I've read two Ofsted inspection reports recently which thrown an interesting light on the debate over the best way forward in school improvement.
The first was a school which was one of the first in the area to become an academy after the 2010 election. At the time as a local authority maintained school it had been deemed outstanding in its last Ofsted inspection. But at its most recent inspection it was judged to be in need of significant improvement and, in a significant comment, inspectors noted that the school
''has been through a period, up to September 2011, where a substantial proportion of its leaders have been engaged in supporting the work of other schools. During this time middle managers and other senior leaders were unable to sustain improvement in key subject areas.''
Clearly, this comment raises questions about the sustainabilty of the single model of school improvement preferred by neo-conservatives like Michael Gove.
The other report was on a much smaller school which until recently has been governed by an interim executive board,(IEB) of which I have been a member, after the previous governing body got itself into serious difficulties. After a borderline satisfactory judgement, shortly after the IEB had taken over, the school was inspected again recently. This time the inspectors decided the school was good and called the IEB 'highly effective'.
They also commented that the local authority ''provides light touch support for this good school. It gave intensive and highly effective support when the school was in difficulties..'' The chairman of the IEB (a local businessman with no political axe to grind) has said the support from the LA has been ''quite outstanding''.
Henry Stewart, Janet Downs and others have provided convincing national evidence against the single improvement model put forward by the DfE and its allies in the media. The experience of what is actually happening on the ground in schools might well support their arguments.