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How do you recognise a 'good' school?

Discussion in 'Workplace dilemmas' started by creaganturic, Oct 8, 2018.

  1. creaganturic

    creaganturic New commenter

    I have been doing supply teaching again for the past few months and have returned regularly to a school I was at 7 years ago. I cover various subjects, not just my specialism. The building is old and tired looking. It is a long walk from one of the buildings to the staff room. Most of the classes I cover are a tip. Messy files and books, broken shelves, paper all over the place, outdated display boards. Cover work is often written on bits of paper and left on the desk.
    Now, you might think I am criticising this school. On the contrary, I love working there and I am requested regularly for supply. To an outside observer, this may seem like a school that is not doing well, but the first thing I noticed after 7 years, is that hardly any of the staff have left. The same faces, the same Head Teacher, teachers and support staff. I am always greeted with a smile like an old friend. The students are polite and wear their uniform well. In the staff room I am included in discussions and tea and coffee is always available and free (I mention this one, because very often you have to pay for a drink from the coffee machine or there are no guest mugs, sugar or milk). The school have never had a less than Good Ofsted. The other day I saw the Head Teacher doing lunchtime duty on the field, picking up papers as he walked around. A very quiet, softly spoken, almost nerdy man, but he has the respect of all the staff and students alike.
    This made me think, what makes a good school? Clearly the person at the helm makes all the difference. From speaking to staff, they are supported. There are no sneaky lesson observations disguised as learning walks, and bullying tactics disguised as support plans. Everyone seems to know where they stand. They are not policed. They are left to teach in whichever way they see fit. Their success is evident from the league tables and their GCSE results.
    Now my only dilemma is I cannot get a job there, because no-one leaves. I have had my eye on the school now for 8 years and look out regularly for job adverts. In all this time I have only seen 2 and both were for subjects I could not teach. It really makes one question what is important in the great scheme of things.
  2. Summerhols6

    Summerhols6 Occasional commenter

    It sounds like brilliant place to work. Enjoy it and bide your time. The head reminds me of one I used to work with, who had real presence and class. They don't usually exist anymore, so be thankful you work in such a great place, because if you look on here, many don't!
  3. creaganturic

    creaganturic New commenter

    I was one of those who worked at a miserable place, so I know what you mean. Unfortunately, I am only used for day to day supply at the school, but hoping something comes along soon, even if just maternity cover for a while.
    Summerhols6, agathamorse and pepper5 like this.
  4. peakster

    peakster Star commenter

    Some of the prettiest and newest school buildings disguise the fact that the school is terrible.
  5. peakster

    peakster Star commenter

    I can think of a school that I used to teach in that if you go into it now has a lobby which is as big as a cathedral and looks amazing.

    But the school is an absolute hellhole to teach in.
  6. Bedlam3

    Bedlam3 Star commenter

    I went to look round a school a few months ago. The head showed a group of us round. He was arrogant and wore those really pointed toed shoes that look rediculous. We arrived at one classroom and he said to the teacher "we work hard here don't we and we play hard don't we?"
    "Yes" she said "we are in at 7:30 and don't leave til 6:00" and she was almost flirting with him!
    I wouldn't touch it with a barge pole! I knew the minute I saw the head that I could Never work under someone like that. Yuk!
  7. Jolly_Roger15

    Jolly_Roger15 Star commenter

    With me, overall impression counts for a lot. Does the school look and feel like a school, or does it feel like a business, the product of which just happens to be education? Do the senior staff look as if they have stood in front of a class at some time, or are they besuited men, and power-dressed' women? Do the SMT operate in a separate enclave from the rest of the school; if so, is there a marked difference between the appearance of the two? How do the staff look; to they look reasonably happy, or care-worn and exhausted? Is there a range of ages among the staff? How do the students behave; in class, and in corridors? Do they seem happy, or herded about?
  8. pepper5

    pepper5 Star commenter

    Where I live there are several schools with multi million pound new buildings - all in RI status.
  9. grumpydogwoman

    grumpydogwoman Star commenter

    My daughter (not a teacher) made this error. Now selecting a school for grandson for next year when he goes into YR7.

    "I like the school I saw this morning. I liked the people but it was much scruffier than the other two. So I probably won't put that top of the list."

    Cue agonised shrieks from me.

    "Dear child of mine, don't judge a book by its cover. The school just along from me? Plenty of fur coat but I'm not at all sure about the k.nickers. Beware. People over premises."
  10. Pomza

    Pomza Star commenter

    I think it’s a bit more nuanced than that.

    A school can have some modern buildings and a dress code and still be populated (and managed) by decent people...

    Likewise, I’m not sure that being shabbily attired automatically identifies one as being a bastion of virtue.
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2018
  11. ajs12345

    ajs12345 New commenter

    Often the head will tell you much of what you need to know about the school, particularly the way they talk about and regard their staff. You can quickly get a feel for their approach to staff just by talking to them.

    It never ceases to amaze me just how many arrogant, self absorbed heads are out there that have no regard for their staff and see them as disposable assets. Needless to say these schools have ridiculous staff turnover which impacts all aspects of the school. My first school was like this and it was awful.

    However, I'm pleased to say that I currently work in a school that prioritises staff wellbeing and respects their rights. We are the leading school in the borough in terms of attainment and progress.

    If my experience of these two jobs has taught me anything, it's that there is a symbiotic link between staff welfare and a school's performance. Taking the time to scope out the perfect school is time very well spent. Although, as the 'dilemmas' section of this forum will testify, it's not always possible to get it right 100% of the time and things can always change!
  12. Lara mfl 05

    Lara mfl 05 Star commenter

    Certainly in an Outstanding School 3 times in a row, I found some of the best staff I ever worked with. Supportive of each other, friendly and caring and with a definite well-being programme in effect. The attitude came from the Head down too.
  13. grumpydogwoman

    grumpydogwoman Star commenter

    Not saying that run-down = good. Just that run-down doesn't automatically mean bad.
  14. englishtt06

    englishtt06 Occasional commenter

    To answer the OP's thread title in a nutshell: staff turnover rate is the best way to assess a school as a potential place to work. High staff turnover? Employ several proverbial barge poles....

    A few years ago, on my leading from the midriff course (now called NPQML), we looked at case studies of excellent leadership. One of the case studies was from a secondary in an old LEA of mine (and the city where I did both my PGCE and NQT) - in the case study it sounded like the Carlsberg of schools; however, I personally know several people who stayed there for a year - two tops - and left as soon as they could. It haemorrhage'd staff and was populated overhwlemingly with NQTs or middle/senior leaders who were barely out of their NQT year themselves.

    A great school has a perfect balance of age and experience (and the two don't always go together - part of the joy of this job is learning from younger colleagues, too: but in a collegiate, supportive atmosphere where it doesn't feel like those about you would sooner cut your throat than cover your class for five minutes because nature calls!).
  15. magic surf bus

    magic surf bus Star commenter

    The school I resigned from went on at the next inspection to be 'Outstanding' but I'd never work there again due to the bullying management style. The school up the road that I finished my teaching career in was in many ways lagging behind the previous place, but was far more civilised.

    Since then I've worked as a day visitor in close to a hundred different primaries ranging from small quiet rural to large inner city with multiple first languages and lots of pupil premium funding. I can't honestly say there's a magic formula for determining on first sight what a 'good' school is. However my worst ever experience was quite recent, at a school that looked fine on the surface, but was providing nowhere near the right level of classroom support for its kids with special needs. The staff were struggling to make any headway, one of the teachers I met was close to a nervous breakdown, and the school had slipped into a culture of 'you can't do that with these kids', which is tragic when they're talking about 7 year olds. All it needed was more one-to-one support instead of none, and that would have been a very different school.

    I've worked in smart schools that thought very highly of themselves where the kids' level of subject knowledge and questioning was poor, and I've worked in rufty tufty areas of obvious social deprivation where the kids are bubbling with lively enthusiasm. I've worked with many fantastic enthusiastic class teachers, and with a few disengaged idle sods who use our presence in the room as an excuse to catch up on paperwork. It's all about balance in the end, but at the core of it is the quality of adult input at classroom level every day, and no amount of academy funding or snazzy wall displays will change that.
  16. saluki

    saluki Lead commenter

    I did a day's supply in an inadequate school once. I just knew. Badly behaved, disengaged kids and staff who were just waiting for home time. They were even planning to skive off up the pub during the afternoon - the staff not the kids! Nice new buildings and decent wall displays but no culture of helpfulness or expectations of behavior. Silly me, I didn't question why the agency were offering me extra money to go there and I didn't google it before I got there.
    Nosing around schools a couple of years' ago, I took a dislike to a certain headmistress - she said that she had turned the school from RI to good by getting rid of long serving members of staff and replacing them with ones from the local indy. (implication - bring your kid here and get a private education on the state) Too stuck up to answer queries. The headmaster down the road was a jolly sort of chap who like a laugh and a joke. I know someone who sent their child to Miss Snooty's school - she is a nightmare; she is undersubscribed. Mr Jolly's parents are happy, he is oversubscribed - he had a member of staff leave last year after 40 years, another after 14 years. He gave one teacher the day off for her child's birthday. She had to make the time up but hey ho - co-operation.
  17. Robberto

    Robberto Occasional commenter

    For me the clue was softly spoken. I've also done heaps of supply across inadequate, good and outstanding schools. The vibe for me is one of respect in the schools I like. Between staff and staff, children and children and staff and children.

    The leaders in these schools are calm, clear and work focused. I might not always like them but always understand where they are coming from and can communicate with them.
  18. install

    install Star commenter

    A good school is when everyone enoys their job - because no one hides away or blames anyone else. Its when everyone leaves work at work and has a good work - life balance. A good school is where everyone is supported and supports .
    A good school is where the head teaches and slt :):):)
  19. nomad

    nomad Star commenter

    Count the number of Chelsea Tractors parked on double yellow around (or even across) the school entrance at the start and close of the school day.

    The greater the number the better the school.
  20. FrankWolley

    FrankWolley Star commenter

    Sit in your car near the school entrance before or after school, and watch the pupils as they approach/leave the school...How they behave with one another/other pedestrians will give a pretty good idea of what they are like, I have found (secondary schools, of course).

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