This post has been prompted by this BBC News article. Basically, the head of Ofsted has said at a conference that children were unlucky to go to school in Norfolk. It’s a bit of a sweeping statement and I have to say that 4 months ago, I would have been nodding my head in agreement and cheering.
But then the Baby Boudica’s started at a different Norfolk school and I wonder if comments like that are entirely helpful. If you’re a regular reader (and if you’re not, why not?), you’ll know we’ve had a particularly nasty time of it in one Norfolk school and I ended up moving the Baby Boudica’s before the youngest was due to start in Reception class.
I believe the term “over my dead body will that school get their hands on my baby” was used more than once in conversation.
I fully agree with Sir Michael that there is a pervading atmosphere of expected underachievement in some schools. Expectations are ridiculously low and if you as a parent, demand more, you are treated as a troublemaker.
When I asked Baby Boudica The Elders teacher last year, why he hadn’t made any progress in a year and what were we going to do about it, she shrugged her shoulders and said “I don’t know what the problem is, we’ve got kids worse off than that”.
It’s not quite the attitude I’ve come to expect of any teacher. My kids may have special educational needs but I’m not having them written off that easily and it takes more than that to fob me off.
The surprising thing, is that this school isn’t even on the Ofsted underachieving hit list. It’s not even on Norfolk County Council’s radar as potentially having a problem. I know, I spoke to them It’s a school with a huge plastic banner outside it, proudly boasting it’s ‘Good in all area’s” Ofsted rating. Spend 10 minutes talking to other parents of pupils and the rapidly growing number of parents of ex-pupils who have been moved, and you’ll see that Ofsted ratings are not a very good indicator as to what goes on inside a school. Day in, day out, not just when an inspection visit is announced.
Oh how I want to name the school. I really, really do. They lied to me blatantly, repeatedly lied to my face and I have proof of that. We wasted an entire year of misery in that school and I will never, ever, forgive them for that. However, we never have to go there again and for that, I am very thankful.
Both Baby Boudica’s are now in another West Norfolk educational establishment and they’re doing very nicely thank you.
It’s a small village school and yes, it means I spend nearly 2 hours in the car every day, but believe me, every single one of those miles is worth it. This school also carries an Ofsted good rating but that’s where the similarities end. How they got the same rating, is anyone’s guess, because they’re not even in the same planet, let alone rating.
So now I feel a bit defensive about Norfolk schools. Yes, there are some problems. Yes, a lot of schools need to shape up and but there are some out there that already have, that are doing a fantastic job. But no-one really notices them do they? That doesn’t make news headlines.
That’s not to say that we haven’t had any issues at the new school, but what is different is the whole atmosphere and approach. In truth it’s like dropping the boys off with family in the morning, the staff really care about those kids and it shows. Every staff member knows every child and vice versa, they have high expectations and encourage the children to take responsibility for their learning. They reward good behaviour as well as trying to work through any issues.
In the time that he’s been there, Baby Boudica the Elder has gone up 4 reading levels! He’s proud of himself and is listening in class. He came home last week and was telling us all about Wilfred Owen and his poetry, he recited some. He’s doing homework, reading, wanting to watch documentaries at home related to school topics. Some mornings he still doesn’t want to go into class, I think he’ll always be like that. At the end of the day he comes out smiling. It’s a huge difference and the only thing I can put it down to, is his new school. His teacher is an amazing woman who just seems to “get” him. You actually have the feeling that the staff at this school really love what they do, which is great as they are really very good at it.
So I guess we’re one of the families that are lucky according to Sir Michael. There are fantastic, dedicated teachers in Norfolk. There might be fewer than there ought to be and they might be a little hard to find, but they are there, you just need to look for them.
So here’s a big up to the great teachers in Norfolk. You’ll never get the news headlines, but know that you are appreciated all the same.