toy to politicians: driving schools in one direction or another at short notice. One example was the decision to measure schools on a student's first GCSE entry rather than their best entry. We no longer wish to play that game. The alternative tables will put the definition of performance back under our influence. It means we have to accept transparency and accountability, but at least it should be on sound and stable terms.

We have also turned our thoughts to literacy. We have been disturbed by pre-election talk around higher floor standards and a focus on technical skills rather than the broader love of reading. We want to show the public that we aspire to the highest possible standards, that every child should leave primary school able to read to their full potential. We want to focus on the love of reading and we want a proper, long-term horizon that enables all schools to succeed.

This will be a professional goal based on aspirations not fear. We are part of a wider alliance, one that includes Save the Children and others, that will seek to ensure that employers, parents and early years providers all play their part.

You should expect to see a lot more about this over the coming months under the title Read on, get on. We will be looking towards 2025 as the end point ± a date outside the short-term political cycle. In the early days, the campaign will focus on setting the goal and securing political buy-in from all three main parties. Attention will then turn to the `how', which will almost certainly focus on schools helping schools.

Both these projects put into action the spirit and detail of our manifesto for education, which was agreed at annual conference in May. Owning what is ours asked us to take back control of our professional destiny, including better ways to measure performance and set standards.

This builds on the other proactive projects: Aspire is proving successful and will be rolled out more widely; Instead will begin its second, larger-scale pilot; and Primary Futures has a launch week in October.

You may also have noticed that NAHT Edge is launching this month. It is aimed at middle leaders in schools and will combine protection with leadership and professional development. On the same topic, we will also have to make some choices in the autumn term about the role we want to play in the future of NPQH and the other national leadership development programmes, which may be `let go' by the National College. Is this another place to take back ownership of what is ours?


17 September 2014