Dear Fake Headteacher,

Thank you emailing us your recent newsletters on a Saturday morning. It’s usually when we are relaxing with our families so we don’t always read them straight away. They have been thought provoking to say the least.

You are clearly an ambitious and passionate person who wants the prestige of being the head of a good or outstanding school whatever the cost.

The thought of being a head of a ‘Requires Improvement’ school can’t be an easy one. Many of us have actually  worked in these schools and it’s not easy.

I appreciate how hard your job must be but my colleagues have asked me to respond to your newsletters as many of us have grievances with your policies.

You don’t set aside time for us to discuss strategies to reduce workload or allow time to discuss how we could make our jobs less stressful, so I hope you don’t mind giving up your Saturday morning to read my letter instead.

Initially, I was asked to write a general response to your newsletters but many members of staff had a particular problem with your book scrutiny policy. Let me remind you of some of the things you expect to see in all of our books. This is just the first page.

Could teachers make sure they have included:

  • short date,
  • daily typed up learning slips for all subjects,
  • success criteria present,
  • tool kits present,
  • children responding in purple pen,
  • green and pink highlighting,
  • deep marking once a week,
  • peer assessment,
  • child feedback,
  • staff to initial all work,
  • evidence of verbal feedback given,
  • regular written next steps,
  • 2 stars and a wish present,
  • spellings picked up on,
  • marking code followed,
  • every piece marked daily,
  • praise used often but not too much,
  • more able being stretched,
  • barriers to learning being addressed,
  • progress in grammar evident,
  • photographic evidence whenever possible,
  • evidence of children’s understanding is checked and intervention taken as a result, evidence of target setting,
  • proof of teacher impact evident,
  • evidence of pupil premium children being supported.

…etc

A Year 6 colleague was very upset this week because she was put on a coaching program. Her books did not meet your high standards during your latest book scrutiny even though her class has made accelerated progress this half term.

The standard of work her class produce is always exceptional. She responds to the needs of her children on a daily basis and adjusts her lessons accordingly. Her assessment for learning is outstanding and always has the children eating out of the palm of her hand. She regularly praises the children for their efforts and as a result, the behaviour of her class has dramatically improved.

Despite this, you have destroyed her confidence by criticising her methodology because her books didn’t show enough green and pink highlighting and learning objectives weren’t consistently typed up (the children had written them instead).

Apparently, you told her she had forgotten to write the date on some pieces of work and some work had just been ‘ticked’. You told her this was unacceptable.

Surely, the most important part of any teacher’s job is that children make progress. If progress is clearly seen in any teacher’s book, especially accelerated progress, you have to assume the teacher has done an exceptional job.

Progress like this doesn’t just happen. You must assume they have intervened at the right times, pushed on the more able, applied a bit tough love when necessary, used appropriate humour and praise to motivate etc.

To criticise the teacher just because they didn’t completely follow your book scrutiny guidance is ridiculous.

What does progress even mean? It can often look invisible but it’s happened. The fact that a child who needed constant reassurance and support in September now works completely independently with enthusiasm is progress. Their books won’t show it but it’s huge progress. 

It is comparable to asking Lionel Messi to play in goal and then when he plays poorly, you make him a substitute and put him on a personal training program so he can improve his game.

He is punished because he cannot work in the way you have dictated. It is not natural for him to play in that position. He performs far better when he has the freedom to play in his favourite position.

Dictating to teachers how to mark and give feedback to children is ludicrous.

If you looked at a teacher’s set of books and no progress was evident over time, then you would

2017-19 Full blogs are now archived in the book ‘How Do You Think the Lesson Went?’