How do local authorities identify schools that need improvement?
Naturally Ofsted outcomes are key to flagging schools that need support – this is usually the main thing local authorities are looking at when they assess performance – but of course using these statistics can be somewhat reductive. As we know, some schools may have been awarded an Outstanding rating several years ago, and others may have improved since their last inspection.
There are other indicators that a school needs support, for example, high turnover of staff can be a cause for concern. There is an optimum turnover of staff that allows people to progress in their career, but it is often a sign of problems when senior leaders and highly trained staff are leaving a school.
The rate of Primary transfer can also indicate where there are issues at a school that have affected its reputation in the community. A drop in pupil numbers obviously impacts on school funding, which can in turn lead to a reduction in budget which impacts on staff retention and so on. So, a LEA may want to intervene before the school goes into a downward spiral.
How important is career development to improving a school?
It is crucial that schools are always developing staff at every stage in their career. You might have some excellent middle leaders who have really driven improvement, but it is important to ensure that there is a succession plan so that as they move up in seniority or move on to a new school, there are highly talented staff who can step into these roles.
There is often a lot of emphasis on recruiting talent, and not enough on retention. Career progression can have a big impact on that. The saying goes “people don’t leave jobs, they leave bosses” – often in schools this is because they don’t get the support from their managers or opportunities to develop and progress. So, leadership training can be key to ensuring managers are able to identify and nurture talent and ensure there are opportunities for staff to develop and progress.