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Expert Comment: 'Outstanding' schools to be re-examined

BART Wednesday 25 April 2012

Professor Bart McGettrick, Dean of Faculty of Education at Liverpool Hope University

Those who thought there might be some more conciliatory ethos created with the appointment of Sir Michael Wilshaw as the new chief inspector of schools in England would draw little comfort from his first speech. The approach to inspection has at its heart the improvement of education. This must include enabling “the best educational experience” for each child.

What is this “best educational experience?” It must include attention to the needs of the whole child, including the intellectual development, as well as the social, physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being of the child.

An outstanding school is not defined only by its performance in an assessment system, but by the extent to which it has helped to form resilient young people of hope, love, and justice. These are notoriously difficult to measure - but can be discerned. Perhaps as Sir Michael Wilshaw re-examines “Outstanding Schools” the opportunity will be taken to discern these aspects of education being at the heart of the well-educated person.

Of course good teaching is essential.  This implies the teacher who has a strong professional relationship with the students, and who will do all they can to support young people in their aspirations, and to get beyond their “potential.” Teachers must be given opportunities to form sound professional relationships, and not be constantly looking at grades and outcomes. They have their place, but not as the only guiding principles of learning.

The social circumstances of our time need us to see education, not being led by a culture of accountability, but rather by a culture of social and cultural responsibility in which the qualities of hope, love and justice have a vital and enduring place. Attention to these will give Sir Michael Wilshaw his truly “Outstanding Schools".

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