A Deputy’™s ‘delight and dismay’

Simon Smith, Deputy Head (academic) at Haileybury School, responds to today’s Sutton Trust Report, What makes great teaching?

I read this morning’s Sutton Trust Report, What makes great teaching? with a mixture of delight and dismay.

Delight because it confirmed my view that we at Haileybury (and many other schools I know of) are very much on the right track in our approach to teaching, learning and professional development. The importance of subject knowledge, skillful questioning and developing pupils’ analytical skills are all confirmed in Professor Coe’s report.

Every year we ask our pupils to rate the teaching staff on such criteria and others to check we are delivering the important ingredients to a pupil’s educational experience. I was also pleased to see certain myths being partly dispelled, not least that ‘ability setting’ is the panacea for all educational woes – a view briefly suggested by the Government in September. â€¨â€¨

However, I still feel a sense of dismay because the teachers at Haileybury, and all schools around the country, will have to park this excellent advice for now in order to focus on the more pressing issue of public examination reform. Next week my Heads of Department will, rather than addressing this report, continue to discuss how we implement the dog’s dinner that is the Government’s A Level and GCSE reforms. These discussions and planning may well be futile if a change of government in May results in postponement of all changes for at least another 18 months (as promised by Labour).

Government reforms are, allegedly, designed to raise standards. I wonder how much higher those standards could be if teachers could be left as professionals to focus on implementing the advice of educational researchers rather than having to act on the whim of politicians (on both sides of the House) who confuse assessment with learning.

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